Sunday, July 29, 2012

On the other side of "The Hill"

"Success isn't just about natural-born talent. If you put in the time, persevere and work harder you can do amazing things" Nicholas Sparks

The goal was pretty simple, make it through the "Over the Hill" show. Try not to embarrass myself, Joker's owner Jess or Etta our riding coach. I think we managed to meet the goal, and then some. We not only got through it, we rocked it. We came home with a second place for Showmanship and a forth place for Western Pleasure Walk/Trot. I could find lots of ways to devalue our outcome, it was novice classes, others had major incidents in the classes, but screw that. WE ROCKED IT! I could not be happier with our result and quite frankly more shocked by it.

To prove that I have to share the funniest moment of the day...when they announced our placing for Western Pleasure....I did something I need to learn not to do..I whooped still sitting in line and out of my mouth came "Holy Shit". There is photographic evidence of it....

As I said in my previous post about this show, this show was about deciding for me if I really had what it took to do this, not in the way of winning ribbons and placings, but if this is where I belonged. I found my answer. My friend Paul put it way better than I could have.

"Congrats Pam. I'm proud of you. You have graduated. You are no longer an aspiring Horsewoman. You've made it!"

Not only did I ride and find my stride but I can say not once while I was in that arena did my weight cross my mind. I was so worried what people would think seeing me on a horse, but yesterday I only saw one thing when I looked at the stands. A lot of really special people around me who believed in me long before I did and were there to remind us we are not in this alone....affectionately now known as "Team Joker". I looked up and saw our coach, Theo (he doesn't have a title but is there for everything it seems), my adopted show parents Carole and Neil (they are Etta's parents but I adopted them at some point) and so many friends. I was shocked yesterday that some people drove nearly 2 hours to watch us ride...friends from Lifetime, horse friends Kathy and Liz, Joker's mom Jess, Janet who got me all into and her daughter Amanda. They all dropped what was going in their lives to be there for us.

And the face that I seemed to find first every time around, our groom for the day Jordy. Who has to get mentioned because she not only was there for everything we needed yesterday before I could even ask, she got up at 3am to go on this adventure with us.

I don't think any of these people will ever realize how much them being there meant to me. I tend to get feeling sorry for myself because my family isn't in my life for the moments that matter, I will probably never see anyone with DNA I share standing on the other side of that rail, but it hit me yesterday as I stood back from the trailer and looked at the number of people there hanging out with Joker and I, I have no reason to feel sorry for myself, DNA means nothing, yesterday was one of those few times in my life I truly felt loved unconditionally!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

My illogical life with food...

I'm not going to lie, it has been a long cruddy week. I have been hurt badly twice by people I really considered friends (both crossed the only line I wont tolerate being crossed), work has been stressful, I am deep in training for my upcoming show (4 lessons this week) and the gym has been a real challenge (my own beating myself up for being "broken" getting the better of me). Add on top of that sleep has been really off, even for me, and I have been having really messed up vivid dreams.

All of those things would typically mean one thing for me, food would go out the window. Mostly my reaction under these circumstances would be to stop eating, but it may also be peppered with terrible carb binges. And I am not going to lie, the night I left the gym in tears there was NOTHING I wanted to do more than visit Dairy Queen, McDonalds and go buy a cake.

But the big shocker to this week has been that I held it together on food really well. My calories were over 1800 every day this week (my goal is 2000+ but we have all agreed if we get to 1700 or so it is a good day, considering my norm previously was in 300 range), I cooked all my own food, I brought lunches to my client meetings and I met all the rules (no dairy, no eggs, no wheat, no yeast, no high tyramine, high healthy fats, extreme low carbs (I am eating anywhere from 1-3% carbs these days) and adequate protein.).

I don't want that to sound like it was easy, that is actually the point of my post. I am doing this, I have been successful for about 5 weeks now with following the new guidelines, and it IS working. At my highest recent weight I was 258 *gulp* at my weigh in this morning I was 244. 14 lbs in less than 2 months is a big feat, since the nutritionist defined success at losing 1 lbs a week.

