Lifestyle & Blogging

Running and Neurology

Running Down a Half Marathon

Since August, I have been training for a half marathon.

I have been so focused on shifting my diet, that I haven’t talked about this training in my blogging because there hasn’t been anything to report. I got the idea in my head back in July after meeting with a health coach through our insurance company. She suggested that I come up with an exercise goal as a means of getting healthier in the long term. Before getting pregnant with Jai I used to run, and I made sure to get a running stroller so I could eventually get back into it while pushing him around.

And by run, I use the term extremely liberally. I am more of a jogger, and with my short legs you could make the argument that I am a fast walker. I get my heart rate up and that’s all that matters to the experts.

Regardless of my personal speed, I had done a half marathon before my diagnosis and knew that it would be the perfect goal to push for intense training. It wasn’t long after I settled on a half marathon at the end of October that I received the good news about my MRI and made the decision to alter my eating habits as well.

It was one of those moments where everything came together and it made the health coach even happier to hear that I was exercising AND eating better.

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The Check-In

Checking In: Southern Fried Goodness

This was a rather rough week for me.

I finally got sick from Ash and Jai.

Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but as predicted, it made me crave fried, comfort foods more than normal. Wednesday was the hardest day for me with the cold and the cravings. It took a huge effort to not ask Ash to grab some fries on his way home or order take out that had some form of golden, fried goodness.

Not having my comfort go-to while fighting a head cold made me more creative, but I  found that my actual hunger levels were extremely low. I wanted to eat fried foods, but I wasn’t actually hungry for it. I don’t think it was cold related, but boiled down to something I like to have when I am feeling bad. I also think it might have been a salt craving, since fried foods tend to also be salty, so I grabbed some pretzels and called it a day.

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The Check-In

Checking In: Where’s the Beef?

Removing red meat from my diet was harder for me psychologically than dropping sugar. I didn’t think I was as dependent on beef or pork as Ash, but we had some leftover pizza with bacon and I had to stop myself from grabbing a slice Monday afternoon. I also found that every time I drove past a fast food place, I was more tempted to swing in and grab something than normal. Stopping for fast food is typically not a temptation at all and this week it was.

I suspect it is another case of personal prohibition that makes it rougher for me because I can’t, not because I need it. To help manage the red meat cravings I had chicken and salmon as a means to get my protein along with lentils and brown rice. This makes me think that when I drop chicken and fish it will be just as difficult.

Maybe worse, because I love me some sushi and poke.

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The Check-In

Checking In: No More Sugar

Cutting sugar went easier than I expected, though there were a few days where I was irritable according to Ash. I refuse to believe him, but deep down I know he’s correct. No longer having that emotional crutch makes for a very grumpy me.

Psychologically speaking, it was a lot easier than I expected. As long as I didn’t have sugary treats in the house (I tossed all of our sweets or sent them with Ash to work); I avoided buying sugary drinks (everyone knows that my weakness is a good Pumpkin Spice Latte in the fall); and if I had fruit for any sweet cravings, I was good to go. Every time I drove by a Starbucks there was a temptation to pull in and just give into that PSL craving, but I made sure to keep going and have a few bites of pineapple as soon as I got home.

During the couple of times I did eventually stop at a Starbucks I made sure to only order an Americano*. Before I was pregnant I had gotten into the habit of drinking all my coffee black unless it was a latte, so it wasn’t extremely hard for me to get back into drinking these strong drinks with nothing in them. I think it helped a bit too. Coffee is a wonder drug (and sadly, probably something I need to add to my drop list), and can make a lot of things better when I am grumpy.

I didn’t notice any headaches, though at the beginning of the week I was more lethargic and in need of an extra nap or two during the day. By the time Ash came home from work, I was very ready to pass Jai off to him so I could lay down and not think or move for an hour. By day 3 or so, I had a little more energy and by this morning (day 5), I had even more energy to do my running around without need of a nap.

I also noticed that during my longer run on Thursday, I was able to keep up with my mom and felt less fatigued at the end of it. I also felt motivated to go again this morning (though that would be off schedule). Me? Motivated to run off schedule? This really is unheard of – I hate running.

