And it felt so good. I’m not even going to lie about it. I had some chicken and in that moment, it felt like the best day of my life. The aftereffects were remarkable. After what felt like years of being dizzy, confused, eyesight cloudy, I was living again! The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and didn’t hurt that the temps have been above freezing for more than a week here in spectacular Grand Rapids. Really was the best day ever, but then the guilt sunk in. I had cheated, and not only that, enjoyed it.
I became alarmed at just how much I enjoyed cheating and grabbed Dr. Christine to sit down for a food chatty. She said that diets aren't one size fits all. This particular diet made me feel sick, so it's important I altered it. Dr. Christine not only gave me permission to cheat, but applauded me for it! A huge part of getting healthy is to listen to our bodies. Mine was telling me I needed meat, and rewarded me upon receipt.
I am not quite ready to throw in the towel on the #grnhchallenge however, so I went out in search of fresh ideas to keep this thing going. A fitness minded friend told me about Thug Kitchen, a popular vegan blog and resulting cook book. I have to tell you that the sass level is high with this one, and frankly I am not mad about it. Thug kitchen breaks down all the essential questions someone might ask when switching over to vegan land. Where do I get my protein? How do I cook tofu? Is tempeh a thing? The answers do not mess around. This book explains all things vegan in the most matter of fact, essentials needed, shut up and listen kind of way. You really can't help but learn a lot.
I am going to give this challenge another shot and I hope you will too. If you cheated, no worries friend, it’s no biggie. Not everyone can be a superhero or even just survive an elimination diet. To err is human dear friends, to forgive , divine. Forgive yourself when you are not able to be perfect all the time. Guilt can be painful, and the sufferer might find ways to soothe these painful feelings through unhealthy coping mechanisms. Do yourself, and your body a favor, and forgive yourself. Since I have forgiven myself for my food indiscretion, I have not only recommitted to the #grnhchallenge, but I have also found a fun, new cookbook to try. In failure we learn the most about ourselves, and while it can be disappointing, it can also be enlightening. Embrace this enlightening experience the #grnhchallenge has afforded you, and from all of us at Grand Rapids Natural Health, #yourewelcome.
Week 2 of #grnhchallenge has been more of a challenge than I would like to admit. Honestly, I thought I would miss cheese the most, but it is meat I see in my dreams. I’ve been told I’m clearly a type o blood type so this craving should make all kinds of sense, but I’m not as well versed in the blood type diet as my co-workers seem to be, so really I just want meat. While I miss meat like the deserts miss the rain, there are other items I have given up that I do not miss nearly as much as I had originally anticipated. Coffee, for example. My favorite thing in the whole world. I can’t even call it a morning treat, because for me, coffee is the gift that keeps on giving. All day long I sip this precious nectar which seems to give me life. Since I started this challenge however, I have become a bit more in tune with my body and what it needs. When I skip coffee and go for green tea, I tend to power through the day without a yawn or a single thought of a nap. When I switch back to coffee, I have noticed I will want to crash just a few hours after each cup. I find this to be remarkably inconvenient. Is it possible that my companion through thick and thin may just have transitioned to more of a someone I used to know status? Well let’s not get too crazy, I’m actually sipping on a cup of joe as I write this. I do expect to crash at some point later on today but sometimes you just have to accept situations for what they are and move on.
What’s even more unpleasant than the recent discovery that there are things better for me than coffee, I’ve noticed that lately I’ve been feeling very lethargic and generally weak. I pulled aside Grand Rapids Natural Health’s newest naturopathic doctor, Dr Christine Shoenek to discuss. Dr. Christine said there are chemicals in processed foods which could be spiking my blood sugar. Before the #grnhchallenge, I was eating strictly whole foods and frankly have been pretty successful keeping my diet clean. I steered clear of processed foods altogether, however lately I have been eating a lot of your more processed items. As I follow recipes I have discovered I have been substituting regular whole foods with processed food substitutes. Dairy free cheese and cream cheese instead of whole goat cheese, soy and kale sausage burger patties instead of beef burgers, tofu replacing chicken, not to mention the gluten free breads that have creeped into my house. This is a mutiny! My body has taken a stand, it’s basically rioting against the chemicals I’ve been introducing it to. Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! These processed foods have got to go!
