I Made the Decision…to Make My Health a Priority!

Made the Decision

We all have defining moments in our lives; those times when we KNOW that we need to take action…now!!  Well, I had one of those moments this week.  I had to opportunity to visit with someone who is dealing with some serious health struggles.  As I listened to this person’s story all I could really think about was, “I don’t EVER want to deal with these things… EVER, EVER!!”  I am not placing any judgment on this person at all; I don’t know their diet, exercise or personal care habits or their health history so I am in no way being critical toward them.  All I know is that I decided in that moment that I would do whatever I had to do to avoid multiple prescriptions, doctor’s visits, hospital visits, medical procedures, etc..  We have made many changes in our family (replacing chemical cleaners with safe cleaners, replacing chemical-laden personal care products with safe products, using essential oils to naturally support our body, etc.) but I know that we have back-slid with our diet.  Spring is busy with sports and that always seems to mean to0 many stops at a local drive-thru or pizza place for a quick dinner or buying items at the grocery store that are quick to prepare but not necessarily nutritious :-(.  So, I commit here and now to get back on track!!  My skinny jeans are getting a little snug (eek!) and I REFUSE to go back up a size on my jeans!  R.E.F.U.S.E.!!!  The next jeans I buy will be a size smaller NOT a size bigger!!!

I put the “My Fitness Pal” app on my phone and tablet so that I can get back on track with focusing on what I eat (I know that I eat way too many carbs and my abs show it!).  When I feel my best I am eating a paleo-type diet* (here is a website with info on paleo diets), so I like how this app helps me to easily track the amount of carbs and protein I  consume each day.  I strive to keep my carb intake under 100 grams each day.  This graphic is my inspiration:

credit:  www.marksdailyapple.com/the-primal-blueprint-21-day-challenge/

credit: www.marksdailyapple.com/the-primal-blueprint-21-day-challenge/

The following info goes along with the graphic:

“Carbohydrate intake is often the decisive factor in weight loss success and prevention of widespread health problems like Metabolic Syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. These average daily intake levels assume that you are also getting sufficient protein and healthy fats, and are doing some amount of Primal exercise. The ranges in each zone account for individual metabolic differences.

  • 0-50 grams per day: Ketosis and I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) zone. Excellent catalyst for rapid fat loss through I.F. Not recommended for prolonged periods (except in medically supervised programs for obese or Type 2 diabetics) due to unnecessary deprivation of plant foods.
  • 50-100 grams per day: Sweet Spot for Weight Loss. Steadily drop excess body fat by minimizing insulin production. Enables 1-2 pounds per week of fat loss with satisfying, minimally restrictive meals.
  • 100-150 grams per day: Primal Maintenance zone. Once you’ve arrived at your goal or ideal body composition, you can maintain it quite easily here while enjoying abundant vegetables, fruits and other Primal foods.
  • 150-300 grams per day: Insidious Weight Gain zone. Most health conscious eaters and unsuccessful dieters end up here, due to frequent intake of sugar and grain products (breads, pastas, cereals, rice, potatoes – even whole grains). Despite trying to “do the right thing” (minimize fat, cut calories), people can still gain an average of 1.5 pounds of fat every year for decades.
  • 300+ grams a day: Danger Zone of average American diet. All but the most extreme exercisers will tend to produce excessive insulin and store excessive fat over the years at this intake level. Increases risk for obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
The biggest problem I have is that I am a carb-addict.  I have beaten the addiction before but backslid, so I know that I can beat the addiction again; I actually feel better (more energy and better mood) when I am eating few carbs and more nutritious foods.  I have many high-carb weaknesses, but the hardest thing to cut back on will be my beloved chai tea latte from a local coffee shop.   I did some research and found that the chai I love has 50 grams of carbs in each 20-ounce cup; that broke my heart.  I won’t deny myself of chai, but I will be more careful of how often I drink one and will plan ahead carefully!!  :-)  So, I now know that I will need to plan my meals carefully on Thursday (aka chai Thursday – when my beloved chai is nearly half price) so that I stay within my carb limit.  :-)
So, I will keep you updated on my progress.  I look forward to sharing many successes with you over the next few months.  While I do not have a specific weight loss goal, I do want to use enough weight that I can take off my wedding ring so that I can get the solitaire replaced (it broke off a few years ago).
wedding ring without solidaire

wedding ring without solitaire

I hope that my story and my decision will help you to make the decision to take your health seriously and make whatever changes are needed in your life so that you can have health in abundance!
*If a paleo-diet isn’t for you OR you have a different eating plan that is working for you, that is awesome; there are different nutritional types and food preferences, so let’s celebrate our differences rather than argue about them.  :-)

Things have been quiet here, but…. I’M BACK!!

