Tag Archives: Health

Real School Food

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School is back in session. All the parents are sighing with relief; the kids are excited to see their friends. All is well….or is it?

If you agree keeping a close eye on your child’s nutrition and health, you know that is easiest done when they are eating at home. When they leave the house and go to a friends or with grandma & grandpa, you can only hope what you’ve taught them will carry them through all the temptations. I guess that goes for everything, not just food.

My parents see nothing wrong with happy meals or even ice cream for dinner. Lets just say, this is them in grandparents mode because as a child I’d have to sit at the table until my meal was eaten. Blah! Some of my son’s friends are the same way. Pizza, burgers, treats. All that is fine once in a while. However, I would kind of like to enjoy these treats with my son (yes, selfish) and I’d like a bit more control over what he eats and when. So, school is tough.

With over thirty kids in his class and less than thirty weeks in a school year, you can imagine just how often a birthday is celebrated in class. Add in teacher given treats and holiday parties and you have junk food galore. All this is not taking in account school lunches because my son takes a packed lunch. I just don’t trust the quality of school lunches, plus he is picky.

The average kid is taking that good ole average lunch. A sandwich, piece of fruit, a baggie of carbs and probably a juice box. Every once in a while, or everyday, you also throw in a little treat. This can be a decent well-balanced meal. I say “can be” because let’s be real, a slice of lunch meat on white bread, bag of Doritos, some fruities and a Capri Sun and maybe an Oreo, won’t win any healthy lunch awards. I’m not even going to go into my thoughts on Lunchables. But, you can pack healthy.

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Compared to the average school lunch, your average brown bag will be healthier. Plus, you can control the quantity and quality of foods you pack. Even with the new formulated school lunch, kids are still given highly processed food-stuff. Yes, they might have a salad bar, but when I have visited during lunchtime, I have yet to see a kid fill their plate with veggies. Not to mention, at our school, they “helpfully” add ranch dressing to all the lettuce beforehand, making your choice there limited. Again, bonus points for the salad, but by adding a jug of ranch they sort of kill that one.

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With the new school lunch menus, the average calorie intake is between 550-850 or more. Just for lunch. On this new plan, many kids are complaining they are still hungry so schools are now opting out of the Obama lunch program and are reverting back to larger, more filling lunches at over 1200 calories per meal! The newer lunches are bringing the nutrition closer to the prison meal, sad sad sad, where the older lunches were severely behind JAIL food!! What?

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The new program does have its positive notes. Some of the offered foods are locally sourced. Kids are “suppose to” take at least one fruit or veggie. Sadly, this has been translated into far more waste than ever before.

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When all the treats start rolling into the classroom, it’s tough to monitor. You don’t want to tell your child not to take one. Poor kid didn’t do anything wrong. However, the average cupcake has — grams of sugar. Now, with everything being store bought, that’s a difference from when we were able to bring homemade.

Treats might not be so bad if portions were considered. However, everything is oversized, extra sweet and pure junk. The average cupcake has about 20 grams of sugar. I’ve yet to see a kid bring fruit in as their birthday treat. My son included. It’s not like there is abundance of “healthy” bakeries out there making homemade like treats. They are out there, but it can be expensive when trying to feed about 40 little mouths.

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Then there is the treats shared on the bus, after-school munchies and finally at night, dessert. When you think you are about to treat your child to something yummy, chances are they’ve already had their fill. Getting to go out for a treat is just more sugar in their tummy.

Some families do watch what they serve. However, sometimes that means they will bring in fat-free, or sugar-free items which means now your child may be getting chemicals and preservatives that perhaps you don’t really love your kiddo eating.

It’s important that as parents we continue to watch what our kids eat, even when outside the home. It has a way of adding up and we don’t want our kids super-sized!

Good luck to another school year!

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What are they feeding us?

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I read constantly. I will read any book that happens to get in my reach or happens upon my nook. I finish every book I read, no matter how bad it might be. I love to edit and research and learn. When I find a topic that interests me, I like to look at it from all angles before forming an opinion. Even after I have an opinion, I’ll change my mind if I learn more or differently. I am not without fault, sometimes I get it wrong. Very wrong.

I use to believe that I couldn’t make a difference. Now I am ashamed I might have passed that thought to my son. Each person does make a difference.

I use to think one didn’t matter. Such as, one more time won’t hurt; just one will be fine. Boy, was I wrong there too. One becomes two, two becomes a dozen, a dozen morphs into hundreds and if you allow yourself to just “one more” or into thinking one doesn’t matter….it does!

I use to say that it didn’t matter if I bought this or that because it was already made, already there. It’s not like my getting it made a difference. Like my dollar spent even counted.

