Sunday, January 30, 2011

"I could never do that"

"I could never do that."

This is a comment I often hear when what I eat comes up in conversation.  Especially when I tell people I don't eat any grains, even the so-called "healthy" whole grains.  People really respond strongly to that.   I can't say I blame them, especially since the USDA's food pyramid includes grains as the base of a healthy diet and recommends 6-11 servings/day. 

The truth is, if I really thought grains were healthy for me, I would eat them.  But I don't.  I will detail why in the next post.  For now, this post is going to focus on why a primal diet works for me and how I transitioned away from grains.

If you already read my first blog post, you know that I sort of stumbled upon the notion of a primal diet by trial and error.  Years of following the Standard American Diet finally caught up with me.  I finally figured out that my bloating, gas, acne, thinning hair, dry skin, mood swings, PMS, and difficulty maintaining my weight with the same methods was linked to what I was eating. 

I fooled around with my diet for a couple years, going vegetarian, eating less calories, eating less fat, eating more raw foods, following the blood type diet, and probably other tweaks I can't recall.  In the end, it turned out that I function best on a paleo/primal diet.  Why?  My body does not like most dairy (even raw) or grains (even whole grains, gluten-free grains, and rice).  I dislike even putting a label on my "diet" because it makes it sound like it is something temporary.  It's not.  It just so happens that the food my body craves and thrives on happen to all be on the paleo/primal diet list.  I have been eating primal for the past year now (with the exception of the first few months of my pregnancy where my primal go-to foods literally made me want to hurl, and of course I indulge here and there with cupcakes, birthday cake, and ice cream).

So what changes have I seen in my body since going "primal"?  Here are a few:

  • stronger nails
  • clearer, more hydrated skin
  • thicker hair
  • less bloating and gas
  • less abdominal fat
  • easier to maintain and build muscle
  • less exercise needed to maintain/lose weight
  • more energy
  • less cravings for sugary foods
  • less mood swings (although my husband may disagree LOL)
Of course when you grow up eating bread, pasta, cereal, and other grainy foods, it is difficult to transition them out of your diet.  I am a very disciplined person, especially when it comes to my health, so once I read that something is not good for me, it's fairly easy to eliminate that food.  But, I do crave some of the things I grew up on.  So what do I do when that happens?  I find primal substitutes.  Or, if it is a very strong craving, I indulge, and then I feel like crap afterwards and remember why I don't eat that food anymore!  But finding primal substitutes has really been the key to making the transition to a primal diet.

Here are some of the things I find myself craving now and again, and what primal food I use to fulfill that craving:

  • Pasta:  I LOVE spaghetti squash and use it to replace dishes that call for pasta
  • Breads/Crusts:  I use almond flour and coconut flour and find yummy paleo recipes online or in cookbooks
  • Sweets/Desserts:  I find paleo recipes that use mostly fruit as a sweetener and sometimes I use a little bit of raw honey or stevia
  • Crackers:  I make crackers out of nuts, seeds, or nut flours.  Sometimes veggies alone as a dipper do the trick
  • Crunchy snacks:  Nuts always do the trick for me
Like I said, if I have a REALLY strong craving for something, I will indulge, but it is usually a "planned indulgence."  And I usually feel so yucky afterward, that I am glad I indulged, because it reminds me why I don't eat those foods and I am less likely to indulge (for a long while, at least!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paleo Banana Bread Recipe - Gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free

Every week, I make a little primal "treat" to keep on hand for my sweet tooth that tends to sneak up.  The last couple weeks, I have been really into a banana bread recipe I adapted from this one.  I basically just lowered the honey content, added an extra banana, and used coconut oil instead of grapeseed oil.  My hubby tried it and said it was super moist and tasted like it had a stick of butter in it!

Here it is:


  • 3 cups blanched almond flour
  • ½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 very ripe bananas (about one cup) mashed

1.In a large bowl, mix together almond flour, salt and baking soda

2.In a smaller bowl, combine honey, coconut oil, eggs and vanilla, then stir in bananas

3.Mix wet ingredients into dry

4.Place batter in either a cake pan or two small 7.5″ x 3.5″ loaf pans

5.Bake at 350° for 40 minutes (mine was done in 30 minutes)

6.Remove from oven and allow to cool

Serves 12

Food/Exercise Log

Today was crazy and if I wasn't breastfeeding, I would go drink a bottle of wine all by myself.  Bijon has been super fussy the past few days.  I am going to take him to the chiropractor tomorrow and see if that helps because I have tried ruling out every possible thing that could be bugging him.  I am desperate!