Hello all!!  I know that I haven’t been here sharing with you much lately.  I feel like I fell off the proverbial wagon of good health last fall when life got hectic with fall sports and I have stayed in my rut all winter.  Although I was in a rut, I am pleased that I have maintained my weight over the last 6 months!!  However, spring is finally here (the weather has seemed a bit confused at times though – LOL!) and I am motivated to get back on track and excited to start getting healthy with all of you again!

Here’s my plan moving forward:
1.  I am making a fitness challenge for myself each month and anyone is welcome to join in.  Be watching tomorrow for my May challenge!
2.  In addition to my personal fitness challenge, my oldest two daughters want to run our local Seaway Run this year and want me to run with them.  I agreed to do it but must admit that I have never run before so this will be quite an undertaking for me!!!  I am planning to follow the “Couch to 5k” training plan.  It’s just a short 8 weeks until the run so I need to get training!!  Considering that spring soccer and baseball are in full swing, this will definitely be something that I will need to stay committed to and have a plan to get it done every day!!  I don’t want to let my girls down!
3.  I will be improving my eating habits again.  I shared last year that I determined that my nutritional type is “protein” ( I get energized when I eat meat) (curious what your nutritional type is, check out this link).  So I will be returning my focus to protein and veggies as well as keeping my carbs in check.  This worked well for helping me lose about 20 lbs last summer, so I am hoping to drop at least another 20 this summer too!!

I will be doing regular check-ins for accountability on my FB page (www.Facebook.com/StraitToHealth).  If you would like to join me on my journey and/or would also like a place to check-in for accountability, I would love to do that with you through my page!!

Cast iron pans… oh my!!

If I were to say that I had a cast iron pan addiction, well, that would be an understatement!!!  I LOVE CAST IRON PANS!!!I bought my first cast iron skillets several years ago and tried desperately to love them… but I didn’t!  The information I had for “seasoning” a new pan just left my pans icky and sticky; AND… when I cooked in them all my food stuck to the pan!  Not an enjoyable cooking experience, so I would just shove them back in the cupboard for a while!  I would repeat this process every couple years with the same results!  Thankfully I stumbled upon a Facebook group called:  Cast Iron Cooking!  I learned so much from this group.  It is a huge group and kind of overwhelming at first, but I slowly settled in!  In this group I finally learned how to properly care for my pans (how to season them initially and how to keep wash them to keep them looking and working fabulously!)!!!  If you join this group, you can find the instructions I use here; you can thank me later!  :-)  Ever since then, using my cast iron skillets have been a joy!!  I have also since then added many new pieces to my collection!  It is so much fun shopping at thrift stores, antique stores, auctions and auction website to find a “new to me” treasure!!  I find immense joy in refurbishing an old, nasty-looking, crusty pan into a pan that looks brand new!!  Here is one of my refurbish projects:

How I Kicked My Antidepressants to the Curb…

I have been thinking about this post for a while, but I feel VERY compelled to share it today… not sure why today, but I will follow the leading of the Spirit!I almost hate to blog about this because there is such a stigma about antidepressants.  It is almost as if you are a “lesser” person if you need to use and actually take antidepressants; it is as if you are weak or just unwilling to “suck it up” through your circumstances.  I don’t think that is the case; I believe that antidepressants area a tool to help a person manage through a difficult time.  I don’t place any judgments on people who take antidepressants and I hope that you do not judge me for what I am going to share.