I bought the name brand products. I loved junk food. I liked the ease of popping something into the microwave or grabbing “food” in a drive up for dinner. The speed dial of pizza delivery. The Standard American Diet…..sad.

Then I woke up. From a nightmare.

My health was horrible. My crohn’s was flaring like never before. I was dropping weight, taking meds, pleading with doctors to not hospitalize me.

My husband was overweight. He was worn out, grumpy, depressed. He slept with a CPAP. His days of Ironman Triathlons were done. His back hurt, his feet hurt.

My son was tired all the time. He didn’t want to do anything anymore. His energy level was dropping along with his spark. He munched on the crappy snacks I provided then chowed the crappy dinner I served.

We were all starving. Starving not just for REAL food but for life.

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I took my love of reading and went crazy. I have read dozens of books about food and diet. We’ve made some huge changes — that have actually been easier than you’d think.

My crohn’s isn’t perfect but I don’t expect it to be. I push my limits with my new diet. I don’t just eat white processed foods. I am trying to expand my diet to a plant-based diet full of variety. I lost 50 pounds in the process.

My husband has dropped over 70 pounds (and not by pooping like me) by changing the way he sees food. He eats only plant-based meals. His diet is most easily defined as strict vegan. Zero animal products or by-products. He’s thin, fit, exercising comfortably. He’s running races, cycling, swimming, all in preparation for a triathlon at the end of the summer. I can describe him as an athlete again. He sleeps without the loud machine and looks 10 years younger and refreshed. His work has improved. He quality of life has dramatically improved. All he did was switch to an all plant diet. It is an amazing and formation. I wonder how I’ve changed? I know I have…..

His transformation has been so inspiring that my son and I are trying desperately to mimic him. We are just such picky finicky eaters that we can’t eat the variety my husband eats yet. YET. We are working on it. With my crohn’s, I do add in and try new foods a bit slower but I’m doing my best without pushing myself so far I flare. With that, I am encouraging my son to try new foods. He has been so great at trying, unfortunately, he hasn’t liked much he tries….still, baby steps.

After eliminating the junk food, stopping all the fast food and educating our whole family more, we are all improving in leaps and bounds. My son is active again. His skin looks terrific and his smile charming. His outlook is very positive. He is so supportive of the plant powered diet that I love listening to him explain the benefits to an adult. He’s very passionate about health and food and quality.

Let’s pause on that word. Quality. That word is what made me grab my iPad and start tapping away at this post. Quality.

What the hay is up with GMO and other “food” like crap we are buying, eating, and serving to those we love? We are not educated on what GMO is or does unless we go look for the imformation ourselves. My father was agreeing with me when we talked about how horrible it is. Then I realized, he thought companies had to inform us when they used GMO ingredients. Nope, not in America. He was floored. He is a very intelligent man. He watches the news, reads the paper, he is well-informed. So how did he miss that? How did I?

Until recently, I couldn’t have told you what GMO even stood for. Yet now after learning more, I still can’t explain to my son why these big ass companies feel the need to use these products. Beyond greed, it doesn’t make sense. Have you ever tried explaining something to a child? Where you can slide stuff by some adults, maybe sway the story, leave out parts you don’t agree with or don’t understand; you tell that same story to a kid and they’ll call you out. They question the simplest things and man, they want answers!

So, in my research (and its far from complete), I’ve learned that big companies will bury the facts so deep that you start to believe what they want you to believe. You can easily fall into the trap of believing that you need meat twice a day (gotta get that protein) or that milk, it does a body good. You might even feel comforted that good ole McDonald offers more healthful choices now. Maybe you don’t feel GMO is damaging us. Or maybe you don’t think that children are effected by all the hormones in meat and dairy. Perhaps you haven’t heard of BVO or care much about essential amino acids. Maybe you are still sipping that diet soda hoping to lose some weight. No worries, we’ve all been there. Sometimes, I don’t feel that far off from all that.

Baby steps! My researching is opening my eyes. I’m teaching my family. I’m choosing where I want to spend my dollar. I’m not accepting just “one more”. I am done ignoring the facts. I am done with the excuses. I am looking for answers in that straight forward nature frequently reserved for kids and old folks. I’m making changes that will benefit me, my family, my community, my world. Because, I do make a difference. My dollar counts. My vote counts. My life relies on me making the right decisions. My health is too precious for me to keep ignoring it all. Hopefully, I can inform others of what I know, what I learn through websites, publications, news stories and my beloved reading. I learn so much from those I follow on twitter. I truly feel it’s a give and take exchange of knowledge. I learn from you while sharing what I know.

Together, we really make a difference.
Really.

Comments to a Crohnie

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When you have a chronic disease, like Crohn’s, you hear some pretty crazy things. Here are some that have actually been said to me. For real.

