How to Cure Anxiety with Food


This is a fairly personal post for me to be sharing. It seems anxiety and depression is on the rise, particularly in women. I felt that a lot of people could relate to my story and perhaps find hope and some tools to recover. I’ll outline a bit of background as to what triggered my panic attacks in my youth just so you can get a picture of what my life looked like while suffering from mental illness.

 

When I was in the 8th grade I was diagnosed with having a Panic Disorder. It had come on fiercely, though not so suddenly. I had always suffered from anxiety as a child though was too young to understand what it was. I didn’t have the cognitive capacity to examine myself or how I was feeling because as a child, I was still busy being a kid and my thoughts and feelings seemed to change on a whim.

The day that I recall my anxiety coming on full force was when I was entered into a competition for playing piano. I felt off all day leading up to the event. I felt obligated to still compete even though I was nauseated, weak and unfocused. Though I was able to complete my piece (I still won a medal despite how  I felt!), I didn’t make it out of my pew before projectile vomiting in front of everyone and all over myself. I felt trapped, like I couldn’t escape because it just kept coming. I felt like I had ruined everything for everyone by being sick like that. I still remember my mom’s, sigh of “Ohh Sandra…” as I was helplessly hunched over in the Church pew.

I continued to be sick for 24 hours. I have never before or since been that ill in my life.  However, after this incident I couldn’t leave the house without feeling sick. Every time I had to go somewhere new, with new people and especially if I had to eat somewhere that wasn’t home I would begin to panic. I didn’t understand that I was feeling panic, I just thought that I had something physically wrong with me (the hypochondriac in me thought I had stomach cancer) and ended up going through multiple blood tests, ultra sounds and stomach x-rays to figure out why I was always nauseous. Eventually my doctor deduced that at the age of 12 I had developed an anxiety disorder.

I have been in therapy multiple times. I have seen many people in many different places, prompted by varying circumstances. I would go through months where I wouldn’t have panic attacks and other times it would seem that I would have multiple a day. It would come on fast, and I would be incapacitated. Over time, I socially began to withdraw as I couldn’t go to the movies, to dinner or to any other outing without feeling “off.” My friends invited me out less, and I isolated myself more. I had been shy, depressed and anxious as a child but now that I knew that I had this issue, my brain began going into over drive every time I had to leave the house. I ended up taking Gravol every day before I went to school, after lunch and if I had to work that evening I’d take another before work. It was all I could do to force myself through the school day and through my shifts without wanting to pass out or be sick. I always had to carry a huge purse filled with mints, gum, bottled water, gravol, pepto bismol and anything else that might help or distract me from how awful I felt at all times.

My interest in school had never been strong but had been taken to a new low by the time I was in my senior year of high school. The more anxious I became, the more depressed I was. The more depressed I was, the less I showed up for school. I ended up quitting the job I had been at for several years and barely skimmed by my high school courses. While all of my peers were preparing to apply to university and college, I was preparing for my own death. I began to feel that I was incapable of functioning in the regular world like everyone else and that my state of existence was a burden to everyone and so decided it was better for the people in my life and myself to disappear. It was during this time that I learned that mental illness ran in my family. My grandfather had been hospitalized for months due to an emotional breakdown and an aunt was bi-polar, both on my mother’s side. I moved back in with my parents and resigned to socializing almost exclusively on the internet.

Jumping ahead a few years, I had moved cross country three times due to a very toxic relationship. I ended up in the Okanagan first. While there were a lot of issues with my first move, I felt that I had found some friends who I connected with. They were much younger than me, and I felt that by spending time with them that I was able to catch up on a lot of fun and experiences that I had passed up or missed out on because of the extent of my anxiety disorder. While living in the Okanagan from 2006 – 2008 my mental illness was tame with the exception of one emotional breakdown that landed me in the emergency room. Otherwise,  I was physically very active and healthy (at least compared to what I had been). I was in the aforementioned toxic relationship but I was  going to university finally at the age of 21, I had a wide group of friends, I walked everywhere and I felt a certain sort of freedom that I didn’t have during elementary or high school. When school didn’t work out and money was running low, I moved back home in February of 2008 only to move back West to Vancouver 10 months after moving home. I had hoped to recapture my experience in the Okanagan. It ended up leading my anxiety to transform into agoraphobia.

Things with my roommates didn’t work out and we went our separate ways. I ended up living with someone who was never home and who was stressful to deal with as a living partner. I had a single friend in the city who had moved to the downtown core. I could not bring myself to drive there as “big cities” were terrifying for me. The only social interaction I had was with people on the internet and my co-workers. I became afraid to go to the bank. I could not bring myself to go to the grocery store. I resorted to eating only what I could buy through a drive-thru or pick up quickly from the 24hr Shoppers Drug Mart on the way home from work. Putting gas in my car became a chore. Eventually it came to a point where I couldn’t bring myself to walk around my own neighbourhood and the only time I ever went outside was to walk to my car and back. The only reason I was ever able to leave the house outside of work was because I owned 2 cats and my sense of duty over took my fear and I was able to talk myself into going to the store to get them food. I would have to repeat to myself over and over: “If I can just get a bag of cat food it will be OK… If I happen to see some fruit and veggies that I can grab quickly on my way to the register, then I will get those too.” Often times I couldn’t handle standing in line long enough for the cashier to even scan through fruits of vegetables so would not buy them. I would always select the cashier I knew to be fastest to prevent myself from being in store any longer than necessary. I would be shaking the entire time, heart pounding out of my chest, scanning constantly for the exit, for a washroom, for somewhere safe that I could run to in case it go too bad. It always felt like it was “too bad,” so I often avoided going anywhere what so ever.

In my isolation I had realized that if something ever happened to me, some accident or tragedy, no one would know for days, maybe weeks. It was the loneliest point of my life when it hit me that I had no one. I had made one new friend in the city at this point who I talked to regularly but couldn’t go out and do things with because of my fear. I toyed again with the idea of disappearing, truly believing that my life was no longer worth living. I never followed through only because I was concerned for the well being of my pets should I die. So I forced myself to the walk in clinic. I sat in my car for what felt like 30 minutes, windows rolled up in the summer heat, trying to slow my breathing, my heart beat and to stop myself from feeling like I was going to freeze to death.  From then, as I had to do with work, I talked myself into driving to the first stop sign, then the first intersection, then to the parking lot. I stayed there for as long as I could stand it, knowing that if I didn’t go NOW that the clinic would close and I’d have to suffer through another day like this which I just could not do.

