Expect Miracles – The Bitch’in Challenge, Week 4

expect miraclesWhen I started the Bitch’in Challenge three weeks ago, I laid down the gauntlet and dared you to join me in working on ONE THING about yourself that you want to shift. This post, the last in a four-week series, was to be all about being the change in order to make all the work you’ve done permanent.

I had a little quandary, though, about the timing of the end of this Bitch’in Challenge four-week series: for the past two years, my holiday post has been about two amazing now eight-year-old boys: Dylan Siegel and Jonah Pournazarian. Dylan wrote a book called Chocolate Bar when he was in first grade — his goal was to raise $1,000,000 and find a cure for Jonah’s rare disease, Glycogen Storage Disease 1b. Jonah was both muse and sales manager; back in 2012 when I first interviewed the lads, they’d amazingly raised $10,000 by selling books at an event at their school. Then I followed up last December, and the boys were halfway to their goal ($500,000). What originally was a heart-warming local story about a couple of great kids and their families had become a global phenomenon that had gotten tons of press and attention, won the boys some awards, and incredibly was building over time, not subsiding.

How then, could I possibly make my final chapter in the Bitch’in Challenge — which is a lot about people of a certain age (ahem) dealing with their personal stuff — mesh with continuing to tell the story of the Chocolate Bar Boyz?

Two words: expect miracles.

The day I sat down to start writing this post I got a phone call from David Siegel, Dylan’s dad. He wanted to give me the breaking news — Dylan reached his goal of raising $1,000,000. The book had sold 25,000 copies in more than 60 countries. And something funny happened along the way: while trying to cure GSD 1b, Dylan and Jonah have shown children of all ages — people of a certain age, this means you, too! — that they have power and their actions can change the world

Drink that in for a minute: if a 6-year-old, which is how old Dylan was when he wrote Chocolate Bar, can expect — no, demand — miracles, then why can’t all? There are many lessons from Chocolate Bar, so here are just a few delicious takeaways you can enjoy as you become the change you want to see in your own life:

Intention helps. Dylan’s pure and simple wish — to cure his friend’s disease — stayed true for the last two years. It had momentum, thanks to unfettered optimism, which is something that kids are particularly good at. They’re not ones to drop something that they really, truly want. Losing steam is more of an adult thing, so check your intentions. If what you decided you want to change is unwavering after four weeks, then child-up and get psyched because you can do it!

Little things become bigger. What I and everyone else thought was incredible two years ago — that a kid could raise $10,000 — is now 100 times more. Thanks to the money raised from Chocolate Bar, Jonah’s doctor, GSD expert Dr. David Weinstein from the University of Florida, has nearly finished the research phase to cure GSD-1b and is moving into human clinical trials. But the implications don’t stop there: the cure for GSD will prove that gene therapy works and therefore charts a course for changing the face of health care.

Focus on the positives: If you haven’t read Chocolate Bar yet, its got a very simple conceit: things that you like, for example, swimming, bowling, going to Disneyland (OK, by you I mean Dylan, but I like those things too) are “so chocolate bar.” Back to my own personal Bitch’in Challenge — I decided to take care of my health and change my diet and stress level completely. Now I could choose to focus on the basics of why I was doing it — to avoid getting some nasty ass conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorder, and heart disease — but that is negative and honestly, pretty depressing. Over time, I know I’d become sick and tired of being afraid of being sick and tired. But flip a switch and focus on the good stuff — my skin looks and feels great, my energy is 100% better, I’ve dropped a few pounds, and BAM! That is so chocolate bar — well, a paleo-acceptable chocolate bar that’s low on the glycemic index but high on the antioxidant scale. (NOTE: Please do not tell Dylan that’s how adults like me look at chocolate bars. Allow the child to maintain his youthful optimism at least until he’s nine.)