I just had the flu so I totally understand what you deal with! (Yea, it’s just like that only different)

My friends mom has that and she’s fine. (Good for her)

You don’t look sick. (Thanks?)

So, what can you eat? (Do you mean today?)

What exactly is crohn’s? (Asked at the dinner table)

Are you really going to eat that? (Was going to)

(After a long bathroom trip) What were you doing in there so long? (Just sitting on my ass)

Are you just in the bathroom playing on your iPad? (Yes, the toilet is just so comfortable and I especially love it when my leg falls asleep, fun)

This is important to me, please don’t bail. (Well in that case, I’ll make my guts do what I want)

You’re not a very good friend, I mean, you are sick all the time. (Thanks, I wasn’t feeling crappy enough as it was)

Can’t you just have surgery? (Maybe getting inches of gut cut out doesn’t sound bad to you)

I get an upset stomach when I eat spicy foods, do you think I have crohn’s? (You should probably get a scope, they are fun, ugh)

My doc said I have crohn’s and I feel great, I don’t understand why you don’t? (I should see your doctor, he must have a magic wand)

OMG, I’ve heard of that! You could die from that! (Whoa, hope not!)

So, why isn’t there a cure yet? (When was the last time you raised money for IBD?)

Can’t you wait until we get home? Just hold it. (Do you really want me to poop my pants? In your car? Really?)

No big deal, everyone poops, right? (Yep, I just do it a dozen times a day)

I just take Motrin for my PMS cramps, have you tried that? Maybe that would help. (Good idea, it’s not like I haven’t tried every med out there already)

You take steroids? OMG, you’ll get all buff! (Nope, just get the ‘roid rage, grrrrrr)

Why don’t you just get some sleep? (Why didn’t I think of trying that?)

You have to go to the bathroom again? (While pausing the movie, again)

You can go, there are bathrooms there. (And all bathrooms are equal)

How can you be a good parent when you are so sick? (Hey, my kid loved having stories read to him in the bathroom)

Can’t you just take medicine? (More than the handfuls I already take?)

You know, you can’t expect special treatment. (Gee, really?)

You were in the hospital again? What for? (Just taking a little break, thought I’d have a little spa week. They wait on you hand and foot, especially after you ring for them eight times. The food is indescribable and I love sharing a room with a stranger. You should try it!)

Can’t the doctors do anything for you? (I’ve never asked)

You better not overdo it. (Just waking up today hurt)

You can have just a little, right? I mean, it won’t kill you! (Says the person who won’t be up all night in the bathroom crying)

You cry in the bathroom? Why? (No, of course I don’t cry. You can’t prove it.)

You make it out to be such a big deal. (Usually said by someone you haven’t talked to in weeks)

You know, when you get sick, it’s hard on all of us. (Like that ball of guilt will help?)

You can go, it’s just at their house. (And its always comfortable to ditch a small gathering for a half hour and kill another persons bathroom. Hope they have a fan, toilet paper, patience, sense of humor, everyone pretending you didn’t just do that)

Wow, you are still upbeat about it all! (Yes, I’ve found that kicking a toilet and screaming really doesn’t do anything good. Humor is my only defense)

My uncle only flares up when he’s stressed. (Either he is flaring all the time or he’s a monk)

Maybe getting crohn’s is a blessing. (Well, I do do a lot of praying – please please stop, I just want to rest)

When was your last flare up? (When have I ever not been flaring?)

You can’t have crohn’s and colitis. Only one or the other. (Really? Can you send that memo to my gut? Here’s the mail chute)

How do you handle it? (I don’t. It takes everything I have got to hide the pain, pressure, guilt, fear and anger I am feeling.)

You seem fine. (Then my acting has improved)

It will get better/easier. (When?)

Can we go on the trampoline? (The things we do for our kids!)

Yes, crohn’s suck. Any disease that causes pain and discomfort is horrible. The guilt alone that we face when we feel we are imposing on someone or causing disappoint eats us up. Like the disease. A good attitude really does help. (Insert eye roll if you’d like, but it really does)

When I was first diagnosed, I really lost all hope. I was sick non-stop for months that turned into years. It wasn’t anything like my mom’s crohn’s; or your aunt’s, his mailman’s, her dog. It was living hell. Trying a new medicine every couple of weeks only for it to fail and my hope would fall further. I spent so much time in the hospital, I knew which vein could last more than 12 hours, I knew the tricks for getting the better night nurse, heck, I could have set up my own IV and med machine. In fact, I already could disarm those blasted alarms. What I couldn’t do, is know what worked. What could I eat without dying afterwards? Why did action “a” only sometimes equal reaction “b”? It changed every flipping day. I swear, crohn’s is this spazzy little kid high on sugar bouncing from one thing to another, tearing down the walls and cackling. I’d go left, it went right. I’d make a play to get a handle on it, it would duck and hide. I could run, but it always caught me. It could run, and I’d never get close. It felt like I was battling myself in some epic sci-fi war where only one of us would come out alive.