But is what today looked like:


crust-less quiche made with:  eggs, coconut milk, bell peppers, spinach and grass-fed ground beef, green tea with stevia, small slice of paleo banana bread


handful almonds, half orange


I was only able to sneak in a protein shake made with Dr. Mercola's Miracle Whey protein powder, almond milk, chia seeds, and psyllium husk


cottage cheese with applesauce


Crockpot pork chops, caesar salad, blueberries


I binged on extra dark chocolate - I ate like half the bar.  Emotional eating, anyone?


15 minutes on recumbent bike with Bijon sleeping in the Moby Wrap LOL

1.  15 bicep curls, each arm
2.  15 forward shoulder raises, each arm
3.  15 overhead tricep exercises (not sure what they're called), each arm
4.  15 back rows with resistance band
5.  40 abdominal bicycles
6.  Repeat the above five exercises three times total, performing as a circuit with no breaks in between exercises or sets
7.  A few planks for 45 seconds

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Food/Exercise Log

I'm going to start logging my daily or near-daily menu (depending on how crazy that day is with the two kiddos!) and exercise routine. 

I probably exercise 10-30 minutes a day, depending on what I can sneak in.  But I always try to get something in.  I usually aim for 10-15 minutes of weights/resistance/body resistance while Bijon naps and Noah has quiet time and then some kind of light cardio with the kids.  I have learned that daily exercise fills me up and makes me a better mom, so I make it a priority and schedule it in, even if it's only for a few minutes.  If the kids need me, the session is cut short but I always feel better that I at least tried.  And I can always count on a daily walk if all else fails with Bijon sleeping in the Moby wrap and Noah gets to ride his scooter alongside us.  And I figure I must be burning some extra calories too while doing errands and chores with Bijon in the sling or Moby wrap most of the day!

As far as cardio goes, daily walks are always easy to sneak in and I just got a stationary recumbent bike (thanks mom!) off of Craigslist for an unbelievable price, which I will hop on here and there while I'm nursing Bijon.  My husband walks in the room and laughs :)  Bijon loves it because it jiggles him a little bit and I get some exercise in while bonding with him LOL!  Twice a week, I will do sprints on the stationary bike, which only takes 15-20 minutes.  I learned about the benefits of sprinting from Mark's Daily Apple and Dr. Mercola's articles on Peak 8 fitness.  According to Mark Sisson and Dr. Mercola, two to three short sprint sessions a week are far more beneficial than endless hours of cardio.  And Mark Sisson was a marathon runner; go figure!

So here's the menu for today:


2 slices roast beef, slice of paleo banana bread (recipe coming), green tea with stevia


Dr. Mercola Cocoa Cassava Bar


salad made with spinach, brocolli/carrot slaw, grass-fed ground beef, salsa, dollop of sour cream, and 1/2 avocado (no dressing)


handful almonds, 1/2 apple


Wild turbo fish with a shitload of broccoli on the side with butter


Extra dark chocolate square dipped in peanut butter


10 minutes on recumbent bike

1. plank 45-60 seconds
2. 25 standing side leg lifts while balancing on one leg, each side
3. 15 squats
4. 25 donkey kicks each leg
5. repeat the above four exercises three times total (I complete the above as a circuit with no breaks in between exercises or sets; so I am going strong with max effort for 10-15 minutes to complete this routine)
6. 40 inner thigh leg lifts each leg

Monday, January 24, 2011

My body after birth...

I have to admit I was pretty worried about how my body would look after a second pregnancy and had lots of body issues while pregnant this time around.  Maybe it was because the first pregnancy is so new and exciting and I looked forward to my belly expanding.  Or maybe I had body issues this pregnancy because you "show" so much faster during subsequent pregnancies - I definitely did!  I felt like I looked seven months pregnant when I was only four months into it!  Or maybe I dreaded packing on those pounds after I had finally reached my ideal body weight and composition just prior to the pregnancy.  I would love to say that I am one of those women who thinks pregnancy is "beautiful" (I do think it is beautiful on others, just not on me for some reason!) and that I felt "glowy" but the reality is that this time around I was very vain and did not like the way I looked pregnant.  Just being honest here.  No matter how many compliments I received from my husband and others, the truth is, I felt very insecure and couldn't wait to get back to my old self, and wondered if that was possible.  (The fact that I felt absolutely blessed to have a life growing inside of me goes without saying and even if I never looked the same again, it would all be worth it!) 