You are not alone: Sure, it was Dylan’s idea to write a book to raise money to cure his friend’s disease. But children don’t assume they can do it all by themselves — they ask their parents for help, which of course Dylan did. Dylan’s mom and dad were so happy and proud, they dove in head first to do whatever they could. His dad’s co-workers helped lay the book out. His mom’s friends rallied and supported the mission. Jonah’s parents also joined right in, doing everything they could to help up to and including paying for costs along the way so that every penny raised could go right into Dr. Weinstein’s research. More people offered to help however they could, including the boy’s first grade teacher, a BBF of mine who was the person who told me about Chocolate Bar, and my biz partner, who donated her services to design and build the Chocolate Bar book website. It grew, and grew, and grew — like I said, 25,000 people bought the book, they gained friends and fans like Chelsea Clinton, and children in schools worldwide (Texas! Brazil!) have joined in to support the cause. In the process, every single person who has engaged with Chocolate Bar book has been changed. I have been changed — back to when I got that call from David about hitting Dylan’s goal of raising $1,000,000 — I wept…

Because it is so damn beautiful…

Because Jonah and his family will have their lives permanently changed in the most profound way possible when his GSD 1b is cured…

Because Dylan and his family are on a mission to empower kids with the knowledge that they can make a difference….

And because this just goes to show you that thoughts do become things, dreams become reality, and yes, my bitches, miracles do freakin’ happen!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your Bitch’in Challenge, and I really hope you make whatever it is you wanted to do a permanent part of your life starting now and carrying you on a cloud of joy into 2015. If you need a little inspiration, please watch this ABC News clip — it’s pretty damn chocolate bar! HAPPY HOLIDAZE!!!



Save Your Own Life: The Bitch’in Challenge, Week 3

bitchin_wk3_finalWelcome to Week 3 of the Bitch’in Challenge! You’ve been working SO HARD to get to this place. All that answering your wake-up call, fixing your bad-ass diet, making sure you drink a gallon of water a day, perhaps bumping up your fitness routine…

So A#1) YAY, YOU! and B#2) STOP right now.

Seriously, sit down. I have something super important to tell you:

This may all be for naught, if you and I don’t do something RIGHT NOW about the sneaky sabotaging scoundrel that can rob you of your life as you want to lead it and live it.

You can do everything in the world to get healthier, but if you keep sucking up the STRESS, you are going to screw yourself, and not in a good/fun/happy way.

SAVE YOUR OWN LIFE: Cut out the stress!

Remember how I told you that my holistic doc called me a “Hot Toxic Box“? (And then I started a punk band by the same name? Our first single is “F*ck My Frozen Liver.”)

In that same appointment she put me on a whole regimen of supplements and detoxes to get my body working right since, according to her, I wasn’t digesting my food, my liver was blocked, my adrenals were shot, my iron and thyroid were both running on empty, and there was also a mixed-bag of assorted other conundrums. This was all super new to me, as regardless of the fact that I live in the LA — land of the high colonics and low rider jeans — I’m a New England girl at heart, so the closest thing to a detox I’d ever done was survive a bout of post-lobster roll food poisoning back in ’92.

So the follow-up appointment was important… and I totally freakin’ blew it by over-scheduling my life as per usual. My son had a baseball game hours away from where the doc is located, and so I critically underestimated the time a double header REALLY takes, how much traffic there REALLY always is, and how unlikely it is that I could REALLY ever be in two places at the same time. I called to reschedule, and I was told that it wasn’t possible until days later.

As we hung up, the doc gently said, “You have to start thinking about putting yourself first.”

Was she crazy? What if I were the only parent not in the stands for this pre-season scrimmage game? These are the good old days, right? Of course I felt guilty about missing my appointment, and I was concerned that I’d started one more thing that I was doing a shitty job of finishing (in this case, tending to my health).

My hot, toxic box might have been detoxing, but I was doing a kick ass job filling it all back up with worry, dread, doubt, and anxiety.

Sure enough, at the next appointment, my holistic doc pointed to my mid-section and said, “I can help you get rid of that, but you have got to start putting yourself first. No diet or exercise can change that — it’s all about the cortisol.”

The worst part of all of this was: I already knew that!

Astute readers of this here Bitch’in Suburbia blog may remember last spring when, inspired by the upcoming bathing suit season, I shared a bunch of research I did in a post called, “Middle-Age Spread: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting.

