Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Brand New Year

I really don't like new year's resolutions.  Usually people create impossible goals, and end up feeling like failures when they can't reach them.  I certainly have been there, but I stopped making resolutions a long time ago.

That being said, I still think the beginning of the new year is a perfect time to stop and reflect on your life, and change directions if you notice you're not down the path that's best for you.  And after a hard year like I've had, I really need some redirection. 

Chad and I are going to have our traditional new year celebration soon, consisting of a movie and nachos, so I won't spend a lot of time on this post.  But I wanted to write down what I want to change in my life, so it's maybe a little more concrete. 

Number one, I want to start feeding myself properly.  My body is an amazing gift from God, and I should nourish it with the best foods I can find.  My goal is not to cut out junk because thinking in negative terms creates a vacuum that draws in the candy bars.  Instead, my goal is to fill my plate with lots of good foods so that there's not much room left for foods that make me feel bad. 

I also want to start exercising my amazing body so that it's strong and well maintained so I can do the things I love, like gardening and hiking.  I'm going to go easy on the exercise, because I'm out of shape and I don't want to hurt myself.  I also don't want to exercise so hard that I start hating it.

I want to make space in my day for the things I love, which means I have to change the way I think about my time.  It's precious, and I should stop trying to find ways to waste it.  This will also make space and time in my life to help me find more meaning in my days.

I want to start treating myself with the same respect and love that I treat others, because no one else will treat me that way until I do. 

So how was your year?  Was it good?  Did you have rocky spots?  Is there anything you want to change?  Whatever 2015 looked like for you, I hope that 2016 is even better.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Garden Tour

It's been such a mild winter here in western New York (and all of New England and the Mid Atlantic as well), and I've been hearing crazy stories about how how spring bulbs are starting to spring up already, and garlic is a foot tall in gardens.  I got pretty curious about what's going on in my garden, so I took a stroll around the yard with my camera (and a good pair of boots, because it's muddy!).

And what do you know!  The daffodil bulbs really are sending up shoots.

They're pretty small yet though, as you can see by their size compared to those leaves.  And it's not all the bulbs; only the ones that are more out in the sun are popping up.  The ones more in the shade are still sleeping.

Actually, I left some bulbs in the garage too long because I didn't know where to plant them, and I noticed they had started to sprout.  So not wanting to waste something awesome, I stuck them in some vases.

So far, only one has bloomed, but it's such a fun thing to walk into the kitchen and see a beautiful blooming hyacinth.  Plus, it smells awesome.

And you know what?  My garlic is coming up, too!

But it's certainly not a foot tall.  It usually gets about that big before it gets covered by snow anyway, so I'm not worried about it.  It is, afterall, called German Extra Hardy and can withstand some pretty frigid cold snaps.

One thing I worried about with this warm weather was that my apples would break dormancy too soon and their buds would die.  However, it looks like they're nice and sleepy still and should make it through to spring.

So while I was out there, I took a picture of my newest toy, too.

I got it all together on the Sunday after Christmas.  It was quite a project, but not as bad as the reviews made it out to be.  The box came with two pieces that weren't supposed to be there, and two pieces that I needed weren't there.  Thankfully, they're not pieces that are structurally necessary, so I just put it together and contacted the company about it. 

It's a really cool little planter!  The planting space is about 6 inches deep, and the space underneath is good for storage.  The clear plastic is pretty sturdy, but the black plastic, which covers the base part and is the tray for the soil to sit in, is flimsier.  However, the frame is very sturdy and well designed, so if the plastic breaks, I figure I can replace it with wood or some other material and just keep reusing the frame.  I like it a lot! 

It's currently sitting in the cleared out raspberry spot.  It's less windy there, and there's no threat of falling ice, but in the spring, we'll move it over to it's permanent home on the south side of the house.

There, between the raspberries and the concrete slab.  And if I like it, who knows?  Maybe I'll get another one and put it where the raspberries are.  I don't know what variety those raspberries are, but I don't like them very much.  The canes and the berries are really waxy, and my fingers are so sticky from wax after picking them.  Plus the berries have a crumbly berry disease, and I'm not at all sure how to help the poor plants.  But I suppose that's far enough down the road that I don't need to think about it right now.

So there's what's going on in the ole garden.  It may look asleep, but things are still growing!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Merry Post Xmas

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas.  We sure did.

And I don't mean as far as presents go, either (although we did get some nice gifts).  Our Christmas was good because we got to spend time with family that we hardly get to see anymore.  We laughed and told stories, caught up with what's new and retold old memories.  It was even so nice on Christmas day that Chad and I took a long evening walk in the moonlight.  It was lovely. 

So here's hoping that your Christmas was just as fun and lovely as ours was.  See you in the new year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Life and Stuff

I've been enjoying writing about my garden the last couple of posts I wrote.  It's nice to get my ideas and dreams down in words; it makes it all seem more real.  It makes me feel like spring will come again, and when it does, I have plans. 

What I haven't written about is my life, and that's because it's been pretty hard the last four months.  It's still really hard for me to think about it, and even writing this much is giving me a cold sweat.  But in case anyone still reads and is still interested in how my life is going, I thought I should mention some of this.  Plus, maybe it will make it more real for me, and help me to deal with it.

I'm not going into full details.  I don't know if I ever will.  So let's keep it simple. 

In September, I was pregnant for five weeks.  And then I wasn't anymore.  It was the most heart crushing thing I've ever gone through.  Chad got a vasectomy in November (that's how long they made him wait, just in case he changed his mind).  And now, for real, Chad and I will never have children.

I'm still recovering from everything that happened.  I've felt like I've had a fog hanging over me for the last few months, but just lately it kind of feels like it's lifting.  I'm taking things slowly.  You can't push yourself to get over this sort of thing.  And I do know I'm getting better, because I've been getting into my art again.  Here's a couple pieces I've painted recently.

Red Onion

And I've been having these pangs of.... wanting more with my life.  Wanting more friends, wanting meaning, wanting to get out of the house.  I'm just savoring the wanting right now, the knowledge that there's so much I can do with my life. 

So if I'm mostly writing about plants and such, well, that's just my therapy.  It's soothing and it helps me to express myself at a time where I'm still having trouble being alone with my own thoughts.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dreams of a Greenhouse

As a homemaker, I don't usually get much time off.  There's always something to be cleaned, cooked, or picked up.  But every Thursday, I try to give myself a little slack to do whatever I want to do.  I still feed the mouths and  do the dishes, but otherwise I just chill.  And today, that chilling involved a lot of daydreaming.

As I've mentioned before, I live on a small lot in the city; I cram as much garden stuff as I feel comfortable with, but I'd really like more room.  One thing I really dream about having is a greenhouse.  I'm not sure why.  It's not like I really know how a greenhouse works exactly, or what kind of advantages it has.  I mean, I know you can start your plants early in a greenhouse and it keeps things warm for warm loving plants like peppers and melons, but it seems like there's something I'm missing.

Even so, I still wish I had room for one.  A special little place for my plants, where I could start my seeds outside instead of my cramped basement; somewhere warm enough so I can get more than one shriveled little sad looking pepper on my otherwise healthy looking pepper plants; and maybe ever somewhere that I could extend my season and have fresh homegrown greens through the winter.  What a lovely thought.

But do you see a place for a greenhouse here?  Really?

Property line is easy to tell on the left; right property line is just passed the clothesline.  Back line is about where the compost is.

I mean, I guess there is a bunch of space in the center there.  But how silly would that look?  I would like to sell this house within 10 years, and I think a giant greenhouse in the middle of the lawn would make it a bit hard.  The garden is probably going to be a problem as it is.  Maybe I could put a greenhouse over the whole of the garden, and then just take the thing down when we go to move...  But a greenhouse that big would probably be pretty expensive.  Plus, I'm not sure how well you can grow spring crops in a greenhouse.

