Four Little Changes

The first time Josh used the juicer. 12/26/13

The first time Josh used the juicer. 12/26/13

Since my last two posts were about food, I thought I’d keep up the trend for one more post to tell you about some major food-related changes that have taken place at our house. These have probably been brewing in the background for quite some time, as Josh and I love to watch food/nutrition documentaries, but November and December collided together in the perfect storm to effect real change in our household. I’ll spare you the details, but Josh has really spearheaded this change within our family. He has struggled with some health issues since college, and, after a trip to the emergency room, followed by a recommended physical, he decided that it was really time for things to change.

To gear up for our big change, we revisited some of our favorite documentaries. (My favorites are Food Matters and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.) Next, we looked at the recommendations offered by Josh’s doctor, did a some internet research and discussed our nutritional goals for our family. We were able to come up with some new nutritional guidelines for our family pretty quickly. It was a smooth process because we found ourselves agreeing on what was important and what stood out to us the most. We’ve been implementing and tweaking our new guidelines over the last couple of months, and here is where we’ve landed. We’re both pretty pleased with what we’re currently doing, but that’s not to say our nutritional habits won’t continue to evolve and mature.

  1. We’ve started juicing. We were really lucky to be able to “purchase” an amazing juicer for free through the “perk points” program at my husband’s company. Basically, he earns points for meeting various goals at work, and we get to “spend” the points on awesome stuff. Without the upfront cost of investing in a juicer, we were able to implement this immediately. We aren’t juicing as a cleanse or a meal replacement, rather as a means of acquiring much needed nutrients. Every morning before work Josh makes a green juice. He consumes a full juice, usually around 30 ounces, but he makes me a slightly smaller juice, around 20 ounces or so. Most mornings, it’s Joe Cross’ Mean Green juice, but other mornings, we just juice whatever fruits and veggies we have lying around. Sometimes we get creative, and sometimes we find inspiration on juicerecipes.com. Some days we juice more than once, but we always do it in the mornings.
  2.  We’ve eliminated most grains from our diet. For us, this means no bread, pasta, or rice. In the interest of full discloser, I’ll admit that I still have a canister of white flour on my counter, although it only gets used for thickening soups and whatnot. We also chose not to eliminate oatmeal or granola. That being said, we’ve cut out a huge chunk of the grains we were consuming. It’s taken a bit of effort on my part to adjust to this, as we relied very heavily on grains at meal time. Nearly every lunch and dinner contained rice or pasta and often bread too. Breakfast was very bread heavy: muffins, biscuits, pancakes, etc. Learning how to cook without such a heavy reliance on those grains has been a bit tricky for me, but I’m finally getting the hang of it.
  3. We’ve eliminated all processed food. I’ve been working on this one for a while now. I had already implemented a “5 ingredient rule.” That being, if the label had more than 5 ingredients, it was too processed and we wouldn’t buy it. There were also a few no-no ingredients that automatically disqualified a food, such as high fructose corn syrup or chemical sweeteners. However, I often let this rule slide when it was convenient for me. For example, we still leaned heavily on frozen waffles, breakfast cereals, and frozen pizzas. Convenience was often a trump card here. Now the trump card has been thrown out the window. We’re not eating any processed food. When we go to the grocery store, we only shop on the perimeter of the store. Pretty much everything down the aisles is off limits.
  4. No fast food. This is another one that has been slowly evolving. We had already eliminated most fast food chains, but there were a couple (okay, one in particular) that I truly loved and wouldn’t cut out. I rationalized that their ingredients were much more legit than other places, but, after reading their actual ingredient lists, I realized I was so very wrong. The chicken may actually be real chicken, but it’s so chemical laden that it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, we were eating at my beloved fast food establishment at least once a week, but no more. It has finally been banned for good, along with all other fast food places.
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This is what the kids chose for lunch one day recently. SO much better than frozen pizza!

These four little changes have made a huge impact on our health in the very short time we’ve been faithful to them. Josh has lost 30 lbs, is sleeping better at night (probably because he’s no longer snoring), and has more energy than I’ve seen him have in years. We’re very much looking forward to his next doctor appointment to see what his blood work has to say about all of this.

