Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How I lost 37 pounds so far (and about 15 to go!)

Eating real & whole foods. That's how I did it.
I think it helps completely that my husband is 100% on board. We are in this together.
(p.s. - has it really been 2 months since my last blog entry?!)

The past 7 months
We have slowly cut out 95% of processed foods (I'll explain the other 5% later), we cut out anything that is a 'diet' product (i.e. fat free, low fat, fake sugar), anything from a food store with more than 5 ingredients, and foods chemicals in their ingredient list. All eggs & whole milk are organic always. All meats we purchase are organic and humanely raised; not fed with antibiotics & grain.There is no comparison in taste from the typical commercial beef (from the food store) to the organic grass fed beef we get from a local farm. We only use coconut oil or olive oil (organic) to cook or bake with. I still use real butter sometimes, but sparingly.
We have easily doubled our intake of fruits & vegetables, and I really try to make more vegetable based dinners such as butternut squash chile, roasted veggie tacos, or big exotic salads.

Why organic?
That's easy. No pesticides, no GMO's (Genetically modified organisms), and no chemicals. Organic usually tastes better. When talking about organic meats & eggs; there are no antibiotics and the animals are humanely raised.
Sure, organic costs more - but prices are getting better as it goes more mainstream and consumers demand it. I told my local Food store that I want to see more organic products & more fresh organic produce. Why don't you do the same? Demand what is healthy for your family, they might just do it if enough people ask. You think nothing of spending $5 on a latte from Starbucks. So why wouldn't you spend $4 on organic lettuce that will feed your family chemical free (pure) healthy food for several meals? I can feed my family organic products knowing I have done my best for them!

I posted THIS BLOG POST a couple months ago about the small changes we have made. A bunch of small changes have added up to some big changes for us!

Why are we doing this?
That's easy. Healthier long term lifestyle.
Sometimes when I am talking to others about our recent life changes, it's hard to convey what we are trying to do. Yes it's about weight loss, but it's also about long term health and setting the best example possible for my children so they make healthy choices for the rest of their lives too. Obesity, heart disease and diabetes is an epidemic in this country and I will do everything in my power to make sure my family is not a statistic. What I thought was 'eating healthy' over the past 10 years was really sabotaging our bodies. Diet foods. Low Fat & Fat free foods (loaded with tons of chemicals and sugar). Fake sugar foods. Super processed foods with zero nutritional value. Fad diets. I think it's very difficult to make anything work where you deprive yourself of basic foods that your body requires, long term.

Read the ingredients
I can't urge you enough. Read the ingredient list on your food before buying it. Educate yourself as to what is in the food you buy and your kids are putting into their tiny little growing bodies. Google it. If there is an ingredient that you wouldn't normally have in your cupboard at home and cook with, then it shouldn't be in your food from the store either. If there is an ingredient that you can't pronounce, then it probably doesn't belong in your food. If the ingredient list is longer than the constitution, then you probably don't want to buy it. Look up the ingredients that are in processed foods - I think you will be shocked at how much of it is some kind of modified sugar, preservative chemical, fat and artificial colors/flavors... and much worse. And why does the food industry think something has to be bright red, purple or coated with some kind of sugar for kids to like it? Yuck! The amount of sugar that is in processed foods is really mind-blowing. We look at the ingredients, not so much the 'nutrition' information.

What I struggle with still
Ice cream. I love my ice cream. Of all the indulgences, I happen to think (or at least I tell myself) this one is not quite as bad; most local ice cream shops carry real home made ice cream.
White rice - It's not that we don't like brown rice, because we actually love it. It's my daughter that won't touch brown rice. So this is a weakness with me, and I am totally at fault here. I make white rice still because she will eat it. Have I mentioned she is picky with dinner foods?!
I sometimes bend the rules when we eat out. I try to make good choices, but it's not always the perfect situation. I have found that most places will accommodate some special requests. I do stay away from anything deep fried or heavy cream sauces, when possible.
Corn tortillas. Yeah I can make my own I'm sure- but we use so many of these that I am sticking to the premade ones for now - still trying to find some made without nasty chemicals though. (Have I mentioned that I pray Whole Foods will open up near us?)