Well, in my dreaming this morning, I started wondering what kind of little greenhouse-like things garden companies sell.  Well, let me tell you; quite a few!  Most of them are either tall plastic pop-up things that pretend to be mini greenhouses, or short plastic pop-up things that go over an existing garden.  But I found a couple of them that are both a raised bed garden and a greenhouse at the same time, and this one in particular kind of caught my eye.

I happen to have a spot on the south side of my house that's still (miraculously) empty.  Between my raspberry canes and the cement slab next to the side porch, there's a space that's maybe 5x5 feet that's empty lawn.  Now we do  get some chives that grow there, and some mint that's crazy wild, but this thing is cool enough to put over those things.

However, it's also a spot where, every late winter/early spring, a huge chunk of ice falls off our room.  And I mean huge.  Usually 4x2x1 feet and weighing at least 100 pounds.  It sounds like the roof is coming in when it falls down.  And the greenhouse would be right in the way of that.  Shoot.

Ahh, but!  They also make a smaller one.

And this one looks like it's small enough to avoid the impact of the ice boulder.  It's 2'x4', and is meant to sit against a wall.  Which is perfect, since I have a wall right there.  It's empty underneath so you can put supplies there, but I probably won't do that.  It'll just be nice to not have to weed that whole area.  It usually gets full of monstrous weeds by the middle of summer because we don't mow that side of the house, and certain unnamed husbands don't weed wack but once or twice a season.  And also, I'm lazy.  Although it might be nice to get all those bags of compost out of the garage.... hmmmmm....

Anyway, I already bought the little greenhouse, lol.  It was $249 on Amazon, but Burpee had it for $199, plus I found a 20% off coupon online.  Score!  So after the $25 shipping, it was only $185, woot!

My plan is to fill it with premade raised bed soil mix and then plant peppers in it!  I'm so excited to actually grow peppers and maybe get something from them!  I've tried peppers every year since I started gardening, and every year I'm disappointed.  They do sooo well in my basement; they're tall, with thick stems and bushy leaves, and some even start getting buds by the time I start hardening them off.  And they still look nice when I put them in the ground, but they stop growing so quickly, start looking a little small, and then the peppers, once they start coming, are so small and sad looking.  The only time I got decent peppers was when I grew jalapenos, and I've heard that hot peppers can withstand colder weather better than sweet peppers.  Which is good to know, living in the north, but I don't like hot peppers.

I've seen some other northern living people do great with peppers when they grow them in greenhouses or hoop houses, which is great.  So I'm hoping that my new toy will act as a greenhouse and keep my plants warm enough to actually get some peppers!

I guess we'll see how it goes.  Even if it doesn't increase my pepper yields, it'll be nice to have more growing space and a place to maybe start some seeds early (or have lettuce late in the season), and somewhere sheltered to harden off my plants in the spring.  Yay!

To totally change the subject, check out what Chad and I saw in the backyard the other day.  Keep in mind that we live in the city.

As far as I can tell, he's either an 8 or 9 point buck.

I'm pretty sure he was after this lady.

There was also another lady in the neighbor's backyard.  We had to do a bunch of shouting and waving of arms to get them to get out of our yard.  (Note: always be careful around deer, especially bucks, during breeding season!)  They came back a few times; sometimes they were just laying in our yard in front of my garden!  What the heck?  We shooed them off every time, because I certainly don't want them getting cozy.  Deer are the most destructive animals in my yard.  Which is silly, because the closet woods are about a mile away.  Ok, half a mile away, but still, that's half a mile they have to walk through the streets to get to my house.  Across a busy road and a school and sardine-packed houses.  Silly animals. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

My Big Garden Dreams

It's been quite a while since I last blogged.  Again.  I have a habit of doing that sort of thing; one minute I'm totally into something, and the next I don't want anything to do with it for months or years at a time.

Like gardening.  Around September, I'm usually getting pretty sick of gardening.  Which is ridiculous, because that's when so many of my plants come to harvest, but for some reason I just get bored with the whole thing.  Then around December, usually when the first catalog appears in the mail, I'm so ready to start gardening again that it's embarrassing.  "Weren't you just sick of gardening like yesterday?" I might hear from certain unnamed husband.  Yes.  I was sick of gardening.  And now I'm not.

I have so many big plans for my garden, which is silly because my garden is very tiny.  Somehow, on roughly a 40x70 foot piece of backyard (that's very shady in one corner and has the house shadow during half the day in the rest of the yard), I've managed to plant and grow:

2 apple trees
4 blueberry bushes
2 five foot long raspberry brambles
1 2x4 foot strawberry patch
4 4x4 foot raised vegetable beds
1 1x16 foot raised vegetable bed
1 2x4 foot raised vegetable bed
As many veggie buckets as I can find space for
Two pretty nice flower gardens
Not to mention room for a swing and a clothes line

Here's a bad drawing of what it looks like.

My back yard

As you can see, it's quite cramped.  The driveway abuts the neighbor's property, but we do have about five feet on the other side of our house of ground where I put my strawberries, a small veggie garden and a patch of raspberries.  And yes, the flowers and compost at the very back of the yard are actually partially off of my property.  But the house behind ours is condemned, so whatevs.  I don't think anyone will mind too much.

So yeah, small city garden with big country dreams.  I keep looking at the catalogs and dreaming about what I wish I could do.  I wish I could put an arbor above the entryway for my main garden and grow grapes on it.  I wish I could have a greenhouse or hoop house to grow peppers and melons.  I wish I could grow pumpkins or winter squash.  But I have to face the fact that I have a small shady yard and that I have to be happy with what I have right now.

One of the more major things I'm doing next year is planting new raspberries.  The last couple winters have been killers in our area.  2013/2014 was what they call an open winter; we had almost no snow at all.  Which is great, except it was also extremely cold.  We got down to -15 or lower for weeks, and the ground froze five feet deep.  That killed my raspberries to the ground.  They did miraculously send up new shoots, but being summerbearers, that meant that I would have to wait until the following summer to get any berries.  Well, the winter of 2014/2015 was equally cold, except it also had record breaking amounts of snow.  I think we had four feet of heavy packed snow in our back yard, which protected the bottom part of the canes but the parts that were above the snow died off.  The hard winters were especially rough for the patch on the north side of the garage, and they started dying off from some kind of disease shortly after spring came around.  I decided that I was tired of dealing with harsh winters and raspberries that weren't up to the challenge, so I pulled up all those canes, dug in a lot of really good soil amendments, and planted some runner beans there to help boost the soil fertility.

The raspberry plot after adding lots of good stuff

I read about a cool new raspberry that Cornell University bred a few years back called Double Gold.  It's a blushed gold everbearer raspberry with high disease resistance, designed for cooler regions (Cornell is afterall in NY state, just like me).

Double Gold raspberry
There's a nursery that Cornell had grow it for them that's actually just an hour's drive from here, so I'm totally thinking about driving up there instead of paying $20 shipping.  The cool thing about everbearer raspberries is that they produce on first year canes.  As in, they grow a cane and then berries form on it the same year.  Whereas summerbearer canes, like the ones I have, grow canes one year and then produce berries on it the next summer, which is ok as long as the canes don't die back every winter!

I'm such a rambler.  I really meant for this to be a short post with some ideas for my garden next year, but I've already gone on a ton!  So maybe I'll shorten things up a little.

