The Great Dairy Debate

People have been programmed to believe that dairy is the best source of calcium, which promotes the healthy growing of bones and what not.  This, like many things that we are raised to believe in school about nutrition is not true.  There are plenty of alternatives for the intake of key nutrients that dairy is supposed to impart – like calcium, protein, and various other vitamins and minerals.  Leafy greens, like spinach, broccoli, and kale are excellent sources of this vital mineral.  In fact, two of the best foods a person can consume that are nutrient dense are spinach and broccoli.  So, Popeye was on to something, right? “Strong to the Finish.”  For example, a cup of spinach contains about 245 mg of calcium and broccoli 124 mg.  Almonds are also a great source of calcium, protein and fiber.  

When was the last time people read the label on their milk? See that part that says Vitamin D has been added… that isn’t a good sign.  I have learned that if you have to add or fortify something in order for the good stuff to be absorbed into your body, than you should just put it back on the shelf and walk away.  That is not the product you want.  No additions should be necessary.  That’s perfectly logical, right? So, why do so many people not get it?

Pasteurized dairy that is sold in supermarkets is out of the question.  Just stay away from it.  The primary point of pasturing milk is to destroy germs that may be contained, but the process also destroys the nutritional value.  Pasteurized dairy has been linked to all sorts of health issues, including allergies, diabetes, and cancer.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Washington Center for Clinical Research have complied studies to show the connection between the consumption of pasteurized dairy and increased cancers in specific body regions. Namely: prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers.  I’m sure many people will roll their eyes at the thought of another thing that causes cancer, but honestly it is a fact of life in our society.  Diseases, like cancer, are a result of the modern age, the Industrial Revolution, and the change of human diets to include processed, refined, infused garbage.  Dr. Cordain highlights these findings in his book about The Paleo Diet and the influx of modern disease in our civilized society.

In a Harvard Physicians Health Study about the effects of dairy on men, it concluded that males who consumed more than two dairy servings a day had a 34% greater risk for developing prostate cancer than in men who consumed one or none a day.  You are probably wondering what the link or cause is.  They have determined that dairy products increase the level of IGF-1 in the bloodstream, which is a potent stimulus for cancer cell growth.  IGF-1 is insulin-like growth factor 1.  It is a hormone that has a similar structure to insulin in the body.  It is important to growth in children and in adults has anabolic effects.  Which means, it causes organ and tissue growth.  It is a long banned performance enhancer in the realm of sports.  It is only approved by the FDA for children with a rare condition where their bodies do not make enough of it; therefore they are allowed to have injections to promote the growth of muscles and bones.

In women, the study correlated that for every 10 grams of lactose consumed, about one glass, ovarian cancer risk increased by 13%.  I’m pretty sure that means that milk doesn’t do the body good.  Or at least, the kind of milk we buy on the shelves in most supermarkets. The key player that affects women is galactose, which is a component of lactose.  

Studying various cultures’ and societies’ diets has allowed correlations to be drawn to pinpoint issues in the diets of other societies.  For example, in Asian cultures where dairy is not a normal part of consumption, breast cancer is much rarer than in the United States and Europe where dairy is a large part of diets. Dairy products do not contain the cancer fighting agents and nutrients that the green leafy veggies I mentioned before have.

There is of course the debate of raw milk vs. pasteurized milk.  The FDA and the CDC would have us believe that raw milk is dangerous because it contains microorganisms and harmful bacteria that are not killed off during the processing of dairy.  The bacteria, like Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria can be responsible for foodborne illness.  Sure, that’s possible.  Anything is really. Contamination is possible with any and all foods.  Look at the outbreak of Salmonella a few years back in regards to spinach because of the lack of hygiene in the fields where workers were picking the vegetable.  It comes down to hygiene.  Most states have strict regulations for raw milk. The California Department of Food and Agriculture notes on their website that the use of proper procedures and sanitation of equipment allows for raw milk to meet the bacterial standards outlined for all milk.  California is the leading milk producer in the United States. 