Some nights, I let the crohn’s win. Some weeks it would win. I got depressed. I got angry, at myself. I was disappointed, in myself. I felt ripped off. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to live a life with crohn’s. Then, I would turn it around and feel strong and feisty and ready to fight. Repeat and rinse.

Everyone said it would get better. I’d understand it more as time went on. I’d get it under control. After a few years, I still didn’t believe these Pollyanna types. Then, it changed, just a little.

I finally understood. Crohn’s Disease is only two words; not a sentence. It was some I had, it didn’t have me! I could beat this thing. Then I would flare and doubt would sink in again.

This would go on and on until finally the remission times between flares would be just a tad longer than the last time, allowing me to get that much stronger than before. Finally, I might be feeling pretty good for a couple months at a time. During that time, I’d have a positive attitude and feel like I won. When I flared, it would take more than a couple bathroom trips to knock me down and even then, it wouldn’t put me completely out of the game. Time did go on and it really did get better.

My crohn’s didn’t ever really improve. Sometimes a medicine might work or I wouldn’t flare for as long or as often but it basically stayed the same. It hated my guts and I wasn’t too fond of it either. However, the way I looked at it, my disease, did change. I couldn’t let it define me, control me, beat me.

I make jokes, like most crohnies. I deal with other auto-immune disease, like most crohnies. I struggle and adapt and keep moving one foot in front of another, like most crohnies. I research it more than any doctor I know, like most crohnies. I know medicines better than a pharmacist, like most crohnies. That’s when I understood, I’m just like most crohnies….except what works for you, might not work for me and vice versa. But we will try anything. Us crohnies, are a gutsy group.

So, keep your chin up. Face this flare up with smile. Sit on your comfy toilet (isn’t it sad we know toilet brands and features as well as a plumber? Oh, I do love the extra tall ones, and your seat is much nicer than my current one) and get stronger. Use humor when you can but cry if you have to. You do deserve special treatment, only it’s up to you to give it to yourself. Don’t overdo it, and don’t feel you have to explain yourself to others. If you can’t do something, just say that. Don’t feel you have to give reasons or excuses. You just can’t or don’t want to. Let the other person deal with it. Eat what you want when you can. Enjoy your life in any small segment you can. Even the worst crappiest days ever, can be dealt with if you don’t pile on the self guilt. It’s hard but I think that’s what people mean when they say it gets easier. The disease stays the same, gets better, gets worse but how you look at it and deal with it, does change.

Stay positive (when you can) and go kick your own ass!

Real Crohnie – Real Struggles

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I had already had several really bad stomach cramps. I had already pooped my pants in public. I had already spent hours and hours in the bathroom. I finally learned I had Crohn’s.

I did what I would advise people not to do. I looked up Crohn’s on the Internet. This was 1998 and I had limited knowledge of the web. Being exposed to pictures showing the worst of the disease was really not something I should have been looking at during work hours, well, ever! Don’t do it. Don’t look up some medical thing, especially images. Yet, we’ve all done it. And we’ll probably do it again.

So I sat at my desk and cried. Why I looked it up is still a mystery for me because I had grown up with a mother who has crohn’s. I already was familiar with the disease. Yet, when the doc scoped me and said it was the worst case of crohn’s┬áhe had seen and asked me how I was dealing with the pain, I freaked out.

My mom had been in the hospital twice when I was growing up. I knew she had to be careful with what she ate, she got tired easily and sometimes took pain meds. I also knew that she spent a long time in the bathroom. Even though she deals with it on a daily basis, she has a mild form of the disease. That wasn’t my case.

Within a few weeks of finding out, I had my first two week stay in the hospital. Immediately, the docs saw my case was anything but normal. I went anaphylactic on meds, I broke into rashes, my IV had to be changed every 12 hours, I absorbed pain meds like a junkie, and nothing seemed to want to work.

After 30+ hospital trips, featuring several different hospitals in two different cities, I can honestly declare that hospitals suck. Once you can eat, the food is gross. The nurses range from rock stars to “oh, man, please not her again”. Guests either never show making you feel lonely or stay too long, turning you into a hostess. It’s just rough on everyone.

I was the first person at my Oregon hospital to try Remicade, which had been approved for use only days before. It worked great….at first. Like all good crohnies, what works at first, might not later. Remicade worked well but I still had to take handfuls of other meds as well. In fact, I took meds to help with the side effects of other meds. Handfuls.