I haven’t lost any weight (which was never my goal. I’m not trying to diet, just get healthy.) but I also haven’t gained any weight since the end of November. Considering I’m in my third trimester, that’s rather remarkable. At this point, I should be gaining weight, and somewhat rapidly. The baby is measuring great and is strong and healthy. This means that the reason my weight isn’t changing is because I’m loosing fat on my body while my baby continues to grow and be nourished. This is the only conclusion that makes sense to me, since I no longer have those pesky love handles that make it so difficult to look good in anything, pregnant or not. Also, people who see me all the time keep telling me that I’m “glowing.” I know this is something people supposedly say to pregnant women, but this is my 5th pregnancy, and no one has ever told me that I’m “glowing” before. All I can figure is the increased nutrients I’m consuming must be having a positive effect on my skin and complexion. I also feel better than I’ve ever felt this far along in a pregnancy. While I am obviously tired and achy, it is much less pronounced than it has ever been before.

Just to be clear, neither of us are “dieting” or restricting our food intake in any way. We both eat whenever we are hungry and we consume all we desire to fill ourselves up. The only restrictions we have imposed are the 4 little rules above. Despite that, we both feel great and are loosing weight in the process. Imagine what will happen with a little exercise or strength training added!

We are both so very pleased with the results of these changes that these guidelines have truly become lifestyle changes, despite the short time we’ve been following them. There is no reason that we would ever go back to the stuff that we were consuming before. If anything, we may continue to evolve and mature to eliminate even more (such as the oats and granola, or maybe even some dairy!) as we fall more in love with the benefits of living in a properly nourished body.

My Cleaning Dilemma

These aren't my cleaners but this is what my setup looked like.

These aren’t my cleaners but this is what my setup looked like.

After nearly a year of making my own orange vinegar cleaner and using it to clean the kitchen and bathrooms and anything else that needs cleaning, I’m calling it quits.

It all started when a well-meaning friend came to visit. She walked in the door and the first words out of her mouth were, “Oh. I can smell you use bleach to clean your house.” The words were dripping in disgust. “I quit using bleach years ago. I just can’t expose my family to that.”After she left I did a little internet research to see what all the fuss was about. She was right; bleach is scary stuff.

Around the same time I saw something on facebook about how to make your own orange vinegar cleaner. This was good because Josh hates the smell of vinegar. Truthfully, so do I. Just about the only thing I like about cleaning is the fresh, clean smell afterwards. Vinegar just doesn’t do it for me. It’s incredibly useful in more ways than I ever imagined, but it just doesn’t smell good. The orange vinegar cleaner promised a fresh citrus scent.

Sadly, it didn’t deliver. I tried several different methods, each with varying success, but never really achieved the fresh citrusy scent I longed for. Terrified to return to my good friend bleach, I tried to convince myself I’d learn to love it. But I didn’t. Yesterday, while I was scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing the shower (vinegar takes more elbow grease than bleach), I literally threw in the towel. I hated the smell; I hated the extra work; I just don’t like this approach to cleaning.

I dug through the cleaning cabinet, desperately hoping there was some chemical I accidentally left behind when I rid our house of all the toxic cleaning agents I was so very attached to. Success! In the very back there was a can of Scrubbing Bubbles. I sprayed the shower down and mere minutes later I had a lemony fresh, sparkling clean shower stall. “That’s it,” I said, “I’m through with green cleaning. I’m too busy for it and not satisfied by it.” I went and threw out all the jars of orange vinegar cleaner that were marinating in my pantry. (Perhaps that was a tad dramatic, but what’s done is done.) I told Josh about my reversion. He laughed and said something along the lines of, “I told you so.”

I was liberated! I was relieved! I was going to write a blog about how you can still be a good mom and clean with bleach! (And Pine-Sol, which is my very favorite cleaner in the whole world!) Then I made the mistake of linking the harmful effects of bleach to the beginning of this article.

no toxic cleanersI really don’t want that in my house. (Even though I already had Josh bring home a bottle and have used it several times in the few hours it’s been in my house.)

What’s a busy mom to do? I’m riddled with guilt either way. I don’t want to be slowly poisoning my family. But I also don’t want my family living in filth, which tends to happen when I take the naturally cleaning approach. Because it takes extra work and doesn’t leave me with the victorious smell of clean, I just put it off. And then things get nasty. Yesterday, there was pink mold growing on the edge of the shower when I started cleaning! I’m pretty sure I heard somewhere that that’s toxic too.