And logically I can sit here and tell you why its working...I am avoiding carbs (kryptonite to me), I am avoiding all the foods that cause me inflammation reactions, we are slowing upping my body's desire to burn fat over glucose, but most importantly..................I am eating (I have my body out of starvation mode). Logically I "get it".

But for someone with disordered thinking around food, "getting it" and even doing it don't change the struggle. Despite how easy I have learned it to make the foods I need, no matter how much I can this is working (Nick was right *rolling eyes*) and what I was doing before wasn't. I still hear that same voice in my head. Lately it is less about food being evil or having to force myself to swallow the food and more the voice that nags at me "wow if you lost almost 3 lbs this week imagine how much faster it would come off if you dropped the calories and skipped meals". This voice also has a companion set of noise that says "just lie on your food journal, up the amounts, no one will know". Even when the noise is quiet, I also have to fight my normal tendency to just not eat. I literally have to remind myself "it's lunch time go find food". I went through a short period when we started this new plan where I was hungry for the first time in a long long time, but that has faded as my body adjusted. I am back to having to eat off the clock because the cues from my body don't exist.

It amazes me the tenacity of an eating disorder. I truly thought by now this would become habit (the conventional wisdom is it takes 30 days of doing something for it to be a habit) and the ED crap would fade but so far that isn't happening. Some days I actually think the eating makes it worse, it definitely did in the beginning. I truly wonder if I will ever be programmed like other people for eating to just be a normal part of life or not. Certainly not there yet.

Next week is the first time I travel under this new plan. I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't scared. I don't know how to do this when I cant cook my own food. I keep bouncing between whether I fear I wont eat at all, or if I fear eating the wrong things. The first seems less damaging (because we wont need to clean out those substances again from by body) but either one is going to slow progress or move me backwards. Finger's crossed I figure it out......

Monday, July 16, 2012

Time to get "Over the Hill"

I am back in show prep mode...wash the tail, clean the tack, do the horse's laundry, trim the whiskers, pack the hay bag. I feel so much more in control this time around, I have done this once, I know what to expect and I feel like I am going into this with a plan. Unlike my first show where I would say slightly controlled chaos reigned the day before the show I have my roadmap and I am ready to roll. This time I am on a two week schedule, I will be able to glide into the day before with ease.  I have my lists, I know what day I am doing what, it's all good.

I am actually somewhat surprised how calm I am about this show, because even though it isn't my first, it is the one I really care about this year. This is the show that from the moment we started contemplating me showing I knew I wanted to do. To me this show is my rite of passage, the show that means I am truly a show rider, that I belong, that this is the path I am going down.

Ironically this show is the "Over the Hill" Show (at Northwest Saddle Club). The name comes from the fact that it is all riders 18 and over (yes in the horse world 18 is "over the hill"). But for me I find the name much more meaningful, for me completing this show means I have truly gotten "over the hill" of my own fears (maybe they should be calling it the over the mountain show in my case *smile*) and am really part of the show world.

A year ago I sat and watched the Over the Hill Show, my riding coach Etta was showing and I went to see what this was all about. It was one of the first horse shows I had ever been to. I had ZERO interest in ever showing, but figured watching people of the caliber who show ride would help me as a rider. I went with my best friend Kaye, who now finds great humor in my metamorphosis. Through the whole show I vowed I would never show, (something might have been said about hell freezing over),  I was very confused by the "dance" done in Showmanship (believe my words were "why wont they just stand still already, how annoying"), I was turned off by the show clothing in Western classes (rhinestones and I are slowly making friends) and I just couldn't see the point in it all.  As I said, the road from watching this show a year ago to riding in it this year definitely went "over the hill".

Getting to this show on July 28th also meant climbing the hill of my own weight issues. Around the time I saw this show last year my lease on Cheyenne was falling apart because of her owners issues with my size and as a result I was incredibly self conscious of my weight and whether it meant I would be able to ride or not. And in all honesty the show only made it worse. I was sitting next to someone who obviously had very strong views on who should ride and who shouldn't, they spent their time making fun of the larger riders and saying how sorry they felt for their horses.