Around this time, working became impossible and I struggled to stay out of the hospital for two months at a time. Always staying at least two weeks, and once a whole month. Lots of people ask why? Fluids, pain management and usually high doses of steroids (fun fun).

This was before docs knew better than to prescribe 120mg of Prednisone, so I got slammed. I gained 80 pounds despite being unable to hold down food. I never slept. I got depressed then I went psychotic. I’m not proud of what I put my friends and family through, but I also totally blame the meds. After a couple of months, I was dropped to 100mg and stayed at that dose for a couple of months. Doctors misdiagnosed me as bi-polar because that amount of steroids was wrecking havoc on all aspects of mental functioning.

Meanwhile, I’m on this med and that med, getting Remicade transfusions and still visiting the nurses at the hospital every couple of months. My husband struggled with it but stood by me. In fact, he would come home on his lunch breaks to make sure I’d take my meds and get me some lunch. He’s so incredible.

My friends all but disappeared. After I bailed on plans, missed parties, couldn’t commit, backed out of promises, no one wanted to be friends with a sickie. I can’t really blame them yet, to be honest, I totally do. It’s hard to stay friends with people that only want to be around during the good times and split as soon as the admission papers are signed.

It was hard on my mom. She knew about Crohn’s in her limited experience and couldn’t understand why nothing that worked for her, would work on me. Oddly, during her third major flare in 30 years, the doctors removed some of her gut and she’s been great since. I say oddly because in all my battling, surgery was only mentioned once and not in a positive way.

Perhaps, surgery isn’t an option because the more they scope me the more complex my case becomes. I have crohns, but I also have colitis. I might have celiac disease but nothing has been conclusive. I also deal with all the crap those with autoimmune diseases deal with, fibromyalgia and symptoms that mimic other diseases. My disease runs from my mouth to my anus. I get mouth sore, nodes on my legs and bruising so bad, my husband begs me to wear long sleeves. (He has never ever put me in a box and tossed me down a hill, it only looks like that could have happened) I also have different doctors than my mom.

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I found out I was pregnant only a week after a dose of Remicade. I was scared. Some doctors warned me against carrying my surprise baby to term. Others said I was safe. I believed the latter. At 7 months pregnant, our little girl stopped breathing in utero and died. While its rare, I can’t directly blame the medicine either, but I totally do. I gave birth and promptly had the worst flare ever. A month long hospital trip was my prize.

Very quickly after I got my strength back, we tried for a baby. We hadn’t been ready, but losing my angel changed that. We got pregnant fast but my past miscarriages and then the stillbirth taught my not to count any chickens before the eggs were hatched. Like the pregnancies before, everything went smooth – except it was hard to control my anxiety at times. In 2002, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. And I stayed in remission!

After 10 amazing months of motherhood, I flared. They tried Remicade and it failed. They couldn’t give me high doses of steroids because I had developed Addison’s disease and my adrenal glands no longer produced cortisol so I take low doses daily. (Thanks first GI, hoped you learned from that little oopsy) We had tried experimental, traditional, basically anything ever suggested as a possible assist, we tried. I’d either be allergic, it might work for a few weeks before failing, or it never worked from the get go. I was hospitalized in a city 100 miles away from my baby. That was crushing.

After several more hospital trips, I got serious with my docs about limiting my meds and tried to make some significant strides. I had felt awesome when I was pregnant and not on any meds, yet felt like crap when flaring and placed on handfuls of drugs.

Some of my doctors are forward thinking, others like to play things safe. About 8 years ago, I tried TSO. That’s pig whipworm eggs. I’d digest them and they would hatch in my gut. My body would then fight them instead of itself and then after a few weeks, expel them and I’d start over again. That was the plan anyway. The vials came from Germany and were ridiculously expensive. I had to get so many approvals from places like the USDA, prove I wasn’t a pig farmer and so on. so when the FedEx guy tossed the package of glass vials on my porch, I prayed none broke. A program called, From Beyond, filmed me and my family for their Discovery Health show. It was an exciting time, I felt I had beat the odds. Then I flared again. And again.

Getting the Addison’s part under control helped a ton. Everything started to smooth out slowly. I was finally feeling better and wasn’t on a ton of medicines. I had a nice couple of years where everything was in a nice moderate stage. Nice. Then, boom, when Crohns wants to come out and play, it does. My crohns happens to be a spaz.

Last fall, my health went from pretty good to horrible in one day. All of a sudden, nothing stayed down. I threw up everything I tried to eat, spent hours rushing to the bathroom dozens of times a day, my body hurt. I did as I was instructed, except I wouldn’t go to the hospital. Flat out refused. I could push my on fluids, I didn’t want to rely on pain meds this round and I can’t take high doses of steroids so really, anything the hospital would do, I could do. It took tons of help from my husband and son to stay at home. They pretty much catered to my needs as I laid in bed for a couple of months.