Well, I followed a mostly primal diet while pregnant, not only to manage my weight gain but also because I feel my best when eating like a cavewoman.  I included some Ezekiel products and oatmeal here and there which are not primal, but I felt like I needed the extra carbs to steadily gain weight.  And of course I splurged on ice cream and other treats here and there, but I never made a habit of it.  So while I am vain, I know it's important to eat healthy and gain the proper weight to support the pregnancy and breastfeeding afterward.  I *wanted* to gain at least 35 pounds to have the healthiest pregnancy possible and to ensure I had adequate reserves for breastfeeding postpartum.  So I gained 36 pounds and although my ass was larger than I wanted and I had bra fat, I was very happy with my overall weight gain.

Fastforward to today.  How do I feel about my body now?  I feel fantastic!  I want to share how I lost the weight and toned up because I myself searched the Internet to find out real life examples of how women got their figures back.  Don't get me wrong...I'm far from a Victoria's Secret Model and won't be donning a bikini any time soon.  I have lovely stretch marks and cellulite dimples that I am learning to live with.  But I think for a new mom two months postpartum, I'm doing alright.  I lost 26 of the 36 pounds in the first month.  I have lost five more in the second month so I still have five more to go.  I do not believe in cutting calories (especially with breastfeeding) or depriving yourself when you are hungry.  I would rather be healthy than thin (well, preferably both) and it's really important to me that my diet is balanced to ensure nutritious breastmilk.

I have found what works for me.  I will say it is difficult to find the time and energy to exercise and prepare nutritious meals, especially when you are nursing and practicing attachment parenting.  But if I can do it, so can others.  Here is what has worked for me:

  • following a primal diet - that means no grains and limiting dairy and sugar.
  • consistent exercise - even if it's only 10 minutes a day, consistency will pay off.
  • breastfeeding - burns up to 500 calories a day!
In my next few posts, I will detail some of my meals and snacks as well as some of my exercise routines.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bijon's birth story...

I woke up at around 5am on Tuesday, November 9th (my birthday and due date!) with contractions lasting around 30 seconds and 15 minutes apart. I tried to go back to sleep but the contractions kept waking me up every 15 minutes. So I decided to get up and upload some pictures and do some other busy work I had been meaning to get to before little Bijon made his arrival.

I went out to breakfast with Simon, Noah and my mom to have some yummy pancakes, waffles, and cinnamon roll French toast at Ruby’s. Yum. It was like the last supper LOL. I figured that was my last chance to eat “like a pregnant woman” because I was pretty sure that the consistent contractions meant I was in early labor. Mind you I never ate like that during the pregnancy so it was really fun to finally splurge and go all out!

The rest of the day the contractions stayed about the same, so I decided to go for a few walks to get things going. I even decided to go get my eyebrows waxed and tinted. A girl’s gotta take care of important business while she can! I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that again for a long while with the wee one on the way. Later that afternoon, I texted my doula and called the midwife’s office to give them a heads up that I may be calling them later when I was in active labor. Later in the night, around 8pm, the contractions started getting closer together and lasting longer, but they were still all over the place (ten minutes apart, five minutes apart, seven minutes apart). I kept in contact with the midwife and doula and then around 10pm I decided to call the doula to get her advice because the contractions were coming about seven minutes apart, lasting around a minute long, and I kept getting the shakes. I took a shower to try and stimulate labor further, but the contractions stayed the same.

Jennifer, our doula, decided to come over around 11pm. When she walked in the door, she decided I still had a long way to go because I “still looked too pretty” in her words LOL. We talked and hung out awhile and I think I got into the tub at one point because the contractions were getting pretty intense. Simon filled up the tub in our living room. It felt sooo good. It didn’t take away the pain, but it definitely took the edge off and I felt much lighter in the water. Jennifer and I chatted in between contractions while Simon took a little rest. It was kind of like a slumber party but with pain sprinkled in every few minutes LOL. Jennifer decided it was time to get some rest because we still had a lot of work ahead of us. We turned on some relaxation music and had some lavender essential oil burning. I tried to sleep on the couch with Jennifer on the bean bag beside me, but I just wanted to be in my bed at that point with Simon’s massaging hands. So I went to the bedroom with Simon while Jennifer slept in the living room.

I tried to sleep in between contractions but they were about five to seven minutes apart so every time I would doze off, another contraction would wake me up. It took so much will power to just relax my entire body during that 60-90 second contraction. I wanted to kick and scream through each contraction, but as I learned in the Bradley classes we took, tensing up only makes the pain worse. So I focused inward, using my own little script, “Relax your face, relax your feet and hands, relax your whole body, especially your birthing muscles. Each contraction brings me closer to my baby.”