The spare tire that we haul around is also the very thing that will drive us right off the cliff to our collective untimely deaths if we don’t deal with it now. Fun facts about belly fat include:

• It’s a safe house for some of the nastiest killers out there: diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
• Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is the only one that INCREASES with age.
• Speaking of hormones, the “middle age spread” thrives on hormonal fluctuations. The less progesterone and estrogen and the more cortisol, the more fat that’s deposited on the abdomen… and the bigger the Buddha belly.
• “Visceral fat” (aka, belly fat) is linked to dementia.
• The loss of muscle mass that happens with age supports the growth of ye olde tummy by decreasing resting metabolic rate. It also pushes you toward a more sedentary life.

Now that you (and I) are reminded that we wear our stress not on our sleeves, but around our waists and also in our heads, hearts, and at a deep cellular level throughout our precious bodies, what are you (and I) gonna do about it?

TAKE THE BITCH’IN CHALLENGE, WEEK 3!

While I love my holistic doc saying that I need to start “putting myself first,” modern life — regardless of it you’re a parent or not — makes it extremely difficult to do so. And any good change starts with baby steps. The challenge this week is to let yourself off the hook at least THREE TIMES in a very conscious way. Here’s how we’re going to do it:

Just say NO THANK YOU: The book of the season is Amy Poehler’s brilliant Yes Please , and bless the woman, she’s everywhere — movies, TV, raising kids, dating, being your fave smart girl at the party, and of course prepping to host the Golden Globes again. I freakin’ love her AND would want to be her IF I had a full-time staff. (Not saying she does — Amy might also be bionic.) But I don’t, and neither do you. And since ’tis the season for sign-ups and parties and doing a million extra things, just pick something — anything — to say NO THANK YOU to. Oh, and make it something you’re secretly dreading anyways, and you’ll score extra points!

Stop getting wasted on worry: Worry can be more enticing and intoxicating than any other vice there is. Fear junkies like me tend to mainline that shit straight into little things or stuff that hasn’t even happened yet, and shoot ‘em up to horrendous Apocalypse-level disasters, making our heads and hearts feel like they might explode — so fun! Anyhoo, if you get wasted like that every day, before you know it, you’ll be a total wreck and pretty useless health-wise to everyone you know and love. Stay present and work some steps to break your addiction to fear and worry.

Take a breather: This one is literal — go to where the oxygen is. Walk around the block, take a yoga class, or even just gulp in some deep, delicious breaths a few times a day. Ohmmmm doesn’t that feel good?

Play my favorite game, “What’s the Worst Thing That Can Happen?” When you are in the thick of things and stressing about how you’ll get it all done, ask yourself this question: What’s the worst thing that could happen? If your answer is the world will be absorbed into a black hole and everyone will perish, then by all means, continue to stress out. If it just means your holiday cards will arrive a few days later than you’d like (or you don’t even send ‘em this year), or you pick one party to attend the night that you’re invited to three others, or you do all your shopping online and never experience the chaotic mess we call the mall, then guess what? You’ve got First World problems, and none of them require you to stress out. Make a call, and move on.

So if you see me this Week 3 of the Bitch’in Challenge, ignoring Monday Envelope messages and Sign-Up Genius invites, buying pre-made meals, chillin’ in Child’s Pose, and letting my nails grow out cuz I’m ditching nervous habits, just know that I’m saving my own life, and I’d love you to join me and save yours. Let’s make a pledge to leave the gigantic cortisol-fueled belly to Santa, who actually has a right to be stressed. How he delivers those gifts to a billion children in one night and fits down the chimney without Spanx I’ll never know — but it’s for Mrs. Claus to worry about, not you or me.

 

 

Eat Me: The Bitch’in Challenge, Week 2

bitchin_wk_2Last week I shared my wake-up call with y’all — what started as pesky, persistent dry skin patches and other random symptoms, like feeling plum out of steam, ended up with my needing to engage in a full-on confrontation of what brought me to this place. Bottom line: it was all about some sorry-ass lifestyle choices I’d made along the way.

And while the thing you’ve been ignoring, avoiding, and sadly putting off for way to long may not on the surface appear to be health-related, I’d argue that the chance of success when making any major life change is much greater if taking care of yourself is factored into the equation. In fact, you should make it the primary factor.

