Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The paleo diet is the best choice in pregnancy

Carl and I are older first-time parents. He just turned 40, and I'll be 39 a couple of weeks after our baby girl is born. I am very, very glad we waited. I'm glad our previous have-a-baby plans (back in 2006) didn't work out, and I'm glad we didn't give in to the social pressure to have kids in the early years of our marriage. I have lots of reasons why I'm glad we waited, and none are insignificant. I could probably write long blog posts about each and every one. Today, though, I'm only going to talk about one: I'm glad we waited until I discovered paleo.

As most people I talk to (and those who read this blog) know, my pregnancy has been smooth sailing. I have no complaints, and I feel great most of the time. I'm not experiencing an onslaught of all the classic pregnancy symptoms I've heard so much about and, even though I am very much looking forward to our daughter's birth, I really don't mind pregnancy at all.

I attribute this 100% to my diet, and I am absolutely convinced that without paleo my pregnancy experience would be a lot different. Of course, I have no way of knowing for sure (and I'm not going to experiment in order to find out!). Maybe I'm just one of those women who have easy pregnancies? Maybe, but I doubt it.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is this is not "luck." We all have choices, and the choices we make impact the outcomes we receive. This is true not just in pregnancy but in all areas of life. Choosing to stick to the paleo diet throughout my pregnancy has (so far) produced a really fantastic outcome for me, and I am so thankful for it. And please believe me when I say this is not a criticism of anyone who is not eating paleo while pregnant (if I had been pregnant at any other time in my life, I certainly wouldn't have been on this diet). Most people don't even know paleo is an option, especially since mainstream media and all the pregnancy books tell us we need to follow a low-fat diet rich in whole grains. But if you are pregnant right now and are dealing with morning sickness, indigestion, constipation, swelling, extreme fatigue, cravings, mood swings, diabetes, etc., please know that you don't have to continue on like this. Try paleo and see what happens, because despite everything we're told, these symptoms (in my opinion) are not "normal." They are the body's response to the wrong kind of fuel (sadly, the very fuel our culture and government encourage us to ingest). I suspect that if we studied pregnancy from an anthropological perspective, we would find that the pregnancy symptoms we've come to accept as standard are actually a fairly recent phenomenon.

Admittedly, I have no scientific evidence for this. I haven't researched pregnancy anthropology. What I do know, though, is I have not heard of one single paleo pregnancy that hasn't been relatively comfortable. Not one (if there is anyone out there who hasn't had a comfortable paleo pregnancy, please speak up!) And for me personally, I can attribute the majority of the minor inconveniences I have experienced to some sort of bad dietary choice (remember my issues with swelling a few of weeks back?).

On the flip side, how many women who follow the Standard American Diet (or even healthier versions of the SAD) during pregnancy can say the same thing? I know there are exceptions, but almost everyone I know (or know of) has experienced morning sickness and cravings (at the very least). And many have even been placed on bed rest and/or have had trouble with gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

Again, I am not saying this to criticize -- I'm just making an observation. Our bodies are built to bear children. Is it really possible that the process of growing a baby in the womb is meant to be a miserable experience? I don't think so.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Recipes: Paleo chicken fajitas and a sweet frozen treat

So much for the plans I had for the blog today (I planned to post a few photos of the big, messy re-organization project we started on Saturday), because something is wrong with my digital camera. The compartment that holds the rechargeable battery won't close, and while trying to fix it I managed to break something (I hope it isn't permanent). My Palm Pre phone (a purchase I completely regret) takes terrible photos, which means I'm out of luck for now.

Instead, I'll talk cooking! Every once in a while, I'll create something in the kitchen that makes me fall in love with cooking all over again (I used to hate cooking until I started learning how to do it right). This is what happened last night. The recipe was not even remotely complicated. It was just a great recipe, as well as another example of the simplicity of paleo cooking.

Paleo chicken fajitas
Adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe for flank steak fajitas. I would have used flank steak, but we didn't have any.

  • 1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 2 red bell peppers (stemmed, seeded and sliced very thin)
  • about 1/4 of a sweet onion, slice very thin (you can use more onion if you want -- we're just not big onion fans around here)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pat the chicken dry and slice into thin strips. Place into a bowl, adding a dash of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper. Mix well and let the chicken rest while you prepare the other ingredients.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat (when it starts smoking, it is hot enough).

When the pan is ready, cook the chicken (this shouldn't take long -- just make sure the chicken reaches 165 degrees). Remove from the pan and set aside. Add peppers, onions, water, Tabasco and cumin. Cooks until onions and peppers are soft. Return chicken to pan and stir until coated with spices. Cook over high heat for about two more minutes, just enough time to add a bit of a crispy coating of spices to the chicken. Serve with fresh salsa and homemade guacamole.

