My Summer Fitness Challenge Results

I owe you an update on my Summer Fitness Challenge.  I am so aware.

I updated you on the first 30 days HERE.

If you remember, I wanted to get back in shape, close the gap in my stomach muscles, and I set a fun goal of getting back into my wedding dress by my wedding anniversary (August 31st).

July:  I had hoped to “knock the socks” off my husband at a wedding mid-July, and I think that mission was a success.  🙂

Willy's wedding together

I lost an additional 2 pounds (a record low for me) and began transitioning down to a pant size 5–something I never dreamed of being able to do.  I was targeting the belly, but the butt was being more cooperative.

August: I tried my wedding dress on mid-August.  It wasn’t quite as loose in the waist as I would have liked, but comparing to wedding pictures, I guess maybe it wasn’t as loose back then either.  The fit was pretty close, but I didn’t take pictures because I still had 2 weeks until our anniversary and my goal date.

HOWEVER, when our anniversary rolled around, I was pretty sure that the dress wasn’t going to fit all that well for another long spell. I had to wait a few more days to make sure…

And then, Semptember:

It’s amazing how 2 little pink lines on a pregnancy test can suddenly and completely change your perspective and rearrange your goals.

It’s totally NOT funny how after having a few babies it really doesn’t matter how much you exercise; that baby pouch remembers the pooch position right away.  I didn’t take a picture in the dress.

I did take a step back, and started praying and researching to determine how to maintain a Keto diet while accommodating my body and a precious baby’s needs during pregnancy.  There is virtually no information available on it, but I did develop a plan.

And yet, life doesn’t always go the way we expect…

One minute I was wondering who this new little life is, and the next I knew that I would never know this baby… not in this life.  Just a couple days before my birthday, I began to miscarry.

I know from the book of James that nothing passes into my life without first passing through God’s hands.  I don’t understand this loss; it hurts my heart.  BUT,  I know that I know that I KNOW that God is GOOD and that He NEVER makes a mistake.  There is always a purpose.  I don’t have to understand.  I need to trust.

October:  I’ve still been pretty tired.  I suspect my iron has been low, and so my energy is recovering as I work with my diet to provide the needed nutrients.  I also need time for my heart to heal, and that will help too.  So right now I am sticking with Keto, I have been exercising how and when I feel able while listening when my body says it’s too tired.  This too shall pass.

Progress:  As far as my goal to close the gap in my stomach muscles, the gap has closed by 50%. This is good!  🙂

And getting in shape? I have muscle tone again!  This makes me happy.

The wedding dress?  Well, I’ll try it on again soon.

I am researching gut healing, and reading Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book on the “GAPS” diet.  There seems to be more than one helpful approach and I’d like to find one that meets the unique needs of our family.  I’ve realized that some of the belly I’ve been trying to shed is not fat, but bloat, and some of our older “kids” are interested in doing a gut healing protocol.  We’re taking baby steps toward that goal; last week we picked up some grass fed beef from a local-ish rancher.

In a Nutshell:  No fun goal on the horizon, but only seeking to honor my commitment to God to care for my body, His temple, in all of this.

Did you set a goal for yourself over the summer?  I’d love to hear about your progress.

 

 

 

 

How to Make Coconut Water Kefir

In my journey to health I spent a long time eating Body Ecology style, which eliminated some foods, included some lesser known foods, and incorporated proper food combining.   I still apply some of its principles to the meals I prepare for my family.  Body Ecology founder, Donna Gates, highly recommends coconut water kefir.  She sells it on her web site, but being who I am, I opted for affordability and the challenge of making it myself.

Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is found in young green coconuts, before it is replaced with coconut meat.

I was told by a “sample lady” at Costco about one of her customers who had served in the military.  He said that in times of war, when no IV fluid was available, they used straight coconut water in the IV’s of the wounded due its purity and high electrolyte content. Bottled coconut water is not as ideal as fresh, but this is what I have to use.

Kefir 4

Coconut water contains some B vitamins, and is high in potassium and sodium which are good for adrenal health.  It is sweet, as it contains easily digested carbohydrates which is what makes it suitable, temporarily, for kefir grains.

The name Kefir means “feel good” in Turkish.  Kefir contains the essential amino acid tryptophan which helps calm the nervous system and is also used by the body to produce serotonin.  Serotonin affects mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, and memory.