The crap we throw down our gullets as we run the gerbil wheel as fast as we can is not adequate fuel. The trick is to slow the pace enough so that you can be mindful of everything that you put in your mouth (!); this is a crucial step towards bringing you to not only better health, but also to an awareness of what being kind and nourishing can do to a person. Especially when that person is you.

Now that you’ve answered your wake-up call, are you ready for Week 2 of the Bitch’in Challenge?

EAT ME

Let me start by saying I’ve never been a girl who diets. Not successfully, anyways. I’ve had my moments with Weight Watchers, which is a pretty effective and smart diet plan because it curbs the size of portions (unless it’s “free” foods like veggies) and also puts the emphasis on high fiber, low fat foods.

That said, I think the height of my love for Weight Watchers peaked at a meeting where the group extolled the virtues of Cool Whip for an entire hour. Given my obsession with the “dessert topping,” it felt like a slam-dunk choice to me.

A BBF of mine who writes extensively about the weirdness of our modern world told me that “diet” choice is actually full of oddball junk like paraffin. He was close — from The Alternative Daily’s report, “There’s Nothing Cool About Cool Whip,” this is the ingredient I think he was talking about:

“Polysorbate 60 – This is a chemical emulsifier that is used in sexual lubricants and beauty products. To make this ingredient, ethylene oxide (a precursor to antifreeze) is polymerized with a sugar alcohol derivative. Research has demonstrated a strong connection between this ingredient and organ toxicity, tumors in lab mice and diarrhea.”

This is just one example of how “dieting” is actually often based on having a pretty shitty diet. I’ll now keep my Cool Whip ingestion as a mid-coitus snack, thank you very much.

And in any case, I’m not talking about changing your diet for the sake of fitting into your pre-freshman 15 jeans from 1902; I’m talking about proactively taking control of your diet so you feel better health-wise. And yes, this from the girl who brought you “Carbs, A Love Story.”

My holistic doc, when asked about what kind of diet I should follow, uttered one word: paleo. The same word that has been on the lips of my most health-conscious friends for a while now. I’ve sampled a paleo “dessert,” which included frosting made out of avocado and cocoa, and I can’t say I enjoyed it. But that said, the whole idea is to take out anything unnatural (see Polysorbate 60, above) and replace it with low sugar, low carbohydrate foods that even a caveman or lady could hunt or gather. (Although how they’d make “cupcakes” and “frosting” is beyond me with out modern day cooking gear like mixers and ovens.)

So I took one for the team and listened to an extraordinarily boring reading of the book Paleo Diet Plan: The Simple Guide for Paleo Beginners by Andryan Coombs. I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version here:

•  Eat lean grass-fed meat (beef and if you’re adventurous, things like bison or venison), chicken, fish, turkey, and eggs.
•  Fill up on veggies and fruits.
•  Enjoy nuts and seeds.
•  Use healthy oils (coconut to cook, olive oil, flaxseed oil, etc.).
•  Stay away from grains, legumes, processed foods, dairy, refined sugar, refined oils, junk food, coffee, booze. In other words, many of the things that make life worth living.

And that’s it! Research support its claims of boosting energy, both physical and mental, and improving overall health with weight loss, improvements in body composition, and lowered levels in key health markers like blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and triglycerides.

While all good in theory, I’ve been testing this plan out for about a week now, and here’s what I’m thinking:

• It is definitely time consuming and more expensive to eat like this. Just hand Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) your credit card and squint — keep in mind that all that grass fed, free range, and organic stuff is way cheaper than multiple hospitalizations for your shitty ticker, complications from diabetes, and chemo. (Harsh I know but this is a wake-up call, remember?)
• It also takes your attention — on more than one occasion, I had to very thoughtfully take my hand out of a bag of Goldfish crackers and my fork out of my kids’ french fries.
• That said, everything in moderation. I don’t think I’m personally down with getting rid of all grains, so I’m still rocking quinoa (up there with kale, which I also eat a lot of, as the most annoying trendy health food there is, but I buy it so whatevs).
• I bought a NutriBullet, and that helped a lot. Just shield your eyes when you look at the marketing materials — it’s a lot of middle-aged people chasing the fountain of youth through their precious “NutriBlasts.” If you look too closely, you might just recognize yourself in that thar clever marketing. I know I did (shudder).
• I’m not giving up coffee, half and half, booze, cheese, or occasional sweets. Just cutting back on all.