Homemade guacamole, by the way, is also sooo easy and takes just a few minutes to whip up. Just place two avocados in food processor, along with lime juice, chili powder, tabasco and sea salt to taste. Blend until smooth, and you're done!

A few thoughts on the results of this recipe: Even though I really liked it, the next time I make chicken fajitas I'll try a slightly different approach. I'll probably marinate the chicken for new minutes in a spicy marinade, and I'll cook it before slicing. I'm pretty sure this will make it even better.

Now, on to dessert! This wasn't actually our dessert last night -- it was an experiment that we polished off before dinner -- but it would definitely make a great after-dinner treat. The recipe comes from a vegan blog called Choosing Raw and, while I don't agree with the creator of this recipe that Banana Soft Serve will change anyone's life, I do think it is a great alternative to ice cream (just don't make it a daily thing -- bananas are high in sugar).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An off-the-wagon weekend

One reason last Tuesday was such a rough paleo day: Carl was away on a week-long sailing trip in the San Juan Islands (it was his 40th birthday gift, and on the trip he earned his American Sailing Association advanced coastal cruising and coastal navigation certifications!). I really, really dislike shopping and cooking when it is just me and the cat at home. So, for the most part I just didn't do it. Somehow I managed to get by on lots of hard-boiled eggs (I am so tired of eggs, though!), fruit and a couple of lunches with friends -- but it was a challenge. I'm so glad he is home now. Last night I really enjoyed cooking for the first time in a few weeks! We had paleo tacos.

I'm not going to lie, though -- I did stray from paleo over the weekend. I anticipated it, and I planned it (I know some people advocate the idea that non-paleo moments should be spontaneous -- that does not work for me), and I don't regret it at all (I also know some people are purists all the time -- I am not).

The first stop was Fairhaven Fish & Chips in Bellingham, Washington. Carl and I went there immediately after I picked him up from his sailing trip. We shared a small order of fish and chips and then we each had a German chocolate soft serve ice cream cone. This is quite possibly the best soft serve ice cream I've ever tasted. The fish and chips are really good, too.

Later on, we went to Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro (also in Bellingham) with my parents. The place is pretty popular, but the only thing about Boundary Bay we really like is the salmon chowder. Super delicious!

The next day, my family gathered at my mom and dad's house to celebrate Father's Day and Carl's birthday. My mom ordered a German chocolate cake from Pure Bliss. Everything else on the menu that day was paleo (for me, anyway), but I did enjoy a big piece of the cake.

Now that I think about, Sunday (the day we embarked on the long drive home) was somewhat of a failure. I woke up feeling a little blah from the cake, the fish, the chowder and the ice cream -- so I skipped breakfast. On the way home, we stopped at Starbucks where the barista gave Carl a free caramel frappucino. Even though I had my own plain coffee I kept sneaking sips of his. It was sweet and creamy, but NOT worth it at all. We then stopped in Seattle for three hours to visit friends/go out to lunch. Well, we saw a crepe and soft-serve ice cream stand and I totally caved in. Unlike the frappucino, the ice cream was worth it, but at that moment I knew that the weekend of treats was officially over. If I continued, it would be harder to get back on track. Plus, I was getting grumpy (one symptom of excess sugar consumption). When we got home, I tried to eat a healthy paleo dinner but I just couldn't choke down anything. It was like I needed detox or something. So, I just went to bed.

In the morning I felt refreshed and, most-of-all, happy that the weekend-of-sugar was over (even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, with the exception of Sunday). I didn't have any trouble bouncing back from weekend, fortunately -- and actually it was in many ways a great reminder as to why paleo is important to me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

See you next week!

I know it is only Thursday, but in honor of Carl's 40th birthday I'm starting the weekend early. I'll be back next week, hopefully with something interesting to say.

Meanwhile, here are three links I really like ...

1. If you are into fashion and style, Amy Tara Koch's Bump It Up is a must-read blog. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, too. Her style tips are fabulous!

2. One Fit Mom ... another pregnant-and-paleo blogger. I love reading her updates!

3. In my opinion, Babble is a cooler than many of the other pregnancy/parenting web sites. Great bloggers, interesting perspectives, even a little snarkiness now-and-then. Babble writers tell it like it is, and I'm all for that (even though I don't always agree with what they have to say).

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yesterday was a rough paleo day

These kale chips are $5.99 per bag and taste like
saw dust. And look at all that wasteful packaging!
I'm surprised I made it through yesterday without a massive paleo failure. Seriously, it was rough. Not that I was around a bunch of non-paleo food or anything -- I wasn't. I just could not stand the sight or even the thought of my normal, everyday menu.