I managed to save a lot of seeds last year, so I really don't need to buy many.  I do want to try a couple new varieties, though.  My plans for new plants are:

 Cherokee purple tomato

Dragon's Tongue

New York Early 

Cosmic Purple
Not actually new, but I need more

Hidatsa Sheild

Sweet Pickle

I haven't really decided on lettuce yet, but I would like to try a crisphead type (iceburg) to go with my green towers romaine I already have.  I need to get some shelling peas too, but that's one of those things were it doesn't seem to matter what variety you get because they're all the same.  

So those are some rough plans so far.  I'm still dreaming about the greenhouse and the grape arbor, but I guess those will have to wait a while until we can buy our country home. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

New Life Directions

When I was a teenager, my mom and I used to go hiking in a large county park.  The trail I liked  best had a pretty well hidden head, at the very end of the camping area, tucked back in the corner.  It lead down for a long time, then through some very thick under brush.  When you finally came out of the curtain of green, you found yourself on the top of a bare hill, looking out at the calm lake, patches of forest, tall waving grasses, and dozens of trail branches leading off into the trees and down around the water's edge.  The thought of all those possibilities was so thrilling to me.  I would want to stay all day long, exploring every possibility, finding out where each branch would lead me.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation in life, only in an intellectual way?  You start down one path of study, some new thought that interests you, and before you know it, you've traveled down a dozen different branches and are nowhere near where you began.

Well, that's what I've been doing for the last month or so.  I started innocently enough by going to the library to pick up some gardening books, to help me figure out how best to grow my apples organically.  I went up the stairs to go to the garden section, which I've been to dozens of times before, but somehow managed to walk right past it.  I ended up going to the dieting section, and saw right away the book Women Afraid To Eat.  I was kind of intrigued, so I picked it up, then turned around and picked up some backyard orchard books that I'd come for.

As I've said in previous posts, Women Afraid To Eat really opened my eyes to the whole weight issue, and how obesity and overweight aren't really that bad for your health, and that fat prejudice is really strong in this country.  I then immediately bought Body Of Truth, a new book about the science of obesity and the health issues around it.  I felt so shocked that I had been pushed by society to hate my own body because of the way it looked and the way I was built.  I was also shocked to see that I had real problems with eating.  I wanted to keep reading and learning more, and I wanted to heal myself.  I stopped watching what I ate so much, and really tried to listen to my body.  I also tried to ignore the voice in my head screaming at me that I was going to gain weight by eating more!

I started reading all of the old Kimkins controversy again, delving deep into the sad stories of women starving themselves for the promise of a beautiful body.  How sad, I thought, reading their blogs.  I saw in them images of myself and the thoughts that have crossed my own mind from time to time.  Twisted as it is, as I read these terrible tales of starvation, I even started to envy them and their big weight losses, despite all the stories of losing hair and menstrual cycles.

I became fascinated with how this related to anorexia, and I remembered that I wanted to read Portia de Rossi's autobiography, Unbearable Lightness.  I knew that was at the library, because I looked it up once, but then never went to check it out.  So Chad and I went one night so I could get it, and while I was there I also picked up the book Fat?So!, which is about how it's ok to be comfortable in your own body, even if it's fat.  Well, as I was walking back to the stairs to go downstairs, Chad hands me this book called Women Without Children and said, "I dunno, I just thought it looked interesting,".  Since we're infertile and decided not to pursue treatment, I decided it might be a good book to read.

I started with Portia's book.  It was impossible to put down.  I was so amazed at what that poor woman went through, trying to be good enough, to live up to her public image.  It made me horrified that I was envious of the people who had done Kimkins.  I'd never wish that kind of life on anyone ever, let alone poor confused women trying to find some self esteem.  Although I truly liked Portia's book, I don't feel like I really got much personally from it, other than a strengthened conviction never to abuse my body just to meet society's impossible standards.

Next, I read Fat?So!, which was absolutely hilarious and wonderful.  It's dated, being written in 1998, but I still love it and I'm even contemplating getting my own version sometime.  I decided I need more body positive information in my life, and went out looking for it.  That's when I encountered all the hate people have for fat people, and wrote that really sad post.  Fortunately for me, I did find some great body positive sites and resources out there, and when I'm more focused, I plan on posting some links.

Reading all that body positive stuff, and seeing pictures of beautiful big women, made me start looking at myself differently.  I realized that, you know what, I really am beautiful!  It's just that normally, I'm focusing on my flaws, my thighs that seem too big, my big belly, my wrinkles, my lumps and sags.  When I stop looking at my parts and look at me as a whole, I see something that I have never seen before, not really.  I see... a curvy beauty with smooth ivory skin and rosy red cheeks, a wonderful smile and a lovely figure.  At first I was really shocked by that.  I was pretty convinced that I was ugly by this point.  Then I started getting kind of mad about it.  Why have I felt so ugly and unworthy all these years?  Why aren't I allowed to feel beautiful in my own skin?  So back to the library I went!

I had intended to get The Beauty Myth, a feminist book about society's ideal beauty and the way it's keeping women from really reaching their potentials.  However, the library didn't have it, so I decided to check out some other feminist books while I was there.  I got a classic, The Feminine Mystique, and a book called Never Too thin.

I started reading Women Without Children and The Feminine Mystique at the same time.  Both are very good.  I have to admit that The Feminine Mystique is a really heavy book.  It took a lot of effort to read that one, because it's meant for someone perhaps a little more educated than I am, but at the same time, it was too interesting to put down.  I realize that America isn't the same way it was in 1960, and women don't feel the need to stay home and be housewives, but I think some of the thinking still applies to women today.  I especially could relate to the housewives of 1960, because I dropped out of high school, never went to college, and married young.  I feel like maybe I did some of those things because I, just like the young women fifty years ago, am afraid to really grow up and make hard decisions for myself.  (I'm not sorry I got married, of course.  I think that was a life saver for me.  Chad's a great guy.)  The book really got me to thinking about the life dreams that I'd put aside to pursue my image of perfect housewife.

At the same time, Women Without Children really got me to thinking about my life without kids.  Many stories of women who, for whatever reason, didn't have kids and were happy with their lives made me wonder if I could have that too.  It talked about how infertile women ended up happier if they had something in their lives to make it fulfilling.  It also made me think about my reasons for wanting to have children, and then showed me that my expectations about kids weren't really reasonable.  It helped me to dig deep, past the hurt, to see the truth that was hiding behind the infertility.  The truth is, I never really wanted kids.  I hated kids growing up, and knew when I got married that I was never going to have them.  But at a certain age, I started to think about my life as I started to age.  I love having close family, and I want to continue to have close family once our parents are gone.  I thought I could get that with kids.  That's not a good reason to have children, though, because you can't know for sure what the kids are going to be like or what their wants and needs are going to be.  Maybe they'll want to live across the world and I'll never see them.  Maybe they'll be sick and I'll have to take care of them until I die.  I don't need my own kids to have family.  I have younger family that I could get close to, and I could make new friends to be my extended family.

Then I started to think more about those life dreams that I'd set aside, and how if I had kids, I probably would never pick them up again.  I care too much about those dreams to let that happen to them, even though I've been ignoring them for several years now.  So Chad and I had a long talk about life, kids, dreams, and what our future holds.  I found out his reasoning for wanting kids was because he always thought he would someday, and also, he wanted to be a better parent than my sister (who is a very bad mom), which he admitted were bad reasons for wanting to be a parent.  He also agreed that I need to start working on picking up the dusty old dreams and breathing life into them again.

Later that week, I ordered some female condoms to try.  I realize that we're infertile, but we've decided we really truly don't want children.  Leaving the door open like that will only cause heartache in one way or another.  I'll either start to feel my loss of not being a parent again, or I'll get really comfortable with being childfree and find myself pregnant.  I refuse to use hormonal birth control, Chad refuses to go back to male condoms, and both of us refuse to alter our bodies permanently.  So we're going to do a combination of fertility charting (something I'm pretty good at by now) and female condoms.