Needless to say that stayed with me. The thought of someone watching me ride and saying that has never left my mind. It was another mountain in my path. But a mountain I have mostly conquered. I have grown a lot in a year, I have learned (through the wisdom of my riding coach) that it isn't about being too big to ride, it is about having the right size horse and I do. Joker is built for me to ride, he's a big strong horse and carries me without a second through. His owner is fully supportive of me riding him. She and Etta reassure me regularly that we are well matched size wise, and anyone who doesn't think I have the right to ride him because of my weight will just have to live with that. It's their hill now not mine!

It has been a long road from that naive rider to where I am now. It is hard to believe how much my world has changed in a year. I have learned "the dance", I have put on the rhinestones and when we ride into that arena on July 28th it wont matter if we place or not, because for me, being "over that hill" is all that matters. This show marks the beginning of a journey I never thought I would take, one that was more chosen for me than me choosing, and one I can't imagine my life without.

The other side of the hill is pretty damn amazing!!!!!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I could die happy....

I am home sick today (really bad sore throat that I have been fighting for a week finally won) and knew I needed calories but was in no mood to eat. A friend posted on FB about the ice cream she made and I thought hmmmmm that would be good. But obviously with the new food rules going to the store to get some was out, so I decided to be creative.

If you read back in the blog I have actually been on the hunt for a good way to make ice cream healthy for a while. I am someone who eats mostly for texture than taste and one of the reasons I keep failing at sticking to any meal plan is I get craving the feel of ice cream and fall off the wagon. I have been determined to stick with the current plan and not fall prey to that, so I had to solve this puzzle.

I have previously tried making ice cream from almond milk (without an ice cream maker) and failed miserably. Almond milk has no fat in it so the result is an ice cube when it freezes. Last week I tried making it with coconut milk and it worked better (it helps that I bought an ice cream maker for that attempt) but the coconut was too overpowering (it just tasted weird not like coconut per se) so I wanted to go back to the almond milk, but knew I had to get more fat in there. I searched the internet for recipes with almond milk to get an idea what people used, but since none met my food restrictions I decided to just go for it.

If you haven't read my last couple posts I am currently eating a ketogenic, low tyramine diet while also avoiding foods I have blood work to confirm I am "sensitve" to (these include dairy, eggs, wheat, and yeast). The goal is to be high (healthy) fats, adequate protein and little to no carbs. This is not an easy way to eat (when you combine the three sets of restrictions) but I have committed myself to making it work. And I know for me that means solving certain texture and taste cravings that will send me off track. So I have worked to be as totally creative with "safe" ingredients to find those same tastes and feels. And truthfully I have been SHOCKED how easy it is. But I still hadn't solved ice cream.....until today....

May I introduce "I Can Die Happy" Chocolate Ice Cream..................


- 1 1/4 cup chilled almond milk (I use almond breeze vanilla)
- 1/4 cup chilled canned coconut milk (you want the canned with the solids well mixed in, this is the fat the almond milk lacks)
- 1 small banana (I keep bananas already sliced and frozen in my freezer for things like this)
- 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I like dark chocolate so I used  1 1/2 tbsp cocoa power and 1/2 tbsp special dark cocoa powder)
- 2 dates
-  1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)
- 1 square unsweetened bakers chocolate
- 1 tbsp finely chopped raw pecan
- 1 tbsp raw unsweetened coconut flakes


You will want to follow the directions for your ice cream machine. I have this one and it requires you freeze the mixing bowl before starting (I actually just store mine in my freezer for moments like this).

Next you need to make sure your milk and banana are cold. Again mine worked out of the fridge/freezer. I think having the bananas frozen actually helped the ice cream solidify faster. I did microwave them for about 30 seconds just to soften.

I prepped the dates by putting them in a small bowl with about a tbsp of water and microwaving for 30 seconds I wanted them soft so I didn't get date chunks.