The doctor I saw was very good. He talked to me patiently and slowly. I sat, staring at my shaking hands which were clutching my water bottle, chewing wildly on a piece of gum, shaking my knees and trying to keep upright. Over time, I began to relax in his office and understood that if anything bad was going to happen, at least I was in the right place for it. He told me that no matter what I do, never miss work because I was anxious or depressed. He wrote me a small subscription for Ativan for times when my anxiety felt like an emergency and referred me to a therapist.

Danielle, my therapist, was wonderful. By the time I ended up seeing her I had tried every coping mechanism in the book. I had read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, investigated different methods of meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, supplements, vitamins, etc. I had tried anti-depressants (which lead to the first suicidal episode) and I extensive diary writing. I ended up under eating trying to keep the nausea away that came from anxiety. I tried Z-Point strategies, binaural beats and I tried sleeping with different kinds of stones under my pillow to get their “calming energy.” Danielle was surprised at the amount of coping mechanisms I employed to get through my day to day life. She was surprised that, overall, I didn’t use the Ativan, that I still showed up for work and for the most part (as far as agoraphobes go) I was able to function. Because there was not much she could teach me to cope with the anxiety, it naturally followed that we ended up discussing my inability to distinguish my emotions, the fact that I stuffed all of my feelings down and that I had never had an opportunity to talk to anyone about being Catfished (what lead me to move to BC in the first place). She, and the doctors I had previously seen chalked my anxiety up to genetics and that I’d always have it on some level, and somehow that was a relief to me. So I set it aside.

Through my sessions with Danielle I was able to unload a lot that had been on my mind but that I felt no one could really understand. I was able to sort out my emotions about the abusive relationship I had been in while living in BC. I was able to start pouring out things that I had kept to myself for many years and was able to feel a lot more freedom. She constantly praised my strength and ability to cope and through these events and this gave me a great deal of confidence. I began to reclaim a lot of emotional strength that I had lost and was able to form new relationships and overall be more social.

While teaching me how to identify my emotions Danielle also gave me a booklet about Eating for Anxiety. It explained how insulin spikes could cause panic attacks in some individuals and that some foods were better for maintaining blood sugar levels than others. It outlined very basic meals that I should focus on eating and in what quantity so as to keep my body in a physical state of calm. While I had tried so many other strategies it never occurred to me to look at my nutrition. The only time I considered my food was during my various yo-yo dieting phases where I simply tried to eat less and less and less as opposed to eating enough of the right kinds of foods, and I succeeded at eating less until some days I was consuming as little as 700 calories for an entire day.

I ended up doing some research and stumbled upon The Paleo Diet.

 

Stay Tuned for Part 2 where I discuss Nutrition and how it relates to mental illness as well as what I ate to cure my anxiety and depression.

10 Month Progress / Update for Chris


As per my end of August post I had some goals from when I started out at the gym. These change greatly as I got into it and started playing with food to gain weight. There was a ton of tinkering with diet and workout plans and I did deal with some fuckarounditis. Below I will detail out what I did, the mistakes I made, as well as the successes and where my progress is.

Diet

My goal was to consume around 3600 calories on workout days and 2800 on off days. I sort of hit these goals but not quite the same and carbs were much lower as I found it too hard to get in over 200g of carbs a day. What I ended up doing was consuming close to 3500 on most days  with only a few hundred more on workout days. I would give myself 1-2 days on the weekend to just eat whatever or skip meals if I wanted. This would end up having me eat more or less. Carbs on workout days would be around 100-150g from rice or potato and some milk and fruit/veggies. It took me a little while to get to this point along the 10 months. I went through a period of time where I was eating keto style but not seeing much weight gain so then added the rice/potato. Also up until around January I barely if ever had a treat. Past January I would give myself a treat once a month then up to twice a month sometimes 3 times a month. Because I’m gaining weight I figure having some ice cream isn’t the worst thing in the world. I try to keep to foods that don’t make me feel bad.

I did run into a scare in April where I went out for Indian food and had a whole bunch of Naan bread. I was sick for 5 days and could barely eat any food. Anything I ate would feel horrible in the stomach like I was super bloated; even water. After over 3 days I decided to just do a fast. I ate zero food for a little over 24 hours, only water and salt. After that I felt pretty good and a day or so later I was back to eating the way I was before and back on track. Lesson learned here was don’t eat so much bread. I can handle a tiny amount but it appears the large dose killed me. I doubt it was the other foods as I did share it with a friend and had all of the foods before so nothing new was ingested, only the naan bread. I am unsure if it was gluten or something else but all I know is I won’t be eating that anymore.

Training

When I started out in September I did deadlifts, squats, bench press, pull ups and overhead press. I had such bad DOMS that it took a week to recover and workout again. It wasn’t until October that I was able to go 2-3 times a week. I started out 3 times a week doing a stronglifts style workout and made some good progress. I was reading into Body By Science and wanted to try out those kinds of workouts twice a week. I found them brutal and fun but it quickly got boring. Come December/January I changed up my program again to 3 days a week stronglifts again and added in a few accessory workouts after the mains. Come February/March I changed up again to a leangains style pyramid program 3 days a week which I liked but a month later wasn’t really into the progress and felt like I was doing too many things each day. In April I started stronglifts again but I had to deload quite a lot because I was worried about form issues. I worked back up to my previous lifting PRs and broke them. Squats broke 200lbs and deadlifts broke 235. I started getting some lower back pain in May so posted a video online for form check. I got some good feedback so posted another and it was looking better. I since further refined my form and feel great now. In June I switched to Wendler 531 and will be sticking with this for a while as I love it. I am on week 3 right now and making great progress. Bench press was a weak point and couldn’t budge past 105 for 5 reps. Today I did 115 for 15 reps.

