Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dwayne's Weight Loss

This post is adapted from an article written for CT Healthy Living. Lots of great health related items on that site. 

I started seriously tracking my weight in April when I was 270 lbs and 6 months later am at 220 lbs. This weight loss was achieved largely through diet changes using a nutrition system. Veronica had lost a lot of weight by eating clean, but she was coming up short on energy, and we decided to get on a protein shake based nutritional system which helped her with her energy, and me with my weight.

On the surface, that is what has happened. If you are a facebook friend, or reader of this blog that is what you could see from the various pictures and status updates shared over the last few months.

But does the mechanics of any of these weight loss posts really capture what happens inside a person when they transform their bodies on the outside? Can we truly articulate the transformative power of good health on a person’s psyche?

Obviously, not everyone will have the same journey to good health and the internal changes will vary, but this is my story. If you will forgive the narcissism, perhaps there is something in my story that will help clarify something in your own story, or motivate you to pursue good health.

I’ve always been overweight. I have extremely flat feet that limited a lot of sports activity growing up. After high school I got a 3rd shift job, and survived on poor sleep and convenience store hot dogs. I put on 30 lbs in 3 months. That was the start of the unhealthy pattern. I grew to 250 lbs during college. Atkins’ed my way down to 220 then back up. At one point I was at 290. After my wife started eating healthy, I dropped from 290 to 270 just because a lot of the junk was out of the house. But I had not taken an active role in attempting to lose weight.

If you search for wellness online, you will quickly find that wellness is multi-dimensional. Each person or group will have slightly different lists of aspects of wellness, but the majority list 6 or 7 items including things like spiritual, social, emotional, occupational, familial, intellectual, and financial wellness. These are often depicted as pillars to convey the idea that for a person to be truly “well” they need to be “well” in all of those areas.

What I realized is I only focus on a few of those pillars. Occupationally, I am completely proactive. I have plans and mission statements, short term and long term goals, check lists, calendars, and accountability. That has yielded a measure of success in that area. Financially I build and maintain budgets, graphs and charts to make sure we are staying on plan. Intellectually I am doing graduate studies, and I know exactly what it takes to succeed and am driving actively toward that goal. In the pillars where I focus my attention, I am able to be proactive and accomplish the goals I place for myself.

However, other pillars I ignore completely. It is feast or famine. Either I am completely engaged and proactive or I am completely disengaged and reactive. There is very little in between. This came to a head after my wife began changing our diet at home. I started seeing a little reward for her efforts due to the changes in food available. That of course was completely reactive in nature, yet I thought it was my success. My wife didn’t see it that way.

It’s amazing how our spouses are able to challenge us at the very core of our being. She challenged me to acknowledge the growing disparity between us physically. “But I am losing weight,” I replied. Yet only one of us was doing so proactively. It was affecting our marriage, not physically as much as emotionally and spiritually. Here is an area that she is so completely engaged in and focused on that I am completely disengaged and reactive about. I knew I had to change, not for the physical effects, but because her health journey was revealing an inconsistency in my own psyche; that my wellness was completely lopsided.

So I began to focus on being proactive with my physical health. A few attempts at serious exercise made my flat feet problem resurface. In February I had my first foot reconstructed. This surgery has a particularly long recovery time, and I was unable to do any meaningful exercise for months. I had no real physical changes, in fact I was worse off physically, but I was being proactive. I had a plan, and was working it, and that changed me internally. After the first surgery, we started the nutrition plan. I knew I needed a plan that would lend itself to my hectic schedule and provide the structure needed to succeed. The protein shakes and various supplements are all included and is very portable. I take some shakes and simple snacks to work, and the decision on what to eat is removed. I am proactive about the foods, but also about the realities of a busy schedule.

My second surgery was in June, and again came the long recovery with little exercise. The nutrition plan has helped me lose during that recovery time, but that is not as important as the shift to intentionality.

Not everyone will have as drastic a step as two major surgeries to be intentional about their health wellness. However, everyone who wants to be healthy, or “well” in any area, must make a conscious choice to be intentional. Balanced lives mean we are intentional about our wellness in all of the pillars. If any pillar becomes something we ignore, our wellness as a person is seriously undermined. For me that was health. I have some other pillars to work on as well. You may have some pillar that needs work. I’d challenge you to be intentional in whatever area you may be falling behind in.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Kombucha Recipes - Updated

I've been making Kombucha for quite a while now and I have developed some of my own recipes using fresh fruit for flavor that I would like to share with you.

But first, before you can flavor your kombucha, you have to have some kombucha to flavor, so here's the recipe I use for basic kombucha.

