Monday, July 19, 2010

Life Changes

Being a very neglectful blogger the past several months, I decided that I had something to blog about for a change. It goes back to one of my other themes in this blog about "Baby Steps". It's been more than six months since I blogged here and in that six months I have been taking some baby steps toward a hopefully better life for myself. (At the same time, I have been just as lazy as any other time...and unmotivated.) So, let's look at some of the things I have been doing and how it's going so far.

Have I mentioned previously that I had cut back on eating beef and pork, preferring to stick with poultry and seafood as well as good vegetarian meals? Now I didn't cut out beef and pork 100% because I still like all those meats. But since I wanted to try healthier eating habits, and since I can't just go out to the store any time I want to, I only allowed a small amount of beef or pork into my freezer or pantry. It wasn't all that hard of a change to make. If I really wanted some beef or pork, it was there. But in general, I only prepared the poultry or seafood.

In the meantime, also because of my limited ability to do any shopping for food or anything else, I was able to limit the amounts of junk foods and snack foods that ended up in my home. Over the past four years I had been cutting way back on salt and salty foods. I also had never been much into sugary foods other than my occasional cravings for chocolate. So with the cut back in salt and an increased cut back in sugar products, the next step I took was a bit easier.

I am not going to pretend that removing the poultry from the shopping list came easy. I am not going to say that refusing to buy the beef and poultry I had allowed myself came easy. Neither of that happened overnight. And I had help from two unlikely sources. (I expect laughter and other comments...I admit how this worked seems silly.) Source 1: As a member of Facebook, I enjoy some of the game applications. One such game I enjoy is called "Lil Island Paradise". For all you Facebook users out there, many of you probably already know what this game is. For those who don't, it's basically a game where you are given a small island and a few small patches of garden, a couple animals, a tree or two and a few other things you might find as a castaway on a deserted island. From there, you grow your garden, sell your crops, and buy your necessities as you choose. For my island, it became an imaginary "home away from home" type of mental vacation spot. Since I cannot really get away to any kind of vacation spot right now, playing this game became my daily vacation spot. As I was able to build more and grow more items on my island, and increase the size of my island, I started to make my island a place I could possibly live on if I ever got the opportunity. (There is nothing there to make a cottage or house with yet...but they let you build a barn with help from barn for me. Haven't seen the point of it yet.) I could make up stories about my "life" on the island if I wanted to. But one of the things that came from this that helped lead me to my current eating plan was to think about what I might be able to eat if I did live on an island for the rest of my life. Source 2: In January of this year I started watching the television series LOST from the beginning episodes on Mentally I could combine what I saw of the people surviving on their island with my island game. I am not a hunter. But I fish. I garden. I could survive if I had to. Strange as it may seem, it became a game in my mind to figure out what kinds of things I might eat on the island that would not include beef, pork, or poultry.

Now before you all go laughing hysterically at my mental breakdown here of bringing a television series and a Facebook game together to get me to eat more healthy foods, let me also add that I started researching more vegetarian recipes and fish and seafood recipes. I looked at the animals I had on my game island and "pretended" that I would not kill and butcher any of the animals but I would use what they gave for my survival. That meant wool from the sheep and llamas, milk from the goats and cow, and eggs from the birds. I had a good sized garden to raise vegetables, and plenty of fruit trees. I even had enough garden space to create a little trading business with passing ships...(my imagination for my game makes it more fun but only takes me about five minutes a day most days). In my business I sold coffee that I grew myself along with other fruits and vegetables, in trade for whatever other supplies I might need. It's a very basic imaginary life with no electricity, few tools, no telephones, and definitely no computers. Not even a roof over my head that isn't provided by Mother Nature. So, while the survivors on LOST were willing to kill and eat boar whenever they could, I chose to "pretend" that I was eating a basically vegetarian diet with seafood, eggs, and dairy only. And I carried that pretend diet over to real life with my grocery list. Now you can ask the people who do my shopping for me when I can't get out to do it myself. I don't stick to this 100% of the time. And I still like my chocolate once in awhile. And my KFC! I added one additional restriction to my diet. No yeast products. It is now very rare that I will even eat pizza. So to get that pizza flavor without having pizza, I make pasta dishes with pizza ingredients...vegetarian pizza ingredients.

I guess it was in March this year that I decided to try this vegetarian lifestyle. No beef. No pork. No poultry. After a couple weeks I realized I was feeling pretty good. But I was hungry for something not on the diet. I wanted real meat. I wanted beef. I don't remember what I ate. But I had it for a couple of days in a row. That's when I started to realize that I didn't feel as good as I had been feeling before I broke the diet. So I continued with the vegetarian diet until the next craving. Again, I could tell the difference. And if I broke down and had some pizza, or bread for sandwiches, I really didn't feel good. (I can eat biscuits, and other non-yeast breads and pasta. It's the yeast that I don't do well with.)