Obtaining non-hormone, non-antibiotic, grass fed dairy can be a challenge.  Why are those three components important if a person is thinking about consuming some sort of dairy?

–          The infusion of hormones into foods can cause cellular mutations, leading to the increased health risks. rBGH, a synthetic growth hormone, is used to get cows to produce more milk, bringing the average up to around 50 pounds (6+ gallons), whereas in 1930 they produced about 12 pounds (1 ½ gallons). Unnatural, huh? Wanna put that into your body? Gross.

–          The over prescription of antibiotics and the use of them in food sources is creating super bugs, in a nutshell.  Antibiotic resistance has become a serious issue with a lot of media attention in the past few years.  The bacteria strands are mutating and rendering antibiotics ineffective. Factory farmed animals have a sickly nature, due to a combination of hormone injections, living conditions, and food supply. Therefore, they are fed antibiotics from birth to death.  Milk contains traces of up to 80 different antibiotics, according to Nutrition News and Views. Commercially raised meats and poultry are laden with these chemicals, which are then consumed by people.

–          Grass fed is extremely important. The natural diet of a cow is grass.  They are meant to graze along a pasture.  However, in order to produce the quantity needed to satisfy consumer needs at quick and cheap rates, cows are fed mainly a grain mixture.  Grain in cows, like in humans, is difficult to digest. The typical diet on large commercial farms is corn, which receives of about 80% of all herbicides.  Animal products contain 14 times more pesticides then the plants we consume.  Another very chilling factor in what cow’s consume, is approximately 40 billion pounds of slaughterhouse waste (think blood, bone, and intestines) plus millions of euthanized cats and dogs, according to a US News & World Report article.  The FDA halted the feeding of slaughterhouse waste for a brief period during the Mad Cow Disease scare in 2003.  There was a proposal introduced in the early 2000’s to end the feeding of animal byproducts to other animals that has yet to be implemented.    

You are what you eat, right? Well, if you eat foods that are infused with chemicals, hormones, and all other manners of nasty things then logic dictates that is exactly what will happen to your body.  The consumption of those unnatural products will cause unnatural results in the human body.  

I could go on and on about the treatment of animals on these big agri-business farms, but I won’t.  After all, that is the primary reason that I was a vegetarian for over a decade.  But, that isn’t the point of this posting.  Dairy – it’s a grey area, that’s for sure.  To me, it is not Paleo.  It violates one of the basic principles of the Paleo lifestyle/diet plan.  So, I certainly wouldn’t recommend consuming it. If you can’t live without diary for whatever reason, or are going to use it as your cheat, than buy raw, grass fed.  And remember moderation, please.   

Here is the link to assist in finding your local source for raw milk: Where To Find Raw Milk

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The Fakes

I love cooking/baking. I love Paleo. Therefore, I love Paleo cooking/baking.  I have some favorite blogs that I follow that have wonderful recipes that are Paleo and provide wonderful inspiration for the dishes I make.  However, lately I am noticing a trend that is very unsettling.  There is an upsurge of blogs that claim to offer Paleo diet recipes, however they are laden with dairy products.  I feel like this puts out the wrong message for people who are new to the nutritional lifestyle of Paleo and do not fully understand what it is.  Essentially, to me, it’s false adverting.  In Dr. Cordain’s book “The Paleo Diet”, Chapter 2 lays down the ground rules for the Paleo Diet.  Low and behold – Rule #5. No Dairy Products.  Granted, he does note that it is not a “fanatically strict diet” and that there are levels, but I would think that is a pretty clear message about dairy and its relation to Paleo.

Here comes a logic puzzle, which illustrates the idea perfectly. All Paleo is gluten free, however all gluten free is not Paleo.  Make sense? There is a difference between Paleo and Gluten-free.  I think this is where the blogs that I mentioned before have failed their consumers.  And this makes me pretty mad. They are misleading consumers, the way that the USDA misleads Americans with the food pyramid.  But, don’t get me started on that side of it.  I could go on for days with my frustrations involving the politics of the food pyramid and the disservice it is doing to the American public.  Perhaps, a blog for another day.