After a few hours of enduring the contractions while everyone slept around me, I decided I needed to get back in the tub for some relief. So Simon heated up the water again and Jennifer stayed by my side for another 30-45 minutes. She said we have to get in and out of the tub to get things moving. My contractions were consistently 4-5 minutes apart at this point. It was probably around 3am. I then got out of the tub and Jennifer suggested Simon make us some breakfast so that I keep up my strength. It was so nice to have a home cooked meal in the comfort of my own home, rather than be attached to some IV for nourishment. I was so bloated after all those IV fluids after I had Noah…

Then I went back to the couch with Jennifer, attempting to rest between contractions while she and Simon got some more sleep. I have to admit I felt pretty alone with everyone sleeping around me, but really there was nothing they could do for me and it was better for them to be rested if they could sleep so that my birth team was in good spirits for me when I really needed them.

Around 6am I decided to wake up Jennifer and needed her guidance through the contractions. They were really intense and I was feeling emotionally and physically drained. I got back in the tub for awhile and then Jennifer suggested we go for a walk to get the contractions going (closer together). I started to feel pretty discouraged with how long the labor was taking and was also missing Noah (he was at my mom’s since the day before). I did not want to go for a walk to get things moving LOL. Well, I wanted to get things moving but I felt like I couldn’t stand up and walk for the life of me. My whole labor I just wanted to lean over something, like the kitchen counter or the couch or kneel over the side of the birthing tub. I just did not want to be upright. But I knew we had to get things moving and I was tired of being in labor for so long.

Jennifer, Simon and I went for a walk down Bushard and then circled back through the alley. The walk really brought on the contractions and I leaned over Simon’s arms while he supported me and Jennifer massaged my back through each contraction. Her words of encouragement and massaging really helped me and Simon’s strong arms felt really good when I had no strength left in my body. We kept walking, stopping for each contraction. They were really coming now. I felt like each step I took brought on another contraction. I was not a happy camper. I did not want to take another step but persevered to get this going already! Oh yeah we ate yummy frozen grapes along our walk :)

After we made one loop around the alley, Jennifer said we had to go around one more time and that this is the time that birthing mommies do not like their doulas, because they make them do things they don’t want to do LOL. I was getting pretty irritable at that point, which made me think I had to be in transition. I also felt like I couldn’t go on any longer and kept asking Jennifer and Simon if they thought I could do it. Another sign of transition - self-doubt, hitting the wall so to speak. At one point I just plopped down on the sidewalk, which Simon and Jennifer found amusing. A lady driving by with her kids stopped and asked if everything was OK and I mouthed, “What the fuck are you looking at?” Yeah, definitely in transition. (They didn’t hear me or anything by the way!).

I said I couldn’t walk anymore and that I was feeling pressure in my bottom (a sign that it was soon time to start pushing). So we turned around to go home. Literally every step I took brought on the most intense contraction and even though I was only about 20 feet away from our front door, it felt like an eternity to get there. It was the longest 20 feet I ever had to walk!

We got inside finally and Jennifer called the midwife, Lorri. I got into the tub and endured another hour or so of contractions, each one bringing more and more pressure to push. But I wasn’t quite ready to push yet. My body still had some more work to do, so Jennifer continued guiding me through each contraction. I really needed her guidance at this point.

Lorri showed up around 10am and asked if she could check me. I was hesitant because the last vaginal exam I had was pretty painful and I was afraid that the pain would cause me to tense up and stall my labor. But she said that if I felt like pushing, her exam would tell me if we needed to change positions to get pushing going. I agreed and when she checked me, she said that I was right there, that “your baby is in your vagina, Laura “ and that if I changed to an upright position, the “lip” on my cervix would disappear and I could start pushing.

So I sat upright Indian-style in the tub and sure enough, I felt tons of pressure to push. Simon then got in the tub with me and sat behind me while I held his hands and I started to bear down with the next contraction. I turned into a bit of a crazy woman when I first started pushing. I wanted to be really calm and in control while pushing, but for some reason I just kept screaming with each push. It was a release to let out all those screams because I had kept them in throughout the whole labor through contractions. I’m kind of embarrassed about all the screaming but the birth team didn’t even seem phased and Simon said he thought nothing of it…that he just wanted to take the pain away.

Bijon kept coming in and out with each push and at one point he was right there and I felt like my vagina was tearing apart. His heart rate dropped a little because he was kind of stuck (Lorri said it was no big deal, that my “muscles” were really tight, and she pushed him back in.) That felt really weird! Everyone just kept telling me to listen to my body and push when I felt like pushing. They said that if I was in the hospital, the doctors would be really urging me to push and “coaching” me, but that they as midwives wanted me to really listen to my body. That was really empowering and yet really scary…I think we women in the U.S. expect someone to come save us and tell us what to do, when we have the inner strength, wisdom, and instincts in us all along; if only others would encourage us to listen to and trust our bodies.