There are two types of kefir grains.  One thrives in milk and the other in sugar water (called water kefir).  I have not made water kefir, though I someday hope to try it.  I already had dairy kefir grains and so I use them to make my coconut water kefir.  If you have an allergy or intolerance to milk, you may want to use water kefir.

A mixture of live yeasts and bacteria, kefir grains digest sugars in the beverage they are added to, fermenting it into a sour but probiotic rich drink.  Combining the coconut water and kefir gains you the benefits of both, but with less natural sugars.  It provides good bacteria to populate your gut where most of your immune system resides and it improves digestion along the way.

Kefir 1

Here you can see my kefir grains have been busy turning this milk into a thick kefir. They tend to float up toward the top.

I use a plastic mesh strainer that came with the Kefir Kit I bought from Cultures From Health to rinse my grains.  Never use metal with your kefir grains.  Use a plastic strainer, but store your grains in glass so that your kefir does not leach chemicals from the plastic.

Kefir 3

When I wash the grains under cool water, I use a wooden spoon or clean hands to rinse the milk off as best as possible.

Because milk kefir grains thrive in milk, it is important not to keep them out for too long. They do not convert the coconut water as quickly as they do milk.  The grains will float up and down in the liquid.  Milk kefir is ready to consume 12-24 hours after adding grains, depending on how thick and how sour you want it.  I leave my kefir grains in coconut water between 2-3 full days.  I often do 2 batches in a row so my fridge is stocked and then I promptly put the grains back into milk for one or two cycles to make sure they are fed well and strong before placing them back into the refrigerator to store.  If they spend too much time in the refrigerator they will lose their ability to ferment.  As long as I give mine a couple of days in milk on the counter every two or three weeks they are fine.

Kefir 6

Once your coconut water kefir is done fermenting, strain the grains out and add to a clean glass container to either make more coconut water kefir or refresh with milk. Store your finished products in the refrigerator.

Drink 1/4 cup in your Plexus Slim for a lemonaidy taste or with meals for better digestion.  My little ones beg to drink it anytime as they are accustomed to sour flavors and enjoy them.  I love this since I know I am giving them something that will protect their immune system and benefit them in many ways.

Are you ready to add this to your wellness routine?

If you do not already have kefir grains, or don’t know anyone who can share (they multiply over time) you can order a starter from Cultures For Health.  The grains come dehydrated with detailed directions on rehydrating and using.  The website also has many video tutorials and recipes for using their cultured products.

If you would like to read about more of the health protecting benefits of kefir, Dr. Axe has a good article.

If you plan to make a boosted rice sourdough starter, this coconut water kefir is what I used to create the starter.  Look for instructions in a future post!

Can you use milk kefir grains to make kefir from coconut milk?  Umm, yes.  I did it once with canned coconut milk.  It worked.  It was also one of the few things that ever made me gag!  😉  So, you can try it if you want to.  Maybe you will like it better than I!!

My Journey to Health & Weight Loss, Part 2

 

Journey to health part 2

To Read Part 1, visit HERE.

I think it was some time during month 2 of dietary changes that I decided to add back in the meat and proteins that I had removed to follow the detox diet.  I used a salad plate for meals instead of a dinner plate, and continued to eat gluten free and sugar free.  There were no frills to my food, you know?  Just the basics: meats, grains, fruits and vegetables,  and with the Slim I wasn’t really hungry a lot of the time.  I continued to steadily lose weight, but more slowly than the first month.  I was able to dig out tubs of clothes that had been packed away for years, and it was like Christmas finding pretty an things that fit.  I felt less sloppy when I looked in the mirror.  I was standing up straighter, sleeping better at night, the natural practitioner I checked in with said my blood sugar levels were amazing, and my brain fog was lifting.  I didn’t remember ever having so much energy.

{11 weeks of gluten free, 10 weeks of Plexus Slim}

Years earlier, when I was pregnant with our first baby, I had researched an education in natural health, but it had not been feasible at that time, and over the years and our growing family I had forgotten that dream.  Now that passion began to rekindle, and my husband and I started discussing the possibility of me taking some classes in order to help our family instead of paying someone else.