I missed out on school events. I pushed myself then would slide backwards. As the holidays approached, I panicked and faked feeling better. Us, crohnies, we fake feeling better so well we really deserve an award. My health suffered and I lost tons of weight.

My husband has always been a yo-yo bouncing from one extreme to another. He had let his weight go and was eating really poorly. As a result, our son was eating only junk while I was still struggling to hold down jello. At the beginning of 2013, my husband went into a huge health kick. One that looks promising, like it might be a forever change, for real this time. (You can read about our story and his 70+ pound weight loss here: http://wp.me/p3CR61-1t)

I decided to once again, not follow doctors advice. Another thing crohnies get good at, practicing medicine without a degree. My GI has always suggested a bland, all white, processed diet; especially while flaring. I decided to eat healthy; fresh foods, fruits, veggies, basically everything off the do not eat list.

At first, my gut flipped out. Then again, it hadn’t really ever stopped flipping out since the flare began in September. I pushed through and my gut adapted! Soon, I wasn’t cramping as bad after meals. I was, but a normal amount. I was still going to the bathroom over a dozen times a day, but that has become my normal so food wasn’t really effecting that, negatively or positively. Then, I really ticked off my docs. I decided to come off some of my meds. For the first time in a decade, I was off my pain meds, off anything “extra” and off anything I didn’t think was helping.

I can’t say I’m in remission right now, but I’m also not in bed crying, or rushing out of a store with poop in my pants. I’m more active than I have been in the last nine months. I’m happier. I’m eating all the things the doctors stay not to eat. My doctor knows and is hesitant but I think she’s still mad that I refuse to go to the hospital, even for a scope and that I love to play doctor and make whatever changes I want. She’s dealing with my rebelling, I’m sure she would get along with my parents.

My husband has stopped eating all animal products and I call him vegan, he says he eats an all plant based whole food diet. Same dif. Now, I’d do that far and slowly I am trying. I know meat isn’t the easiest thing to digest and if I was trying harder to get my crohns into remission, meat and dairy would be some of the first things to go. But, I’m picky. I’m so picky that picky people make fun of me. I’m so picky, the idea of trying something new scares me. I run to the bathroom, ok, only to hide but still….what if whatever I try is so gross, I puke, on the table, in front of everyone??? What if…..

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I’m trying. I’ve been cooking and baking vegan recipes for my husband, Mr Vegan, like the one pictured above. (That’s @Engine2Diet Mac not Cheese, and one day I hope my plate will look like that) I’m trying it all to encourage my son, Sir Picky to try it as well. I’m finding I like some of them (beans, huh) or at least I can hide it in a salad (kale please pretend you are green leaf) Although, the concept of hiding yucky food in yummy food doesn’t really work on me since I’m the one cooking it. Even if I didn’t, I’m pretty sure I could spot a pea hiding in my noodle.

As I try to train my taste buds and get brave, I’m blogging. I’m hoping to share recipes, share my stories, learn from you and share what I have learned. Mostly, I’m hoping this crohnie will one day soon, become Mrs Vegan, for real.

Yo-Yo Dieting – Real Weight Loss

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Being a healthy weight isn’t the easiest thing for most people. More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, half of which fall into the obese category. That means only one-third of Americans are of a healthy weight. Why?

Well, a lot can be said about food choices. The sad Standard American Diet at work. There are thousands of new food-like products being offered every year. Our society looks toward processed foods to nurture ourselves and our families. As if the packaged food that is enriched with vitamins is going to be better for us than the real deal.

What comes from this situation is a dieting frenzy. A new diet hits the market every time you turn around. TV doctors are promoting this way of eating, these exercises, that lifestyle. Meanwhile, most people will lose and gain the same chunk of weight over and over again. Yo-yo dieting is not only common, it’s practically expected. Some people will even say it is dangerous for your health, others say it’s better to yo-yo than to not. Excuses all around. But it is nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off if you are eating today’s highly processed foods.

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My husband has been a big yo-yo dieter most all his adult life. His weight has gone down, stayed average, ballooned up, drifted around, soared up, slid down for years now. He had run marathons, done half Ironman competitions, had transformed himself many times. At the end of 2012, he had decided once more that the Pizza & Beer diet wasn’t working. He was tired all the time. His back hurt, his feet hurt, actually, everything hurt. His health was hurting. He was hooked up to a CPAP machine while he slept. He was depressed and felt so overwhelmed when he thought of trying another diet. He also feared not trying one. His father had died of a heart attack when he was just 51, and this year he was turning 40.