Basic Kombucha Recipe-

8 tea bags of any basic, black tea
1 cup sugar
2 cups finished kombucha (or white vinegar)
Approx. 4 quarts of hot, hot water

A gallon jar
Coffee filters or a paper towel
rubber band


Remove the paper tags from eight tea bags and place them in the bottom of a very clean gallon jar. Then pour in one cup of sugar and add approximately four quarts of very hot water carefully. Sometimes I use organic teas and sugars, but just as often I use the cheapest ingredients like Market Pantry Black Tea and Domino Sugar.

Let the tea brew until it cools to room temperature.

Then with very clean hands, pull out the tea bags, add a live scoby and approx.  two cups of finished kombucha or vinegar. Note: At times, I have used less than two cups of finished Kombucha to brew a new batch because I didn't save two cups worth of finished Kombucha. It's okay to use a little less. It just takes longer. 

Finally, cover the jar with a coffee filter or paper towel and a rubber band and set the jar in a warm place away from sunlight where it will not be disturbed.  I use a shelf in my kitchen closet or the corner of my kitchen counter.

I leave it alone for at least a week. I only periodically look through the glass to see how the new scoby is growing on top of the tea. Once there is a new scoby on top of the tea that isn't transparent, your tea is probably ready to drink. To be safe, you can always use a ph strip to check.

The thinner your scoby, the sweeter your finished Kombucha will be to your taste buds. But I often wait two weeks or more until my new scoby is about half an inch thick like the one above.  I don't mind it when my Kombucha is sour, because I usually add fruit and ferment it a second time and that adds sweetness.  And the longer you wait, the more of the good bacteria will be in your finished Kombucha.

Once you have enough of basic, finished kombucha, you can drink it, making sure to save enough to start another batch, or you can flavor it with fresh fruit and let it ferment a second time so it will be bubbly because of the carbon dioxide that the bacteria produces. Here's how that process works.

Blueberry and Ginger Kombucha

Fresh blueberries
Fresh or crystalized ginger

A jar with a tight lid

I usually use a half gallon jar, but you can use whatever size jar(s) you have.

Fill a jar 3/4 of the way full with finished kombucha tea.

Next, with clean hands and even cleaner fruit, I take fresh blueberries, tear them in half and drop the pieces into the tea.  They will float to the surface. Once the top of the tea is covered with a layer of floating blueberries, cut and add a half inch cube of fresh ginger or one or two pieces of crystalized ginger if you don't have fresh ginger.  The ginger usually sinks to the bottom of the jar.

Next, I put a tight, clean lid on the jar and set it somewhere that it won't be disturbed. After approximately two full days, take the lid off carefully.  A decent amount of carbon dioxide builds up inside the jar, so there can be a lot of pressure. It is similar to opening a two liter of soda.

Once the jar is open, remove the scoby that has formed around the blueberries floating at the top of the jar.

Any new scoby and used fruit just go down the garbage disposal.

Next strain the tea into another clean jar to remove the other blueberries and the strands of yeast that grow in the tea. The strands of yeast won't hurt you, but they are quite unpleasant in your mouth.

Finally, the flavored tea can be placed in your refrigerator with a tight lid until you are ready to drink it.

Another favorite flavor in my house is strawberry.

Strawberry Flavored Kombucha

Fresh, clean, chopped strawberries

A jar with a tight-fitting lid

The process for strawberry flavored kombucha is very similar to the process for blueberry/ ginger above.  You simply fill a jar 3/4 of the way full of finished kombucha and then add clean, fresh, chopped strawberry pieces to the tea.  The pieces will usually float on the surface of the tea. Add enough strawberry pieces to cover the top of whatever size jar of tea you are using and in my experience, that will add enough flavor.

Put a tight lid on the jar, set it aside for two full days, sometimes three, if you don't have time to get to it, and then open the lid carefully because of the carbon dioxide gas that will have built up inside the jar.

Next, remove the scoby that will have formed around the strawberries at the top of the jar and strain the rest of the fruit from the tea.

Put the strained tea back into a jar with a tight lid and place it in the fridge unless you and your kids are like me and mine and are ready to drink it right away.

Happy brewing!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

End of May - Beginning of June 2015

Our niece Sarah graduated from high school at the end of May.  We took a trip to Virginia to see her graduate and to visit with the rest of the Bouldens who were coming to town to celebrate.  

But on the way to Virginia, we stopped in Maryland for two nights to visit Dwayne's oldest and best friend Dan and his wife Breeze and their children.  We had all the little kids pose for a photo before we left as you can see above.