Just as I started to think I had figured out this food revolution, I realize I’m doing it all wrong. My body seems to be rather displeased with the change in diet, but rationally I know eating #meatfree #dairyfree and #glutenfree can be quite a healthy way to live! What is the issue here? I decided to give my health coach a call, the great Audrey Byker also of Grand Rapids Natural Health and she insisted that I pull it together. What is this craziness of me eating processed foods all of a sudden? Obviously I am sick! Not only is my body detoxing off meat and dairy but I am also adding foreign chemicals to it? Get out of here with that mess! Audrey suggested I go off any and all processed foods I have added into my diet since starting the #grnhchallenge. This is the only way to really know if my sluggishness, change in mood, and frequent meat dreams are a side effect from meat detox or chemical intake. While I am obviously super excited to be limiting myself even further, it is a relief that I might have found the cure to what ails me. It takes a village people, good thing I have a super healthy minded village right at my fingertips!
Blood Type Diet: http://www.webmd.com/diet/blood-type-diet?page=1
Here we are in week one of the #grnhchallenge (no meat, no gluten, no dairy for the month of March) and I find that not only is my road rage at an all time high, but my patience is at an all time low. I’m exhausted all the time and I find myself lustfully staring at other people’s plates. Clearly I’m doing this wrong. Truth be told I’ve been somewhat on edge ever since I realized I had accidentally signed up to be a vegan for a month. Cooking tends to calm me so in my panicked state I decided to check out my cookbooks. It turns out I just so happen to have a copy of The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, one of the more highly rated vegan cookbooks. I bought it more for the nutritional information she provides than for the actual recipes as I am a petty committed carnivore, but now I actually get to use it! The first recipe I turned to was her rustic pasta, which looked pretty remarkable to be honest. Just a simple dish of gluten free pasta, red sauce and an incredible amount of vegetables. It also looked like something that I could easily alter for the meat/cheese eaters in my house. As we sat down to dinner that night, I noticed mine was the only plate without chicken on it. This made me really start to consider what I had gotten myself into. As I munched on my piece of gluten free baguette topped with vegan butter, I noticed my entire plate was filled with carbs! This tends to not be a good look for me.
I have noticed that eating carbs tends to make me feel very scattered. The aftereffect is I crave sugar, and tend to feel very cranky and confused. As a result, I have made an effort in recent years to avoid both carbs and sugar. As I looked at my vegan plate of pasta and bread I realized I had set myself up for disaster. Not only had I eliminated the food that makes me feel grounded (meat), but I had essentially replaced it with the very food that has traditionally been my downfall. Sure enough, the next day I was tired, hangry, and feeling out of sorts. Time to call in the big guns.
Audrey Byker, our resident health coach, noticed I kept bringing up meat conversations at work yesterday, so she pulled me aside and offered to help. As I collapsed into her arms in my weakened state, she assured me I was in good hands. After taking a comprehensive history and discussing my general feelings on the challenge #overit, Coach Audrey gave me some much needed advice. The human body is pretty in tune to what it needs, and mine is craving protein, and lots of it! I need to get used to eating when I am hungry, however eating the right things. Audrey suggested I keep some protein enriched snacks with me, like a handful of almonds, or apple slices and peanut butter. Furthermore, just because I am gluten free, does not mean I should be eating items such as gluten free bread! Stick to beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds as toppings for various meals. Should I start to feel like a small forest animal, by all means throw some tempeh and tofu in there, mix up that protein intake. Most importantly, fill up on veggies, lots and lots of veggies! When in doubt, mix them up with some brown rice or quinoa throw a little olive oil on top, and you got yourself a meal! I learned from Audrey that these types of challenges really can change how your body will operate, as you are cleaning out your system. For those of you participating at home, if you are feeling a little crazy, your body is telling you that you are eating the wrong things.
This made me think about the other symptoms I have been experiencing, and could they also be related? Dr. Christine Shoenek, naturopathic doctor also of Grand Rapids Natural Health, told me my general feeling of sluggishness will eventually pass. This is merely my body reacting to a change in my general dietary habits. She assured me that in just under a week I would be leaping out of bed in the morning looking forward to my goat cheese free veggie scramble. (Jury’s still out on that one.). I mentioned my appreciation for my daily 5 cups of coffee (I might have told her 3 but the truth always comes out), and she suggested this may be what is contributing to my afternoon crash. If looks could kill, dear friends. No coffee? NO COFFEE?!?! She quickly changed her answer to limit my coffee intake to 2 cups a day. Most importantly I need to stick to my usual diet of whole foods. Stay out of the gluten free aisle. If I am already aware that these foods affect me negatively, don’t go out and eat them! That’s almost as crazy as eliminating all your normal foods from your diet! Well, maybe I said that last part. Let’s just go ahead and blame it on my body not being used to healthy, meatless living. Tune in next week as we decide if frequent protein snacks were the way to go for this hungry mental health therapist.