I combined the two milks, the banana, the dates, and the cocoa powders in the blender (I have a ninja I use) til it was all smooth. This went into the ice cream maker and churned for about 15 minutes (til it was thicker than soft serve). I then added in the pecans and coconut flakes and let it churn another 5 minutes.

One the ice cream was done I put it into a freezer safe container.

I wanted to also try putting some more chocolate through it (ribbons were the goal) and I needed another way to up the fat content for my diet. So I melted together (double boiler style) the coconut oil and the bakers chocolate. Once melted I let this cool for a minute (so it didn't melt the ice cream) and drizzled it in and pulled it through with a fork.

The chocolate ribbons didn't happen, but instead had a happy accident, chocolate flakes throughout the ice cream. This was a result of using the coconut oil. For those that haven't worked with coconut oil, it is a solid at room temperature, it melts when heated but then solidifies pretty fast. When the chocolate with the oil hit the cold ice cream the chocolate solidified (think of those hard candy shell chocolates they dip cones into).

The result overall was amazing. The amount of chocolate was perfect. The sweetness was right on, the texture out of the ice cream maker was already of a loose hard ice cream. It was decadent to eat, but it meets all the rules, its healthy and I actually would prefer it over most store bought ice cream I have had. It certainly beat out DQ which is my normal cheat.

For anyone keeping track the calories for the ENTIRE BATCH batch (which should be about 6-8 serving sizes I would guess) is 672 calories, there are 71 g of carbs, 51 grams of fat and 10 g of protein. Assuming 6 servings that is 112 calories, 12 g of carbs, 9 g of fat, and 1.5 g of protein. If you are looking to up the protein (I know some of my readers are) you could easily add protein powder to the recipe! Either way, there is no way a store bought product could touch this on taste, health content or calories!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Harder than I ever imagined....

This is probably going to be one of those slightly rambling posts, but I need to work out all that is flying around in my head, and I always try to remind myself when I hit this place others are probably there here goes.

I am a relatively intelligent person. I have been incredibly blessed in life that I find it very easy to learn new things, especially if it is something that interests me. I have taught myself most of my careers with little to no specific education or guidance, I self taught myself Hebrew in a couple months, heck in the last few weeks I have taught myself how to cook like a gourmet chef. My brain just works well at breaking something down and grasping it fast when I want to. I am also very good at seeing the big picture and being able to dissect it apart and figuring out the steps to get to where I want to be. However when it comes to riding, not only is none of that seeming to work, I actually think in some ways it is working against me. It is certainly raising the level of pressure I feel to "get it". I am not used to feeling this stupid no matter how hard I try.

I can say without a doubt...I have never tried so hard, mentally, physically and emotionally, to learn something as I have with riding and showing. And I can also say nothing has ever left me as excited and proud of myself or as drained and frustrated as this has. It seems to just depend on the day which side of that coin I am on, and that is the hardest part of this for me, the constant roller coaster.

Anything else I have ever tried to do or learn the learning and accomplishments followed a predicable study, you practice, you struggle but once you get it you're there. It's then a skill you have and you can count on it. Riding is nothing like that.

One day I can get on Joker and do everything right, the next day I can get on and try the same things and have a totally different outcome. The number of variables that come into play are overwhelming...the weather, the time of day (I have a totally different horse depending on how long ago the last meal was or how soon the next one is), what other horses are in the arena with us or if we are alone, whether the doors are open or closed. Its a type of variable I have never had to work with before.

And for me on top of those that just naturally come from working with a partner you can't have a rational conversation with, I also find my body plays a huge role in how the day is going to go. If I am tired or sore I struggle much more to feel the things I need to to ride well. I sit differently. I have more or less flexibility to turn the way I need to, some days I can feel if I am holding my feet right or not, other days I cant. Most days because of the nerve damage in my right side I cant even feel if I am doing what my riding coach asks me to and I just work to try to get there and hope my body will accidentally do what I need it to. Consistency of seat is so important in riding, and my body is anything but.