Early one morning, I snuck off to take a Bodypump class at a gym in Bel Air, Maryland, about five minutes from our friends' home.  One of my favorite things to do when I travel is find a gym with Les Mills programs, buy a guest pass for the day, and take a class there.  I love meeting and connecting with other Les Mills instructors.  I also love seeing the various gyms and learning from watching other instructors teach.

While we were in Maryland, our middle child fell from a playscape and her two front teeth were knocked out!  There was a lot of blood! And we weren't sure at first whether or not the teeth had been pushed back up into her gums, so we took her to the E.R. that evening and then to a dentist in town the next day just to get X-rays make sure her adult teeth would be fine. Fortunately, everything is fine. She is just cuter than ever with no front teeth.  One of her teeth is already growing in!

Now that we're home, we've also been seeing the "chiro-back-cracker," as my kids like to call her. We want to make sure her alignment is alright, since she complained about her back a few times after the fall.  Everything is well with that, too, thankfully.

Once we got to Virginia, we enjoyed time at the hotel pool and visiting with family at Dwayne's brother's house with Dwayne's parents, all the siblings, wives, husbands, and most of the cousins.

One morning my sister in laws and I got up early to take a yoga class together at the YMCA where my sister in law is a member.

One evening, Dwayne's parents babysat for us and we went out with Dwayne's brother and our sister in law Lisa to The Melting Pot, a place I've always wanted to visit.

My oldest daughter stayed with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Virginia while Dwayne's parents came home with us to Connecticut after the graduation.  That was one of the first times she's stayed away from home, but she did great.

When I got back to Connecticut, I had to attend a practicum for Classical Conversations where I was trained as a Foundations tutor. My little girls got to stay home everyday with my inlaws instead of attending the camps at the practicum as they normally do, so I attended the practicum alone this year and that was actually, really relaxing.  I talked to my friends and I learned so much from the lectures.  I purchased many books and materials we will need next year at the practicum bookstore, which was also very fun.  I bought and have already read The Question by Leigh Bortins.  

My oldest is entering adolescence and I don't know every answer to the questions she asks, and even when I have an answer, it's usually an incomplete one. But this book greatly encourages me. Like my dear friend said, "The great scientists would sit with the same question for decades.  Decades! We need to become comfortable sitting with questions like that." 

While my inlaws were in town and willing to babysit, Dwayne and I went out to a nice dinner using a gift certificate we were given by friends at church.  

After a week, my sister in law and most of her kids came to visit us in Connecticut for a few days, bringing my oldest daughter back home. So the grandparents and my sister in law and the cousins were all here for a few days, really filling our house.  While they were in town, my teenage niece and I saw Insurgent while my sister in law took the littles to see Cinderella. We all also visited the Pez Museum and Factory in Orange, CT.  

We're getting our kitchen table repaired and refinished.  It's a Cushman maple table given to us by Dwayne's grandmother.  It's varnish wasn't tough enough for this family and it was cracking, but we found an excellent woodworker who is taking precious-good care of it. Here's what it looked like when it was taken away.

Here's what it looked like the last time I was sent a photo of it in progress. We are excited that it will come back to us beautiful and with a much stronger coat of varnish than it had previously so that we can protect it from ourselves.

My sister in law and her kids went back to Virginia and the next day we hosted a cookout for the youth that attended our Sunday night Bible study and we also invited their parents.  We wanted to spend some time with the youth during the summer, even though we aren't meeting for the study. But we had another reason for hosting a cookout. We needed to use up the rest of our grass fed beef, so the cookout helped us do that!  We get a half a cow every summer, and we still have quite a bit of beef left over in the freezer from last year's cow.

I have stopped buying my kids processed snack foods, officially.  I didn't just decide to do this overnight. It's been a long time coming. I've been eating healthy, whole foods for years, but I hadn't really figured out how to feed my kids healthily since they're so much more picky. The top of this cabinet in our kitchen used to be covered with snacks, crackers, bars, etc. I stopped buying them, slowly let the kids eat up what was there, and haven't replaced the snacks.  Now it's empty and that's a good thing, nutritionally speaking.  For now, the kids have been eating a few healthy things we have that appeal to them like brown rice cakes with nut butter, fresh berries, protein shakes, and/ or hard boiled eggs.  I'll be adding more things to the menu, of course, but I think quality of snacks are more important than quantity of snacks at this point.

My oldest daughter went to homeschool day at Quassy, a local theme park, with a good friend from our Classical Conversations group and her mom.  That was another milestone of sorts.  She is growing up and becoming more mature and independent enough to go do things with other families. She bought stuffed animals and cotton candy with her own money to bring home to her little sisters, which was a really thoughtful thing to do.  