I recently joined the holistic healthcare practice, Grand Rapids Natural Health as the resident couple and family therapist. So far this office full of healthy practitioners has been a great fit for me as I generally consider myself a healthy person. I try to live a healthy lifestyle, eating right and working out (almost) daily, but I have to admit I am not on the ball 100% of the time. I try to eat as clean as possible, which is more of a pleasant side effect of having a gluten allergy than actually being a health nut. So when the naturopathic doctor at our practice came up with the idea to for us all to participate in a group challenge regarding food and healthy eating, I thought it would be a great opportunity to challenge myself, food wise. Dr. Kelly Hassberger then told me the challenge would consist of us all eliminating three items from our daily diets for the month of March. Now I have done a cleanse or two before, so I was not yet intimidated. When she told me one of the items we would be eliminating would be gluten, I figured this would be a piece of cake! Not that I can recall what a really good piece of cake tastes like, but I do recall being quite impressed. I already avoid gluten so as not to suffer from some pretty annoying side effects, so I am thinking that I am already ahead of the game, and isn’t that fantastic!Just as I am feeling confident, Dr. Kelly tells me the second item we will be eliminating from our diet is meat. I realized I have never actually eliminated meat from my diet before, but it is not something I will be shying away from. I cook meals for my household on a regular basis and have actually been successful in making at least one or two meatless meals a week. I of course realize going meatless a night or two a week is a healthy habit to have, however if we are telling the truth here, I find meatless recipes take less time to prepare. I work a full day before having to run home and cook for my family, and sometimes the masses get hangry waiting for a meal that takes too long to prepare. For those unfamiliar with the term, hangry stands for the anger that develops when a person is hungry, a feeling that I know all too well. I find a quicker meal preparation lessens the aggravation of the members of our family on a weeknight, so meatless meals will be no problem for me! Particularly considering Dr. Kelly has decided to allow eggs, which frankly I am unsure if I could live without, as eggs are my favorite versatile breakfast meal.This brings us to the third item that will be eliminated, which is dairy. I might have actually had a physical reaction when she told me this. I am not going to lie about it, cheese is one of my absolute favorite things. This begs the question, is a month without cheese, a month worth living? Suddenly I am questioning my commitment to this challenge. I like to throw some goat cheese on my eggs in the morning, use it to jazz up a salad, or as a topping on pretty much any meal really. Cheese also happens to be a fan favorite within my household, which means I will most likely be surrounded by it as I embark on this terrifying challenge. Yes I said it, I am terrified of what a month without cheese looks like.I of course realize that there is a method to this madness and that I will come out of the month of March a lean, mean, clean eating machine. As I a couple and family therapist, I am not what one would call a food expert. I like what I like, and I try to stay properly fueled between client sessions. I am told this challenge will clean my insides and bring about pleasant side effects such as less allergies (one can only hope), less inflammation (whatever that means), and get me ready for spring (have you seen the snow outside? Trust me, I’m ready). I’ve heard that if you love something, let it go, and if your love was meant to be, it will come back to you. Obviously I fully expect to reignite my love affair with cheese promptly on April 1st. Until then I will lament my lost love in a weekly blog documenting my experience as a novice to these types of food challenges surrounded by experienced food challenge professionals.
Being a parent is tough. Yes, it will give you the most rewarding moments of your life, and make you feel as though you have contributed to the world in the most positive way you can, however the inescapable truth is: being a parent is tough. In that moment when you are covered in dirty laundry, the sink is filled to the brim with dirty dishes, and your children seem to be in some kind of ‘who can be the loudest’ contest, why they are doing these things just does not matter as much as getting them to stop. It can be easier for you as a parent to get your frustrations out by yelling at your little angels to just stop it already, or perhaps to take away their video games, Barbies, or some other item they enjoy. What is the usual reaction here? Do your children thank you profusely for showing them the light? Or do they pout and stomp off creating more anxiety in your already overly hectic life.
You may remember the term positive reinforcement from that intro to psych class you took freshman year, or even in those parenting books you poured over during your first pregnancy. Perhaps it is time you dusted those old texts off and gave this theory another look. Positive reinforcement is a technique used in behavioral therapy, in which the goal is to stop unwanted behaviors by rewarding positive behaviors only. It will take a lot of patience, as your children will notice the change in your discipline style, and you will likely experience some push back. Change can be hard, however I promise you, if you commit yourself, you can do this.