Don't get me wrong, I know I have made immense progress in the last 14 months. I remember that every time I get on Joker. But at the same time I have to admit I really stress that I don't feel like I am where I would want to be, where I expect myself to be, and most of all where I feel like others expect me to be by now. I don't handle feeling dumb well, and many days lately that is how I feel when I get off my horse. I don't yet know how to make peace with having a skill that works great one day and next day falling apart at the exact same thing. This is such a different world for me, and I cant say I feel like I fit yet. I don't know how to not put all this pressure on myself, and I know it is coming from me and no one else.

I also am coming to realize that some of my personality quirks work against me as a rider too. I am an introvert, big time, I have many of those social insecurities us geeks are made fun of for. I tend to walk looking down, I tend to have a hard time holding eye contact with people, I tend to want to minimize my "footprint" and so I slouch and curl into myself. Not one of those things works well riding. I have to work hard to look up when I ride, to focus on where I want to go, to sit back, to stretch up, to put my shoulders back. None of this is coming naturally to me and when I am riding my head is spinning to try remember to do it all, on top of also trying to make my body do what it needs to and to give the proper cues to Joker.

And all of that combined brings out probably my worst habit (one that bites me in the gym, the arena and lots of other places). When my brain is going 100 miles an hour I lose focus on what is around me and where I am going. I can look like I am looking somewhere or at someone and yet in reality I couldn't tell you what I just was looking at. That sounds weird but how many times have you driven somewhere and realized you didn't remember half the trip. I do that all the time. I get so focused on all that I am trying to process and do that I kind of go on auto pilot related to what is around me. Not a good thing when where you are looking has so much to do with cueing your horse.

I am not sure where to go with this post now, I guess I really didn't have a point. I think more than anything I am just saying all this to try to make peace with the fact that I am not unique in anything I wrote. That everyone who rides and especially those who compete all struggle with this. That this is the first time I am learning at a normal pace. But for me learning at a normal pace is so unnatural and I don't know how to be ok with it. Man being human sucks!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Restrictions or an eye opening...

I just have a conversation with a facebook friend, she is starving herself as a way to lose weight. The emotions that she brought out in me reminded me I hadn't blogged in forever (sorry) and it was time.

First a quick horse update, still leasing Joker, still love him to pieces. I become a better rider every time I am with him. We had our first real show in June and I was SHOCKED to have placed in two classes (ironically the ones I was most dreading as they were the ground classes where my ability to physically jog were a factor). The classes were huge (20 + riders) which made it even more amazing to me placed. We took 6th in Halter and 4th in Showmanship. I have to admit I was totally addicted after the first show and am counting the days til our next show (July 28th). I feel like I have found my place! This might be the first thing I have done in my life that I can say I truly felt proud of myself for. I know how hard I worked for this (and continue to work). It is the first real accomplishment of my life that isnt on an intellectual only playing field and it was the most amazing thing I have ever done.

Now the harder stuff, my weight is up, I was back to around 255 lbs, so 40 lbs gained from my lowest. I am back to where I was two years ago exactly. It's frustrating, it's depressing and it makes me want to give up. But I am still luckier than most, in that I still have my personal trainer, Nick, to back me when I give up. And over the last two months he has been really working to try to get me nutritonially back on track.

The new plan of attack started with testing my food sensitivies, testing my adrenal function and some other blood tests. The food sensitivity test was to me the most interesting. The test looks not for a pure allergic reaction, but rather inflammation reaction (immunoglobulin response) to certain foods. What many of us discount is that our weight is made up of more than fat...inflammation and fluid retention are a huge factor. You cant gain 40 lbs of fat in a few months, its not possible. And since I was back to eating next to nothing again, this was a more likely issue. When we did the test I expected to have a few things come back, but even I was blown away by the results. I reacted to: blue cheese, green beans, onions, tomatoes, eggs, dairy, wheat, baking yeast, brewers yeast and chocolate. The results put different categories on the reactions (1 through 5) and the varying levels require different changes.

We also found my adrenal levels were much higher than they should be. Finding all this was nothing new. It was new facts, but I have been told many times before things weren't working like they should, but then usually need to find my own solution, because usually the next part of the message was "ok cut those foods out" but no suggestion on what to eat. And in that situation I just restrict my eating even more.