So I followed this vegetarian diet for two months. I really enjoyed eating more fruits and vegetables. I found out that the grocery stores carry a lot more variety for this kind of healthy eating than they did even 10 years ago. I also found that there are lots of good recipes available online for using fruits and vegetables. One of the best things I found out was that I could easily fill up on the vegetables and not overdo it in the calories. (I am also watching the number of calories I eat each day.)

It was time to take the next step. Only this step was not to be a baby step at all. It was a major step that I am still dealing with and will be dealing with for several more months. It was time to get off my crutches and have a knee replacement.

One thing I felt great about prior to going into surgery for my knee replacement was that I had been preparing my body for the previous two months with this healthy "fishy vegetarian diet" as I called it. I knew that I had done the best I could in the time I had to eat healthy foods so my body would be ready to deal with the trauma involved in total joint replacement surgery. In that area I was ready.

I knew that total knee replacement surgery was no picnic. I knew it was going to take a long time for recovery. I had read these things. My doctor had told me these things. The people at the hospital's total joint replacement clinic had told me these things. I was as mentally prepared as I could be. And I was very close to being terrified. Knowing I tend to panic way too easily didn't help at all. On Monday, May 24, 2010, I went in to have my right knee have the ends of two of my bones sawed off and replaced with metal parts that will cause me to make metal detectors ring alert bells when I pass through. I was afraid. What if something went wrong? Would I ever be able to walk again? Even walking on crutches for the past year was better than not being able to walk at all. And, as silly as it might sound, I went through a grieving process for the parts of my bones that I was going to lose forever. This was much more than a simple baby step in my life. And I planned to document every part of this life changing event that I could with photographs.

Eventually, I hope to get back to this subject of my knee replacement in another blog. But the main topic of this blog tonight is the eating plan.

While I was at the hospital after the surgery, I was able to stick to my fishy vegetarian diet very well. The menu they offered was fairly adequate in that regard. It would have gotten tiresome had I had to live on those same foods the rest of my life, but for the three days I was eating from their kitchen, I was happy. Then came three long weeks at a local nursing facility for rehab. Not only was I unable to follow my new fishy vegetarian diet while at this facility, it was very unusual to see many vegetable dishes even available that were not starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes. I ended up eating breads that I didn't want because I was hungry, adding more starch to my meals. They offered one main dish and one alternate dish for each meal. However, the meals were all very unhealthy. Even the nurses agreed that the meals were not healthy meals and they had tried for years to get the menus changed with no success.

The first week immediately after the surgery my body became diabetic for the first and only time in my life. It wasn't until the second week that I was back to pretty much normal. I was having my blood tested four times a day every day and if my sugar level was higher than normal, I had to have an insulin shot. For just one example of the poor meal choices, I had gone almost a week without needing any insulin. My sugar level was within normal range at every check. One evening just before supper the test was a low normal. Then we had supper. There was not one item other than the beef that was in the beef and noodles that night that was not starch! With having diabetic relatives, I know that starchy food is to be avoided. The menu that night was beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, corn, and for dessert, I chose the lessor of two sugary evils...tapioca, which I later found out is actually made of wheat. My next blood sugar test that night shot me to the highest blood sugar lever I had tested...206...and resulted in yet another insulin shot!!! In spite of that one bad test, the next day the doctor discontinued the blood tests and I was considered back to normal rather than being diabetic. However, from that point on, while I was in the nursing facility, I tried to be more careful about what I chose from the menus even though choice really wasn't there. Since I was on a regular diet, I was allowed to have whatever I wanted that was available in the kitchen. I did my best to add proteins and avoid the starches whenever possible.

Between the physical therapy, my regular diuretics, and ice packs to reduce swelling, I left the nursing home almost 20 pounds lighter than I went into the hospital for the surgery. In spite of the poor diet, I lost weight. I weighed less than I had weighed in at least two years. Now comes the challenge of keeping that weight off and continuing to lose more. Along with that challenge is one I am not happy with. I am having trouble getting myself back into the mind set of making the fishy vegetarian diet a permanent life style change. I love it. I missed it while I was in the nursing facility. But I also realize that I miss so many of the other good foods available out there. It's still good for right now that I need help getting my groceries and that I am not able to just go out anytime I want to and go buy something to eat. I am still buying the seafood, vegetables and fruits. I am still avoiding the starches, sugary foods, and salt. I rarely drink pop, although I do drink a little milk almost every day as well as orange juice. I avoid foods with yeast as best I can, and eat good yogurt several times a week to help my body deal with any yeast I end up eating. I am still dealing with the recovery issues from the surgery, but walking is better than it was with the crutches. I can live with using a cane most of the time at home and a wheel chair if I have to go any distances.

Baby steps are good but every now and then, life requires a leap of faith.

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