Here is what went down:

I left the house early, because I had an appointment with my midwife at 8:40am. No time for breakfast. By the time my appointment was over, however, it was definitely time for breakfast. I was miles away from home, though, and had plans to meet a friend for coffee (so, I couldn't just head back to my house). I wanted to kick myself for such poor planning. Why didn't I have a hard boiled egg and some fruit in my bag (not that I wanted an egg anyway -- blech)? That's when I spotted Panera. I thought about bagels and cream cheese. Yum. I cannot remember the last time I sunk my teeth into a bagel. Admittedly, I was tempted. Fortunately, though, I didn't give in. I re-directed my thoughts, and reminded myself of the consequences. Instead, I went to New Seasons Market. I wasn't really happy with anything New Seasons had to offer, but I settled for a Larabar and one of those buffalo Tanka bars (this might have been the first time I've ever tasted buffalo -- the bar was OK, but I don't understand why the manufacturers use sweetened cranberries). Anyway, I didn't love my breakfast but at least it got me through the morning.

After I arrived home from the gym, I looked in the fridge hoping to find something for lunch. Total waste of time, because I already knew what was in the fridge -- nothing. Well, nothing other than some leftover chicken. I was sooo not in the mood for chicken. I took a 90-minute nap instead, all the while wishing I could just eat a normal lunch. Like a sandwich or something. To be honest, I kinda felt sorry for myself (which I really have no right to do, because I chose this lifestyle and I am healthier and stronger because of it).

After my nap, though, I felt better and realized that yes, I did have a few things in the fridge. Like four-dozen farm fresh eggs (we get our eggs from a friend who raises chickens), two juicy grapefruits and a zucchini. The zucchini didn't make the cut, but the grapefruit and eggs were great.

Unfortunately, though, that wasn't the end of my rough paleo day. I left the house at about 6pm for the Mini Sledgehammer writing contest over in Northeast Portland, and didn't even think about the fact that I would be gone for four hours (and not only that, I would be hanging out at a place that served only served wine, cheese and paninis). And even if I did make it home in time for dinner, what would I make? Eggs and grapefruit again? No thanks.

I left Mini Sledgehammer feeling somewhat ... desperate. All I really wanted to do was skip dinner, crawl into bed and start fresh in the morning. But the reality is, I can't -- I have another life to nourish. My thoughts drifted to all the delicious things I would eat in that moment if it weren't for my commitment to paleo. A Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Sourdough toast smothered in butter. Falafel. And yes, once again I actually considered giving in. I wanted to give in. Somehow, though, I summoned the will to stick to my guns and wound up going to New Seasons one more time. I bought: canned tuna, carrots, an apple, an avocado, a box of coconut "ice cream" bars (btw, I don't really consider these 100% compliant because they contain agave) and some kale chips. My fatigue and hunger are reflected in this list, because under normal circumstances I wouldn't buy the coconut bars or the kale chips. And, as luck would have it, the kale chips are disgusting (I might actually return them). I did enjoy the tuna and carrots, though, and I went to bed feeling victorious rather than defeated and disappointed.

Now,  I just have to see how today turns out!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Today's guest post on My Happy Path!

Thanks to Shanie Matthews for the opportunity to contribute a post to her blog, My Happy Path, on the reasons behind our decision to have a baby. The post offers a lot more detail, but in short it is all about health, positive influences and life changes.

Maternity workout clothes: How thinking outside the box got me through a few desperate days

I don't know what I was thinking. OK, I obviously was not thinking. But somehow I thought I would be able to wear my Nike and Adidas workout pants and my Shock Absorber sports bras for most of my pregnancy. Hahaha.

I'm so happy that my order from
Impact Fitness
finally arrived!
I realized the error in my thinking three weeks ago during a typical Tuesday afternoon workout. Physically, I felt fine. But my clothes were too tight and I was so uncomfortable. I suffered through one more miserable day; then I said "FORGET IT." When I arrived home, I immediately went online and ordered one pair of maternity workout pants and one top (I decided to wait and see if I liked the items before ordering more).

The problem? I had to wait for my orders to arrive and, since it was already 8pm on a Wednesday, they were not going to arrive in time for Thursday's workout. Plus, the sports bra dilemma remained unsolved. I had no choice ... I had to cancel my workout. I went shopping instead. I didn't expect to find anything I loved, but I at least had hope that I would find something that would work for at least a few days. Fortunately, I did.