Hello, my name is Amy Strait and I have been on prescription antidepressants on and off for over eleven years; yes, you read that right, eleven (11) years.  Here’s my story:  My oldest daughter is nearly 13 years old and I suffered some pretty severe post-partum depression after she was born.  I didn’t seek medical help nor take an antidepressant then because I was way too proud to admit that I needed help.  In my mind I thought, “Medication is for the weak; I am not weak!  I will push through this.”  I did push through but I was pretty miserable both to myself and to my husband and new daughter.  I got pregnant for my second child when my oldest was just 9 months old and I was an overwhelmed, emotional mess.  At every appointment with my OB/GYN, he would ask me if I wanted an antidepressant.  I always declined.  Finally, near the end of my pregnancy, I just couldn’t deal with my anxiety anymore and decided to see if an antidepressant would work for me.  Much to my surprise, I felt like myself again!  WOW!!  Amazing!  I’m not sure how long I took them, but I did eventually wean off of them after my second daughter was born and I was through the post-partum depression stage.

Through my next three pregnancies, I pretty much repeated the pattern:  antidepressants during end of pregnancy and through the post-partum depression stage.  However, after my fifth child was born (five kids in eight years), I was having a very hard time weaning off of the antidepressants.  I tried to quit taking it but I was an angry, emotional mess each time I tried.  I was on a relatively low dose but I just couldn’t quit taking them.  That really frustrated me!  When I got pregnant with my sixth child, I was still taking the antidepressants and have continued straight through until just recently (she is now three years old).  I have tried MANY times to cut back of them in an attempt to quit taking them, but I was never successful.  What had once helped me was now taking my joy away!  I felt like a slave to those pills.  I knew that I wouldn’t be a nice, happy mom and wife if I didn’t take my pill at night.  I didn’t like it at all!!

Recently some things changed in my life that have made me more equipped to quit taking antidepressants.  First, I started feeling the need to get healthier.  Through 13 years of being pregnant and/or nursing nearly the entire time, I was a tired, sleep-deprived mom and I had given in to soda/pop to help keep up my energy… and I drank a lot of it.  I was also a carb/sugar addict, so I also consumed a lot of sugary, processed foods in an attempt to feed myself quickly while taking care of many little ones.  Over the course of 10 years, I put on nearly 50 lbs.  It was time to take charge of my health again.  I turned 44 this year and it seems like an epiphany year for me.  I have come to realize and understand so many things about myself this year.  Getting healthier and taking control of things in my life just seem the right thing to do…

The second thing that changed was that we started using Young living essential oils.  We have been trying to make some healthier changes such as eliminating many processed foods from out diet, cutting way back on fast food, and eliminating chemical cleaners from our home.  We knew that we wanted to keeping going along that path and changing out our over-the-counter medications and some of our general health and beauty products with more natural ones (including essential oils) just seemed the right thing to do.  I knew that the essential oils could help with my occasional bouts of depression, I just had to figure out how.

Fast forward to today, Sunday, July 27th.  I am pleased to announce that I have successfully weaned myself off of antidepressants and have not taken any since Monday, July 7th!!  Here is what I attribute this success to (I can’t say if all of these things were necessary but I have to believe that they have all worked together):

1.  I dramatically decreased the amount of sugar and carbs that I eat.  I once considered myself a carb-a-holic.  However, I started cutting back when I realized that foods high in sugar and carbs were also really high in calories and I was trying to keep my calories down.  Then I realized how much better I felt when I wasn’t eating those foods.  (There is a lot of research that shows how excess sugar and carbs in one’s diet can contribute to depression; obviously there is truth to it, at least in my case it is.)

2.  I am exercising!  I am amazed at how much better I feel (energized even) after I have exercised.  Those endorphins that are created when you exercise are amazing!!  Gotta love those happy hormones!!  WOOHOO!!

3.  I don’t drink pop anymore (I guess that goes with cutting back on sugar), but this was a big deal for me!  I haven’t had any pop in nearly 9 weeks (not that I’m counting) and I no longer crave it!! :-)

4.  When all else seems to not be working and I find that mean/edgy mom/wife start to creep in on me, I lean on my essential oils to get me through.  I can take a drop each of the Joy and Peace & Calming essential oil blends and put it on my wrists and over my heart; I would also inhale each from the bottle just to give the essential oils a jump start into my system.  If I am feeling angry, I also use a little Purification essential oil blend.