I remember at one point sitting in the tub, absolutely exhausted, looking around at my birth team. Each one of them was patiently waiting and perfectly calm. At that point I knew that unless I did this, they would all be here waiting, including me, all day. It dawned on me that this was all me…only I could birth this baby. So I swear I turned into a different woman (Lorri said I turned into “Earth Mama”) and I pushed that baby out with all my might. At one point, when Bijon’s head was crowning, Lorri told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head. I didn’t want to at first for some reason, but I’m so glad I did! I still remember how his soft, wet head of hair felt and I reminisce how that felt when I now rub his sweet little head.

Soon after, Bijon’s head was out and I looked in the mirror one of the assistants was holding to see what it looked like. His face was so scrunched up and he looked like a little old man! I was so excited and proud because I knew the hardest part was over (birthing the head). I said, “I did it! Well, almost!” and Lorri flashed a huge smile, joining me in my pride, saying, “Yes, you did it!” So then it was time to birth the rest of Bijon’s body but for some reason my contractions stalled. Lorri asked me why I wasn’t pushing and asked if I stopped having contractions. I said that they had stopped and she asked if she could stimulate my nipples to get them going again. I agreed and sure enough I had another contraction and pushed Bijon out. Oh I almost forgot - at one point I was pretty exhausted with all the pushing so Lorri asked Simon to push down on the top of my fundus while I beared down with each contraction. This really helped and Simon was really excited to be able to “help” me push the baby out.

Once Bijon was almost out, Simon reached his hands down with Lorri’s hands and they guided Bijon out onto my stomach/chest. They had to maneuver a little so that Simon could reach and in the process, I could feel Bijon kicking his way out of me. It was surreal. Simon and I were both crying tears of joy (Simon especially J ) and we were stuck in time gazing at our precious little boy. Simon kept trying to pull Bijon up on my chest, but the cord was too short to reach that high so Bijon hung out more on my abdomen while in the water. Lorri advised us to get out of the tub and make our way to the couch. This is the best part…I was able to carry my own child after giving birth to him without any help to the couch. When I had Noah, they would not let me walk anywhere with him while holding him…I had to push him around in this stupid cart for liability reasons. Lame. This birth was therapeutic in so many ways.

So we headed to the couch and Bijon latched on perfectly right away with very little guidance from me. The whole birth team was in awe at how quickly and perfectly he latched on. I was able to nurse him for the next two hours on the couch with no interruptions. While I nursed him, I birthed the placenta (on our protected couch) and the midwife wrapped it in a blanket and put it in a plastic bag next to us. We were able to keep the cord attached to the placenta for the whole two hours while I nursed him, definitely ensuring all the oxygen reached Bijon from the placenta in that timeframe. I had learned how important it is to keep the cord attached as long as possible and was really pleased that we were able to do so.

My doula then asked if I was hungry. Of course I was! That was hard work man! So she came over to the couch and spoon fed me while I laid there nursing Bijon. Brunch in bed LOL! Simon stayed with me the whole time and the rest of the birth team left us alone to bond while they ate lunch and completed paperwork at our dining room table. This was really important to me…that we were left alone right away to bond. In the hospital, Noah was on my chest for a brief few moments before they whisked him away across the room with Simon and I was left there in the hospital bed all alone listening to my baby’s cries and being unable to soothe them with my breast right away. What a dramatically different, fulfilling experience we had at home.

After a few hours, it was time to cut the cord, stitch me up, and do the standard newborn exam. We opted out of everything they routinely do in the hospital - no vaccines, no eye ointment, no Vitamin K, nothing. My baby was born pure and clean and has only had breast milk in his system since birth! That thrills me! Not to mention the fact that I had no IV’s, no pitocin, no drugs, nothing in my own system being passed on to him. I experienced a natural high that only natural birth can provide uncomparable to anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life and seriously felt like I could do anything after that. The love, pride, and positive energy of this experience cannot be matched, I believe. I feel like I have completed the female rite of passage and I feel more “whole” if that makes any sense. I’m just beyond happy with my birth experience and love, love, love this baby boy!

on my due date in early labor

some relief in the tub with my doula, Jennifer

just hanging out on Bushard.  What, you've never seen a woman in labor on a major street?

starting to push

Happy birthday, Bijon!!!!

minutes after being born, bonding with mommy

daddy weighing Bijon

Mr. Scrunchy Face bonding with daddy

meeting big brother and Grandma for the first time

Mr. Smiles