How do you feel?

After seven years of baby steps, I’ve finally started making leaps and bounds in the health department. I’m genuinely shocked at how much better I feel.

  • NO JOINT PAIN – I can now run 2 miles without stopping to stretch. A year ago, I couldn’t walk even half a mile without experiencing pain and swelling in my knees.
  • NO ABDOMINAL PAIN – I haven’t felt even a twinge of that perpetual right-side ache since I gave up the baby steps and started really working on improving my health.
  • BETTER SLEEP – I fall asleep within minutes and typically wake only once or twice during the night- and I go right back to sleep. THIS IS HUGE! I have never slept well, so I really do feel like a new woman! As in, is this really me??

So, how do you feel? If you want to talk about making your own leaps and bounds or even taking your first baby steps, I’d love to hear from you. Comment or email me. I would love to encourage you as you make your move toward feeling better. I’m not a health coach. But maybe I’m a health cheerleader!

Back to Bone Ami

I never realized how difficult it is to get the necessary Vitamin D, calcium and magnesium in food! After a month of keeping a food diary and tracking my nutrients on Cronometer, it has beome apparent that even my healthier diet with 6-9 cups of fruits and vegetables every day is not supplying what I need for bone health.

So, I’m turning to an old supplement friend, Bone Ami. This time, I’m choosing the liquid version which supplies 400 IU of vitamin D, 500 mg of calcium, and 250 mg of magnesium in every dose. The liquid form is more readily absorbed, and, in case you’re wondering, it tastes really good! I still have to make good food choices to reach my target goals for these nutrients, but the goal is now possible, thanks to Bone Ami.

My next bone density scan should happen in October 2018. I lost ground from 2012 to 2014 and barely maintained from 2014 to 2016. I’ve been told that women in my demographic can’t gain bone density, that we just have to work hard to keep from losing. Maybe that’s true- but what if it’s not? I’m giving my bones my best shot. I’m eating well, nourishing them from within, and I’m exercising, strengthening them from without. And now I’m giving them a little extra help from Bone Ami.

So, friends, is it possible? Have any of you actually gained bone density? Have any of your Bone Densitometry reports ever shown improvement? I would love to hear some success stories!

Bone Ami Liquid 2

Click here to learn more about Bone Ami.

Running

I did some running when I was in my 20’s. I wasn’t very fast, but I enjoyed it and it was good exercise.

I took a break from running when my children were young and then started again when they began running cross country. I found out some things had changed over that break, most notably, my knees. X-rays confirmed arthritis in both knees, and I was advised to give up running. I learned from a chiropractor that strengthening the muscles in my legs would help to support my knees, but I filed that information in the back of my mind and settled for occasional walks.

Fast forward to three years ago. Osteopenia finally woke me up to the need to exercise and I began a regimen of weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Even though I had given up running, I walked in some 5K races in the area. My goal was twofold but simple: to finish in under an hour and not to be the last person to cross the finish line! My time was usually between 55 and 59 minutes, and I usually spent the rest of the day with legs elevated, icing my inflamed knees.

But every now and then, I dreamed that I was running. In my dreams, I had found a way to run without touching the ground! I described those dreams to a Trak Shak salesperson who recommended a Hoka running shoe for me.  Walking in Hokas has been the next best thing to running without touching the ground.

With three years of exercise behind me and Hoka shoes to support me, I started running again. In June, I walked/ran 3.1 miles (5K) in my neighborhood and finished in 47 minutes- not great, but almost nine minutes faster than my fastest walking 5K.

Is it possible that my recently improved diet could already be strengthening my muscles and joints? I’m able to run almost a mile without pain now, and my current 5K PR in the neighborhood is 44:33. I’m still slow compared to almost everyone else I encounter on the trail, but I have a new twofold goal now: to run as much as I can without causing injury and to run without concern about others being faster.

What about you? Do you run for exercise? What are your goals? Tell me what motivates you to keep moving. And tell me about your shoes!

Melissa and Morgan, Smith Family Resources
Morgan is my post-run encourager!