I started getting water delivered. Best. Decision. Ever.  We were using 3-4 2.5 gallon jugs of water each week, so the price of the water, the delivery, and the cooler are still cheaper than what we were spending on water from the store.  And another good thing about this is I don't feel like I am at going to Crossfit when I go to the grocery store.  The cart used to be as heavy as a tractor tire with all the water we had to buy!  

Dwayne and I bought his and her recliners.  They have the same upholstery, but different designs that suit each of our preferences.  It's been nice to read in my recliner and even nap once or twice.  I have been trying to rest more. I have to been making a more conscious effort to rest.  It doesn't come naturally to me, but I believe that it is something I need more of physically and spiritually.  Dwayne's recliner will be a nice place for him to sit after his next foot surgery tomorrow.  During the last foot surgery, he only had a bed to lie flat on his back in and that made being immobile even more trying. 

Once we were settled back into our regular routine, I put some of the Socratic skills I had learned from reading The Question by Leigh Bortins into practice.  I asked my oldest what her school day should look like, what she wants to accomplish, what she should be accomplishing, etc.  With her ideas, we came up with a list that was superior to any I could have made myself and forced on her. Since that day, this is what she usually does everyday, unless, for some reason, we have much less time in a day.   This is in addition to her regular chores, cooking, etc.  She is a very competent young lady.  

I am finishing up my last few classes at the Greater Waterbury YMCA before I take the next season off.  This is a class selfie I took before my Wednesday morning class called 30/30 last week. I have asked to be left off the next season's schedule.  The break will give me on or two months off so I can help Dwayne recover from his next foot surgery.  I am probably going to sub a few classes, but it will depend on how Dwayne is doing and what times I am offered.  At that point, I may go back on the next schedule if Dwayne has recovered enough and there are class times that will work for me and my family.

I am still exercising. My main goals now are to gain more muscle and flexibility, so I have been doing a lot of Bodypump and Bodyflow and much less cardio like Bodycombat, as much as I love it.

People ask me if they should go to the gym or get DVDs at home.  I tell them that I teach classes, I take classes, I do my releases at home- whatever I need to do on a given day.  Success isn't about exercising at the gym or at home, it's about exercising whenever, however, and wherever it works! And if people are asking me about weight loss, well, I tell them that has hardly anything to do with exercise.  That comes with proper nutrition.

I am still doing the nutritional cleanse that I started at the end of April.  The program combines so many good things- nutritious supplements, whole, low glycemic foods, high-protein meal replacement shakes, intermittent fasting, etc. At this point, I have lost fifteen pounds and my goal was to lose twenty, so I may be done soon.  I want to be at my healthiest body composition and then maintain that.  I have much more energy for exercise now, so even though it's hard to believe, I enjoy exercise even more than I did a few weeks ago. But I also have plenty of energy to exercise and still do my important work at home with my kids, which is even more important.

I've started using the envelope system for my budget and I got this new wallet with envelopes and ledgers in it. So far, the envelope system has helped me stay within my budget each month and I usually have at least some money to spare in each category, which is really exciting.  When you spend cash, it's true that you absolutely spend less.  I don't feel as if we are going without anything we need, either.  If you are going over budget, consider switching from debit to cash.  I can tell you from experience, it really helps.

This month, I've attended two webinars at night at home on my couch. I love learning this way! I think it's a new hobby!  Technology can bring you into the same room with experts and I always like to say that there's no better way to learn than by overhearing smart people talking.  The first webinar was a book discussion on "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch" by Classical Conversations.  The second was about fat loss and nutrition by Leslie Ann Quillen.  

I have been reading a few other books to learn new things this month, too.  The first was Go Pro by Eric Worre.  It's about network marketing, something I realize I may actually enjoy doing since I have already been doing it for years.  I thrive on building relationships with new people and learning from them and talking to them about the things they are passionate about and telling them what I am passionate about. It was eye-opening to read this book and realize I'm pro network marketing after all.  Everyone has something to offer other people. There's no shame in offering what's good. Here's a quote I liked from the book.  

I am also reading Why Diets Are Failing Us by Peter Greenlaw, Dr. Dennis Harper, and Peter Greenlaw, a book recommended to me by a friend and certified personal trainer and health coach.

I'm reading A Student's History of Natural Science by Stephen M. Barr, another book I got at the Classical Conversations practicum this year. I honestly didn't think I had any interest in the history of science, but because so much history has been affected by scientific theory and so much is accomplished by scientific discovery, I am coming around.