I am glad that I am no longer taking the antidepressants because I am glad to be off medications!  One positive side effect to not taking the meds anymore is that I feel like I have my emotions back.  While taking the antidepressants, I felt emotionally “flat”.  Now, I cry when a friend sends me a sweet, encouraging note on Facebook or when I see a tear-jerker movie or video clip; and I feel more able to sympathize with a sick or injured kiddo.  I am just generally happier and seem to laugh more as well.  It also seems like other people are friendlier as well (LOL!).  :-)   I feel like a person again and not a “mom zombie.”

I have no negative feelings towards antidepressants or people who need to take them. I think they are a good tool to help people who are in a difficult place in life.  I just want to encourage anyone who feels like they are stuck taking them because they have been unable to just “wean” themselves off, that there are things you can do to reduce or eliminate your dependence upon them.  I hope that my story can give someone else the hope they need on their journey with antidepressants!

** Added note to those that may wonder, I did NOT stop taking my antidepressants “cold turkey” (that is dangerous, don’t do it!).  I slowly weaned myself. I was taking a daily dose of 50mg, then went to 50mg on odd days and 25mg (half of a 50mg pill) on the even days and did this for a couple weeks, then I went to 25mg (half of a 50mg pill) every day and did this for a couple weeks, then I went to 25 mg (half of a 50mg pill) every other day for a little while, and finally I just quit.

*** What I shared here is not meant to be medical advise to anyone, it is merely my story.  You should consult your own physician or medical professional to help you make decisions that are appropriate for your situation.

The Secret to REAL, Lasting Energy!!

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WOW!!  I think I have finally figured out the secret to real, lasting energy!!  While what I share here is not likely earth shattering to some, but it was really shocking to me!I have had times in my life when I struggled to have the energy that I needed in order to be a functioning human being.  Early in adulthood, I worked an hour away from home and had to be to work BY 8 am (for those that know me personally, I know you just fell on the floor laughing but you can get up now! :-)  ); I tried to drink coffee for a caffeine boost but didn’t like the taste of the coffee.  I tried to mask the taste of the coffee with creamer and sugar, but still didn’t like the taste and all I really got was a sugar and caffeine buzz that quickly wore off and left me looking for the next “pick-me-up”.   Later as a full-time student and full-time employee, I tried drinking pop/soda, even the stuff that was supposed to REALLY pump you up, well that too left me looking for the next buzz.  Then, as a tired mom, I also sought out something to bolster my ever dwindling energy; I still sought out pop/soda (a local gas station had the BEST fountain pop ever, so it was easy to indulge) but I also eagerly added high-sugar, high-carb foods that tasted so yummy; however, none of these gave me the long-lasting boost I needed either.  I am sure that many of you can relate to my quest; just watch TV and you’ll see a bunch of commercials for energy drinks, etc. so I am obviously not alone!

Fast forward to my recent quest to get healthier… I have mentioned in earlier posts that I figured out early on in this journey that foods high in carbs and sugar added a lot of calories but weren’t necessarily filling.  I gave up on those foods and started eating more veggies and meat (I figured out that I am a “protein” nutrition type and that I had actually been following a paleo diet; if you would like to figure out your nutrition type, check out this post), and I found that I actually felt better… a lot better!!  So, my not-necessarily-earth-shattering revelation is that real, lasting energy comes from…. (wait for it)…… REAL FOOD!!!  When you eat real food it gives your body real nutrition, and then your body actually has the energy it needs to help you get through your day!  Yes, you will still get tired at the end of the day and you still be tired if you stay up too late and/or get up too early, but if you are feeding your body correctly, it will be much easier for your body to get you through your day.

I have had a few days lately where I have not eaten as well as I know that I should.  And guess what, I have not had the energy I have needed to do my nightly walk and have not had the energy to fight off whatever sickness my kids are passing around.  I even indulged in a seemingly innocent piece of birthday cake… well, let me tell you that one piece of birthday cake was enough to “take me down”; I haven’t had that many carbs and sugar all at one time in a LONG time and my body revolted!!  Let’s just say that I won’t be making that mistake again any time soon!!

So, my recommendation to anyone who feels that they are lacking in the energy they need to get through the day is to consider your diet.  If you eat lots of carbs and sugar, you are likely not fueling your body the way you should; consider making the change to real food – veggies, fruit, meat, and some high-quality grains, I can nearly guarantee that within a short time you, too, will be feeling more energized too!  ….Food for thought!