When we knew for sure I wasn't pregnant, Chad took the money we'd been saving for a baby and spent it on a new computer for me.  He also bought a new Wacom tablet, Corel Painter and Paint Shop Pro.  My dusty old dreams, laid aside so thoughtlessly, are to be an artist.  I am an artist, a really good artist, but for some reason, it seemed like I couldn't be an artist and a housewife at the same time.  An artist is messy, and a housewife is neat.  An artist is chaotic and unpredictable, and a housewife has dinner on the table when you get home.  And a mom, in my mind, couldn't really be an artist.  Art is free and unbound, but kids hold you down on earth.  That's not to say that there aren't great mom artists out there, just that I personally could never do them both.  And I want to be an artist.  It's my deepest calling, and I'm ashamed that I've been ignoring it's pull for so long. 

The trail that I find myself on now is bright and beautiful.  I'm not entirely sure how I got here, but I have a feeling that the hand of God has been guiding me.  I'm so grateful that I found everything I needed to find my way, and that my husband has been so supportive.  I don't know what lies ahead, just that I'm ready to meet it. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The World Hates Me

I recently started looking for body positive and fat acceptance groups on the internet, trying to find a group of like minded people to help me navigate the slippery slope of learning to love myself the way I am and accept that I'm not perfect and will never be skinny. 

However, instead of finding fat acceptance groups when I googled for it, all I really found was a lot of hate and ugly words.  People are so angry at the body positive movement, and think that fat people have no right to feel beautiful or to be seen in public, and think the movement is moronic because of course there's no way that a fat person could ever be healthy.  So to help fat people be healthy, they throw toxic words at them, tell them they're disgusting and a drain on society, that they can be proud of their bodies but they shouldn't expect anyone to ever find them attractive, that they're just giving themselves and others like them a license to over eat.

I was starting to feel so good about myself.  When I read those things, it just made me cry.  I've never seen such hate before.  We're just people, you know.  Most of us are doing the best we can. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Let's Be Honest

I was poking through Diet Doctor's New page this morning (which is an RSS feed of lots of low carb and paleo blogs), and happened to see an interesting looking post by Dr. Adam Nally titled Much Ado About Ketosis.  The post was a pretty good one; it wasn't exactly enlightening to me since I've already read just about everything that has to do with ketosis, insulin, low carb, paleo, and food in general over the last three years, but it was good nonetheless and I'm sure it will help educate plenty of people about this subject, and that's really important in our society of sheep blindly following the conventional food gurus. 

However, there was something he said that kind of touched a nerve.  It's clear to me that he didn't intentionally try to trick people with what he said, unlike many a government food committee, but the point he was making is important to the conversation about low carb and paleo eating.  I don't want to seem like I'm attacking Dr. Nally, because I'm really not.  I think his writing is good and that he's doing a good thing by educating people.  It's just that what he said follows a pattern I've seen in the low carb and paleo scene, and I think we need to point this out and get really honest with ourselves.

So what the heck and I even talking about?  Well, here's the comment Dr. Nally made that bothered me:

Our bodies recognize the seasons we are in based upon inherent hormone release.  The key hormone is insulin.  Insulin is the seasonal indicator to our bodies.  Insulin tells our bodies when it is a “time of plenty” and when it was a “time of famine.”  Why?  You ask.  We didn’t have refrigerators 100 years ago and you were lucky if you had a root cellar.  The body needs to know when to store for the famine (the winter) that was around the corner. Insulin is that signal.
During the summer, potatoes, carrots, corn and other fruits are readily available.  These are all starchy carbohydrates and they all require the body to stimulate an insulin response so that they can be absorbed.  Insulin stimulates fat storage.  Just like bears, our bodies were designed to store for the winter.
During the winter, when carbohydrates are less prevalent, insulin production decreases to baseline levels.  If you think back in history, your grandparents probably used stored meats & cheeses that could be salted or smoked for preserving during this time of year.  Those crossing the plains were commonly found with pemmican, a concentration of fat and protein used as a portable nutrition source in the absence of other food.  Think about conversations you may have had with your grandmother when she told you that for Christmas, she received an orange.  A single orange for a gift?! Many of my patients drink 12-15 of them in a glass every morning.  The winter diets of our grandparents were very low in starches and carbohydrates.  When carbohydrate intake is low, little insulin is produced.

And here is the comment I made to his post:

I appreciate your post and the good data found within it, but I have to argue one important point you made. As a gardener and wanna-be homesteader, I know for a fact that there were plenty of carbs available to most folks before refrigeration, and yes, even in much older times. You mention that carrots, potatoes and corn are plentiful in summer but not in winter. It’s funny you mention those foods, because they are amongst the longer storing crops. And actually, potatoes have to last all winter long because you start next year’s crop by planting last year’s tubers. Fruit is easily dried by cutting it up and placing it in the sun. Many native Americans did this with wild native fruits. They even made fruit leathers. And while we’re on native plants, the native Americans also grew native winter squashes, which last anywhere from a few months to literally two years. And let’s not forget acorns, which are super plentiful, easy to store, and nearly 100% carbs.
As for grandma getting one orange for Christmas, that was because shipping fruit was nearly impossible before our modern highway system. However, that doesn’t mean grandma didn’t have fruit in the winter, though admittedly she didn’t eat as much as we do today, and mostly what she ate was preserved in a heavy sugar syrup.
I’m not trying to be a troll. I think your message is a good one, but we need to be honest when we talk about low carb and paleo. Otherwise, we’re just as bad as the health officials and scientists that spout bad dietary advice.
Yes, it's pretty easy to store carbs for the winter, and it seems paleolithic people did indeed do this whenever possible.  Tom Naughton, the guy who introduced me to low carb in the first place, and a blogger I can trust to always be honest and upfront, mentioned this last fall in a post titled My Previous View of the Paleo Diet Got Squashed

Again, I'm not trying to bash Dr. Nally.  What I really wanted to get across with this post is that we need to be really open and honest when we talk about food in this low carb/paleo community.  The conventional wisdom about food, with it's grain-based pyramid and low fat hysteria, is based on lies and untruths, bad science and money-making agendas.  Those of us who are fortunate enough to have found out about these lies early in the game, and who are trying to spread that information to the rest of the world, have a responsibility to not only be truthful but also well educated.  It's easy to say that past people didn't have carbs in the winter and therefore neither should we, but that's simplistic thinking.  Maybe it's true for some populations, but it's clearly not true for the human species as a whole.  That kind of logic is akin to the idea that fat causes you to become fat; it makes sense at first because it's such a simple idea, but it's clearly not right. 

Don't get me wrong; this isn't just about Dr. Nally's post, either.  I've seen this a lot over the years reading blogs and articles.  When you're trying to make a point that you believe in, it's easy to simplify data or ignore conflicting information.  It's not something we do because we're evil; I've been known to do it myself, and I'm pretty sure I'm not a bad person.  We do it because we truly believe in what we're saying, and we want to help people.  I totally get that.  But it's not the way we should be acting.  If we're dishonest or not totally upfront with people, they may listen to us at first, but then after a while it will breed mistrust and contempt, and may end up turning them away from this way of eating all together.  They may even end up feeling the same way about low carb/paleo as they do about the standard American diet; like they can't trust us, and don't know what to believe.  Which would be a shame, because this is clearly a very healthy diet.