Doing My Homework

My health coach gave me a pretty easy assignment this week: think about chewing.

Yes, chewing. She gave me a crash course on the digestive system which brought back memories of elementary school, learning about saliva and the esophagus and food’s journey through the miles of intestines. She also gave me a handout with some suggestions- suggestions which have turned out to be easy to read and not so easy to implement.

Do YOU chew every bite 30-50 times before you swallow it? I found out that my average is about 10. I’m now making more of an effort, but I have some work to do.

Why does it matter, you ask? (I’ve been doing some reading, so I’m not sure now what I’ve read and what Rebecca told me. I’ll give all the credit to her unless otherwise noted!) Saliva is alkaline. Alkaline reduces inflammation in the body. Chewing efficiently alkalizes our food before it’s swallowed which prevents inflammation. I guess that explains why eating on the go or “swallowing your food whole,” as my mother used to say I did, usually results in heartburn, indigestion, and/or stomach ache, i.e. inflammation of the gut. Chewing matters more than I realized.

I’m the one who didn’t want to take time to stop for lunch at all, so this is hard! Eating nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day requires more stopping-to-eat than I’m used to, and now I’m adding more chewing to that effort! But I’m already feeling better, so it’s worth it!

Assignment number two was to learn about albumin. I had heard of albumin in connection with eggs, but this time I was seeing the word on some blood work results. My albumin level was low, and Rebecca suggested I find out what it was and why it mattered. Albumen is the white of the egg, but, albumin is “any of numerous simple heat-coagulable water-soluble proteins that occur in blood plasma or serum, muscle, the whites of eggs, milk, and other animal substances and in many plant tissues and fluids,” per Merriam-Webster.

From various medical websites, I learned that albumin is produced by the liver, and it carries substances such as hormones and enzymes throughout the body. If the albumin level is low, it might indicate kidney failure or kidney disease or liver disease. Or it might indicate malnutrition. Well, none of those conditions appeal to me, but malnutrition seems to me to be the easiest one to correct!

My question is, will my nine cups of improved nutrition correct my albumin level? Maybe. Hopefully. According to Registered Dietician Sarah Pflugradt, “increasing the overall quality of the diet may help increase albumin levels in those who are malnourished.” Writing for livestrong.com, she also noted that some recent research indicates that “albumin was not a direct indicator of nutritional health, but rather a marker of the influence of illness on albumin. For instance, inflammation- present in many diseases- causes protein to break down in the body, leading to a decreased albumin.”

Homework results: I hereby promise to make every effort to efficiently chew every bite of nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day, hoping to reduce inflammation and to increase albumin.

Here are a few pictures of some of the delicious and nutrient-rich meals I’ve eaten lately. Recipes don’t seem to be necessary since a picture paints a thousand words, but I’ll be glad to give you the details if you ask.

 

Progress Report

At my first health coaching session, Rebecca gave me some homework: increase my intake of fruits and vegetables to 9 cups a day and start tracking my nutrients.

Background information: I haven’t been eating anywhere close to 9 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. In my last post, I blogged that I had taken the baby step of eating a fruit or vegetable at every meal. Even so, I was eating no more than 1 or 2 cups a day. Nine cups is a BIG baby step!

Rebecca suggested Cronometer, an online tool for tracking nutrition, fitness, and health data. It will track a lot of things, but my focus is on vitamins and nutrients. (There’s a free online version, but I opted for the $3.99 app.)

Cronometer app

Since I started keeping up with my fruit and vegetable intake, I’ve hit the goal once and come very close several days. Even though I’m not consistently meeting my goal yet, I feel better already- more energy, better sleep, and less pain.

I’ve been trying to learn more about nutrition for several years now, but the design of the Cronometer app has helped me to see more clearly what I’m actually getting from my food. I can tell at a glance whether or not I’ve gotten the nutrients needed for the day. That information helps me eat things that will actually nourish me and not just fill me up.

One evening recently, I was going to skip dinner and just eat a bowl of cereal. I searched my intended cereal in the app and discovered that there was almost no nutritional value whatsoever. Even though it’s a gluten-free, organic, supposedly healthy cereal, it would basically be empty calories!