When I was at the grocery story to make purchases for the family, I did make sure to review all the labels like I said I would: any time it was High Fructose Corn Syrup or unidentified form of “sugar,” I would move along. From my research they said that sugar is hidden in everything and it really is true. Sugar is everywhere. Foods that I normally love to eat, like certain types of crackers or even grab-n-go frozen meals…all contain sugar. I also made sure to avoid agave and honey. If it was sweetened with fruit juice or dates – I would be willing to grab it to consume.

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Information Huddle

Bittersweet Truths About Sugar

Sugar and sweeteners are everywhere. Sugar is like a drug: it certainly feels addictive when that particular time of day rolls around; for me it’s mid-afternoon and late evening when Jai is asleep. I just have to have something sweet to appease that craving and sometimes one piece of candy will not do. Funny enough, during other times of the day, I could pass by the stuff and not think anything about it.

Plenty of popular Western culture references stems from binging on sugar: from ice cream for heartache to characters with massive sweet tooths.

Women are courted by advertisers to buy chocolate during their menses. Children are bombarded with sugary cereals and treats during their favorite TV shows or mobile games. Men get advertisements for carbonated drinks to help boost their competitive abilities.

There is a clear bias for the stuff. And it makes sense given the narrative: it boosts brainpower, gives you energy, makes you feel good, and is all around amazing. In fact, the idea of going without sugar is one met with disbelief. Go ahead and tell someone that you plan to drop sugar. You’ll get one of these responses:

  • Really? I could never do that. I love the stuff too much.
  • Oh, [Someone’s name] did that awhile ago. She didn’t last 24 hours before caving in.
  • How will you survive without [insert your favorite beverage/treat of choice]?
  • Why? Do you think you need to lose weight?
  • We’ll see how long that lasts. I bet you’ll be back to eating it within a week.
  • Just as long as you don’t get all smug and preachy over it…

Many responses revolve around the narrative that we, as human beings, cannot live without sugar. And the truth is, Western diet is high in sugarcane (or some version of sweetener). So it’s understandable that the idea of dropping something so pervasive in our diet is out of the ordinary.

I watched this video in preparation of today’s post and it sums up the issues we face as consumers of sugar in the Western diet…

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Diet Shift

Week 2: Sweet Tastes

Sugar. My friend. My comfort. What I turned to when I am down; in need of an energy boost; or just because I need the taste of something sweet. Needless to say, this week was going to be the hardest for me to give up.

Sugarcane specifically. There is a distinction between sweetening agents and sugarcane is my favorite. If given a choice between American Coca-Cola and Mexican Coca-Cola, I take the Mexican Coke every single time. High-Fructose Corn Syrup is nice and all, but nothing beats the taste of true sugar.

Sugar in my coffee, sugar in my tea, sugar in my tomato sauce for spaghetti, sugar, sugar, sugar.

You get the point. I add a lot of sugar to the stuff I consume.

I am specifying sugarcane because that seems to be one of the worst offenders to the Western diet. I will allow myself to consume fruits, date syrup, maple syrup, and coconut sugar as added sweeteners to help manage any cravings. But if an item states “sugar” or a version of sugar (HFCS for example) without being more specific in the ingredient list I move on to another item, or make it myself with some substitute.

What I am hoping my long-term outcomes will be when I eliminate sugar this week:

  • Removing “bad” food for my gut flora
  • Boosting my energy
  • Boosting my overall mood
  • Providing a good example for Jai by not going to sugary treats whenever I want (and making healthy alternative choices)
  • Lose weight (this will be a long-term benefit – I don’t anticipate weight dropping immediately)
  • More conscious of what I put into my body

Interestingly, I have both dreaded this week’s diet drop and excited for it. I hate the idea of dropping sugar, but spent the weekend in anticipation of dropping sugar and didn’t binge (especially when I had several opportunities to do so) on it.

I think I am ready to make this transition. Having a relatively positive attitude will help make this particular diet shift easier. Still not looking forward to it.