So here's my call to every low carb/paleo/WAPF/whole foods blogger out there; be totally honest when you blog.  If you're trying to educate people, make sure to do your own research and not just depend on another's opinions.  If something seems overly complicated, don't assume telling the whole truth will confuse people.  If you don't understand all of the information yourself, be honest and tell people that and give them links so that maybe they can read it and make their own conclusions.  We don't have to be perfect; as a society, we're still trying to figure out what's best for our bodies and our health.  But we should at least be honest.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Lure of Skinny: Part 2

Skinny is such a powerful thing in our society.  If you're skinny, you have power, social power; the power to attract the opposite sex, the power to get many more jobs and have more opportunities, the power to make friends and to be seen as trustworthy, the power to tell (fat) people what they need to do to become skinny as well.  For reasons that are very hard to understand, our society today puts skinny on a pedestal and makes it the highest level of moral rightness you can ever achieve.  You're seen as trustworthy, well disciplined, highly motivated, energetic, and healthy, just by the way you look. 

On the flip side, fat people are seen as lazy, lairs, gluttonous, self-centered,  having no self control, and on the verge of death every time they put anything in their mouths that isn't a leaf of lettuce.  We're told that we should be ashamed for the way we look, because obviously we just need to eat less and exercise more and we can be just like the skinny people.  And the sad thing about it is, fat people absolutely believe that 100%.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many overweight and obese people are desperate to lose weight?  The message to lose weight has become so frantic, so terrifying, it's as if it's a highly contagious disease, and if we don't take action right now, all will be lost!  Many fat people are lead to believe that they're just months away from diabetes and heart disease, even if they're physically very healthy.  And so they take on the task of losing the weight, for themselves, for their families, for society as a whole (because everyone knows that obesity is a drain on the medical system).

 This desperation is what feeds the $60 billion dollar diet industry.  If being skinny is so good morally, socially, and physically, it's worth spending money on, right?  Well, according to recent studies, no, not really.  Only 5% of dieters keep the weight off for 5 years, and the ones that do keep it off make it their life's mission.  Several of the people who told their diet stories in the book Body of Truth said that maintaining the weight loss was a full time job, and they had to stay at it constantly.  But that's the great thing about the diet industry; they know that their business model works really well.  The dieters lose weight initially, they keep it off for 6 months to a year, then start gaining it back.  They can then say, "Hey, the diet isn't at fault; you just didn't stick to it!".  And because people are so desperate to lose weight, they believe it and come back for more punishment.

I don't know how well the low carb and paleo diets work long term.  I do know of several people who have kept the weight off with low carb for many years, but I know of even more people who have gone up and down with it.  As for the paleo diet, I don't know if what we call "paleo" today (as opposed to Lorren Cordain's paleo, which I understand is low fat and anti-saturated fat) has been around long enough to see if many people can keep the weight off long term.  As I said last time, this doesn't mean I don't think these diets are great; I think they're wonderful ways to get back to health, for sure.  What I really don't know is if they're any better at keeping the weight off compared to any other diet out there.  If anyone has any info on this, I'd love to see it.

The most damaging aspect of this whole get-skinny-to-be-healthy mindset is that it skews a person's idea of what healthy really is.  You begin to think that anything that makes you skinny is healthy, even if those methods are clearly dangerous.  Or at the very least, you use that as justification.  Truth be told, I'm fairly certain that health is only an added bonus to weight loss for most people.  Even if they don't say it out loud, I'm pretty sure that the number one reason people attempt weight loss is to look good, and to be socially acceptable.  It's so easy, when you're thinking about or doing something dangerous to lose weight, to give yourself and others the justification that, hey, you were unhealthy as a fat person, so this can't be bad for me!

A case in point of this disturbing mental gymnastics is the Kimkins disaster.  I know I've talked about it briefly before in my blog, but I never went into much detail about it.  Back then, I was fascinated by the drama of what happened, and how Heidi (Kimmer) could put herself into a situation like that.  I found myself reading the whole drama again recently, though this time, I see something a lot more disturbing.  I paid special attention to the blogs of people who went on the diet and were deep into it, but because of the fraud, they left the site and started talking about their experiences.  I see people who were so desperate to lose weight and be beautiful, that they rationalized a 300-600 calorie low carb/low fat diet as a way to get healthy.  They believed, despite being intelligent well educated people, that this was enough food to fuel them for the whole day:
594 calories

And if that wasn't doing it for them and they found themselves in a weight stall, they could try this for their daily intake instead:
376 calories
 (Both pictures are from Mariasol's anti-Kimkins blog.  I highly suggest reading through their blog and those they link to if you're interested in this fascinating side of low carb history.)

The most disturbing part about this epic tale of self-deception and desperation is the long term effects.  Many people (mostly women) who stayed on this diet for months started to have side effects; losing hair, brittle nails, feeling nauseated, dizziness, blacking out, heart flutters, and in some cases, serious heart problems.  And yet, despite all of these issues, they were brushed aside as if they weren't a problem, not just by the owner of the site and her admins, but also by the members.  They were told, and believed, that there was no such thing as starvation mode, that the side effects were normal, and that whatever they were experiencing was temporary and worth it to be skinny and healthy. 

But there is such a thing as starvation mode.  It's called YOU'RE STARVING!  Anyone with a functioning brain should know that eating very tiny amounts of food is what starvation is.  By definition, it's to "die or suffer from lack of food."  SNATT is a term that was used frequently on the Kimkins website; it stood for Semi-Nauceous-All-The-Time, and it was a state you wanted to be in.  If that's not suffering from lack of food, I don't know what is. 

The other side effects aren't normal, by the way; they're signs that your body is suffering.  You lose hair  because your body is in shock.  Your nails become brittle because you're not providing your body with the proper amount of nutrients and good fats and protein.  You get dizzy and black out for several reasons, including low electrolytes, hypoglycemia, and low blood pressure, all of these things linked to the starvation diet.  As for heart problems, well... when you're on a very low calorie diet, your body starts to eat away at your muscle tissue just to keep you alive, and of course your heart is a muscle.  It's not a secret that many anorectics die from heart problems.

That's the lure of skinny.  Intelligent, healthy people, who perhaps have more padding than society deems proper, put their lives at stake just to fit into the crowd.  The really sad part is that it's usually all for naught.  Scientists have not only shown that 95% of dieters regain the weight, but that yo-yo dieting is very bad for your health and leads most people to an even higher weight than when they started.  I don't exactly trust scientists, not after reading many of the scathing reviews of studies done by the low carb/paleo community, but there's a cultural component to this idea of yo-yo dieting.  The fact that so many people have lived through the up and downs of weight cycling and ended up heavier than before should tell us that there's at least some truth to it. 

So why do we, as a society, continue to promote dieting to people who are otherwise healthy?  I think the idea of weight=health is so deeply ingrained in our culture that it's impossible to believe a fat person is perfectly fine.  It doesn't help that "health experts" are out there vehemently rejecting the idea of healthy obesity, screaming that this plainly wrong idea is costing us all money and making people sick and dead, despite the mounting science that shows that obesity isn't really that big of a health risk (or one at all, in the case of overweight).

I wonder sometimes if this will ever change.  Will doctors ever promote a good diet and exercise as ways to get healthy rather than skinny (and then be satisfied if the patient gets healthy but doesn't lose weight)?  Will women's magazines have cover stories about how to get healthy in 30 days with a beautiful round woman showing off her incredible biceps (as opposed to a tiny skeletal woman standing in one leg of her former pants)?  Will we ever be told by our government the truth that dieting is actually very bad for us, and encouraged to eat wholesome, natural, real food for whole body health? 

I suppose only time will tell.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Lure of Skinny

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, about weight and food and what it means to be healthy.  I read Body of Truth, which is a scientific look at obesity and how it affects health.  I've been doing some soul searching.  What I've discovered, through all of that searching and thinking and reading, is that our society and their longing for thinness is pretty messed up. 