I’ve also been confirmed in my belief in the amazing contribution of SuperMom to my overall health. Here are two screenshots of my breakfast this morning:IMG_9882[1]

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The first is my breakfast before SuperMom. Notice in the bar at the bottom that my nutrient target goal is at 28%. The second screenshot is after taking the SuperMom. Now my nutrient target goal is at 69%. Wow!

Unfortunately, I’ve been relying on SuperMom to make up for the deficits in my diet, and, as super as it is, it just can’t do it all. I can see in my nutrient reports that I’m still not consistently getting enough Vitamin D, Magnesium, or Potassium every day. Those are important nutrients for healthy bones which probably explains why I’ve had issues with arthritis and osteopenia.

So, enough about me! I’m excited about my progress, but my reason for sharing is to encourage you in yours! Please share your own progress in the comments or by email. I’ll be glad to hear from you!

About those Baby Steps…

Seven years of baby steps… A lot of progress can be made in seven years, but my steps have been small, and I find myself very near where I started. I’ll have my first session with health coach Rebecca Mills-Anderson tomorrow, and I’m ready to learn take some bigger steps with diet and nutrition. I’m eager to move closer to the goal of better health.

So, about those baby steps… In preparation for the health coaching to come, I’m reflecting on the progress- however small- that I’ve made thus far.

  1. I eliminated caffeine. I took this step as a young adult when I realized that my daily Diet Coke and ever-present glass of sweet tea were creating problems for me. That first step could have been a bigger step if I had known to replace the offenders with water, but I simply replaced them with decaffeinated sweet tea. Still, it was a baby step in the right direction!
  2. I began taking a daily multivitamin. SuperMom was the first vitamin I’d ever taken that actually made a noticeable difference in the way I felt.
  3. I eliminated fried foods. Gall bladder pain prompted this step, and it was not hard at all. Pain is a powerful motivator!
  4. I increased my water intake. If you follow this blog, you’re probably tired of hearing about drinking water! But, this has been huge for me. I went from drinking almost no water at all to half of my body weight in ounces. This big step is probably the main reason I’ve remained reasonably healthy in spite of the deficiencies of my diet.
  5. I began exercising regularly. I started for my bones but am gradually realizing the benefits of exercise for the whole body.
  6. I eliminated high fructose corn syrup from my diet, and I cut way back on processed foods.
  7. I realized that I was relying on supplementation and elimination to get me to better health. I’ve added some things- vitamins, water, exercise- and I’ve taken out some things- caffeine, fried food, high fructose corn syrup. But I’m just now facing the fact that my diet doesn’t include all the nutrients and vitamins I need to be truly healthy.

Okay, #7 may not be a true step. But that realization is already making a difference. In the last few weeks, I’ve made a conscious effort to eat three healthy meals every day, no matter how busy I am, and I’ve eaten a fruit or vegetable at almost every meal.

And that’s where I am today. On to bigger steps tomorrow!

Baby Steps

So, I’ve been taking baby steps now for about 7 years. I’m definitely moving in the right direction, but I really have not made much progress toward better health.

I know some of you are stepping along with me: drinking more water, taking multivitamins, and trying some nutritious recipes. Those are great steps, and I celebrate the progress- yours and mine! But I still have a long way to go.

This post isn’t leading to a happy ending or to a product recommendation. I’m just letting you know that I’m still baby-stepping my way to better health and I thought a little transparency on my part might help you on your way as well.

It was almost three years ago that the technician who did my bone scan uttered those dreadful words, “Whatever you’ve been doing, it hasn’t been enough.” I blogged then that I realized I hadn’t added much calcium to my diet and I hadn’t learned much at all about the importance of other vitamins and minerals. Well, I’m sorry to say, three years later, I’m only a few steps out from that place of not-enough.

With the help of a few perfectly-worded questions from a holistic health coach recently, I  saw for the first time that I’ve been relying on my supplements to make up for the deficits of my diet.