I decided to get my feet wet.  One class, I decided, to see if I could really do this school thing, and find out if I liked it as much as I thought I would.  It was a block class that was held for long hours, several days in a row, and I had to travel away from my family to do it (which if you know us–it is a huge thing).  The class was on Enzymes and the part they play in our bodies, and I loved it.  I had learned just enough over the years, because of my own research and experimentation, to understand what the instructor was explaining and it made sense… a LOT of sense.  I was never going to look at nutrition the same way, ever!

I came home from that class armed with knowledge and a whole lot of enzymes!  I started giving them to our family with every meal, and tackled the job of changing our children’s diets.  I switched them to a primarily gluten free diet.  I worked the refined sugar out of their diets, too.  Within 6 months I noticed many of the health quirks each child had suffered were resolving… gone was bloat, dark circles under eyes, immune function improved and they stopped catching EVERY bug that went around, my husband’s heart burn went away and he was able to stop using kombucha after every meal, and the list is LONG.

Even with the Plexus Slim and dietary changes, I had continued to have soreness in my knees which had persisted since 6 weeks following that fateful tick bite and rash.  Applying the knowledge I had gained about enzymes, this pain now went away.

My husband and I began planning for my continuing education.  I felt like God was propelling me forward, and my confirmation was my husband’s persistence in sending me despite the fact he hardly sleeps when I am gone, so this was a huge deviation from the norm.  People started sharing with me on a regular basis about their struggles with Lyme Disease, even people I didn’t know—it appeared epidemic and I felt a burden to help others.  By the end of that first year, I completed certification as a “Natural Health Professional”.

I had been sharing Plexus Products with other people.  I genuinely wanted to see others attain better health, and I felt that sharing Plexus products could be part of that journey for others while helping me pay for my own products.  However, people are creatures of habit and we tend to take the easiest path.  So many wanted a product to do it all for them, wanted immediate results, and weren’t willing to make long term lifestyle changes to see that come about… in addition, because Plexus is structured as a multi-level marketing company I was concerned that people I might really be able to help as a practitioner may avoid visiting me for fear I would just try to sign them up in my downline.  I stopped sharing about Plexus.  I pulled back.  I experimented with what I had learned~ one can gain a lot of practical experience working with a large family.  😉

6 months into my own Plexus experience I discovered I was pregnant and stopped taking Slim with the intention of going back to it after the first trimester.  I suffered an early miscarriage.

My husband and I have committed our family planning to the Lord, and I knew another pregnancy was possible. Having lost a total of 50 pounds, I was comfortable with my weight and my body for the first time ever. God had been changing my heart in amazing ways.  He had used the difficulties of this season in my life to teach me to look to Him alone instead of looking to others for answers and approval. My “why” became completely focused on pleasing Him and being available to walk in His will.

I made the decision not to go back on the Slim, but to take time to evaluate where my health was without it.  My goal was not to need it.

Great progress had been made in rebuilding my health, but when I stopped taking Slim my energy plummeted again.  The rule of thumb for any practitioner working with someone who suffers from nutritional deficiencies and needs to rebuild their bodies is that after applying appropriate changes, it will take 3 months PLUS 1 month for every year an individual has lived with the deficiency for their body to regain proper balance.  In addition, the body picks its own order of priority.  The symptom you want to eliminate is often not the first thing to resolve.  The tick bite had been a catalyst to my making appropriate changes, but my health had been a struggle since I was in grade school, and I had been diagnosed with Environmental Illness and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a young adult. 6 months of doing things right had only reached back 3 years in my health history.  I had a LOT further to go.

In my studies, I kept reading about the importance of proper food combining over and over.  Grrr.  This was another change I really didn’t want to make, but after it popping up in my studies so often, I began to feel like God was beating me over the head with it.  So, I obeyed.  Eventually I found the best platform for doing this was by following a Body Ecology Diet.  This diet is also good for controlling candida, which was a plus I needed.

In addition to food combining, my goals were to increase nutrition and decrease empty calories.  I made sprouts and learned how to cook some new foods, including coconut water kefir and kimchi.

I quickly became pregnant again, and this time I miscarried at 12 weeks.  It was a heart break and emotionally draining, and I also bled heavily which caused symptoms of severe anemia.  I continued to eat right, packing in the nutrients, and paid special attention to iron rich foods.  I took Maca Root, an adaptogen that slowly and gently aided my stamina and is good for hormones and reproductive health.  It is nutrient dense and rich in essential fatty acids.  As a result of the healing that continued to take place in my body, over the course of the next 6 months I slowly lost an additional 10 pounds.