Upon the advice of a friend (thank you, Jen!), I went to Old Navy. Now, I'm not going to lie. I'm not a fan of Old Navy. The styles are cute, but the quality? Big thumbs down. Desperate times, however, call for desperate measures. And I was indeed desperate. Jen informed me that one of our local Old Navy stores has a maternity section, and that they also carry smaller sizes (my size is hard to find in maternity).

So, what happened at Old Navy? Well, I found one pair of pants. Actually, more like sweats. Not my typical workout attire, but OK for a temporary thing. I also found a couple of tank tops. The pants are too long (of course), but at least they aren't too tight! This was great and everything, but it didn't solve the sports bra problem. And I had to solve this problem before attempting another workout.

Admittedly, I was worried. Bra shopping, any type of bra shopping, often brings me to tears (and I am not a crier, so you know it has to be bad). I wondered what I would do if I couldn't find anything. Stop working out? Keep squeezing into my pre-pregnancy ones? Cry more tears?

Anyway, I tried Aries Apparel first. No luck. Then, I went to Lulelemon. Hahaha. I usually love Lululemon, but I actually walked out of the store that day thinking "I cannot believe that just happened." I'll have to save the story for another post, though.

By this time, it was getting fairly late in the afternoon and I had to start thinking outside of the box. I also had to be a little more open-minded in terms of style, and I had to adjust my expectations. I knew I wasn't going to find anything like the Shock Absorber bra. I resigned myself to settling and headed to Target (don't get me wrong, I love Target -- but usually not for this type of purchase). Turns out, settling was a smart thing to do because I tried on something I would normally pass right over -- the Champion C9 compression sports bra. And while it certainly isn't anything I would wear under normal circumstances (it would never work for running, for example), it works for now. Fairly comfortable, too.

I made it home just in time to change in to my new clothes and make it to the gym by 6:30. Because the pants were too long, they weren't perfect (tripping was a huge issue). I have since turned them into at-home lounge-wear (my maternity workout clothes did arrive, and I love them), but I am still glad I made the purchase because, well, at-home lounge wear is always a staple (even when you're not pregnant). 

What was your experience shopping for maternity workout clothes?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Today, I'm guest blogging for For Two Fitness

I'm super excited to announce my new guest blogging gig with For Two Fitness. My first post went up today, with more to follow (my posts will appear once a week or so). I hope you'll stop by, check it out and leave a comment. While you're there, take a look at their very cute maternity workout clothes. If you're pregnant, the tank tops are a must!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Paleo fetus food

I have blueberries for breakfast several mornings per week.
Does this mean my baby will be born a blueberry connoisseur?
I just learned something that doesn't surprise me at all but is still incredibly fascinating. Now that I am 20-weeks along, my baby is drinking amniotic fluid every day. This fluid apparently helps her stay hydrated and energized, and it also helps her learn how to swallow and helps her body figure out how the digestion process works.

Cool, of course -- but the most interesting part (to me, anyway) is that the amniotic fluid varies every day based on what I eat. Legend has it that my baby will develop tastes and preferences for different things based on her experience with the amniotic fluid.

So, if I want her to enjoy healthy paleo food after she is born I need to make sure she gets plenty of it while she is still in the womb. All the more reason to stay on track. And if this is all true? Well, my baby will probably love blueberries, scrambled eggs, big green salads and -- most of all -- dark chocolate!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

20 weeks pregnant: a status report

We are now at the halfway point! It's time to start getting things done around here to prepare for our baby girl's arrival. We have closets to clear out, rooms to rearrange and baby supplies to purchase. Our goal is to have everything finished by Labor Day Weekend. That way, we can spend the last six weeks or so of the pregnancy just kicking back.

So anyway, at week 20 I have gained 14 pounds (it was 15, until I cut salt out of my diet). Here's what my belly looks like today:

I've learned that the baby is now the size of a small cantaloupe, supposedly. What To Expect When You're Expecting says she should weigh about 10 ounces and Your Pregnancy Week By Week says 9 ounces. My baby weighs 13 ounces. And, since I've gained 14 pounds, apparently I am huge, too. I just entered my stats into an online pregnancy weight gain calculator and it told me that I am "two pounds over the high-end of my target weight range." It says I need to be more conscious of my caloric intake, and I need to make sure I consume no more than 300 extra calories per day (right now, I consume zero extra calories -- I don't need or want extra food). More proof that all the shoulds and supposed-tos and averages out there are pretty much all bunk. I'm doing everything right in terms of health and I know I am gaining exactly what I need to gain. Plus, I am still doing overheard lunges with 25-pound plates, along with kettlebell swings, sled drags and wall balls. To me, that is all that matters.

