Tuesday, August 6, 2013

From Experiment to Lifestyle

May 4th I started an experiment to see what the effects of a ketogenic diet also known as low carb, high fat, adequate protein diet would have on my current health.  I've attempted low-carb/high fat dieting (Atkins) before as well as a low-calorie/non-fat/ low-carb diet (6 Week Body Makeover). I was never particularly successful on either plan, particularly the 6 Week plan as it basically had me starving myself to death by way of 6 tiny, fat-free meals per day. The 30 pounds I lost on it was rapidly gained back in about 1/2 the time it took me to lose it. My hubby declared it a full fail as I was "a complete bitch" for the entire time I was on it (he's right, I was) And I never stuck to the Atkins plan very long as I took a lot of flack about it from friends and family worried that eating steak and eggs and  bun-less bacon cheeseburgers every day would lead me down a fast path to high cholesterol and heart disease. Little did I know just how wrong they would end up being.

What sparked me to give this ketogenic thing a try was a post I read on the Carb Smart website by  author and low-carb expert Jimmy Moore of the Livin' La Vida Low Carb blog and website. The post was about 10 unexpected health benefits of nutritional ketosis besides weight loss.  I read it with great interest because over the past year my metabolic health had taken a nose dive and on top of that I was found to have and enlarged and fatty liver and elevated liver enzymes as well as an enlarged spleen with multiple lesions in it. Reading his post made me think that if nutritional ketosis had such a positive effect on Jimmy's health that it might be of some benefit to me. I had no idea that within the first 6 weeks I would see dramatic changes happen in my body.

Here is what happened to me: In the first 6 weeks my

  • Total Cholesterol went from 203 to 195 (under 200 is optimal)
  • HDL from 48 to 54 (under 50 is optimal)
  • LDL from 117 to 108 (under 100 is optimal)
  • VLDL from 40 to 33 (0-30 normal range)
  • Triglycerides from 202 to 167 (less than 150 is optimal)
  • Liver enzymes: ALT from 94 to 50 (10-49 is normal range) and AST 85 to 36 (0-33 is normal range)
As you can see my previously high numbers were dramatically reduced to near normal levels in just a few short weeks by eating this high fat/low carb/adequate protein diet. 
In addition to the metabolic improvement, I've also lost 15 pounds, 2 pant sizes and gained back much of my joint mobility previously lost to me by almost constant pain which I now believe was totally diet related.

I credit my improvements not only on my High Fat/ Low Carb plan but also on the elimination of what I call the "nasty whites" from my diet; wheat, oats, corn, rye, barely, rice, potatoes and sugar. In addition I've added yoga to my daily routine. My primary care physician was quite impressed with my health improvements and she encouraged me to continue my lifestyle changes and come back in October for another blood test.

Just 3 months into this new lifestyle I've come to understand the effects of GOOD fats on my overall health. I didn't consume any margarine, soybean oil, canola oil or vegetable oil but instead generously ate butter, olive oil, coconut oil, fresh avocados and a few macadamia nuts. Yes, all those things that we've been told for years to avoid lest we raise our cholesterol, clog up our arteries and die of heart attacks at a young age. And upon dumping the nasty whites-including those "whole grains", the ones "they" recommend that we get plenty of, I not only shrank my waistline but eliminated the joint pain that I've been plagued with for years.  I feel amazingly good these days. I feel energetic, rested, focused, happy and with a bright outlook on my future! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Yes, I missed June

Seriously, the month of June somehow passed by without a post to this blog. *hangs head in shame*
Okay, let's move on and talk about July...

We are doing homeschool summer school this month-we're calling it Summer Fun School. We've added some new activities to provide specific life skills to Mitch's skills set:

Baking=Math, basic life skills
Field trips=Community Education
Video Gaming Sessions=Social Skills (I have him TEACH me how to play a game!)
Yoga=Physical activity
Gardening=Science, basic life skills

Who says learning has to be boring??? Oh wait, Public Schools do.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Little Pony: Mother's Day Edition

I spent my Mother's Day weekend this year at "Equestria LA" which is the local convention for "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" fans. For those not in the know my sons ae Bronies which is what you call boys who like the MLP:FIM ponies. Girls like the ponies too. Some refer to them as "Pegasisters", I just prefer to be called an interested party and leave it at that.
But seriously, I spent the weekend with my sons at this convention and actually had a really good time despite the fact that I was one of the few at the convention old enough to remember when JFK was our president. Honestly, I didn't really feel out of place though. The MLP bunch is a very welcoming group of people and they embrace all who share their interest in all things pony. And it wasn't just the Brony and Pegasister crowd, there were plenty of little girls from the target demographic attending with their moms and dads in tow. In fact, we ran into a lovely daddy-daughter duo. The daughter was about 4 years old and dressed as Pinkie Pie and Dad decked was out in a Pinkie Pie t-shirt to match! Gotta respect a man who will do that to support his little girl's pony love!

Mitch wearing his ears, horn and wings. 

Matt hanging out in the lobby.

"Shirtless" Discord dancing for us during the Cosplay Fashion Show. 
He was the hit of the convention for the ladies!

More from the Cosplay Fashion Show

Matt and his friend after the Cosplay Fashion Show.