Gluten free is the new rage. I have no problem with that.  Many celebrities and athletes have switched to a gluten free lifestyle, so that means it has gained media attention and the spotlight.  I was once like millions of Americans and didn’t know the effects that this thing known as “gluten” had on my health.  By starting a Paleo lifestyle though, it came as being naturally gluten free.  Now, I too notice the effects it has on my health and well-being.

The issue I have with these blogs is the blank stamping of the Paleo label on things that, well, just aren’t.  There could be several reasons why people do this, some out of ignorance and perhaps some out of personal gain… I’m not sure of their motivations.  I visited a blog the other day that claimed to have Paleo Italian recipes.  I am always on the hunt for not only new ideas, but also foods that I loved once upon a time and am interested to see the work someone put in to making them Paleo-friendly.  I love the creativity of the kitchen. The blog in particular that caused me such a shock was for a fettuccine alfredo sauce.  My mouth was watering at the thought of it, but then I clicked the link and was floored.  The recipe – claiming to be Paleo- involved heavy cream and various cheeses.  Now, I know some people in the Paleo community have discussed the benefits of raw milk from grass-fed cows and goats… but there was no mention of this caveat anywhere.  In reality, this recipe was gluten-free… NOT PALEO.  It was completely mislabeled.  This wasn’t the first time that I’ve come across mislabeling.  This isn’t the first time that I have discovered a blog through my Internet browsing that claims to be Paleo and is not really.  As Peter Griffin would say: “That really grinds my gears.”

Family Guy references aside, this trend is unsettling. Granted, it is not like there is some tribunal out there for this type of misinformation that goes out on the Internet.  The Internet is both a blessing and a curse.  I would hope for people though, that they would do research and find out what something is truly about before jumping in to it.  Then, they too would be able to pick out the fakes.  I suppose that would mean that I would have to have faith in the American public, which on a whole I’m pretty cynical about.  For now, I guess I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Now, some of the blogs I follow do an excellent job of highlighting the differences and offering alternatives based on diet specifics.  Two of my favorite – Against All Grain and The Urban Poser.  Both ladies do an excellent job at labeling their recipes accordingly.  This makes me happy.  They are conscience about the differences and the contribution that they are making to the health community.  They are informed and leading people in the proper direction.  My hat’s off to them, their amazing recipes, and staying true.  (Side note: If you haven’t checked out their stuff, well you should… and thank me later.)

So, I’ve decided to put down some of my thoughts and compile my personal research about dairy and gluten, which I was planning to do at some point, but after my Facebook post yesterday after finding that fake Paleo recipe, my friend Michele confirmed that I should.  Stay tuned.

Easter

My wonderful brother and me

My wonderful brother and me

It is always so lovely to get together with family and celebrate the holidays. Growing up I remember Easter always being a big deal in our house. Not only would the “Easter Bunny” leave a basket of treats and a new stuffed animal, but we were also be reminded of what the day stood for, the day that Jesus rose from the dead.  We were raised with a strong spiritual background. Despite the fact that I do not attend church anymore as far as a building, I do still have Jesus in my heart and on my mind. Easter Sunday included. We would pack up the car on Sunday morning and head down to southern Maryland to visit family for our annual Easter picnic. There would be an egg hunt and great food. It was pot luck, but I remember how much effort my Aunt Terry always put into making so much. She does at every family event. She is always the busy bee in the kitchen making wonderful food to fill our bellies. This past Easter, I fulfilled a similar role at my brother’s house. I think I have more insight now into my Aunt and her love of cooking for the family.

Preparing the Easter Ham

Preparing the Easter Ham

After working all night, I drove to Los Angeles early in the morning sans sleep.  I arrived with a box full of my “tools” (aka my kitchen stuff) ready for a fun filled family day.  I knew that my brother’s kitchen was limited on culinary things.  After a wonderful breakfast with Michael and Camilla we did a little grocery shopping at Sprouts to get all the ingredients for the menu we had prepared.  I, of course, had to take a little nap before the festivies could begin.  In true Cheeseman children fashion, my brother went to the gym.  Just because it’s a holiday, doesn’t mean you can’t get your fitness on, right? I awoke ready to start the long tradition we have held, but not been able to fulfill in the past few years.  Our schedules make it crazy to be able to spend a holiday together anymore.  So this was a moment not to be missed.