The last straw was going into an IHOP for breakfast. Most booths at restaurants are comfortable, the table moves and adjusts for who needs more space. This table didn’t. It was in a fixed position and when he tried to slide in, he couldn’t. Instead of asking for another table, one he could fit into, he opted to stay there and uncomfortably order and eat his meal. That was difficult.

Meanwhile, my crohn’s was flaring away and had been for months. Stress was a huge factor in the home. I was in bed or in the bathroom more than anywhere else. My husband was falling asleep on the couch in middle of the afternoons. Our son, Sir Picky, was deciding which drive-up we should grab our dinner from. Heck, I didn’t care. It wasn’t like the food was going to stay down. He didn’t care, because really, what is just one more? Our son, he didn’t complain. It tasted great.

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Finally, the time came. My husband signed up to do the Biggest Loser challenge at his work. He pulled what he knew from different plans he had done in the past. He changed his eating to a “more healthy” diet. Anything was healthier than how the family had been eating but as he changed, Sir Picky and I really didn’t change much. Instead of red meat, my husband ate ground turkey or leaner slices. Instead of denying himself, he had a cheat day once a week where he, in theory, could gorge himself full of junk. Starting with McDonalds for breakfast and ending with a bellyache at night. To give him credit, with the Biggest Loser competition (and $500) on the line, instead of cheat days, he only ate cheat meals here and there and stopped all fast food.

A few weeks into the year, he started watching lots of food related documentaries. The one that told us a story flat out, in basic language, was Hungry For Change (www.hungryforchange.tv). I’m always supportive of anything my husband dreams up. So, I was watching the shows, researching meals, reading up on whatever he mentioned. Hungry For Change impacted the whole family. All three of us needed and wanted to change after watching it.

My weight had already been dropping. At that point I had gone from my pre-flare weight of about 165 down to about 130. Enough, that people started feeling comfortable to ask me what I had been “doing”. For me, life would have been so much simpler if I could have just grabbed my food, rushed into the bathroom and promptly flushed it. My crohn’s wasn’t tolerating anything. Not a great way to lose weight. In recent years, my weight had gone from a prednisone high of nearly 200 and a flare low of 135 and everything in between, twice. 130 was light.

As a family, we decided to start adding healthful foods – real foods – fresh foods. Then, started reading books. Anything that had been mentioned on the HfC film. We read books that those books mentioned. We consumed books. We finally learned. The more we learned, the more we realized that we had been looking too much at our food, and yet, also not enough.

We never really bought into the organic movement, now we do. More importantly, we now look for location. Is that grown nearby? Was it grown organically by farmers we agree with and want to support? Is it in season? We use to look at nutrition facts on labels, not at the ingredients. We looked at foods that would help us, live up to their claims but would still taste good. We weren’t looking for basic regular whole foods. How could an apple be healthier than this food created by scientists that did everything an apple could do, plus more!? Wow, we had a lot to learn.

In our research and reading, I began reading more about the food industry. (I highly recommend any book by Michael Pollan, I especially love his food rules. Another great is Fat, Sugar, Salt book by Michael Moss). Meanwhile, Mr Extreme became Mr Vegan. He watched the Engine 2 film, Forks Over Knives, and read their books. He read all about the China Study and started in on books by athletes that were plant powered (Rich Roll, Scott Jurek and tons more). He learned our bodies could not only survive, but thrive on a full plant based diet. He went vegan. (Yes, the V-word)

Many months later, here we are. He has not eaten any meat or animal products in several months and is loving life. Yes, he constantly gets those questions and advice, because everyone has something to say when they learn this little fact.

But we need meat, how are you going to get protein?
We are built to eat meat, see our teeth.
You need your milk otherwise you’ll get osteoporosis.
How will you get calcium?
Won’t you miss (fill in the blank)

I don’t remember ever having anyone approach my husband when he was eating pizza to tell him not to eat that. Or tell him to eat more of something. If anything, people were there offering him another beer, another burger, some chips. Cake to celebrate.

Now, I’m a bit more use to people commenting on my life. I have crohn’s so everyone has something to tell me.

My mailman has crohns and he is fine!
I had the flu once so I totally know what you feel like!
Are you sure you should eat that?

I am also picky. (OK, beyond picky) I recently heard the word neophobia and totally related. I am afraid to try new food. So people love to offer advice on that too. (I would like to say, I would totally know it if I tried to hide something I didn’t like in my noodles. Because, I made it! It’s not like I could later forget, space off and accidentally eat something gross. Ugh!) I will admit, my pickiest is embarrassing (who else keeps a PB sandwich in their purse during a dinner out?) and it unfortunately rubbed off on my son, Sir Picky. However, we are now trying.

