Happy Days Project – Days 9 & 10

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Tuesday I was a bit of a grump most of the day for no good reason. I looked around for happy things, but it wasn’t until I saw Lady riding up on her bicycle after I got home that I cracked a smile. She really is the brightest point of many of my days. I mean, just look at that face! I was trying to show her how to take a selfie of her new lifting shirt (buns & guns shirt from Look Human) and got this.

When I offloaded it from the camera, I couldn’t stop looking at her face. Just. Ah. <3

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Wednesday’s happy moment was my commute from (& to!) work. I am so so glad I bit the bullet back in April and bought myself a new bike. There was always the possibility that I wouldn’t actually commit to biking to work on a regular basis, but that never happened. Instead we bike 2-3 times each week and every time I’m reminded how much I prefer biking to driving – even if it takes twice as long.

It’s even more enjoyable now that the mornings are brisk and the evenings are not searing hot (biking in 110 degrees = no fun). The wind brushing my arms, the speed, sheer glee at sprinting and passing those professional bikers by, avoiding traffic, & moving my body – I always find a moment of peace during those rides.

Even when it sucks and my legs hurt and the wind is in my face and everyone is passing me – it’s still better than driving. I hope we can get up to four, maybe even five days of commuting by bike now that the weather has changed.

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Happy Days Project – Day 8

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I’ll keep this short because I don’t want to spam you guys, and I feel this one speaks for itself.

Still, a few words: I love sunrises. I love sunsets. I love mountains. And I love love love that I get all three living here on a nigh constant basis. This is my fifth year in the desert and I am not tired of the view. It was weird at first with the vast, empty skies and the short, scrubby trees – nothing at all like Florida, where I grew up. But I love it. And this – this - is one of the things I’ll miss the most when we leave.

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My Tiny Keto/VLC Experiment

Around the time we took a break from TTC, I started playing around with diet again. I think that may be partially (wholly) to blame for the subsequent severe dearth of cycles, so I’m going to officially stop playing around and settle somewhere more comfortable come November.

But I’ve learned a lot! I started with a Wahl’s Protocol Plus approach – which is a ketogenic, AIP-style diet – progressed to a laxer, low carb paleo, then plunged into a very low carb, ketogenic diet for the last few weeks. For the past month and a half, I have also been VERY good about avoiding nightshades, in all their sneaky & insidious forms.

My goals for the last two months were to: a) lose some of the bloat from this summer, b) eat less meat and save money on groceries, c) experiment with eating more fat, d) eliminate snacks, & e) have more stable energy throughout the day.

On the nightshade front, I have not slipped up once and I can tell. I hadn’t realized how much of an impact even a little paprika or a little potato starch was having on that particular skin issue. I’m getting more comfortable asking weird questions at not-home, be it when friends feed me or while out at a restaurant. I now realize that nightshades must have been slipping into my food more often than I even knew during the first few months of AIP implementation, if only because I had no idea where to even start asking about them. I still can’t get over mustard. Why would you put paprika in mustard? And then there are all the ready-made gluten free treats that have potato starch…

Okay, enough about nightshades (may they all be horribly cursed). My last two months were primarily about FATS. I tried cutting my meals down to two a day a la the WP+, but alas, I ended up running into too many problems. One: I simply can’t eat enough in two meals to stay satiated all day without making myself sick. Two: I was creeping into eating problem territory, that is, my self-talk was becoming obsessed with eating less and less and enduring the very real hunger and pushing through to shakiness and faintness at all costs. Maybe if I’d given myself more time, I could have eventually adapted, but instead I chose to heed the warning signs and back off.

I made a small change – breaking my large breakfast into two meals – and instantly felt much better for it. I also chopped my protein intake in half – from 6-8oz a meal down to 3-4 oz – and haven’t missed the protein one bit. I was afraid my workouts would suffer, but in fact they improved! I hit a new personal best for deadlift and squat during that time, while we dropped our weekly grocery bill by a good 30%.

Despite eating less and biking more and weightlifting consistently, I still wasn’t feeling my best. So for the last few weeks, I decided to actively try for a very low carb approach. This was… not fun. I aimed for no more than 50g carbs total, while keeping protein at the 10-15% of calories range. This meant a lot of extra fat, which I had been slowly working towards since August.

I didn’t test, but I aimed for – and probably hit – ketosis. I must have already been fairly low carb because I had none of the carbflu symptoms I had heard about. Instead, after only a few days I lost most of my remaining bloat, stopped craving carbs, and began feeling very stable energy throughout the day.

Aside from realizing I was still mentally alert and onboard at 3pm – which is usually when I begin tuning out – my biggest change was the complete lack of sugar cravings. See, I have this thing I like to call sugar-sense that absolutely bewilders my wife. We cannot have treats in the house because I will be hyper aware of them and know where they are at all times. For example, whenever we get chocolate or cookies, I know which shelf they’re on in the pantry and how much is left. And I do not forget. I can list off every single sweet and sugary thing in the house at the drop of a hat. And because I can do that, sweet things do not last long in our house, because I am constantly drawn back to them.

Lady, on the other hand, can open a bag of sweets and then forget about them for weeks. I don’t know how she does it.

Or I didn’t know. But midway through the ketosis experiment, I opened the freezer and was surprised by a half-eaten tub of TJ’s pumpkin spice ice cream. Somehow, I had completely forgotten it. That just doesn’t happen. Next thing I knew, Lady had bought Halloween oreos for her birthday and they stayed unmolested in the pantry for over a week, going on two now. A bag of dried mangos, which would normally be devoured within an hour, maybe a day, survived for a full five days. Somehow, I forgot about these things that normally sat whispering – quiet & malicious – in the back of my mind.