Two years ago we were able to spend Thanksgiving together and my brother was hell-bent on a traditional full Thanksgiving.  Being the loving sister that I am, I obliged.  I even made mashed potatoes!! This year though he was all for me preparing a gluten-freMy Ham Helpere, dairy-free, Paleo-Awesomeness meal.  It didn’t take as long as I thought to prepare the meal.  This was the first ham I have prepared and I have to say I think that it came out A-okay.  By the amount of food that was eaten, I think that everyone was in agreement.  A 9.5 pound ham is a lot for 4 people, but who doesn’t love ham right?!?

Our Easter Spread

Our Easter Spread

The menu included everything from appetizer to dessert. We enjoyed some wonderful wine, classic rock music, and wonderful conversation while everything was being prepared.  For an appetizer, I made bacon wrapped dates. They were awesome and had me craving them for the longest time.  Michael, Camilla, and Andrew couldn’t get enough.  For dinner we had the ham, of course, but also sauteed asparagus, strawberry and candied walnut salad, pumpkin bacon chive biscuits, and wonderful mashed cauliflower made by the lovely Camilla.

The meal was so fulfilling that no one had room for the dessert I had planned to make afterwards, Strawberry shortcake. As we sat around and kept talking, we started to eat the Peeps though.  It’s not really Easter without them either, right? Jesus and Peeps.  I did make the Strawberry Shortcake the next night.  It came out wonderfully.

Enjoying some Vino and Bacon wrapped dates

Enjoying some Vino and Bacon wrapped dates

After all was said and done, we had consumed 4 bottles of wine and shared an untold number of laughs.  There was a moment sitting at the table with the three of them that I reflected on how food brings us to fellowship.  It is a staple of life that keeps our bodies nurished, but our family and friends provide so much more.  The dinner table brings us together.  It provides the perfect space for us to shake off the rest of the world and come together in a moment of true human interaction.  Interaction that is vital to us.  Our world has become so faceless and disconnected with technology.  Not that I don’t love aspects of technology that help keep me connected to family and friends around the world, but we as a society need to get back to setting down the phone, turning off the television, and disconnecting from the digital space.  We need to sit down to more tables and have conversations with people.

Andrew wants to be served like the Ladies

Andrew wants to be served like the Ladies

Communication skills are important and are developed early on partly at the table.  I get lost at the table for hours talking to family and friends.  Honestly, it is one of my favorite things.  It’s somewhat strange since I would rather text then speak on the phone.  (side note: I detest talking on the phone usually. It makes my face all hot from the device and it generally bores me. I do however speak to my mother at least 4-5 times a week on the phone. I’m an awesome daughter like that.) My great friend Michele and I just got lost in conversation at the Happy Hour table for over 4 hours the other week.  Conversation brings us together in ways that technology can not.  Those memories, laughs, and moments are things that we carry through life.

What I have to work with at Michael's

What I have to work with at Michael’s

I remember sitting on the couch with family members once and seeing a public service type ad on television promoting family meals at the table.  This seemed like such a weird concept to me.  There was an ad promoting what was natural in my household growing up? I remember feeling like this was such an odd thing.  In today’s current society I see why.  Everything is so rush, rush, rush.  People are too busy to take that time to sit down.  Nowadays, I see parents at the table not engaging in conversation with each other, let alone their childern.  I see mobile phones and other electronic devices allowed at the dinner table stealing away attention and focus.  And that’s a very sad thing.  So much magic can happen from something so very simple.

058I loved the time we had at the dinner table as kids.  We talked about our days.  Our parents were involved in our lives and we in theirs.  We went around asking each other “what was the best part of your day and the worst part”.  This gave us a chance to share in the triumphs and band together in the worst.  I was the kid that went through “I woke up at ___ time. I brushed my teeth. I ate breakfast…” and so on.  Sometimes I proceded that way for a while until I was stopped and made to get to the point by my brothers.  One of the most wonderful things I remember though was that the best part of our days typically came down to the dinner table.  We were all in agreement when asked – the best part of our day was being together as a family.  I think that made a difference in our childhood.  I think that made the difference in us.  Fellowship at the table helped to connect us to something magical, Love.