One thing I learned from this video was that for bench press, an incline and decline are the best and only ways I should be training. I have taken this advice and do my heavy sets at flat and I end with 3 sets incline for 10 reps and same for decline. Sebastian has a bunch of other muscle masterclass videos that I have been going through and am loving the information.

Note: Deadlifts I did slack on for a few months and only did squats so my squats improved greater than deadlifts. I filled in some gaps with default numbers in my spreadsheet to make it flow. 

Progress

When I started my weight was 135lbs and I was at 7-8% body fat. I had no muscle definition at all. I regret not taking photos but was kind of ashamed I guess at how skinny I was and didn’t really care about documenting the initial stages. I just wanted to get in and start lifting and gaining. Below is a graph of my progress. I am currently at 157 or so. I have some large gaps in tracking as I slacked off on that front but have made a nice spreadsheet to make it easy to track weekly.

weight gain to June 23

As for strength gains I have made some great improvements in all aspects. Below are upper and lower body charts to show progress. My numbers are calculated 1RM values based on my workout. Wendler 531 spreadsheet calculates this for you which is nice.

Lower body strength gains  to June 23

Upper body strength gains  to June 23

 

I have also started calculating my Wilks Score; Where you simply put in sex, weight, and weight lifted and it calculates a score based on those values to normalize it. If you lift the same amount but weigh 50 lbs heavier your score will be lower.

Wilks Scores to June 23

 

Goals

Going forward I have set goals for measurements and lifts. My measurement goals are insane and will take a long ass time. I used a website to calculate my muscular potential for my frame size and height and just put those max numbers as my goals. For this it sets my weight at 205 lbs. I would imagine this is a 5+ year goal. For strength goals I set it based on percentage of my weight. These goals I likely can achieve by end of year. Below is a chart of my goals for strength as well as Wilks scores on the right side:

Squat 315 (2 x Body-Weight) 98
Deadlift 400 (2.5 x Body-Weight) 124.5
Bench Press 235 (1.5 x Body-Weight) 73.13
Overhead press 115 (0.75 x Body-Weight) 295.63

 

Faults and Fixes

I will create a list of the things I did wrong and to learn from going forward:

  • Messing around with lifting programs so much. This caused my progress to stagnate and slow. Best thing to do is find a program and stick to it for a while and if you change things up research before and commit to the change. I find that I get too caught up with numbers and what is efficient and keep changing. I know enough now to stick with what I have
  • Being complacent with form. I felt that I had form down because I had a trainer and watched tons of videos online but it’s just too hard to translate it once you have the weight up high enough and you need to take videos to check and have others look as well.
  • I did not really have issues with food but I will note it is key to understand what works for you and keep consistent with it. Eating what you enjoy is better than eating something you hate just because someone said it was better. Sometimes you have to suck it up though and eat something you don’t like as much. I don’t eat as many veggies as I ought to and try to do more of it. I tend to go in cycles of almost no veggies to some where I am having big ass salads everyday. Maybe that is best to listen to your body and what you crave. Just being aware if you crave sugar that is bad and ignore. If you are craving something that is healthy just eat it.
  • Not asking for help. When doing some lifts it is fine to ask someone close by for a quick spot if you know you are going to failure. it can help you get 1-2 more reps out
  • Not progressing with every lift. It is key to keep adding weight each time you work out a muscle or increase reps. If you can only do 5 reps this week, do 6-7 reps the next and keep going until 10 reps then increase the weight.
  • Lifting to failure as much as you can. If you lift a certain weight but stop at 8 reps but you could have done more then you absolutely HAVE to increase the weight for the next session. Learning how to judge true failure and the point where you kind of feel like stopping takes some practice and time. having a friend there to egg you on to do more helps figure this out.

 

Progress photos

I will put these at the bottom as they will take up some space. I did not take too many photos of myself  so will show the ones I did take with corresponding weights I was at.

2013

Around march 2013 I was doing bodyweight routine by nerdfitness and took a photo right after a workout. At this point I do not know my weight. I thought I was 135 but that was a mistake and I was between 140-145

March 2013 - 145 lbs

August this photo was taken at new house. I stopped working out bodyweight style and just started again. This was me right after a workout with all my pump. At this point I was around 135 lbs. Without the pump I looked a lot thinner.

SAMSUNG

Fast forward to January 2014. Here I am 145 lbs or so. At this point I stopped taking photo after workout to skew. I am flexing here.

January - 145 lbs

 

 

April these 2 photos below were taken. Got one of my back and front flexed. I am 149 lbs at this point

April 5 2014 - 149 lbsApril 5 2014 - 149 lbs back

Beginning of May. I had only gained a few pounds from last photos. Only abs flexed and back.

May 6 2014 - 151 lbsMay 6 2014 - Flexed Back - 151 lbs

As of this month here are my recent photos. I am at 157 here. Trimmed chest/stomach hair as well to cut down on the itching. Here only abs flexed.

June 18 2014 - Front - 157 lbsJune 18 2014 - Back - 157 lbs

A Fresh Start


A lot has changed since my last post several months ago. During that time I was still trying to figure out my dietary requirements, correct my metabolism, balance my hormones and manage some very serious stress in the workplace. While I was fully committed to Paleo, there were a lot of kinks that I needed to work out.

Up until September of last year I was under eating by a great deal. It took a long time, but I trained myself to eat over 2000 calories. For the bulk of the winter I began actively eating more food, paying particular attention to protein. I wanted to weight lift. I wanted to shed fat. I wanted to feel good. I crashed.

As it turns out, my previous job had really gotten to me. I started a new job in late October and had found that the left over stress from my previous job had stuck with me in a bad way. I became completely incapable of handling any kind of stress. I was exhausted all the time and just the idea of trying to combine a solid workout routine into my life was overwhelming and I felt defeated. Though I was making gains in strength in the gym I found that day to day I just couldn’t stay on top of things. My life felt like it was falling apart and I wasn’t able to maintain the pace I wanted to in my life. I had to make a tough decision and stopped going to the gym for a few months and really focused on dialing my nutrition, stabilizing my weight and trying to get some enjoyment out of my life.