I clearly don’t have the answers on this one. Maybe I’ll go back to my baking powder pastes and vinegar sprays. Maybe I’ll give hydrogen peroxide a try. Maybe I’ll just use the cleaners I like, but leave the windows open those days. Maybe I’ll just use the cleaners and try really hard to forget what I’ve read about them. I just don’t know…

Who knew cleaning could be so problematic?

A Day of Rest

As we were driving along the interstate on the way to our family Christmas celebration, I was intrigued by which stores were open and which were not. It was like some stores were saying, “Without me, the world would stop spinning. I absolutely can not close my doors, even for one day.” Others were saying something more like, “All those other fools are closed. Lots of people will be unprepared. I’m going to rake in all the profits for myself.” But most stores were quietly closed in observance of something much bigger than themselves. While the Christian in me hope that “something bigger” was the celebration of our Lord’s birth, I don’t pretend to believe that is the case across the board. Some were observing materialism, some just avoiding a conflict with their employees, and others were simply taking the only day off they will take all year.

All those empty parking lots, dark store fronts, and lack of neon signs got me thinking. It wasn’t all that long ago that nearly everything was closed on Sunday. What a marvelous idea that was. It’s really a shame we have strayed from that practice. Again, the Christian in me rejoices in the thought of our nation banding together to set aside a day for the Lord, but I’m not naive. However, as I’ve discovered is usually the case, when we do follow God’s laws, it’s actually good for us as well.

If our nation were to shut down on Sunday, as it does on Christmas day, think of all the good that would come. How many families don’t have a single day off together? They’re practically strangers in living under the same roof. In our overworked, overstressed, overtired society, a mandatory day off would work wonders for our physical and mental well-being. Now, I know most 9-5ers are already “off” on Sunday, but how many actually spend the day relaxing? If it’s not possible to go to the home improvement store, the grocery store, or run any other errands, one might actually take a day of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. One might even spend it getting to know their family.

AND think about this: wouldn’t you love to know how much energy was saved yesterday with the majority of businesses, warehouses, stores, and restaurants out of commission? I know I would! Can you even imagine how much we as a nation could reduce our carbon footprint just by closing up shop one day each week?? All this talk about going green, yet this incredibly simple solution, that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary a few years back, sits in front of us unconsidered.

I promise, despite what you think, we could all manage just fine with out the plethora of hedonistic options open and waiting for us on one single day. The world would not stop spinning if we slowed down and shut things off for one day each week. Most things shut down yesterday and the world resumed as normal today. Why not make it a regular occurrence?

Just think about it: good for God (although you wouldn’t have to acknowledge that if you didn’t want to), good for self, good for family, good for the earth.

This is why politicians shouldn’t be in charge. They can’t think this simply.  I think should start “a day of rest” movement. And, if anyone knows if the energy saved yesterday is somehow measurable, I would love to know about it.

Here’s to a national weekly day of rest!

 

 

Natural Family Planning IS NOT The Rhythm Method

Having written some of my recent posts has opened me up to slew of criticism, which happens to be, for the most part, nasty and uneducated. While I don’t intend to address most of it publicly, this is the one point that absolutely has to be cleared up. NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING IS NOT THE RHYTHM METHOD. I’ve even had nurses at former OB/GYN’s offices smugly make comments about my choice to use the “rhythm method.” I suppose the Rhythm Method is a form of Natural Family Planning, albeit a very bad one, but saying one uses NFP DOES NOT mean she uses the Rhythm Method. For those of you wondering what I could possibly be talking about, let me explain.

The Rhythm Method is when a women tracks her periods and basically guesses at when she might be ovulating based on the standard of a 28 day menstrual cycle. The huge problem with this is only something like 12% of women have a “normal 28 day cycle” every month. Attempting to achieve or postpone pregnancy based on an “average” is just foolish. People who oppose NFP are quick to cite statistics regarding the regular failure of the Rhythm Method and apply it to NFP in general. This is neither fair nor accurate.