Those peeps didn't stand a chance

Those peeps didn’t stand a chance

I’m so thankful that my passion in food will ultimately bring fellowship. I look forward to the day that my family can sit at the table and share their days.  Until then, I will enjoy the moments I can and remember all the laughter from Easter this year.  In reality, the wine had nothing to do with it.  It’s what naturally happens when you sit down with people you care about.  Wine is simply the bonus.

A Laugh a Minute

A Laugh a Minute

I look forward to each and every moment I have with my brother, who is also my best friend.  The time that we have together is so precious, as we have found out.  And although our lives currently do not afford us the opportunities to get too much time together, we make due.  And each and every time its full of laughter and fun.  We are just a silly pair.  As our parents always remind us about the time we get to spend together –  “It’s not quanity, it’s quailty”.  I do love quality time.

 
                                    

Culinary Genius

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I am a culinary genius! Or so I’m going to keep telling myself…

Last night I was making “lunch” for work. I was a little ambitious in thinking I could make paleo potstickers in like 2 hours. But hey, I’m crazy like that and thought I would give it a try. Fail.

Yet, something amazing came out of it. Roy has aptly named them Asian Burritos. So… That is what they shall be known as.

The problem: they just did not want to close. The filling was great and the wrapping making went well. However, for some reason they just did not want to cooperate during the assembly process. I didn’t have time to trouble shoot the problem since I was on such a strict deadline. So in that sense, I am once again back to the drawing board. On the other, I have created something awesome and delicious!

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It’s wonderful how discovery and exploration happen in the kitchen. It really is like a laboratory where the magic of science takes place. The combination of ingredients and the fusion of flavors are my choice of chemistry! There is always room to exercise my mind, solve problems, and grow. I love the challenges cooking presents and the reasoning skills it requires.

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Back to my lab 😀

The Quest for French Macarons: Paleo Style

A few months ago I was introduced to this delightful little cookie, The French Macaron.  However, let me digress a little further back to give the whole picture. I have been pursuing the Paleo lifestyle for almost 2 years now. It has made wonderful changes to my health. I am one of the millions of Americans with an autoimmune disease.  I came about Paleo through my boyfriend and by joining the CrossFit community.  I had no idea the benefits it would have to me. Within, I would estimate, this last year or so I started pursuing ways to make everything Paleo. I was starting to get bored with the same ole stuff and started using the Internet to find ideas. I have found some of the most amazing food blogs all around Paleo and grain-free lifestyles. Most of those wonderful ladies (and gent) have their own book deals now and I am anticipating many releases. I have learned so much from reading their blogs. I have compiled my own database of over 200 recipes, mostly desserts I must confess, by experimenting and learning all sorts of new things. I have even thrown around the idea of attending culinary school and opening my own Paleo Bakery. Of course, getting injured at work about 8 months ago and having lots of time to do research and bake has helped too. My dad taught me the love of baking when I was little. I have always loved it! From cake decorating to sugar cookies at Christmas, but baking Paleo I’ve had to reprogram myself.

A Very Akward Young Me (with braces,of course) decorating a cake for 4-H

Cake Decorating

Enter Camilla. My brother’s lovely girlfriend. Guess what, we have similar eating styles because she has an autoimmune as well. The two of us have bonded over our love of grain-free desserts. This past Christmas I complied a personalized cookbook with my favorite Paleo recipes just for her. She has loved them! Her favorite cookie- French Macarons. I had heard of them, but I didn’t know much about them. The sophisticated little cookies that Blair on Gossip Girl couldn’t live without was about all I knew. Turns out though, by design they are grain free. Not Paleo though, on the account of all the confectioner’s sugar. I searched and searched for a Paleo version online and I came up short. So with everything that I learned about making French Macarons and everything that I have learned over the past few years about Paleo baking, my quest began – devise a recipe for Paleo French Macarons.