But the difference this time, Nick has also worked to make sure I had someone who had experience with these issues to help me figure out what to do with it all. Enter Paul into the picture. Paul is a corporate dietician for Lifetime Fitness. I will be honest. I went into working with another dietician beyond skeptical. Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows I have been this route before. A new dietician, they see all my medical issues, they hear about my eating disorder issues and when the prescribed "eat less, cut out x foods" wont work they get frustrated and are done.

My first meeting with Paul was shockingly different. He got it on my tyramine restrictions, my long medical history didnt seem to spook him and most importantly he came to the meeting with a workable plan, something I could try. His recommendation, a ketogenic diet. High (healthy) fats, decent protein, low low carbs. And the goal he set was 2000 calories *gulp* a day. The thought behind the diet is that it forces the body into burning fats instead of carbs. In addition we had to work in my food sensitivies (especially no dairy, no eggs, no wheat, no yeast - which were the higher categories) and my need to avoid high tyramine foods (because of my medical issues). This assignment seemed to me beyond comprehension, but I felt I had to try. If for no other reason than because Nick had worked so hard to find me someone to help me.

I am now about 3 weeks into trying this and I had an epiphany today. The foods most of us eat have a lot of really unnecessary ingredients in them. Not only have the "restrictions" been very doable, but the taste of what I have been eating is either the same or improved over foods I was eating before. I didnt need those foods at all.

The biggest change is that I have started actually cooking (a few people just fell over from shock). Cooking was key to be able to do this, you cant eat out or by prepared food and eat the way I needed to. Cooking has allowed me to explore products I had never considered: coconut oil, safflower oil, coconut flour, almond flour, and coconut milk (who knew you could make whipped cream out of coconut milk).

In the last three weeks I have made: shrimp scampi, tandori chicken, beef country ribs, curry shrimp, coconut chocolate mousse, goat cheese stuffed burgers, coconut pecan bark, a healthy version of mounds bars and many other dishes. No (cow) dairy, no eggs, no wheat, no yeast and yet every one of them has been tasty and at least as good as the original if not better. I am still working out the best pancake recipe!

My weight dropped about 5 lbs the first week, it is up a pound this week, so this is no quick fix. Nick keeps reminding me I have spent years screwing up my metabolism I cant expect to fix it overnight, but I can say I feel better. Less tired, less bloated, less fluid retention.

I have always been honest in this blog, I am not going to say this has all been a walk in the park. You dont meet with a nutritionist and erase an eating disorder. Eating is still the hard part for me, I HATE the thought of 2000 calories . That number seems insanely high to me. There are many meals I have to force myself to get started making. My brain is wired to see cooking and eating as a waste of time. The whole situation, knowing others are watching and waiting to see if I succeed or fail has me very anxious (waiting to let Paul down like every other nutritionist has been when my body doesnt react the way it should), I am very scale obsessed again (something I had had under control, spending hours working out in my brain how I can fit in getting the clue to see what the scale I trust says.

The hardest part has been being hungry. Feeling hunger is something my body stopped doing decades ago, I could easily go days without food and not feel hunger. But the change in diet have done somethng to trigger the feeling of hunger. And as someone who obsesses with not gaining weight through not eating, being hungry is SCARY. It makes me fear over eating and gaining weight, it makes me want to run from food to make sure I dont lose control. It is hard for me to come to terms with this being a normal bodily function.

I am sure some reading this post will think I am advocating this new way of eating as being right for everyone, just the opposite. I hope in reading my blog people will realize how different every person's body is. That there is no one size fit for weight loss and being healthy for everyone, whether it is eating less, whether it is high fat or low carbs. You need to know what your body is doing, you need to know what your unique challenges are and eat to them!

BTW for anyone looking for more information on the reasons for high fat low carb I am currently reading a book recommended to me by the nutritionist, .It's not the lightest read in the world, it has a lot of biochem in it, but it does make a good case for going back to eating much more like our ancestors did.