I am reading iPhone for Dummies, because I am tired of having an awesome phone that I don't know how to take advantage of.  One of my main goals right now is to start using the electronic calendar, instead of my paper calendar, so that I can start communicating more effectively with my very professional husband and my friends.

Our small group had a pool party/ BBQ at our friends' the McCandless' house.  It was nice to be there and visit with some of closest friends before we go into another season of surgery/ recovery/ therapy.

I'm getting a physical next week, so this week, I had blood work.  This year, I want to pay much closer attention to my numbers, etc.  I used to wait until I was sick or in pain to go to the doctor, because I was too busy. Now I realize I'm too busy (and too important to these kids) not to go.   

I had to use my last gift certificate for a massage that Dwayne got me for my birthday a few years ago, so I scheduled a massage with my good friend Vanessa, who is a massage therapist and was also at the BBQ-pool party above, actually.  I know it sounds luxurious (and it was), but I actually have an issue with one shoulder being higher than the other (from carrying babies on my right arm) and it has lead to muscle pain in my back.  So with visits to the chiropractor, massages, and more Bodyflow, I am hoping to set things right.

After the message, I took Vanessa to dinner. We had Mexican!  Vanessa is also using nutritional cleansing to get healthier and coaching people in the program, too.  God is always blessing us through our friendship and now we share even more common interests and experiences.

We're also fixing our Jeep's air conditioner right now. Dwayne is actually working in tandem with our mechanic to save us money and save the mechanic his time (which is our money).  We are hopeful that it will be done before Dwayne's surgery tomorrow.  Dwayne will pick it up today.  We think we will be selling the Jeep since Dwayne has been provided a car from work and we could use the money to continue to pay off our debt snowball.  (See Dave Ramsey- Debt Snowball.)

It's been a busy few weeks.  But I am thankful for the full life that Jesus gives us.  He also gives us great gifts, but the richest blessing we have is one another and other people.  Everything else is good, too, but oh so secondary to people.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Girls Night Out To The Ballet

My oldest and I attended her friend's ballet recital on Friday night.  It was an excellent production called Just Because It's June by The Woodbury Ballet

I chose the dress I wore because my daughter's friend's mother, also a dear friend of mine, gave it to me several months ago and I wanted to surprise her.

We greeted her friend after the production with flowers and the girls posed for a photo together.  Even from where I sat in the audience, I could see that my daughter's friend's movements exuded great feeling. She dreams of being a ballerina and then becoming a nun; beautiful dreams fitting for a beautiful girl! I love and enjoy my children and my friends, but I've also come to discover a great capacity to love and take joy in my children's friends and my friend's children!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Month One Cleanse Results - May 2015

It's the end of May already!  My husband and I have completed our first month of nutritional cleansing.  I was weighed and measured at the gym the day before I started the program a month ago and I was weighed and measured again this morning at the gym, and in one month, I have lost 9 lbs. and 5% of my body fat.

I am loving the fat loss I am receiving from nutritional cleansing. My weight loss had stalled for two whole years even with a beautiful diet. This didn't bother me much, really, since I had reached, even exceeded my weight loss goals, and I could be as active as I wanted.

But then my energy levels took a nose dive.  I could hardly make it through my workouts.  I'd get dizzy and cold and shaky while I was teaching classes.

I needed carbs, I thought. I tried adding healthy carbs, but that didn't work for me.

I needed supplements, professionals and healthy, active friends told me. I bought bottles and bottles of supplements and things improved, but not enough.

Athletes I knew told me about nutritional cleansing. People I trust were using it. But I wasn't sure. The products appeared to be very processed and packaged.  I wanted to get everything I needed from whole foods.  I hesitated and I started eating even more spinach.

Then my gut started causing me pain almost every time I ate. I knew nutritional cleansing was known to help with inflammation like that, too.  So that's ultimately why I tried cleansing. I have had friends who have had serious problems with their guts and I wanted to avoid medication or surgeries.

After a month, the pain and inflammation in my gut is gone, I am losing fat again, and my energy levels are almost unbelievable.

Nothing will ever replace healthy, whole food in my life.  I still tell everyone that whole, healthy foods are the answer.  Healthy, whole food helped me lose 70 pounds in one year.  Healthy, whole food helped me maintain my healthy weight since then.  I thought healthy, whole foods would provide everything I needed. But fitness is a journey, after all. And I believe, as in all areas of life, truth can be found in balance.  Right now, I am trying to find that balance between whole foods and healthy supplements that provide the essentials things needed for being as active as I want to be.