From everything I have read, there is a reason why these cookies cost like $3-4 each! There is a lot of technique and finesse that goes into every aspect of it. From the way and how long you do the “macaroning” to the proper amount of poaching to get perfect feet… WOW it’s quite a long process. I think now I am going to have to invest in a stand mixer. Trust me; I’m not broken up about it. It would be a dream comes true. So I have devised my own recipe and I think it will take some time to perfect the most basic cookie, let alone making all the wonderful flavor and colors out there. I am up to the task though. I love a good challenge.

My first attempt. Back to the drawing board...

My first attempt. Back to the drawing board…

My first batch did not come out to perfection. I was skeptical when I was poaching, but I’m not going to let good ingredients go to waste. I used honey as my first “sugar” medium. I don’t think that was the problem though. Troubleshooting a recipe takes a lot, but luckily I can draw parallels to what the original recipe states. The batter was too thick in this case. Therefore, the poaching process could not take place. It didn’t settle properly to allow the feet to stand up. One additional issue was the over mixing in the macaroning process. This will cause the egg whites to fall and therefore you will get cracking. I think these two issues combined means its back to the drawing board for me. These will still make tasty little cookies, nevertheless, that I am sure will be devoured in a matter of minutes. Especially because of their bite sized nature.

I’ll be back for “Part Duex” with better results… Hopefully!

Paleo Cooking

One thing my injury has given me is a chance to explore my Paleo culinary skills. There are so many sites out there with amazing recipes to try, plus I love to bake. I was talking to Roy about how I’m constantly bouncing from one blog to another with all the amazing libraries available for yummy, healthy food. I am starting to realize that this is a huge thing. Maybe it always has been and I was just oblivious, I don’t know. But I’m glad. The fuel we put into our bodies matters so much. Everything is connected. I have found so many reports and studies through all my internet digging that confirm the principles of Paleo. (And the things Roy has been telling me all along ;))

Back to the baking. I love the recipes that create minimal dishes, because honestly I hate doing dishes. I love to cook and bake… but the dishes are torture at the end. I wish I had a magic wand to wave and they would *poof* be done. I try to clean as I go, but that doesn’t always work out so well. During my time recovering, I haven’t been able to do much, so this seemed like a good use of my time. People typically gain weight when they are hurt because they become more sedimentary. I really hope that hasn’t happened to me. I figured I would search for recipes to all the things I was craving and make them Paleo. It’s hard when you are stuck on the couch all day and the darn advertisers are doing their job at selling you their products. Plus, I’m sure Roy didn’t mind all the mornings he came home to freshly baked cookies because I got bored at 3am. More than treats though, I searched for ways to “spice” up old dishes. Chicken gets boring after a while. And it’s not like time was a factor for me. I’ve had tons of it. Plus, side dishes seem to be rare. There are only so many ways to eat carrots.

With so much down time, my iPad has become my attachment. Not only can I search for blogs full of yummy Paleo treats, but I can play Mahjong till my heart’s content. I suppose we should always try to find a silver lining in the not so great hand we are dealt sometimes. My injury may be temporary, but my love of cooking is permanent.

Setbacks and Attitudes

For those who haven’t seen the pictures of me in a knee brace or seen me hobbling around, I hurt my knee at the end of June while at work. Luckily, I didn’t tear anything and surgery was not necessary… however, I did injury myself pretty bad by hyper-extending the ligaments and hitting it hard enough to cause a deep bone bruise. While the recovery timeline isn’t as long had something worse happened, its still been quiet the setback. Prior to my injury I had been working with an Oly coach at my gym (Jesse) and with Roy to improve my strength, technique, and abilities. I was finally working up the nerve to sign up for what would have been my first real CrossFit competition. I remember sitting on one of the Oly platforms talking to Roy and telling him that I think I finally had the courage to sign up for the LCI (Left Coast Invitational). He thought I should give it a try and that solidified my resolve to do it.