It actually makes me pretty mad, if I had to be honest.  Mad at scientists, at doctors, at women's magazines, diet gurus, Hollywood, the weight loss community, and myself.  I've been trying for a couple weeks to get these feelings into words, but I've been struggling with it.  My emotions are so raw and tangled up.  It's almost the way I felt when I first watched Tom Naughton's Fathead documentary and found out that the low fat/high carb standard American diet was a sham that was making us all sick.  Only this time, it's somehow worse. 

Why am I mad, exactly?  I talked about it some in a previous post, but I didn't go into a bunch of detail there.  And since I wrote that, I've read Body of Truth, which is just fascinating.  I read it in two days, I think, which is very quickly for me, and I plan on reading it again soon with highlighters in hand.  It all goes back to weight and health, with one equaling the other in the collective mind of our society.  A skinny person is healthy, and a healthy person is skinny.  You're fat because you're unhealthy, and you're unhealthy because you're fat. 

When I joined the low carb scene back in 2012, I was totally revved up to get going on this plan.  I was a diehard believer, and I knew that in just a short while, the weight would start falling off of me.  So I buckled down, ate as low carb as I could manage as a vegetarian, and watched the scale.  However, aside from an initial 7 pound drop the first week, the scale never moved.  I started eating meat a few months later (because vegetarian low carb is really really hard), and waited for the scale to move.  Again, it never did.  I tricked myself into believing I was getting smaller, losing inches, but looking back at it now, I don't think I actually did.  I have a way of making myself believe something when I really want it. 

Then Chad and I started cutting out the junk and went more of a paleo bent.  Again, I waited for the pounds to drop.  I started lifting weights and I was running.  No change.  I gained a little while on vacation, and lost it again when I went back on the diet, but that was the extent of it for me.  Meanwhile, Chad was losing weight and it made me feel bad that he could do it but I couldn't.

That's not to say I don't think these ways of eating are bad.  While I was watching the scale, waiting for a miracle to happen, my health was improving tremendously.  I had more energy, I was feeling stronger and happier and more clear headed, my ice pick headaches went away, my menstrual cycle normalized, my fingernails started getting stronger, my moodiness went away (mostly; I am human, after all). 

But because the weight wasn't coming off, and everyone in the low carb/paleo crowd said it should be, I thought I was a failure.  I kept all of these feelings inside, though.  I didn't want anyone to know that I was feeling like that, or that I couldn't lose weight even though everyone else seemed to have no problems with it.  In my mind, I was clearly doing something wrong.  It felt like my dirty little secret.

Then, like I explained in another post, I gained 10 pounds over the 2013 holidays, and then another 5 pounds over the 2014 holidays, and no matter how hard I try, how many carbs I cut, how small my portions are, how much fat I eat, how much I exercise, how much I watch sugar and grain consumption, how much I cut calories, no matter how much I desperately I want it, I can't lose that weight.  I've literally tried everything I can think of to lose this weight, to the point where I got obsessed with it.  I would look at myself in the mirror and get so angry at myself and swear that I would do better the next day.  My binge eating got worse, and I felt so out of control.  I'd be so good for weeks, but nothing changed on the scale, so I would binge, and that would make me feel even worse about myself.  I cried because I feared that I would continue to gain the weight and there would be nothing I could do about it. 

(To be clear, a binge eating episode is different for everyone who has the problem; some people consume 5000 calories, while others only eat 100.  The real sign that it's a binge is that you can't stop yourself from starting, you feel like you have no control over yourself while you're doing it, and once you're done you feel absolutely terrible and guilt stricken.  For me personally, a typical binge is probably 400 calories, and since I don't drive, it's almost always food in the house which is all whole natural foods, usually of a fatty nature.  Not that I'm trying to justify what I binge on; I just want to make the picture clearer.) 

And then by chance, I found the book Women Afraid to Eat, read it through, then bought and read Body of Truth shortly after.  Weight isn't equal to health, these books said.  Weight loss is incredibly hard to maintain (yes, even for some low carb/paleo people).  Your body fights too much weight loss.  Dieting is bad for you!  The effects of dieting are far worse than the effects of being overweight as far as health goes.  Actually, being overweight (bmi of 25-29.9) is a pretty healthy place to be, as far as longevity goes.  And the terrible thing about this is, scientists have known all of this since the 60s.  More modern science only confirms what these earlier researchers found. 

I have totally cut out the schemes to lose weight.  For one blessed month now, I have had no get-skinny-quick plans.  I have eaten mostly very healthfully; lower carb paleo WAPF style foods; veggies, eggs, meat, dairy, raw milk, fruit, good oils and fats, resistant starches.  I have mostly tried to eat at meals (breakfast at 7am, lunch at 12pm and dinner at 5:30pm), and only until I'm satisfied.  However, I'm not being strict about it, either.  I've eaten cake and ice cream at a party, I've made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, I munch on candy when I visit my mom's house, and Chad and I have gone out for ice cream a couple of times.  Thirty blessed days of no binging and no emotional eating.  Thirty days!  And I haven't felt guilty eating the junk, either.  I try to keep it low, because of course I know it's not good to eat sugar all the time, and I know that it will make me feel bad and be tired and moody. 

I'm trying not to think about weight at all.  I'm trying to eat for health and wholeness, and let the scale fall where it may.  I do check my weight occasionally, though, because of my intense fear that I'm going to start gaining a bunch of weight.  After a month (a month!) of eating whatever I wanted, and eating sugar and other junk whenever I wanted (within reason), I haven't gained any weight at all. 

I've read a lot about set points and how your body wants to be at a certain weight.  Not many people in the low carb/paleo community seem to like this idea (for that matter, I don't know any diet group that does, and why would you?  That's basically saying dieting is going to fail).  I have a bunch of reservations about it myself, but I can't help wondering if it's really true.  Is my set point 200 pounds?  When I weight 275 pounds, was it because I ate so much junk that I forced my body to gain all that weight against its will?  When I got down to 175, I was absolutely miserable and couldn't stay there for more than a few weeks.  I was happy at 185, but it's been five years since I  got to that weight, and that's the amount of time when a dieter starts creeping back up to their starting weight.  Am I going to get back up to 215, where I was before going on a low calorie diet?  I hope not.  I'm having trouble fully accepting these extra 15 pounds and loving my body with the extra roundness.  But if I do gain the other 15 pounds, it won't be because of my diet or lack of self control.  I know that now.  I also know that the extra 15 pounds won't make me unhealthy, either.  I bet I'm healthier than most thin people eating a SAD. 

The real reason I started writing tonight was because I wanted to talk about the lure of skinniness and what it can do to a person.  Since I've spent so much time rambling tonight about everything else, I think I'll save that post for another time.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


Over the long, dark days of winter, I found myself reading an unusual blog.  Somehow, through one of those long link clicking trails, I'd stumbled upon a blog called Ask Jackie on the Backwoods Home website.  She's such a cool lady!  She answers all kinds of canning questions, plus she blogs a lot about her life as a homesteader in zone 3 Minnesota.  I think I spent about three weeks reading through her entire blog, and ended up with strong desires to start canning and longing for my own farm and chickens.

One thing that caught my attention while reading through several years of her blog was how she uses a product called wall-o-waters to get her tomatoes out soon enough to get a decent harvest.  Living in Minnesota and having a pretty short season, I assume this is just about the only way she can get a good harvest.  I assumed, having been gardening and homesteading for several decades, that she wouldn't be using them unless they really worked, so I decided I'd check them out myself. 