True, reliable NFP comes under several names (the Sympto-Thermal Method,  the Billings Ovulation Method, and the Creighton Model, just to name a few) but all methods involve charting when you, as an individual, in that particular month, ovulate. When taking an NFP class, you learn the science behind ovulation and the menstrual cycle. You learn how to observe your body to know when you are ovulating. Whether you’re trying to achieve or prevent pregnancy or even just be proactive about your health, this is invaluable information. NFP works no matter what. If you’re early, if you’re late, if you’re stressed, if your fertile cycle begins before your period ends, if you’re breastfeeding, if you only have a few periods a year, if you’re illiterate, if you’re blind, whatever your unique circumstance is, NFP will let you know when you’re ovulating.

Common scientific sense tells you that if you have sex when you’re ovulating it is very likely you will get pregnant. If you don’t, you can’t. You absolutely can not get pregnant if you are not fertile. It’s not possible. (If you’re ever bored look up the case studies in India and China where NFP was implemented with a practically non-existent pregnancy rate. You most definitely can’t say the same for handing out artificial contraceptives.) For couples desiring to postpone pregnancy, they simply abstain from sex during the brief window of fertility. That’s why people freak out. Something about brief period of abstinence completely baffles and overwhelms our culture.

All things considered, (click here to read a transcript of a fabulous talk by Dr. Janet Smith where she discusses the relationship between contraception, divorce, abortion, poverty, and other social ills) I would much rather abstain a handful of days each month during the times I feel we are unable to accept another child than pollute my body and marriage with artificial birth control. I think if more people did a little research before popping that pill, getting that shot or inserting that ring, they would feel the same way.

In this day and age of it being so trendy to “go green,” eat organic foods, and be environmentally responsible, I find it laughable that so many people mindlessly choose artificial contraception over natural methods. (For information on how birth control is harming our environment, click here or just google “birth control and fish”) While my motives in choosing NFP aren’t necessarily “green,” I’m glad I’m not contributing to this problem.

I do want to point out, if you are interested in NFP it’s crucial you take a class or order an at home study kit, so you can learn what you’re doing. If you just read an article and attempt to implement it, you will likely be unsuccessful. However, with very little time, effort, or expense, you can learn NFP and say goodbye to artificial contraception and all its unpleasant and harmful side effects for good.

Lastly, my family size should not be used as an indicator of how well NFP works. Josh and I have never had a “surprise” pregnancy since beginning NFP. (The same can not be said for when we were using artificial contraception. I wouldn’t give Andy back for anything in the world, but he definitely wasn’t “planned.”) We know full well when we “risk” becoming pregnant. Believe it or not, we love our family and we don’t consider our children or family size to be a burden. Despite the negativity we receive from our peers, friends, strangers, and family, we adore our children and are open to more if that’s what the Lord has planned for us. At the same time, we know that we can also rely on NFP to postpone pregnancy if the need arises and have effectively done so in the past.

And just for good measure, I want to share these questions from FertilityCare Centers of America. If your answer to any of the following questions is “yes,” they highly recommend (and, of course, I agree) looking into a natural family planning method.

1. Do you want to know more about how your menstrual cycle works?

2. Are you tired of taking birth control pills, using condoms, using gels or diaphragms?

3. Are you looking for something to manage your fertility that is entirely natural?

4. Are you tired of having the birth control pill recommended for the treatment of nearly every woman’s health problem?

5. Are you interested in a family planning system that also allows you to monitor and maintain your health?

6. Are you looking for a family planning system that is completely safe and has no medical side effects?

7. Are you looking for a family planning method where surveys have shown a high level of couple satisfaction?

8. Are you looking for a solution to a reproductive problem? Infertility? Miscarriage? Stillbirth? Prematurity?

9. Are you looking for a solution to premenstrual syndrome? Recurrent Ovarian Cysts? Abnormal bleeding?

10. Would you like a family planning system that actually helps bond your marriage? Where both the the man and the woman work together?

11. Are you looking for a system of family planning that is morally acceptable to you and your spouse?

If your answer was “YES!” to any of the above questions, then you should seriously consider contacting an affiliated center of FertilityCare™ Centers of America.

To locate a FertilityCare™ Center in your area, please go to http://www.fertilitycare.org for a complete listing of Centers located in the United States and Canada or write to:

FertilityCare™ Center of Omaha

6901 Mercy Road

Omaha, Nebraska 68106

fcco@popepaulvi.com