Assorted Convention Attendees coming out of the fashion show

Another picture of the attendees.

The Vendor Hall-they had an amazing assortment of MLP merchandise
nearly all of it hand crafted. 

Some of the hand-crafted plush ponies they had for sale. 

One of the friendliest gals at the convention!

I sat in on a number of panels including the voice actor panels and the Pony Music Video contest as well as the wonderful Cosplay Fashion Show. Best of all, I got to spend quality time with my sons having fun and they WERE NOT embarrassed to be hanging out with their Mom! I'm looking forward to Equestira LA 2014, in fact, I'm looking into having a table at the vendor hall and selling my own hand-crafted pony merch!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cookie Baking Day with Chef Mitch

The other day my son Mitch came to me with an idea for a cookie, a Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie. I was intrigued by this idea and decided that we needed to give it a try, mostly because of my family's shared belief that bacon goes with everything. And who doesn't love a Chocolate Chip Cookie!

We hit up our local Target store, not so much because we grocery shop there, but because my daughter had a job interview there and I figured Mitch and I could shop while she had her interview. The whole kill 2 birds with one stone kind of thing. She got the job, by-the-way!

So we came home armed with Bacon and Chocolate CHUNKS. Mitch saw the chunks next to the chips and decided it was time to go big or go home in the chocolate arena. Have I mentioned lately how much I like this kid!?

Okay so I started this recipe by cooking off some diced bacon:

Then I gathered the necessary ingredients to make the Toll House Cookie recipe from the back of the Chocolate CHUNKS bag. And yes, I forgot to put the Vanilla Extract out on the counter before I started, but it was in the cookies, I promise:

Then Mitch and I got busy mixing up the cookie dough. He's getting pretty good at using the KitchenAid!

Here is the dough with the bacon added:

I used my handy dandy cookie scoop and made some nice dough balls on the parchment lined pan. Mitch normally does this part, but today I took over the scooping duty-he has grip strength issues and the scoop was being uncooperative. 

The baked cookies fresh from the oven. You can see the little bacon bit right on the top of this one:

I let them cool a bit then put two on a plate and took them to Mitch, who was spending his baking/cooling time playing on the PS3:

The cookie delivery:

Of course Mitch would never eat cookies on Mom's brand new sofa so he moved over to the dining table for the tasting of his new cookie creation:

Mitch proclaims the Bacon Chocolate Chunk Cookie to be delicious!!!

If you decide you want to try these at home, I just took the Toll House Cookie recipe off the bag and added cooked bacon. Not rocket science. My thoughts on the cookie- It needed more bacon. No, seriously, it was good but could have used more bacon flavor. I looked at quite a few recipes online for this cookie-and yes, there are many. Some called for Maple flavoring, some for bourbon and one even had some of the rendered bacon fat added into the dough but I thought our first try at this should be taking an existing recipe and just adding the bacon and seeing if it was even edible.  I also think they'd be delicious with some candied pecans, because I love candied pecans!

So there we have it, a successful cookie baking day with my favorite young Chef!

Happy Friday Everyone! Have a Wonderful Weekend!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Adventures in Homeschooling

Time to brag a little bit on my youngest kid. For the newbies to my blog, he's 15, has Autism and has been homeschooled for 5 years. He is the self-proclaimed "Autism Boy", but we call him Mitch.

We started something new in homeschooling last month-Mitch is now working fully independently. I write out the assignments for the day in an assignment book and he logs into his online programs and completes his work on his own, checking each assignment off as he completes it. He's actually doing more work AND he's getting better grades!

This all came about because it seemed that every time I went to find him so we could start a lesson he was either busy doing something or he wasn't in the mood at the moment. Autism, as you may know, can be a moody beast on occasion. So I asked Mitch one day if I could just write down the assignments on a piece of paper and give them to him to do. It was a pure "fly by the seat of my pants" experiment based on frustration and exasperation and I really wasn't expecting it to work. I figured by dinner time I'd be having to prod him to get his assignments done or have to add them to the next days work because he didn't or wouldn't do them. But, to my surprise, he had them all completed by 2pm and he did very well on them!

So here is how my little experiment gone right goes: I hand him his assignment book at 9am (okay, 9ish, and some days it's 10ish, we're super relaxed about starting time) and the work is due by dinner (okay, dinnerish), that way he has all day to work on it. For assignments not done online (there are only a few), he just comes to get me when he's ready to start them. I've also added a daily neighborhood walk to his assignment sheet-also done on his timing...although the other day when it was 97° outside he picked 3pm for his walk and we were both sweating like dogs when we got home. (Oh-wait, idea: I should add a space on his assignment sheet for him to check the daily weather!-moment of brilliance right there folks!) So, now there is no more whining, fussing, fighting or waiting for Mommy to finish an online Scrabble match to get our schoolwork done. The new system coupled with focusing on only ONE subject per day has really helped Mitch retain more information and has improved his desire to be educated. Being able to super customize our teaching and learning styles to our individual needs is something that just can't be done in a public school setting. I'm so glad I stopped trying to put my "square pegs" into the school district's "round holes" when I started homeschooling my young'uns 8 years ago. Best "made in anger" decision I ever made!