I'd actually heard of wall-o-waters before, but I guess I figured they weren't worth the effort of expense.  I mean, so they give you a little head start, so what?  But when I read up on them, I found out that you can actually start your plants 6-8 weeks early!  And then I started thinking about how that would effect my harvest.  In our part of NY, I can put tomatoes in around the end of May, and don't get any ripe tomatoes until, at the earliest, the beginning of August.  Our last frost date is around the middle of October, but I usually tear the tomatoes down about a week before then just so I can get everything to bed before bad weather comes.  To make things easy, we'll call that two months of harvest.  I got about 30 pounds of tomatoes last year.  If the wall-o-waters give me another month of harvest, that means I could conceivably see a 50% increase in my tomato yields.  Holy cow! 

This is, of course, just speculation, but the thought of all those tomatoes was just so tempting.  I had originally planned on only getting one 3-pack of the walls, but Chad convinced me to get enough to protect all 8 of my plants.  (I accidentally ordered four packs instead of three, so now I have four extra to experiment with.)  Only time will tell if I'll actually get another month of harvest.

I actually ended up buying a knock-off brand by Gardeneer called Season Starters because, at the time I bought them, they were only $11 for a package of three (whereas the wall-o-waters were $17 for a similar pack of 3). 

I can tell you already, after a week and a half, that these things are awesome.  The weekend before last, so April 19th, we were having some great weather; it was in the 60s and 70s, and the soil was very warm.  I saw in the forecast a week and a half of very cold weather.  I knew that I could plant the tomatoes that day, five weeks before our last frost date (I had originally planned on putting them out four weeks before the last frost date), or I would have to wait two more weeks because the soil would be too cold.  So I decided to put these walls through the ultimate test.

The tomatoes before I planted them.

I got the tomatoes in the raised beds, and then proceeded to fill up the walls with water.  That's not too hard as long as you have a bucket to put the walls around while you fill them, and a decent hose (and patience).  I was worried for a bit that they would be too big to fit in my square foot garden, but I was eventually able to convince an 18 inch circle to fit into a 12 inch square just fine.  I then tied up the tops with some nylon twine and waited for the cold weather to hit.  And boy did it.

You have to understand that even in western NY, a snow storm in late April is pretty crazy.  

The temps went down into the 40s on Tuesday that week, then into the 30s on Wednesday and Thursday, with at least three nights into the 20s with bitterly cold winds.

I went out and checked the walls daily.  The tomatoes, despite my desperate fears, were fine.  The air inside the walls was frigid and damp, but there was no frost damage to the plants.  On the first cold night, Chad and I went out at 9PM with hot water bottles to put into the walls next to the plants; no luck.  There was no room at all to put the bottles inside, and in fact, I ended up nearly crushing the one plant while trying.  So instead, we laid the bottles between walls.  By that time, the water was starting to freeze pretty good, and we had just enough time to get the bottles out there and run back inside before frost bite started setting in.  I got very little sleep that night, worrying about my plants and what I'd do if they died.  I kept telling myself that I could just buy starts from the nursery, but that didn't ease my worry at all; after all, most of my plants were heirlooms and hard to find varieties.

The next  morning, I went out with several gallon jugs full of hot water to place around the walls, hoping to help thaw the frozen water and keep the plants safe.  They were fine!  The water wasn't even frozen any longer, and the tomatoes had survived with no problems.  I was shocked!  Dumbfounded!  Amazed  by the power of water, and the determination of my tomatoes to survive.  For the next few days, I hunkered down inside and decided not to worry about the tomatoes.  I left the extra water out there as insurance, but didn't refill the bottles with hot water after that first night.

Then this week, the weather started thinking happier thoughts and turned warm again.  I opened the walls up to let some fresh air in, and to get a good peek at how everyone was doing.  Despite spending a frigid week inside tiny green cells, it looks like everyone is fine; and not only that, bet I'm positive they've all grown by at least an inch or possibly more!  Can you believe that?

My side garden tomatoes with the added insurance bottles.

A peek in at one of the beef tomatoes.

The main garden.  I added two extra walls to start early squash in.

Look at how happy this cherry tomato looks!
I still have yet to see where this will lead, as far as harvest goes.  But if they're doing this well at 3-1/2 weeks before the last frost, I can only imagine what they're going to look like by the end of May, when I would normally plant out my tiny tomatoes.  Will I get tomatoes by the fourth of July?  Wouldn't that be cool!

As a bonus of accidentally buying too many walls, I'm going to start some summer squash early to see how they do.  I set up the walls yesterday to help warm up the soil, and plan on planting the seeds this weekend sometime. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

The age of curves

These vintage ads for weight-gaining products are awesome.  I just had to share.

I especially like this one, because the woman in the photo is actually a woman most people would call "big" or "fat" or "obese" today.

Just goes to show that skinny wasn't always considered beautiful.

And just as another example of this, before I go, here's a lovely picture of Lillian Russell,  famous stage actress and singer of the turn of the last century.  This is the only picture I could find of her without a corset, and that clearly shows her lovely curves.  Apparently, she weighed over 200 pounds (not that that should matter).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Single Focus

As I said recently, I've been reading an interesting book called Women Afraid to Eat.  I don't agree with it 100%; it was written in the late 90s, so there are suggestions to go low fat and low sodium sprinkled throughout, but the rest of the book is fascinating.  It's a shocking exposure of what our society's focus on weight really does to women.  It's definitely opened my eyes.

The author, Frances Berg, talks about a lot of things; the shocking long term results of dieting both physically and mentally, the fact that 70% of women don't get enough of the nutrients they need to be healthy, how people unfairly judge women based on their appearances, and the surprising fact that the health benefits that you get from dieting and losing weight are very tiny compared to the health risks.  I haven't quite gotten through the whole book yet, but I'm finding it to be pretty inspiring and I plan on looking into these subjects more soon.

The last point there is the most annoying to me.  People that are obese or overweight are, yes, statistically at more risk for many health problems, such as hearth disease and diabetes.  The risk, according to Frances, isn't as high as you might think, considering how loudly health experts are yelling about it.  In some ways, it's actually healthier to be overweight or even obese; some recent studies have shown that overweight people actually live longer than normal weight people, and are less likely to get dementia.  And race plays a big role in it, too.  Apparently, black people can be healthy at slightly higher BMIs than white people, and Native American people can have much higher BMIs than white people and still be healthy.

So what's the deal?  Why is skinny "ideal", anyway?  I just don't get it.  And I certainly don't understand those people who are in favor of public fat shaming to get people to lose weight.  As a person who has never been a normal weight, I can tell you for sure that fat shaming doesn't work.  It rips a deep scar into your heart that never goes away.  I'll never forget being called hippo hips, or thunder thighs, or being barked at and called a dog.  I think the one that hurt the most when two boys came up to me, and one said, "I think you're pretty, but my friend thinks you're ugly.  That must mean you're pretty ugly."  It's hard to look in the mirror and see a beautiful woman; all I see is an ugly fat person.  And there are health experts out there that want to promote this kind of treatment!

 A recent study really got me riled up.  It was a cohort study that tried to see if there were different kinds of obese people.  And, apparently they found six types, though because this was focused on a group of people in England, they suspect there are even more groups globally than they found.  I think this kind of study is awesome; they're actually looking at obesity as a set of different types of people instead of fat vs. skinny.  I went into the article with high hopes, thinking yes, now they'll see there are some healthy obese people.  And they did find healthy obese people!  Obese young women, and obese older affluent adults.  Great, wonderful, glad to hear them say they're healthy.

But then they go on to say that these two groups, the healthy obese women and healthy obese affluent older adults still need to lose weight.

Why?!  Why do they need to lose weight if they're healthy?!  That makes no sense!  If they're healthy, and living a health promoting lifestyle, why does it matter if they lose weight or not?  Shouldn't health be the first priority?  RRR!