Education wise, I really felt that I had barely scratched the surface of what I should learn, and so I continued studying and my family sacrificed to send me to more classes.  I became a Health Kinesiologist, and it changed our lives.  It will take a whole post to share exactly what that is, but I can start by sharing that the allergies that we have suffered with our whole lives are becoming a thing of the past as I take time to do the corrections.  Candida overgrowth is gone.  I have absolutely no residual symptoms of any tick borne illness.  HK is also a wonderful tool to aid emotional healing and the physical symptoms that can be a tied to emotional distress as our body, mind and spiritual health are intertwined.

God blessed us with a beautiful baby girl who is now 17 months old, and she is a lively, mischievous and healthy sweetheart.  God’s grace is abundant.

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I am 3.5 years into this health journey: 3 months plus a month for every year takes me back to those grade school years when my original health issues began in earnest.  I am following a ketogenic diet and am aware that a lot of detoxification has been happening… this has been something I have known I needed to do for a long time, and I believe it may be the last major step in healing.  I recently decided to try Plexus Slim again as Plexus has improved the formula and I wanted to rebuild muscle.  It’s still a great product, and yet I am grateful that I have not noticed any marked change in my energy.  I don’t NEED Plexus products to feel good anymore, though I know they are a beneficial product for my health.  The chronic fatigue that I have lived with since childhood is GONE, Praise the Lord!

God answers prayer.  I’m still studying.  Still learning.  I believe I always will.

God is the Master Healer.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Whatever it is you may be struggling with, ask Him what to do and then listen carefully… pursue Him, expect to feel a little nudge, and then buckle up.  His plan is always bigger than anything you and I can imagine.  God NEVER wastes pain.  He will never waste any experience you go through if only your submit your plans to Him.

Even the most difficult experiences we feel that we may barely survive are, as Ann Voskamp calls them, “Hard Grace”, but grace nonetheless.

He takes our impossible and turns it into glory.

glo·ry–

noun: glory
1.  high renown or honor won by notable achievements.

synonyms:renownfameprestigehonordistinctionkudoseminenceacclaim,  praise

2.  magnificence or great beauty.                                                                                                          synonyms: magnificence, splendor, resplendence, grandeur, majesty, greatness, nobility   {a thing that is beautiful or distinctive; a special cause for pride, respect, or delight.}

3.   praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to a deity.

My Journey to Health and Weight Loss

My Journey to Health and Weight Loss copy

I was at a garage sale recently, pumped to find a cache of 50 cent fancy flip flops that I could pick from for my big girls, when conversation with the home owner turned to just that: all my girls… AND boys!

“You have 8 kids!” she exclaimed, “And you look like THAT?!?”

I have to say, it was a pretty flattering change.  I have found a hobby that I enjoy more than food…finding beautiful, small, and incredibly cheap clothes that fit me nicely by shopping thrift stores and garage sales, because for years my wardrobe size was the only small thing about me.  I was overweight and I didn’t want to invest in clothes that I was sure I would not fit for much longer… I desperately wanted to lose the excess pounds.

I was a size 8-10 when I got married.  I had a slender waist and curvy hips, but even back then I was not comfortable in my own skin.  Some kid in the 6th grade had made a comment about the size of my hips and thighs after PE hour in the school pool, and the blissful age of innocent self-awareness ended, ushering in decades of painful self-consciousness.  I was never happy with my body.  Eventually, during my high school years, I drank a Diet Coke in lieu of lunch and began the horrible practice of purging when I felt guilty for eating anything I worried would negatively impact my weight.  By the grace of God I watched a movie about the Carpenters, and was touched by the story of how Karen Carpenter died young because of the damage her body sustained as a result of her eating disorders.  I was convicted that my body was the holy Temple of God, and that I was harming myself, and by this awareness God rescued me from these damaging habits.  And yet, I still did not like my body.

During my first pregnancy I followed recommended dietary recommendations of that time and gained a whopping 40 pounds.  Precious #1 was a year old when I lost it all plus some, and was almost happy with my body for the first time.  I followed The 7 Day Miracle Detox Diet for a whole year and was smallest I had ever been in my adult life.  Then Precious #2 came along and I gained another 40 pounds, only this time I became pregnant again when she was only 8 months old, and I had not lost all the pregnancy weight.  4 more pregnancies, retaining some weight from each one, found me the mother of 7 and very overweight.