Our lives are better and I believe the string on the yo-yo has been cut. I would love to keep adding foods until one day, I like enough variety that I could be a full-time vegan. For now, I season my meals with meat, sometimes. We try to eat plant heavy. Anything I bake, I make sure it’s completely vegan so we can all enjoy it. We research our foods and get to know where they come from and how they were grown. I planted herbs. I know the difference between chai and chia. We are still learning but standing strong, as a family. A real family that wants to make a real change.

Currently, I’m weighing in at 112 (5’3) and my husband is back to running races and training for a triathlon. He has gone from 265 to 193, consistently losing weight each week and can now see his goal weight (165) approaching (he’s 5’9). Our son is healthy, happy, fit and is also learning. Like me, he looks forward to the day our whole family is vegan plant powered.

Thanks for reading our story. Please follow me on twitter (@ShellJacobson) and my husband (@jake946) and be sure to share this blog with others. I hope to share with you my adventures on this journey as I explore and learn more about healthful living.

Have a great day and Happy Father’s Day.

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Michelle & Neal – June 2013

Planting herbs in containers

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As I do my reading, I’ve been trying to be really aware of where my food is coming from. I shop as local as possible, hit the farmers market, head out to the nearby farms, and buy from companies that are close. I try to get foods that are in season and fresh, organic is a bonus. While my husband is a vegan (yes, that dreaded v-word again), my son and I still eat meat. I feel (mostly) OK about that, because all the meat Sir Picky and I eat is from a local meat market that butchers meat fresh from a local family farm. I really am trying. So…..what about my spices?

I’ve decided to see if I can pull off growing my own herbs in some backyard containers. I looked on the Internet for local sources of good soil and starter plants. Luckily, I found some that were grown just a few miles from my home. I picked up some containers on sale. Grabbed some soil and compost and got it all ready to replant.

Now, I’m far from a gardener. In fact, looking at my thumb right now and it’s not even slightly green. But I have been growing mint for several months, which made me optimistic until I found out they grow like weeds. (Tastes great in lemonade or mojitos though)

I chose a small selection of herbs, trying to select ones we would actually use. I got basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. I also grabbed some more lavender for my backyard (great to add to the dryer cycle). I also bought a larger variety of rosemary for maybe toasting on the grill. Then, my son picked out a grape vine (eek) and a pink blueberry bush (?). Both are super anti-oxidants and I have hope that maybe my son and I will like blueberries better if they are pink. It could happen. Hopefully, all this has a better ending than my poor pathetic apple tree my son talked me into a few summers ago.

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I picked out these herbs with their health benefits in mind, but also how likely it was I would cook with them. OK, mostly based on which ones I had heard of and would cook with….but the health benefits actually rock!

ROSEMARY

Rosemary has many health benefits besides smelling great and making you happy. It’s tagged for helping people with their memory, migraines, pain (especially joint pain), is an anti-inflammatory and boosts your immune system (great for crohnies). It also has anti-bacterial qualities as well as help balance out your digestive system (yea). It helps with colds and congestion and has anti-aging qualities. All in all, great enough, I bought two!

THYME

Some consider thyme essential for good health. Besides preventing cancers and promoting good health, it is packed, and I mean PACKED with minerals and vitamins. Plus, lots of recipes team thyme up with rosemary.

OREGANO

Oregano has lots of bacteria fighting elements as well as loaded with vitamin K, Iron, and full of fiber. It’s a powerful anti-oxidant that also has lots of Omega 3.

BASIL

This is another herb that works as an anti-inflammatory. It stops some icky bacteria, promotes healthy bacteria we all need, all while packing in vitamin A, magnesium and increasing your blood flow. Without basil and oregano, your spaghetti sauce would just be plain ole tomato sauce (whoa, look at me all spicing up my foods).

PARSLEY

This little green sprig is actually rich in vitamins. Remember that old dude in the restaurant who would chew on it after dinner? Maybe you called him grandpa. Well, he had the right idea except maybe hide it into your salad for a fresh taste. It’s not only an anti-inflammatory herb, it boosts your immune system, helps even out your nervous system, reducing stress and joint pain while preventing some cancers. Full of vitamins and minerals, it’s powerful stuff. One of the vitamins it has a lot of is vitamin B12, hello vegans!

Now, I know what you are thinking. Ok, these little herbs are great, but how much do you think I’m going to eat? Does it matter how healthful these are or aren’t? Yes! I know you are only going to sprinkle some here, add a dash there, but wouldn’t you rather get some awesome benefits from these herbs than not get any at all? Heck, yea! I personally want to add things onto my plate that will help me, no matter how trivial it may seem. It all adds up!

I’m pretty excited and can’t wait to start cooking with my new treasures. They look cute and smell great, in fact, I’d love to roll around in the rosemary for awhile! (Don’t worry, I didn’t) Now I have real plants, real herbs and I will really know where and how they grew when I eat them.

Have a healthful day!