In the mean time, I moved into a new apartment, became more comfortable in my workplace, did a few writing courses and began relaxing into my life again. My ability to manage my stress increased a great deal and that made all the difference. I had a few low periods where I had a difficult time reconciling the fact that I had put on nearly 20lbs of weight and even though my measurements were nearly the same and my clothing still fit I still had an emotional attachment to the number on the scale.

I talked to Chris about how I was feeling and we agreed that I needed to stop focusing on the scale. Despite his encouragement I was really emotionally put out by my weight, but I tucked the scale away so that I would not be tempted to evaluate myself through whatever number flashed on the screen. I was successful at avoiding weighing myself and found that my confidence began to rise again and became comfortable in my body once more. I also came across a quote in regards to gaining weight: 5lbs of feathers is a lot more volume than 5lbs of bricks. That was the inspiration for the change in title of the blog: Feathers to Bricks. Because truly, that is the goal. I want a Brick Body.

Soon after, I joined the gym again. I felt I was ready to take my health and fitness to the next level. I wanted to shed some body fat and pack on some muscle. I wanted to transform my body. I started an account at Goodlife Fitness and went twice with Chris and felt great about myself for showing up and going. I was concerned about my form and my ability to work out after being out of the game for several months but felt inspired to go regularly. However, the first day I went alone I left the gym in tears. I felt overwhelmed and my brain tricked me into thinking that I didn’t belong there and didn’t deserve to be there. I felt like I was over 200lbs all over again and that the fact that I wasn’t a regular gym goer would show. I was certain that I was getting in everyone’s way and that I was just better off not going. I told Chris how I was feeling and he asked me, “Are they better than you????” The answer was no, but in my distress I just couldn’t make sense of it.

As fortune would have it, I ran into my friend’s boyfriend who happens to be a trainer at Goodlife. I am sure I must have looked and sounded absolutely defeated. I told him what happened and how I was feeling and he offered to take me around the gym personally and offered me a couple of training sessions. This was a turning point for me.

After being shown some basic moves, having a plan written out for me, some insight on my problem areas (flexibility, range of motion, posture, strength inbalances) I finally felt I knew exactly what I needed to be doing. I had to start over from scratch only doing body weight exercises and stretches. I felt myself becoming stronger and after a few weeks actually enjoyed going to the gym. I decided to stay away from the larger co-ed area of the gym and started working out in the women’s area. I felt a lot more at ease. Not only that, there was a lot of free weight lifting equipment and for the first time was feeling like I was not in the way or that I did not belong.

I’ve successfully gone three times a week ever since and have found a workout routine that gets the job done, but that is not overwhelming and is easy to remember and execute week after week. In a later post I will detail what my routine is, what my diet looks like, what my new, “starting” measurements are and hope to update weekly on my strength gains, my shortcomings, where I succeeded and where work needs to be done.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Sandra.

 

What Are My Goals?


Let’s go into my story a bit more and talk about what my goals were when I started Paleo and where they are today. When I immediately switched into Paleo I had 2 essential goals for myself:

  1. Lose the fat I gained over the years
  2. Overall get healthier and stronger

My original plan was to be very strict with my diet and go low carb. Within a few months I was down 30 lbs and it seemed pretty easy (started at 190). When I started I didn’t actually throw out all the bad food right away but bought some good whole foods and started making my own meals for breakfast and dinner. I didn’t eat lunch and would either snack on nuts, seeds, dried fruits or have a salad of some sort. I was used to not eating breakfast so it was a big change for me waking up earlier to cook. I didn’t really notice the “carb flu” and felt fairly normal during my transition. This might have been because I was so messed up with IBS and other issues the feeling of low carb countered any carb flu. Either way it was not a bad time. I was fairly knowledgeable and used that to keep on track. If a box of pizza was sitting in the fridge it didn’t bother me at all. I had no temptation to stray and down sugar and carbs.

Over time I start learning more about nutrition and that it doesn’t work the same way for everyone. I started adding big lunches into the mix and cutting out the snacks. I was still slowly losing more weight and got down to 145 lbs by April-May. It was at this point I was feeling like I was way too skinny. I could feel my hipbones and it reminded me of when I was younger and like a rail. I felt like I needed to gain weight so tried to up my calorie intake while keeping to the same foods. I would consume anywhere from 3000-3500 calories a day comprised mainly of fat and protein, having carbs from vegetables only. I was not big into sweet potato because the only ones I could get were orange yams and I am not a huge fan of them. Money was a big issue as well as the time spent cooking so eating so much food wasn’t practical. I didn’t gain any sort of weight and actually continued to lose so I just went back to eating 3 meals until I was full.

In May I got some workups done by my doctor. All my numbers were fantastic except for LDL cholesterol. My weight was around 143 lbs. I felt really good about the numbers except the LDL so did a massive amount of research like I always do and found it is common to have issues with high LDL on low carb. Here and Here are 2 great articles that gave me enough info to make some changes. I started increasing my carb intake with more sweet potato and white rice. I also added regular white potatoes as I feel fine with them but ate them less frequently. My weight did not really change as the carb quantity was still pretty low. I have yet to get tested again but may get it done soon. My HDL was 81 and TRIG 64 so in that department I was pretty solid. I also had mainly large LDL Particle size. My doctor wanted me to go on a statin med and said nothing I can do will change my LDL, it’s purely genetic. I know this to be BS as when I was a child my cholesterol was tested and was very low, not to mention countless research that indicates otherwise. I will revisit this maybe in a month or two. I know now I can get more advanced tests done through talking to a lipid doc at the hospital I work at so might do that.

During most of this time I was doing off and on body weight workouts as I didn’t have access to equipment for strength training. Some lack of motivation and space to train inhibited this for a while. I wanted to get a gym membership so I could use proper equipment and do strength training. With some searching, I found a gym near one of the hospitals I work at for $10/Mth so I was pretty sold considering the price of most memberships out there. After seeing the place I signed up right away. It’s smaller than a big box gym but had everything I needed. I had my physical assessment today and it shattered my goals in terms of strength training. I had it in my head that I would get into the gym and just start doing deadlifts, squats, etc. and be good to go. I learned quickly my form was awful, my muscle mass was very low and I’m at 137 lbs. To me this is unacceptable so my goals have now refocused to weight gain, building of essential muscles and perfecting my form for strength training I wish to do. I am doing some personal training sessions with the crossfit trainer at the gym and he will drill in the proper form and what I need to do for my body. This should get me going on my journey and help me myself up for success. I will post updates of this process and numbers in the future once I make some progress. For me I know where I need to be will take me a heck of a lot more time than it took to lose some weight. I’m likely looking at a 1-2 year journey to get to a good stage. Who knows maybe I can make significant gains faster.