I hated the way I looked.  I hated the way I felt.  And then there was a tiny tick bite that caused a rash, joint pain and began to cause numbness in my feet, throwing my health (which was already challenged) into a tail spin.  When a doctor told me that my precious baby (#7) would inherit the bacteria that was making me sick through my breast milk, I thought I was going to lose it.  I was afraid.  And I was desperate for answers. I prayed without ceasing.

An antibiotic cleared up the numbness that had been coming on in my feet, but it did nothing for the exhaustion and joint pain I struggled with daily.  Instead, the antibiotics instigated new symptoms, like bruising easily, my hands began hurting, and candida soared.  That, coupled with growing brain fog, had me wondering if I should stop home schooling.  To add to depressing, the trip to the doctor who gave me the antibiotic revealed that my home scale (which was 17 years old) was off by 20 pounds which meant I was more overweight than I even knew.

We began to see a natural practitioner who was giving us drops which she said would eventually clear up our symptoms, but a couple of months and too many dollars later, I noticed no improvement.

I knew several people who had been diagnosed with tick borne illnesses, and their doctor had recommended that they cut all sugar and gluten from their diets.  I had spent several years completely revamping our recipes to low sugar and wheat free sourdough (spelt), and in many ways our family ate very healthy—better than others we knew.  I felt so bad, I didn’t think I had the energy to learn a whole new way of cooking, nor did I want to cook one way for me and another way for my family.  I had been doing that for years in order to deal with our various food allergies, and how exhausting!  To be honest, I really rebelled against changing my diet again, but desperation would eventually win out.

About this time our pastor asked our entire congregation to fast for two days and to pray for direction for our young church.  I was not sure I could do it, but the more I considered it, the stronger I felt the Lord was prompting to go ahead.  Baby boy was eating solid food and so I did the fast, and at the same time I made the commitment that when the fast was complete I would go back, for a time, to following The 7 Day Miracle Detox Diet.  It would be challenging, but it would be sugar-free and gluten-free.  After all, my body was God’s temple, and I owed it to Him to give Him my best, right?

During the fast I prayed for our church, but I also prayed for personal direction.  The fear and the panic melted away and I developed a new found strength rooted in faith that no matter how difficult this health challenge, God was going to be faithful to carry me through.  I read a book called The Uncommon Woman by Susie Larson.  In it, she shared how she had been very ill as a result of Lyme Disease and that during a low period God indicated to her that He was going to heal her, and He did. I was just overwhelmed reading that, and the tears came.  I felt the Holy Spirit’s peace, indicating that this was a personal promise, and I held on to it.

During the fast, I was surprised at how much better I felt.  A home-school group mom contacted me on Facebook and began telling me about a product called Plexus Slim which had helped her recover from year’s long symptoms she had suffered from Ehrlichiosis, another tick borne illness.  It had taken several months, but she felt it had been worth it.  The product was expensive, but it came with a 60 day warranty.  I hemmed.  I hawed.  And then finally, after discussing it with my husband, I decided to try it.  I wanted to feel better. The cost of not doing it and remaining ill seemed far more steep than the actual price tag.  One of the other “side effects” of using Plexus Slim was weight loss, and if that happened it would definitely be a welcomed, though I tried not to think about that in the beginning.

 

 

{This is me, the Day I started Taking Plexus Slim, sick and overweight.}

 

I had lost 4 pounds during the fast and the 2 days following, but I was suffering from headaches and body aches from the detox that was occurring.  I have known for years that I have a liver detox pathway that doesn’t work efficiently, so detoxification is hard for me.  My body tends to take the easy path which is to hold on to toxins, and so detoxification has to be deliberate and it often makes me sick.   When I started using the Plexus Slim the normal ill feelings I experienced with detox went away, my back pain faded, and even some of the little issues I had lived with since childhood (and assumed I always would) went away.  The Slim tasted good.  It is a powdered drink sweetened with stevia and Lo Han extract (Keto friendly) that you mix in water and drink, not as a meal replacement, but 30 minutes before breakfast.  I looked forward to the sweet drink every day, but more than that I looked forward to the extra energy I began to experience.  And to top it all off, I lost 15 pounds that first month.

 

You can find the rest of my story in Part 2!