Nutrition overwhelms me. Food overwhelms me. Even grocery lists overwhelm me! Can anybody else relate or is this my own strange struggle?!

I’ll be meeting with a health coach regularly for the next six months and I’m really excited about learning more about the unique needs of my body and about how to feed it nutritiously. I’ll share my progress in hopes that it might help someone else. And I would love to hear from you, too. I would like to encourage you if you’re just taking your first baby steps. And I would love to learn from you if you’re ahead of me by leaps and bounds!

Speaking of baby steps, here’s my son in his first walkers.

baby steps MK

He’s holding on for support, but he’s taking steps. He’s happy! He’s out of the stroller. He’s walking on his own feet. He isn’t discouraged at all that he can’t run across the room yet. And I’m drawing analogies… Here’s to baby steps!

 

Melissa’s Peach Pie

I promised my husband last year that I would bake a peach pie any time we had access to fresh peaches. We had two pies last year, baked from a recipe my mother-in-law copied from an old edition of Farm Wife News. Farm Wife News was revamped and renamed Country Woman in 1987, so this recipe has been around a long time. Credit for the “Colorado Peach Cream Pie” recipe goes to a Ruth Andrews. If you happen to know her or her descendants, please pass on our thanks!

This year, we’ve had fresh peaches two weeks in a row, thanks to Helena Market Days. I decided to tweak the tried-and-true recipe to produce a gluten-free, sugar-free peach dessert that was still delicious. Last week’s crust held together beautifully; this week’s didn’t and the result was more like a cobbler than a pie. Both, however, tasted delicious, so I’m calling them equally successful.

Here’s my new recipe. The flour ingredient determines the quality of the crust, so feel free to substitute your favorite to produce the crust you desire.

Melissa’s Peach Pie

Crust
1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. gluten-free flour*
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Filling
4 cups fresh sliced peaches
1 cup xylitol, divided
2 Tbsp. gluten-free flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

Topping
1/3 c. xylitol
1/3 c. gluten-free flour
1/4 c. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon

Crust: Cut butter into flour and salt. Press dough into 9-inch pie pan.

Filling: Slice peaches into a bowl; sprinkle with 1/4 c. xylitol. Let stand while preparing rest of filling. Combine 3/4 c. xylitol, flour, egg, salt and vanilla. Fold in sour cream. Stir into peaches. Pour into crust.

Bake 15 minutes at 400°. Reset oven to 350° and bake another 20 minutes.

To prepare the topping, combine all ingredients until crumbly.

Sprinkle the crumbs of the topping evenly over the top of the pie or around the edge. Bake the pie another 10 minutes at 400°.Melissa's Peach Pie.JPG

Serve warm and top with vanilla ice cream if desired.

*Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Mix produced a firm crust. King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Mix produced a less firm, more crumbly crust. You know what they say about financial investments? “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” I’m pretty sure that applies here, too!

The Best Squash Casserole

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I’ll admit it. Squash is not my favorite vegetable. Not even close. But my new squash casserole recipe definitely moves it up in the rankings. I’ve been baking squash casserole for years now, and the gluten-free version I whipped up this week is the best squash casserole I’ve ever eaten- far better than the traditional recipe I’ve been preparing. (I’m sure it didn’t hurt that I started with fresh squash from Boozer Farms that I picked up Saturday at Helena Market Days!)

Gluten-Free Squash Casserole

 4 cups summer squash, sliced
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup 4C Gluten Free Plain Bread Crumbs*
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Add sliced squash to small amount of boiling water. Cover. When water returns to boiling, lower heat and cook until tender. Drain thoroughly and mash.

In a medium bowl, mix together all other ingredients. Combine with squash and mix well. Pour into a greased 1-quart casserole. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until casserole is slightly browned.

 *You can use any bread crumbs you have on hand, of course, but this is the ingredient that determines the texture of the casserole. The 4C brand bread crumbs yield a creamy casserole, unlike my usual dressing-like dish baked with regular bread crumbs. Experiment! I hope you enjoy yours as much as we enjoyed ours this week!

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