My goals for food right now are an overall caloric increase with carbs being the main focus of my increase concentrating on upping my fat and protein. Initially I was going to up carbs but talking to trainer he reinforced I should stick low carb and just post workout carb load. My typical day should look as follows:

  • Breakfast: 3-5 eggs, 2 handfuls spinach, 1 avocado, bacon or leftover protein, plantain (on workout days), and my supplements as well.
  • Lunch: Salad, 1 chicken breasts or salmon, bowl chili
  • Snack: Large chicken Breast or some other protein
  • Dinner: Some meat giving me 40g+ protein, 1/2-1 lb veggies of choice
  • Post workout: Will cook up sweet potato’s and bring with me and/or protein shake. Need to ensure I don’t have any fat.

I’m going to get back to basics with meals and try not to get so fancy. I was spending a ton of time in the kitchen cooking meals. Chili will for sure be a staple that I cook often as it has everything I need in it, is easy to make and easy to store. Basic check of what I would be eating comes to 3600 Calories.  I would have to weigh things out to get exact numbers but I think this is a good guess. My breakdown includes post workout days so on off days my calories will be around 2800. I would have to weigh things to be sure on numbers because I have no clue on how much I actually eat.

  • Cals 3589
  • Fat 155 g
  • Cholesterol 1673 mg
  • Sodium 2739 mg
  • Carbs 228 g
  • Fiber 51 g
  • Protein 322 g
  • Sugars 93 g

UPDATE: I completed my first class and the Trainer was awesome. His knowledge of nutrition and strength training was very aligned with what I have read and listened to so just confirmed more. We got into squats and benching only and I picked up form pretty quickly but could only do bar + 50lbs for squat at 5 sets of 5 reps and bench press 30 lbs at 4 sets of 12.

My tracker is here. I will be updating this to show gains and such. I haven’t measured anything on myself yet but might do that this weekend. I’m not expecting much in terms of big gains with size for a while.

- Chris

Diets And Diet Pills That Work


Just kidding.

When it comes to losing weight most people are looking for a quick fix. It can seem easier to take a pill, follow a certain program, count calories or even get surgery in order to remove fat from our bodies. Often times we don’t realize that simple, clean eating will not only reduce our body fat, but will help us build and maintain our muscle mass, our bone density and contribute to our overall health and well being.

Most diet pills and weight loss regimens make their money off of the knowledge that people will try out any yo-yo diet on the market instead of converting their diets and lifestyles permanently. You may want to look into the documentary The Men Who Made Us Thin. What you see are a lot of products that offer you rapid weight loss for little to no effort and they don’t often teach people how to change their lives or correct the behaviours and issues that caused the weight gain in the first place. Essentially, the diet industry keeps people vulnerable to constant shifts in weight without solving the problem and often times can have detrimental affects on a person’s physical and mental health.

Take myself for example. I was always overweight growing up and chalked it up to my genetics. At no point in my younger life did I think that my diet was the source of not only my weight issues, but my depression and my anxiety. I was eating what everyone else ate and while there were people around me who were heavy (mostly older women who had children and who never shed the baby weight) I figured it was just my natural gene expression and the only way I could eliminate the fat was to take a diet pill or follow a strict calorie counting routine. Because I didn’t realize it was so simple to make a lifestyle change (not to confuse “simple” with “easy” as often the emotional component that accompanies such an overhaul can be anything but easy) I ended up trying everything in the book. I have lost count of all the supplements I have taken, but just to give you an idea, here’s only a small sample of products that I can remember off the top of my head:

Chromium
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Ephedra
Green Tea Extract
Garlic
Herbal Magic
Hoodia
Hydroxycut
Xenadrine FX

Let’s not forget the slim fast shakes, meal replacement bars,  weight watchers, starvation, fasting, cleanses and everything else that I tried over the years. I can tell you that despite my very expensive efforts to lose weight like all of the pills and programs said I would, my weight didn’t budge. I sat at around 180lbs for most of my high school years as well as my early 20’s. I did find that with Herbal Magic I lost weight but this was more than likely due to the fact that I was barely sleeping, I was slowly modifying my eating habits and began exercising. However, this success was short lived as I ended up ballooning up to 215lbs where I stayed until I discovered low carb eating, and I wasn’t doing that for weight loss but for my anxiety problems.

I don’t think I need to tell you the potential risks that come from consuming a large number of pills that modify the way your body handles the foods you eat. A quick google search will direct you to countless studies and stories of the dangers of these things. A lot of diet pills on the market have a high level of caffeine in them or they work to block essential nutrients from getting into the blood stream. Some pills don’t have many active ingredients at all and work more as a Placebo than any sort of magic solution. Some diet pills have combinations of different ingredients that can cause a whole slew of health issues that can range from bladder and kidney issues to heart attacks. Perhaps you have heard some of the horror stories on the news of people who have had horrible health issues or who have even diet from the combination of pills they were taking. Some ingredients that were found in popular diet pills have now been banned because of adverse health affects. It should seem obvious that just eating the right foods in the first place is the answer to our health and weight issues but with so much misinformation floating around not only on the internet but in other media outlets it’s hard to know what the right choices to make are. Additionally, when you are so unhappy with your physical appearance it’s easy to get desperate for a quick fix, especially when everything else you have tried just doesn’t seem to work. Here’s a tip: if you see any new ingredient or product being described as a miracle worker, as being magic, as promising fast results without you having to make any changes to your current diet and lifestyle, then it’s probably not the right choice to make.