It was amazing.

Now even after the massive carb fest that was this weekend, I can’t list all the sweets in our pantry without stopping to think first. The success I’ve had has definitely made me want to continue with low(er) carb, but perhaps not very low carb. I’m going to try to balance and see how I can keep that mental clarity without being too militant about my food. That’s a stressor in and of itself, and I certainly don’t need any more of stress.

 

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Happy Days Project – Day 7

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Almost every single moment leading up to a run is filled with resistance. And every moment during and after is filled with gratitude – that I did it anyway, that I can do it, that I am alive and can feel the pain and the exhilaration and the wind and the ground beneath me.

I like to run even though I’m not very good at it. Where my huge quads are awesome for lifting and biking, they slow me way down for running. I haven’t tried to improve any of my times for well over a year, and I like it that way. Running for me isn’t about getting faster – it’s a kind of meditation. I get my best ideas on runs and whenever I’m feeling drained creatively, all I need to do is put on my headphones and shoes and get out the door.

This (yesterday now) morning was a good example. I felt crummy and puffy with excess carbs and was also stuck in my rewrite. Halfway through my run I felt light-footed and great and had figured out where to go next in the plot. By the time I walked through the door, I felt so much better.

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Happy Days Project – Days 5 & 6

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I knew that Friday night we’d be making s’mores in the oven and hosting a Piranha-watching party with a few friends, so I waited and waited and waited to take my happy photo and was not disappointed. Just late. :P

Thursday was Lady’s birthday but we’re celebrating all weekend because what kind of day for a birthday is Thursday? Seriously. She decided she wanted s’mores instead of cake or pie this year, and then we thought it’d be fun to have a surprise!movie to watch with some friends who were up for a late Friday night. So I made gluten free graham crackers and honey-vanilla marshmallows earlier in the week. Since we are fireplace-less, we threw the marshmallows into a cast-iron pan with a huge hunk of chocolate and “roasted” it. It should have turned out amazing, but I think we may have roasted it too long, and instead the marshmallows disintegrated and mixed with the chocolate and became a goopy, sticky mess that soon solidified again into chocolate/marshmallow gummitude.

Although the food was an absolute mess, it was still fun. Lady picked the 90’s version of Piranha, which was terrible in the way only cheap sci-fi movies can be.

 

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Saturday I was in a funk most of the day, either because I was feeling super gross from the sugar-overload from the night before (a word to the wise: don’t binge on sugar when you’ve been very low carb for the last month), or because I had a creeping sense of urgency to get as much done this weekend as possible. I was also behind in my wordcount for my WIP and the kitchen needed cleaning and the a/c is leaking and did I mention how gross and bloated I felt from all that sugar?

I looked for happy moments throughout the day, but it wasn’t until after Lady and I had seen the chickens and settled into a table at the local bookstore to look at books on France and Switzerland that some of the gross started to go away. Finally, I got excited about our June trip and about learning French and about all the cheese and chocolate and wine and wildflowers and mountains and Roman amphitheaters and city biking and hostel staying and did I mention cheese?

It didn’t take any convincing to stop and get some tasty cheese and bread and wine on the way home – even though we had both pledged earlier never to carb again. When we got home, I rode that feeling I’d had in the bookstore and studied French (using the worksheets my friend has been sending me as well as the exercises on Duolingo) with my cheese and wine. I really feel like I’m making progress with my French, albeit slowly.

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Happy Days Project – Day 4

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Last night I finished the cinnamon rolls and this morning I woke up at crazy o’clock, turned on the oven, and set them to baking. I harassed the cats, started the coffee, then cleaned off the table, hung the birthday banner, and put out the presents and cards. When the cinnamon rolls were done baking, I woke up Lady with snuggles and a few “happy birthdays!”

The windows were open and the coffee was hot and the cinnamon rolls super sweet and Lady opened her presents and appreciated all my work while I appreciated her and all her 29 years in turn.

Happy birthday, love. I’m so glad you were born. <3

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Happy Days Project – Day 3

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I don’t get to bake much these days. I used to hate baking, because whatever I made came out a terrible mess. Then I made cupcakes a few years ago for the nth time and they came out… not bad. With even more practice, they actually got good.

Then I realized gluten was an insidious little bastard who liked to give me panic attacks. I was back to square one. Except, not quite. My years of baking had given me the confidence I needed to start over and learn a whole new slew of ingredients and measurements and substitutions and amended baking times. And by then I actually liked baking. So what if the first few attempts were unmitigated disasters? I still learned something.

I’ve been baking gluten free for just about two years now, and I’ve learned when to use brown rice flour and when to use almond, when to up the tapioca starch and when to use arrowroot instead, when to up the xanthan gum and when to avoid coconut flour (always). Gluten free flours are their own language, and they say different things in different amounts and different mixes.

With the AIP and TTC and subsequent attempt at weightloss this year, I’ve been baking less than ever. I still enjoy it. But now I need a really good reason to bring out my bowls and various flours. Like a birthday.

Lady’s birthday is Thursday (tomorrow), and she requested cinnamon rolls. Now this being me, I can’t just go and buy gf cinnamon rolls from the store and call it good (they probably have potato starch anyway – fucking nightshades). And I can’t just select the recipe that only takes an afternoon. No, crazy me has to modify a recipe that has three separate rising times.

But I like doing it. Even when it means I have to mix the dough at 5am so it’ll have enough time for its second rise. In that moment of measuring and stirring and tasting and adding another dash of flour, a dash of sugar, stirring some more, and watching it come together, I’m in my zen.

I miss baking. Chopping vegetables isn’t quite the same. Please, someone else have a birthday soon. :)

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