We're all individuals.  I can never be skinny; my genes won't allow it, and I'm not just blowing smoke here.  My mom was a beautiful woman when she was younger; she lived on a farm, in the days when everyone walked everywhere (she walked to town most days, a five mile hike up and down a huge hill), and she ate real whole food her parents grew and that grandma cooked with love.  But she was still a size 18 at her smallest.  All of my maternal female relatives (seven aunts and many cousins) were like that; we're a family of strong, tall, big boned, robust, and voluptuous women.  Grandma  was never skinny (though never fat, either), and she was vibrant and healthy until her death at 102.

I tried to find the data behind the news article for that study about types of obesity, but apparently you have to email the lead scientist for it.  Although I'm interested to see what it says, I'm not really that good at sorting through the data.  Besides, I doubt they'd send it to me for a blog post a few people are going to read.

I came across an article on the New York Post's website, with an excerpt from a book called Body of Truth.  After reading the article and the reviews of the book, I had to order it.  It's a serious look at the science of obesity and what it honestly says about the health risks of being fat and also of dieting.  I feel like I need to get to the bottom of this.  I want to read about the real science behind obesity, rather than just what the health experts are screaming.

So that's my rant for the day.  Hopefully, when I read more into the book, I'll have something more interesting to say than RRRRR! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Baby Subject

In less than two weeks, Chad and I will have been trying for a baby for three years.  It won't be a very happy day, because it marks three very emotionally rough years in my life and marriage.  As you can probably guess, we haven't yet had a baby.

I'm not really even sure where to begin with this subject.  Back in 2012, I was all full of hope and ready to take on the responsibilities of raising a baby.  I had plans of having a home birth, moving to the country, maybe home schooling, and raising some great kids.  Around 8 months in, I started tracking my temperature and other fertility signs, but knowing when I ovulated didn't do too much to help the process.  In December of 2012, I think I had a very early miscarriage, but I've never had another one since then.

I didn't want to go to the doctor for this problem.  First, because I have a very deep dislike of visiting a doctor; they tend to not listen to you, spend very little time with you, and throw a pill at you to make the symptoms of your problem go away.  Second, because I have a strong belief that with knowledge and good food, a person can take better care of themselves than a doctor can.  So I set out on the low carb diet with high hopes that it would help us conceive.  I didn't know if the problem was me or Chad, but I figured good food would help us both.

That didn't exactly work, though.  I really thought the problem was me, because I had a history of PCOS symptoms from my teen years until my early 20s.  However, according to my records I was keeping, I was ovulating pretty regularly, so the low carb diet definitely helped in that department.  That's one thing I can say for sure about going low carb; my cycle has gotten so much more regular and predictable.  I think women who are having PCOS problems should really give it a try before going on drugs.

Well, long ago, we decided that we would start getting fertility testing once I turned 30, which I finally did last September (woo, I'm old now).  For insurance reasons, we actually didn't start until this January.  What fun that's been!  No, actually, it's been pretty terrible.  The tests aren't difficult or anything.  It's just...  I've been to the doctor's office like five times for myself, and Chad's had to go to the doctor/hospital six times, all between January and March.  For people who are anti-doctor, this has been very stressful.  It's been less expensive than I feared, thank goodness, but I think it's because Chad's new insurance is so remarkably good.  If we didn't have insurance, or we had our old bad insurance, we'd be out of money already.

So the tests we've done so far are:

Blood tests:
Leutinizing hormone
Lipid panel
Comprehensive metabolic panel
2 CBCs
Post-ovulation progesterone
Fasting serum insulin
Blood sedimentation rate

Transvaginal ultrasound

Blood tests:
Leutinizing hormone

2 semen analyses
Testicular ultrasound

Yes, I did give a lot of blood.  Chad didn't give quite as much as I did, but when he did, he passed out.  And all because his mom warned him that he'd done that once before, and that he should be careful in case it happens again (to which he rolled his eyes, lol).  As far as testing goes, there's only one more test that needs to be done, but I'll get to that in a minute.

The results of the tests were pretty boring.  Everything on my end is very normal.  I'm ovulating, have a good level of hormones, have super excellent blood lipids (no surprise there!  I'll have to post the results sometime); there is one thing that was wrong, though, and this one makes me scratch my head.  I have a high red blood cell count.  Not very high, and when I went in to get another test done (after two weeks of making sure I drank plenty of water), it was lower but still just a hair over normal.  I don't know what this means, but the nurse taking care of my fertility stuff didn't seem to think it was something to worry about.  It could be lots of things, from cancer, to breathing problems, to being dehydrated (I think this last one is most likely; I did have the test done in February, a particularly dry month).  I had a very small cyst on one of my ovaries, but the nurse said this is physiologic and just part of a normal cycle. 

Chad's story is a little more interesting than mine.  Although his blood work came out perfectly normal, both semen analyses came out kind of low.  Not actually low in most ways, but at the low edge of normal.  The doctor he talked to told him that the normal range is actually what's normal for men between 15 and 85, so to be at the low end of  normal was indeed low.

Still, I don't think that having a lower sperm count is the only reason we haven't had a baby.  Researching Google tells me that most men with a low sperm count go on to have no trouble getting a woman pregnant.  And this is where the final test comes in.  I'm still not sure if I want to get this test done, partially because of how it's done, and partially because of what it may find.

It's called HSG, and basically it's an x-ray done on my abdomen while a dye is injected into my uterus so the doctors can see if my tubes are free of blocks.  It really doesn't sound very pleasant, does it?  I don't like x-rays, and there's a risk for infection and tearing the uterus, plus it's uncomfortable (or so I hear).  Plus, what if it does show that I have a block, or endometriosis, or scar tissue, or something worse?  What if it doesn't show anything at all?

But you want to know the silliest reason I've been avoiding getting the test done?  It's because there is an increased chance of becoming pregnant for three months after an HSG, most likely because the dye clears away blockages.

Say what?  I'm afraid to get a fertility test because I might get pregnant?  Yeah, silly, I know.  Well...  I can't explain it.  It might help to say that Chad and I have decided that we're not going to pursue fertility treatment, no matter what the tests show.  After the heartbreak of having infertility, and then the stress of going through testing, we just don't think we want to go through twice as much heartbreak and stress of treatment, not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars it would cost with no guaranteed outcome.  It's been kind of freeing, actually.  It's nice to know that we're almost to the end of the long painful slog. 

Plus, there's something else, too.  I've never been sure I've even wanted to have children.  I mean really, honestly, truly wanted kids and all the ups and downs they bring.  I know I want a family, someone to care for and love, to be here with us after our parents die and our only real family is gone (we have siblings, but Chad's brother lives very far away, and my sister and I aren't close).  I've been trying to trust God on guiding me, and I have a strong sense that us getting fertility treatment would be like forcing the subject without God's blessing.  I don't mean to say that fertility treatment is bad, not at all, but for us, it would be reckless, because we don't exactly know what we want.  If I got pregnant naturally, I would know that God had finally blessed us, and I know I would be a lot happier and more ready to take on the task of being a parent.  At least that's what I feel.  I'm not really a religious person, even though I keep referring to God; what I'm really trying to say when I say I trust God is that I trust the forces of nature, the rhythms of the body, and my own wisdom more than I trust doctors with pills and operations.

So this is where we stand; I'm normal, he's mostly normal, we're both very healthy, but we're childless.  I still don't know if I'm going to get the HSG test.  Afterall, if we're not going to get treatment, what's the point?  It would only add fuel to the small part of me that desperately, obsessively wants to fix the problem.  But is there really a problem?  Chad and I are very happy.  If we have to spend our lives childless, at least we'll have plenty of time to spend together.