I have made a lot of wrong choices in my life in regards to my health. I have had a lot of goals that I have failed to meet in the past because I was not doing the research to back my choices up. Even when I ate healthy I never incorporated a proper exercise routine to help me achieve my goals. To say that my goals were unrealistic is an understatement. I was making purely emotional decisions about my health and the strategies to lose weight that ended up being a detriment to my body and mind. At the end of the day we should always be striving for optimum health. I was simply trying to look a certain way without taking into consideration how these pills, diets (or lack thereof) were negatively affecting me. It never occurred to me that my depression, anxiety, lack of focus and concentration, inability to follow through and general lack of motivation to do much at all were attributed to my diet and lifestyle. I was only concerned with fitting into a certain size and looking a certain way thinking that if I could eliminate the self consciousness that came with being overweight that I’d suddenly be a stronger, better more outgoing person. Talk about needing to re-prioritize!

If there’s anything you take away from this post, I hope that it’s the inspiration to look inward at the choices you are making, why you’re making them and if there is a simpler, cleaner solution to achieving your goals. If you’re not sure how to meet your goals or what to consider when making them, you can take a look at Chris’ post about Goals to get some pointers.

-Sandra

Understand Your Goals


When it comes to healthy eating often times you will have a goal in mind of what you want. This goal will change over time either when you achieve it or you realise your goal may be unrealistic and you have to shift your expectations. When it comes to Paleo/Primal or any lifestyle and diet change if you know what your goals are you can actively do the prep work to understand what steps to take to set yourself up for success.

Prep

If you decide to jump into a new healthy lifestyle without any sort of planning a bumpy road is likely ahead. In my opinion the best way to avoid unnecessary roadblocks is to learn. You may want to lose some weight so will give Whole 30 a try and read the meal plans and prep out your food for the month and stick to it. At this point you don’t need to know anything else really and will likely begin to see some results. Taking that further, it is important to understand what is actually going on in your body. I highly recommend picking up books like Paleo Solution, Wheat Belly and Paleo Coach. Reading these either before you start or during the early stages of your change reading these will give you the extra knowledge you need to understand why what you are eating is a healthy choice. Countless blog posts are available with information as to why these choices are healthy as well. Knowing some hard facts and science is important so when you get to a day when you question what you are eating or want to eat a ‘cheat,’ this information should hopefully give a little extra incentive to not cheat.

Actively do some research in regards to your specific goals. If you are looking to cut fat, gain muscle and fix some gut issues you are going to want to look into each specific part. You can do some searches online for “Paleo + Muscle Building + Women” for example. This should bring up a bunch of articles which can offer important information.  Empowering yourself with knowledge will allow you to paint a path to success. If you know that doing a Whole 30 with clean eating will cut the fat you can understand other factors such as exercise that will round out your plan. Coming from someone who has changed parts of my healthy lifestyle from when I started I know now that some specific prep would have helped me.

Roadblocks

Depending on what your goals are you might come up against some roadblocks in your path to optimal health. This is where your knowledge from digging into specific issues comes in handy from the prep. When you get to a plateau or feel a bit off during the day you can analyze and search for reasons why. Don’t panic and freak out thinking you have been doing everything wrong. Take a deep breath and do some more digging. When something happens with your body, there is always a reason why.

The path to optimal health is not straight. At first the whole 30 and eating clean will hopefully feel great and work well. Perhaps 5 months later you’ll find that something seems off. Likely something is missing that has finally caught up with you. Look at what the important vitamins and minerals are and try to sort out if what you are eating gets you those. Just because you are eating foods that are not inflammatory doesn’t mean you can’t miss things that are essential. You may also want to look into the amount of food your are eating and make sure you are consuming enough.

Look at your roadblock as a time to learn something new. Use it to become stronger and more informed. Don’t let it ruin all the gains you have made so far. Everyone runs into roadblocks. Some people have smaller ones and certainly others have larger ones and overcome them. Don’t allow the negative thoughts in your head run amok and cause stress and cortisol increases that further exacerbate the issues. Take it in, understand it, and plan your potential recourse to keep moving forward.

Changing Goals

When you hit your goals the feeling should be amazing and help motivate you to continue forward. Once you reach your major, overall goals it may be a good idea to have goals such as maintaining where you are for the rest of your life and to learn more things. Maybe you’ll want to lift more heavy stuff or try a new sport. In these cases you will want to ensure you go back to prep and make sure you know what you are getting into when you start.

Another goal you may have is to lose some weight. 6 months later you are fairly close but realise you won’t make it there. This doesn’t mean that you failed. All it means is that you set a goal and didn’t fully understand your body or what you thought the goal meant. Often times with weight loss goals you have a picture in your head of that goal weight and what you should look like but didn’t factor in the yo-yo diets you did and how it made you metabolically deranged and lack any muscle. You cut the fat and get to 140 lbs but still don’t look how you thought you would. Maybe it’s because you need to do strength training to build back the muscle  you wasted away cutting calories and that will cause you to gain 15 lbs. Your new goal now is not to be a certain weight but to exercise until you can turn your fat into more muscle and have better definition. The weight becomes irrelevant. In this case you did not fail your goal, you got to a point where you realised your goal was a stepping stone to a better goal.

Finishing Up

When you understand your goals and get the knowledge to help get you there the path to success becomes much easier. The roadblocks in the way become easier to get around as well as the change in course when you reach a specific goal. I know for myself my initial path of weight loss was fast and easy but my second path of weight gain and muscle growth will be harder and longer. In my next post I will share what my goals were, how I achieved them and what my goals are for the future.

- Chris

Cost of being healthy


You can find a ton of information online about being healthy and what to eat. Often when the information makes sense and you would be willing to commit to it, the cost and resource availability makes it seem like it just can’t work. This is where preparation and planning becomes key to getting started on the track to success. I will try to touch on what I believe are to be the main key factors when planning to make a healthy paleo/primal lifestyle change that relates to cost.

Create a list of foods

This one is simple and takes 10 minutes of your time. You are just going to sit down and write out every basic food that you like. I would suggest categorizing them as vegetables, fruits, herbs, meats, fish and misc. For each category you are going to list all the foods that you like to eat or would like to try to eat. You can highlight the foods to try to test out and cross them off your list if you hate them. If you need ideas about foods click here. The important thing here is that each item has to be one food and have no ingredients (salmon, beef, chicken, squash, carrots etc.). Once you have your list it will make it easier to plan meals and grocery lists in the future. Likely you are not going to buy every item you like on 1 grocery trip so you can split up items between weeks to get more variety.