Some of the things I make from scratch
Breadcrumbs - Have you ever looked at the ingredients of commercial breadcrumbs? No bread there. I buy whole wheat bread from the food store bakery that actually only has 4 ingredients. We use this for toast, sandwiches & breadcrumbs.
Granola - yup we love this and I make it weekly - even Julianna eats it! This has replaced our morning 'boxed' cereals. My husband makes his own granola bars too. Yum.
Salad dressings - I make all salad dressings from scratch. Always. I have a few standby recipes that I use over & over again. You can't beat home made dressing; and there aren't any chemicals or bad stuff in it.

Some things I will try making soon
Macaroni & cheese
Bread - I need a bread machine. Looking forward to that once I purchase one.
Other kid friendly foods - I have yet to master a 'chicken nugget' that Julianna will eat. She got hooked on Perdue Chicken nuggets (blegh!) and has not liked anything I made for her at home yet. Doesn't mean I am giving up - I will keep trying.

Some things I am not willing to make from scratch.
Simply put, it's about time management. My husband and I work full time and have 2 small children. There is only so much time in the day people! You need to choose what is worth doing and what is worth cutting corners on to manage your time efficiently.
Vegetable or Chicken Stock/broth - I buy organic broths & stock for easier food prep.
Condiments - We still use ketchup (hello, I have kids!!) and mustard, etc. I try to buy the organic brands but not all stores offer this option, especially mayo; I can't find that organic in our food store. So frustrating.

What I am proud to say I have overcome.
Switching to 'real' foods like whole milk and we do not have any store-bought food in the house that resembles 'fat-free' or 'low-fat' except for fruit, the way nature intended it to be.
Making anything I can make from scratch - even whole wheat muffins, which if you know me, I hate to bake. This was a HUGE accomplishment for me.
Removing diet soda & fake sugar from our house forever.  (My husband will still have a diet soda every so often, but he will totally see me glaring at him when he drinks it!)
I used to buy store bought grated cheese, but now I grate my own. Check out the 'preservatives' in some of the stuff in the bags.
We pop our own popcorn using coconut oil in a pan. Delicious.

Things that are out of my control
Our local food store does not have enough fresh organic fruit & vegetable choices. I wish we lived by a Whole Foods or Earth Fare. How do I compensate? I buy fresh if organic is not available. So in other words, if given the choice, I will by from a local farm stand before I buy from the food store. The local farms here we visit use very little pesticides if any. Still way better than your food comes from some other part of the world.
It bothers my daughter comes home from school with candy sometimes (I believe it's a reward for activities they do in class) or that she is offered juice. I have asked for it not to be offered but I won't win that battle. I am proud to say Julianna does not eat candy, however, she is not a robot. If it's offered to her, she is going to say yes.
If Julianna is at a party or special occasion, she can have birthday cake or whatever is offered. I want her to enjoy herself with special occasions and don't want to tell her NO to everything. A few times a year is totally fine with me.

The other 5 percent (I mentioned we eat about 95% non-processed)
Annie's snacks such as;  cheddar crackers, graham crackers, & bunny grahams. I do not load Julianna up with this stuff, but we do allow them as snacks; since we can totally trust the ingredients.
Onion crisps - occasional splurge that I enjoy a little bit as a topping on my salads.
Triscuits - While these totally meet my "less than 5 ingredients" rule, they are still considered a processed food. Fine line.
Cereals - We stick to the "Less than 5 ingredients" rule with this stuff. I buy Barbara's organic cereal for Julianna, although I am reading lately this brand has GMO's and hidden sugars in it. Organic doesn't always mean non-GMO.
Pretzels - I found these 5 ingredient pretzels that are made with Whole Wheat and very good! They are processed but at least under 5 ingredients. And amazingly enough, the food store where I shop, carries them!
Pizza. Yup, we still eat pizza - this is New Jersey after all. 1 slice of plain pizza is not horrible.

I use organic sugar in my coffee in the morning. That is the only 'added' sugar in my day, but I do try to keep it under 3 teaspoons total. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day for adults. For kids, no more than 4 teaspoons of sugar per day. Take a look at your kids morning cereal or those supposedly healthy '100 calorie snacks', granola bars or fruit (aka fruitless) snacks. 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon. Check out how many grams of sugar are in the servings in processed food. Check out the ingredients on this supposedly healthy Yogurt-Granola bar. One bar has 11 grams of sugar- that is just shy of 3 teaspoons of sugar. It's loaded with corn syrups and soy products, chemicals and other unpronounceable things.