Working out today at Sweat360, in my new favorite tank top from For Two Fitness.

Low sodium paleo, part two

Five days ago, I decided to completely eliminate salt from my diet in an attempt to get rid of edema. Since then, I haven't added a drop of salt to anything (not even recipes). Good news! It totally worked! My feet and ankles are no longer swelling up and my shoes fit again. My weight also dropped by one pound (I'm sure this extra pound was water retention). So, I'm going to keep this up and hope the edema stays away.

Despite my salt-fiend tendencies, I do not miss it. It's almost like I'm experiencing something new every time I pass up the salt. Hard boiled eggs taste different without salt. Guacamole tastes different without salt. And salads taste different without salt. Different, and better. I should have done this ages ago!

In looking into how to deal with this problem, I read some vague and fairly pointless advice. Advice like "give up junk food." I agree, of course, that pregnant women should give up junk food -- but I am living proof that junk food is not the only concern. How about advising women to follow a low-sodium diet? That would make a lot more sense!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A baby girl!

Here she is! Right now, she weighs 13 ounces and is very active. She wouldn't even stay still long enough for the ultrasound tech to get a good picture of her profile. This is her little face. I'm sure this is just my imagination, but I think she looks like Carl in this photo.  

Now, on to the giveaway. The winner is Dr. Lizzie Harris McCormick! Congratulations! Lizzie is also expecting a baby and blogging about her paleo pregnancy. Check her out over at The Cavegirl Code: Fit, Fertile and Fabulous. Lizzie, I'll email you so I can get your address and pop your copy of Everyday Paleo in the mail.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Low sodium paleo

Confession: I love salt. Even before paleo, I never had much trouble turning down sweets. The salty snacks have always had my heart. And to this day, I probably use too much sea salt in my paleo cooking. I always sprinkle salt on my scrambled eggs. I always add it to salad dressing, and I always use it to "season" vegetables.

This has to stop right now, because something terrible has happened. I've outgrown one of my favorite pairs of shoes. What I mean is, I've fallen victim to the pregnancy side effect known as edema. I realized this a couple of days ago when I tried to fit my feet into my Calvin Klein Scarlet Platform Pumps.

The shoes I used to wear.
They were so, so tight. My right foot was the worst; I crammed it in but it was painful. So, I put the shoes back in the box and back in the closet. Sigh.

I've also noticed that my ankles and feet are visibly swollen in the evening. I can feel the swelling, too, and I don't like it.

I'm not sure if it will help, but I'm going to try a very low sodium diet to try to combat the swelling (admittedly, I should have done this along time ago -- excess salt is not very paleo, pregnant or not). This means no more salt on my plate, period. I'll probably still use a dash of it here and there in recipes, but that is it.

Today is day one of my low-sodium experience, and so far so good. My scrambled eggs were great with just black pepper and sun-dried tomatoes!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Running, workouts and modifications in week 19

Last week I decided I am done with running for the duration of my pregnancy. I'm just not liking it right now. Instead of running for the fun  of it, I have to monitor my heart rate. I have to make sure I don't get overheated. I have to pay extra close attention to terrain. All of this extra stuff (obviously important before, too, but much more so now) makes running feel like a required task rather than just an enjoyable way to get some exercise. Plus, I'm uncomfortable because my running pants don't fit anymore. So, I'm done. I'll definitely pick it back up again next year (with my baby in a jogging stroller), and when the weather shapes up I'll probably get outside and do some walking. For now, though, I'm sticking with my workouts at Sweat360. I'm pretty sure that's enough!

I have reached the point in my pregnancy, though, where I have to make some changes and modifications at the gym. I can't do anything on my back or anything ab-focused anymore, which rules out a few moves in TRX. It also rules out kettlebell get-ups (um, shoot??) and tabata sit-ups. I'm using lighter weights, too. Just yesterday we worked on push presses, and I used a 50-pound bar. It wasn't easy, but it felt light. I know I am capable of more, but it just doesn't seem like the right thing to do. I have the rest of my life to focus on getting stronger -- right now I just need to take care of myself and keep my baby safe. One way I do this is by listening to the voice in my head that says 'this is enough.'  I also have great coaches and friends who are always looking out for me and the baby.

By the way, if you're not sure how to modify your workouts -- check out Crossfit Mom, where you'll find some guidelines for first, second and third trimester modifications as well as a list of substitute exercises for burpees, rope climbs, box jumps, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, handstand push-ups, cleans and snatches. I learned a few things when I read it, and it was also really validating.

PS: Don't miss your chance to win a copy of Everyday Paleo! All you have to do is guess whether we're having a boy or girl, and post your guess in the comments section of Monday's post.