Get costs of each food

This part will take a bit more time and is something you can do during your transition. The goal with getting the food prices is you get an idea of what everything costs and can use that to sort out priorities based on your budget. I personally like to put in a regular price as well as sale prices because then I know that if I need to buy some chicken how much I will have to spend if I can’t get a sale which might deter me from buying chicken a particular week. It’s all about empowering your buying choices with the most information.

I will attach a link at the bottom of the page to an excel spreadsheet I made which will get you started with a basic list.

Choosing your battles with quality

This may be one of the most important factors to consider when you are endeavoring to go Paleo/Primal on a budget. If you have looked into this nutritional path then you know grass fed pasture organic wild caught is the way to go. For various reasons (location, cost, etc.) this isn’t always an option and may cause you to think you just can’t do it and won’t bother. Eating real natural foods that won’t cause inflammation is the biggest part of the battle. This situation is where your list of foods comes in handy as well. You will have a cost section for grass fed, pastured, organic, and wild caught. This will give you an idea of how much more it costs for the highest quality items. Do this as well if you like to purchase antibiotic free meats that aren’t grass fed to see the price difference. In a lot of cases it can be more than grass fed.

With vegetables buying all organic might be too much money and in this case I like to use the dirty dozen rule to choose which ones I’ll buy organic. Purchasing all or most of vegetables from the dirty list as organic will net you the best bang for your buck. With organic vegetables it’s nice to shop around and use CSA’s or go to farms if you can to see cost differences. Sometimes it’s the same price for organic as in store for some vegetables.

When it comes to wild caught fish, it was just WAY too expensive for me and I was really annoyed. It can cost 2-3 times more for wild caught fish over “fresh”. If your budget is a concern then wild caught fish will be at the top of the list for price and the solution I would suggest is to purchase frozen wild caught fish. Often depending on the fish, it can be ½ the price of purchasing the fish fresh. The difference in taste is noticeable but at the end of the day if it’s a choice of frozen or nothing I will choose frozen any day. Sometimes you can find wild caught fish sales and pick up a bunch and freeze it as well but you will still likely pay more than frozen packaged items.

Meats have a lot of different qualities mainly related to taste. If you are on a budget and buying some steaks will put you way over budget you might have to just stick to ground beef. Pork often is cheaper than beef and can provide some great meals as well. If you are feeding a family and they devour food pork chops can be a nice cheap option.

Bulk buying

This isn’t something specific to Paleo as most people buy in bulk to save money. When purchasing fresh meats often times people will buy enough for a week or 2 and keep it all in the fridge and use it all up. If you find a sale on some meat or fish I highly recommend buying are large share of it and package them in freezer bags. An added advantage is you can portion them out and grab a bag or 2 as needed and thaw out for the week.

Buying in bulk can also be used to make big meals that can be stored for later as well. My favourite storable meal is chili. When I want to make some chili I will purchase a large amount of beef or pork and vegetables. I freeze the extra meat and make 6+ lbs of chili that is jammed with meat and veggies.

Hidden costs

Grocery bills are not the only costs associated with getting healthier. Once you get your food dialed in and are comfortable you will want to optimize with supplements and get fit with exercise. Often times these costs are not factored in but should be.

If you feel based on your food list that you might be deficient in magnesium or iodine and want to supplement you are going to want to plan out the cost per week or month of taking them and factor into your budget. Typically when you purchase supplements they last many months but one you run out you will have to purchase a whole bunch again all at once which can be a lot of money all in one shot. If these costs are an issue you can spread it out so one month you buy magnesium then the next month iodine then month after that selenium. This will stagger the re-stocking times to make it easier.

If you are at a stage where you want to exercise and feel you need a gym membership that can put a huge damper dent in your monthly budget. Gyms can cost $50+ a month or more if it’s cross fit or specialized. Add on personal trainers and your budget for exercise could be coming close to your food budget. In this case I recommend slowly getting into exercise with body weight workouts. You can do them at home for no cost and build up your muscles adequately. Having a strong foundation is of absolute importance when as you start building your fitness. There will be a point where you want to lift heavy things and that is when you need to look for a gym. You can do some searches online and often find smaller gyms that can be ½ the price or more of big box gyms.

Kitchen gear is another cost that creeps in. All of your appliances, cutlery, etc. costs money and my suggestion is to figure out what items you would like to have and do some research online to figure out prices and qualities. Track some items and when you find a good sale snatch it up. You don’t need a slow cooker to be primal but when you find one on sale for 30 dollars it might make sense to get into slow cooking. Everyone wants all the best gear right away but slowly building up a kitchen makes more sense when on a budget.

Priorities

The last thing I will touch on is the use of priorities. For the people who have a really small budget this will not apply as likely they are not spending lots of hidden money. For the ones in the middle of the pack who could probably afford the grass fed and organic but it just feels like it’s too much money this is where sitting down and working out expenses   comes in handy. What I find handy is to get an expense tracker and use it for a few months. I use mint.com personally as it ties into my bank account and does things automatically for me. An Iphone or Android app will work as well. Once you get a good idea for money coming in and where it goes out.

The common purchases I find are either eating out or purchasing stuff for your house. Eating healthier should prompt you to cook more at home as it becomes hard to eat healthy out. If you are on a budget eating healthy out cost’s a lot and taking out 1 eating out trip will net you enough extra money to upgrade to the grass fed or organic foods. Those urns that you purchased for the living room which will sit there and provide nothing is that extra money that could have been used for the better foods. In a lot cases it’s not that the food cost’s too much, it’s that you prioritize other stuff over the food.

Wrapping up

Having a strict budget doesn’t mean you can’t eat healthy. It might mean you can’t get the best of the best for nutrient density but at the end of the day you are transforming yourself for the better in the best way you can with the means you have. Planning goes a really long way when you have a strict budget to follow. Make sure if you really want to get true health that you work out what your priorities are.