All those hopes stopped abruptly. I have been on the injured reserve list for what seems like forever, but in reality is more like 3 months. I was so bummed about being hurt! I’ve never had an injury like this before. Growing up my Mom had to kick me out of the house to be active. My lifestyle has evolved over time to significantly more active than when I was a child and I suppose an injury was bound to happen at some point. Roy told me that I should just simply try to do what I can. The feeling was still grim. I wasn’t sure what to do. Suddenly things were so different. My physical therapist asked me during our first session what my goal was and what I hoped to get out of therapy. Somewhat of a silly question when I really think about it now but my reply was simple, “So I can CrossFit again.”

Once I got the approval from my physical therapist, I started making attempts in the gym to work on what few things I could/were approved for – core and upper body. I also have tried to work on some of my physical therapy exercises while at the gym too. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking that it will speed up the recovery process and perhaps it truly will make a difference. Most of the time after my physical therapy sessions I simply don’t have enough strength left in my knee to do much.

Honestly though, it’s so hard to walk into the gym, see everyone working out, and know that I can’t participate. It makes motivation to go in quiet difficult. My mind starts to question why I should go when I can’t really do anything. It is so hard to combat the negativity. All the things I can’t do come to mind and all the things I can go right out the window. It seems like with an injury comes depression because it feels like so much has been taken away. I remember walking in one day and seeing sweaty bodies scattered across the floor like a workout war zone and thinking to myself… Gosh I miss that feeling. It hurt. A genuine hurt to witness other people partaking in something I love and being held back on the sidelines.

A positive attitude has not been easy and is still something that I struggle with. I don’t go in nearly enough to work on what I can. I’ll admit that the negativity gets to me sometimes and wins. Jesse asked me at his gym on Labor Day when I would be back. That question looms in the air and my thoughts all the time. When will I be “back”? My mind is ready now. My knee, not so much. I tried to Overhead Squat the PVC pipe a few days ago, to see how it would feel, and the pain after two reps was enough for me to be pushed back into check. My knee isn’t ready. All the time I want to just say “Screw it, I’m going to do what I want”, but at what cost? I could hurt myself further, right, and then possibly have to have surgery thus pushing the timeline back even more.

An attitude affects so much. It weighs so heavily on motivation and drive. That Little Engine That Could lesson from the children’s book is obviously there to teach us an important fact early on in life. Outlook has so much to do with your ability to do something. If a negative outlook is present in your mind than negative results will be produced. Coach Dawn, of Fletcher Fitness, promotes the slogan “Mind Over Matter” on her tank tops. It has really struck a chord with me since my injury. My mind has to overcome the matter of my injury. Even when I’m unmotivated personally, I try to at least cheer for others to help motivate them.

As I heal, I have to find the balance between my mind and my injury. Finding the right combination so that I progress forward, but in a way that doesn’t cause further injury is going to be tricky. I need to push myself, but to remember to listen to my body. All of the one-legged hobbling around though did help me to master the skill of pistols. (That’s a one-legged squat for non-CrossFitters.) I suppose that is a positive outcome in all this. I have to beware not to do too many though, otherwise there will be a much larger disparity between the size of my legs then already exists. And hopefully I’ll be “back” soon enough.

20120916-055622.jpg At Wicked – brace and all

Aside

Color Me Rad

It seems in life there are so few people that you can truly call “friend”. Ya know, that person who would do anything for you and you would do anything for them. People you love and can count on. Due to my knee injury, all running and walking for expend periods is off limits. Two people in my life, that I cherish very much, literally carried me during a 5k race so that I wouldn’t miss out on an event I had been waiting for. They are two of my CrossFit inspirations- always challenging me, always cheering for me. My eternal gratitude goes out to Roy for carrying me pretty much the entire way (running and passing other participants, by the way) and Michele for the city block where we couldn’t stop laughing. I will always be thankful to them for the awesome experience. And I’ll always be the worst backpack ever to them. I love you both! You are beasts!