Picture this: your child brings home a report card with unacceptable grades. Your instinct might be to take them out of their favorite extracurricular, or limit their interactions with friends. Perhaps this would give them more time to study, but would they really be using their time wisely? Or is it more likely your child will use this time to plot ways to gain back the items that have been removed from their lives. If you embrace positive reinforcement as an alternative, you will be able to both address the unwanted behaviors as well as promote desired behaviors in your children. This method also empowers your children as you are leaving their fate in their own hands.
Using positive reinforcement will require you sitting down with your child and laying out your expectations. Once you decide on your plan of action, be it the promise of a car on their 16th birthday, a vacation for spring break, or even a new outfit to wear to the school dance, you need to make your intentions clear to your child. Highlight the behavior you wish to change. If we are using the poor grades example, you would tell your child that you are disappointed in their report card and hope to see better grades moving forward. Then you let them know that should they comply with this request, they will receive the reward you have chosen.
Now you need to be aware that your child’s behavior has been set within them for quite some time, so there may be some setbacks, and that is ok. During these times, you will want to revisit your conversation with your child. Keep them constantly in the loop of your thought process. Using the grades example, if you have promised your child a certain reward for good grades and s/he brings home something other than expected, do not be afraid to sit them down and talk about this. Help them realize what happened with this particular exam or project that made their overall grade subpar. Perhaps your daughter broke up with her boyfriend that week, or your son’s basketball team lost a game; regardless of the reason, it will promote positive conversation within your family unit.
As you practice using positive reinforcement regularly, you will find that not only will your children start to improve the areas you have targeted, but this method will become easier for you to utilize. You will need to check yourself consistently, however when your child realizes that you have changed, they will be able to do so as well. Again, change is hard for people, as it is human nature to want to stay in one’s comfort zone. If the methods you have employed for discipline are not working as effectively as you hoped, I encourage you to utilize positive reinforcement.
This is my first Michigan winter, and please allow me to take this opportunity to applaud you all for making it through winter after winter out here in the midwest. As a Grand Rapids transplant, I have faced many challenges including driving in the snow, finding the right winter boot, and most importantly, battling cabin fever. As a bonafide city girl, it is unnatural for me to be cooped up inside and I can only imagine what you all must deal with on a yearly basis. So here are a few ideas for those of you who are also battling what may be some intense cabin fever.
Focus on your couple relationship – If you are feeling a little nuts from cabin fever, odds are, your partner is as well. If your partner loves surprises, it might be a nice idea to plan a date night. After the kids are laid down for the night, surprise your partner with a home cooked meal, their favorite finger food snacks, or even a special sweet treat! Select a movie that you know your partner will enjoy and get ready for some quality cuddle time on the couch. I am sure you will receive some much needed appreciation.
Put the alcohol down – Even the best relationships can suffer from an alcohol driven argument. If you find you are bickering with your partner more so now that you are stuck inside, you need to make sure that you do all you can to avoid this particular relationship pitfall. You have been cooped up with this person for months and maybe you need to remind yourself that you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with them. Put the cork back in that bottle of wine, and sit yourself down to make a list of all the things you love about your partner. You will be feeling rosy and amorous in no time flat.
Keep the kiddies busy – In the days of the internet, creative ideas are merely a google away. Maybe your kids like crafts, or sports, or just generally being active. After bedtime tonight, take some time and get those ideas for the next day you find yourself snowed in. Find a fun craft for the kids to participate in, make a playlist for a family dance off, or maybe even map out an indoor obstacle course to help get the wiggles out. Your kids will thank you for the change in routine, as will your partner.
Plan your next family trip – To beat the winter doldrums, a fun project that gives you and your family something to look forward to can be just the ticket. Maybe you want to visit the grandparents, or take the kids to Disney World for the first time, either way, you will need to get to planning! Start checking out local websites for travel agents and get some ideas. Once you get into the traveling spirit, even a day trip to a local theme park can become exciting.
Whatever you end up deciding to do to beat the winter doldrums, taking action is the first step. Get your household think tank going and combine forces with your family members. Their ideas will be valuable, and they will most likely be impressed that you, as the head of the household, value their opinions. These cabin fever coping skills may not only liven up your winter, but could also improve your family relationships!