Here is an empty spreadsheet that you can use to get you started with grocery planning:

Here is another sheet I made to help track spending if you are someone who doesn’t budget strongly but want to sort out where your money is going exactly.

Please comment if you have more tips about eating healthy on a budget.

- Chris

30 Day Challenge: Break Up With Coffee


I am giving up coffee for 30 days. Today is day 3 and my head is fuzzy and marginally achey and overall I feel sluggish. This may also have something to do with the banana muffins I ate yesterday or maybe even the fact that I didn’t sleep well, but my brain is interpreting this as a direct result of not drinking coffee. As someone who only began regularly drinking coffee in the last couple of years, I know that this is illogical and that it’s actually the caffeine addition speaking.

I never thought of myself as having an addiction to caffeine. I could get by on one cup a day but over the last several weeks have been having up to three cups.  It didn’t occur to me that I was replacing other foods with coffee instead and that lattes and mochas had become my comfort food that I was consuming every single day. It used to be that having even half a cup would cause my anxiety levels to sky rocket and I’d feel hyper alert, shaky and overall unwell. Now I can barely feel it. Not Good!

While I am good at abstaining from your regular mix of cheat foods coffee was something that I felt I could drink regularly with no consequences. Cue the lack of proper sleep, the inability to feel energized without it and the willingness to be late to work regularly just so that I could get a cup even though I’d already had one at home. When I consider this, it makes me shake my head at myself because I was becoming a slave to a beverage. This is the kind of behaviour that caused me to pile on weight in my early 20’s when the Ice Capp Supreme’s came out with all their whipped cream goodness. In my ignorance I thought “It’s only a drink, it can’t be that bad for me.” And yet there I was, 215lbs thinking that I had everything under control. I can’t help but think of people who do this with pop or even alcohol. In the end, addictions tend to express themselves similarly but because these things are legal we don’t think twice about it. It is the norm. The norm is frightening.

So here I am on my third day of being coffee free. Just writing this out makes me realize that this was a necessary step for so many reasons. All things considered having coffee is not the worst thing in the world but when it modifies my behaviour or is being used as a replacement for something else, it sends off red flags and makes me realize that I need to break up with it. So I’m at work and drinking nettle tea. It tastes like I took a bite out of the ground but it’s caffeine free. It’s warm. It doesn’t make me feel terrible. I’m interested to see how I feel about re-introducing coffee in 30 days, if I re-introduce it at all.

I’m wondering if anyone else reading this has given up coffee and how you feel about it being an addictive substance?

~Sandra

Small Success, Big Step


I did three push ups today. I am talking fully formed, on the floor, not on my knees push ups. To some people this may seem insignificant but allow me to elaborate how excellent this is.

I used to be 215lbs. It has taken me five years to get below 155lbs. Depending on the time of the month, I will weigh anywhere from 150-155lbs. This is a huge achievement for me as I have always been over weight. Because I was always over weight I never knew what it was like to be thin, how it felt to be strong, or what it was like to not have body confidence issues. I had always wanted to be able to do pull ups and push ups and really move my own body around but I never had the strength or the first idea about how to go about getting there.

When I was in high school I learned that I would have to take a gym class. I do not think I can adequately express the level of panic I felt when I discovered this. I always thought that gym was something you took in  elementary school and became free of when you “grew up” and went to high school. Despite having played soccer, danced and overall been an active kid the thought of being in a gym class surrounded by other students I didn’t know terrified me, as did most everything else in my life.

Much to my delight I was able to delay gym class until grade 10 and had the choice to enter a fitness class or enter the sports co-ed class. I opted for the fitness which was its own unique horror when I realized I had to take a fitness test. This involved any number of activities, measurements and humiliations but the worst for me was when it came time to do a pull up. We were meant to pull ourselves up on this bar and hold our chins above it. I remember my friend Meghan achieved this like it was nothing and also scored the longest time for holding herself up. I have never forgot this. I purposely waited until everyone else was gone so myself and a couple other out of shape girls were the only ones left. Before I even approached the bar I felt defeated and ashamed of myself knowing that I’d never be able to pull myself up there. As it stood I was at least 170lbs at this point and this just wasn’t happening. This memory has been burned in my mind for the last 14 years and to this day I still cannot do a pull up. But what I can do are three shaky push ups.

I started my push up journey by pushing myself off of walls. I know it sounds easy but when you’re so over weight and your body is exhausted by the anxiety you feel every day it can be a challenge. My goal at this point was to gain enough strength in my arms and back to move to a lower surface. Over time, I was able to push myself up off the bathroom counter at work and from there, a weight bench, but with my legs spread wide to offer greater support. From there, my goal was to move to the floor, but I didn’t want to do push ups on my knees. I wanted to skip that step entirely and really just get down to business. I didn’t want to half ass this journey because it had taken me so many years and so many pounds to get to the point that I wanted to be at. And why was I focusing on push ups? Because I heard once that in order to get to the pull up stage you should master push ups first.

This morning I was feeling lethargic and uncomfortable. Due to some workplace stress and a bad kink in my neck I haven’t been exercising regularly. I also haven’t been eating as cleanly as I could be, not to mention the fact that I am now on a 30 day challenge where I do not consume caffeine. To alleviate my guilt, I decided to do a bunch of body weight lunges and squats which have always been enjoyable to me. After I was done, I stood and looked at my floor for a while and debated whether or not I wanted to try the push ups. I wanted to for a long time but I felt today was finally the day. So I scooted my cats out of the way, walked myself into push up position and was able to crank out 3. My first small goal now is to be able to do 5 without shaking. From there, I’d like to get to 15. I am not sure what goal I will set for myself after that point because judging by how weak and shaky I am at the moment, 15 is some time off and who knows what the rest of my body will be doing at that point.

I just wanted to write this post and share in my little success. Sometimes I forget how far I’ve come in my weight loss and fitness journey and I get so focused on the end goal that I forget to celebrate the small steps along the way. I hope that anyone who reads this will celebrate their small steps and recognize that every choice and action they take to better themselves is a step in the right direction, and that’s always worth celebrating.

~Sandra