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A Sunrise

My brother Michael decided to start a trend. When he travels for work he finds trees to carve our big brother’s intials. I look at it as another way for us to take Steven with us everywhere. A way for him to travel and be a part of everything. Michael has taken some great shots and created some brilliant tributes to SAC. I, likewise, have been looking for “the perfect” tree to hold my tribute. I looked at so many and thought about it so many times, but it never felt right. Finally, early one morning while driving at work I saw “IT”. It just so happens that I found “IT” the morning of April 23, 2012… the ten year anniversary of Steven’s death.

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The sun was rising over the horizon on a field with a lake and this lone tree. It was perfect. I felt the inspiration inside me. This was THE tree for me to create my tribute. This lone tree in this perfect field was half alive, half dead. The irony continued because it was a tattoo concept that Michael and I have discussed many times. All the puzzle pieces fell into place. I had my partner pull over on the side of this single lane dirt road. I hopped out and went to work with my $1.00 Wal-Mart knife. It was a labor of love. My knuckles bled as I hacked at the bark to reveal the wood underneath, to make a lasting memorial. After an uncounted amount of time, my hard work paid off to reveal my tribute to Steven on the 10 year anniversary that he was taken from us. My angel in heaven, ever present in my heart.

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My First Half

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Let me start by saying… I HATE running. I loathe it. If you had told me when I was younger that I would run a half marathon, I would have laughed at you. You obviously wouldn’t have known me. That is no longer true. I completed my first half marathon today… Surf City in Huntington, Beach, C.A. in 2 hours, 22 minutes, and 50 seconds.

My friend Michele is the reason I signed up. I mentioned to her that my brother wanted us to run The Great Wall Marathon. Her suggestion was that I start with a half, and she sent me the email link to sign up for Surf City. Her sister Lisa was going to come from New York to run with her. I HAD TO DO IT! She threw down the gauntlet, the way she always does, and I had to rise to the occasion. I accepted her challenge.

Michele, Me, Lisa

I signed up with the intent of training, but I didn’t actually train. I think I had a pretty good time for someone who has probably never run more than 5 miles at one time. I can only imagine what I could achieve if I took the time to train. I figured, if I had to run half and walk the other half, all that mattered would be that I finished it. My parents flew in from West Virginia just to be there for this monumental occasion in my life. My brother didn’t work this weekend so that he could be there. It the meant the world to me to have my family there to cheer for me, hold posters, and flood me with words of encouragement.

Well, I ran the whole thing!! I did walk through the water stations, when I got water, due to my lack of coordination. On the first water station I tried to run and drink… resulting in water up my nose. I had my run mix blaring, but the sight of the various bands set up along the way was such a wonderful gesture. It was so wonderful to see all the supporters and posters along the route. There were personalized posters that made me smile because it’s always so wonderful to have people who support you. There were general well wishers and a army of workers who made the experience so wonderful! I sang to myself while I ran. There were songs that I put on my playlist that made me think of various important people in my life. Each gave me a breath of new life to keep going. Around the 12 mile marker, I saw my brother with a sign. It said “S.A.C. Always with you”. He ran next to me, cheering me on, so proud of me. It made me pick up my pace. I started to lengthen my stride and it was as though I wasn’t tired anymore. It felt like I had both my brothers there with me, running next to me.

I think that the best shirt though went to a girl I saw around the 5k mark. It said “No matter how slow your pace, you are lapping the people on the couch”. I kept that in my head the whole time. No matter what, I was going to keep moving. I think that shirt speaks volumes about the people I saw because I saw people of all age groups and ability out there. Some were there to set new personal records and others were walking just to do it. They were off their couches on Super Bowl Sunday, in the beautiful sunshine of Southern California, being fit and healthy. There really aren’t any excuses.

First Half Marathon

I can’t wait to sign up for my next one. My brother Michael and I are making all sorts of plans for races we want to do. It has opened a whole new world for me. I used to hate working out, then I fell in love with CrossFit. I hate running, yet I completed my first half marathon today. These experiences have made me realize that you shouldn’t limit yourself in life. There literally are NO EXCUSES for not giving something a try. So ask yourself… What are you missing out on in your life because you haven’t really given it a chance?