My day to day inspiration
100 Days of real food. The information on this website has really just amazed me. It's my daily guidance.
Hearing my husband tell me how great I look (and I think he looks great as he has lost 30+ lbs too!).
Getting to donate ALL of my big clothes and buying a whole new wardrobe. There is no feeling like buying smaller clothes and they fit!
Looking at older pictures of myself; seeing how big I really was, and how far I have come; knowing that progress takes time. There will be setbacks and bad weeks; weeks where I gain weight, and weeks where I lose weight. It's a marathon.

What kind of healthy eating habits do you have in your household? 
What tips can you share for others?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

1 year ago today was Tyler's open heart surgery

I can't believe it's been a year since Tyler's Open Heart surgery.
1 Year.
365 days since my beautiful baby boy had his open heart surgery and bravely fought his way to recovery. It has been 8,760 hours since our lives changed forever.

When Tyler was born, we were so relieved he was healthy and perfect, and we had no idea what was about to happen in a few days. My daughter Julianna had a brief stint in the NICU after she was born for a small pneumothorax. So with Tyler, when we were discharged to go home, we were relieved and thrilled to be going home with our boy.

A few days after we were home, Tyler was brought to the ER by my husband on a Thursday evening, and nothing was the same after thatClick here for Tyler's story

In the last year, we have celebrated many milestones as you would with any other baby. HERE is his "One Year Old" post from the other day. Tyler has grown and developed into the most amazing little boy, who is clearly meant for big & amazing things in this world. He is such a special little boy and I love him more than I could ever possibly put into words. I never knew how much I would fall in love with this little boy, because it's so very true what they say about moms and their little boys. Please don't take it the wrong way, Julianna is my beautiful little girl who I love so so so very much! You just never quite understand how much room you have in your heart for each child until you actually have them. It's really quite incredible.

Tyler's smile lights up a room and his personality is happy, beautiful and loving. He is so innocent to the world and the bad thing he went through in the beginning of his life. He loves to be held all of the time and snuggle with mama and daddy. It makes me sick to think 20 or 30 years ago, babies passed away from heart defects because the CHD/TAPVR surgery just wasn't in existence yet, and no one operated on baby's hearts back then. God Bless modern medicine and the surgeons NY Presbyterian Children's Hospital (CHONY) ... and of course the pediatric cardiologist that found his defect in the ER. They saved his life and they are the reason Tyler is here with us today.

In the last year, Tyler has been to a multitude of doctor appointments with the pediatrician, cardiologist, neurologist, had blood drawn more times than I can remember, was on Digoxin heart medication for 6 months, came home with halter monitors for 24 hours several times from the cardiologist, had his 'early intervention' appointment, and an ER visit. Not a day goes by where I think I need to check him while he's sleeping because I ask myself "What if his repair gives out?". I am always watching him to make sure he doesn't turn blue (a common symptom of CHD babies, even the 'repaired' ones). This all gets easier with time, but I don't know if it ever truly goes away. We as parents will always worry about Tyler's heart health, and will always stay on top of everything, and educate him so later in life, as an adult, he stays on top of it too.

One year later
Tyler is off all medications & he now sees his cardiologist every 3 months. His future prognosis is a positive one and we pray he will never need any further surgeries. Nothing in life is guaranteed though. There will always be a risk of a side effect from his heart surgery.  As his heart & body grows, all the repaired parts need to grow with it. The biggest long-term risk for him is stenosis of the (repaired) veins, and this will always hang over our heads. Any time a cardiologist appointment is coming up, I can't help but think, are they going to find something wrong this time? Will this be the time they see something not growing correctly? I don't spend my days worrying about this, but it is always a concern to us.

I see his scar every day, and while it is part of Tyler, it is a true-life reminder of his congenital heart defect called TAPVR. We will continue to move forward and heal with him. I will help spread awareness through my blog, facebook page and raising money through the CHD Coalition in NJ each year.

Some pictures from the last couple of weeks.


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