The one other thing you must do to really kick the shit into high gear is hydrate. My holistic doc told me to drink a gallon of water a day, and not to cheat — I literally fill up a gallon jug and make sure that I drink the whole thing by the time I hit the hay. And by the way, ditch those goddamn bottled waters! Drink tap water or fill up a BPA-free stainless steel bottle. (BPA is a potentially toxic estrogen-mimicking compound present in plastic that has been linked to breast cancer, early puberty, infertility, and a bunch of other nasty shit.)

So if you see gnawing on a carrot, eating a sliced apple with almond butter, or, more often than that, running to pee about 50 times a day, just know that it’s all in the name of good health. You really are what you eat, and so choose wisely, my bitches and for goodness sake, take the Bitch’in Challenge! Next week we’ll tackle boosting your energy in other ways besides food and water, while you continue to answer your wake-up call.

And if you’re looking for a good quick ‘n easy Paleo-ish dinner recipe, here’s the one I was digging most this week:

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Makes: 4 servings (serving Size: 1/2 stuffed squash half)
Takes about an hour all in to make this dish.

INGREDIENTS
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch of broccoli, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 lb. Italian chicken sausage, casings removed (optional — this dish is delish with or without meat)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
Parmesan cheese to taste (optional) (this is where I fall off the Paleo wagon)

PREPARATION
Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 400°F.

Place squash in the microwave for 3-4 minutes to soften. Using a sharp knife cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the halves, with the cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with one tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip those suckers over to cook with the cut side down. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until you can poke easily with a sharp knife or even a fork. Once the squash is done and cooled, you’ll use a fork to scrape the squash into spaghetti-like strands.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes. If you’re using the chicken sausage, add it and break apart with a wooden spoon or spatula to crumble. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sausage is browned and cooked through. (Obviously skip the sausage part if you’re not using it.)

Add broccoli and red pepper (if using); cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add water and cook, stirring, until the broccoli is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl. Once the squash is done and removed from the shell, add it to the bowl with the other ingredients. Stir in Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the shells in a broiler-safe baking pan or on a baking sheet. Divide the mixture between the shells; top with a little Parmesan cheese if you’d like (other kind of cheese if you’re not paleo, like Mozzarella). Bake on the lower rack for 10 minutes. Move to the upper rack, turn the broiler to high and broil, watching carefully, until the top starts to brown, about 2 minutes.

The Wake-Up Call: Take the Bitch’in Challenge!

bitchin_challenge2In 30 days, we’ll be on the verge of a brand new year. How about a fresh new you to go with it?

I for one am ready to trade up to a self that feels better, looks better, and is doing better in all the key aspects of life. And it all started when I finally decided to face something that was, well, right in my face.

Do you have one little thing that you know you’ve got to take care of? I’d say we all have something, but then again, dealing with it can be turn into a big ass can o’ worms.

And so we put it off until we just can’t anymore.

THE WAKE-UP CALL

I’ve been experiencing this random dry skin thing for about a year now — first it was flakey eyelids, then it was itchy patches on my arms, legs, and back, and finally, chapped skin all around my mouth with lips to match. I asked my kid’s dermatologist what he thought, and he recommended a shot of cortisone in the ass and a couple of creams, which I took to no avail. I’ve had eczema my whole life, and I was ready to chalk this up as one more version of the annoying skin condition, but something told me it wasn’t exactly that. Still, since nothing the doctor ordered worked, I blew off dealing, even as there were days my face felt like it had windburn even though there wasn’t even a light breeze.

And if I had to be really honest with myself (and trust me, you do too!), I’ve been running on empty for a good long time. Astute readers of this blog might have noticed a trend: How to Break Into Your Comfort Zone…. 7 Soft Ways to Push Hard… Half-Assed Multitasking for Dummies.

Humorous looks at modern life or bald-faced cries for help? You be the judge.

About a month ago, I was at a barbecue and chitchatting with a BBF I hadn’t seen in a while. She looked fabulous and felt amazing — despite working full-time and raising a handful of energetic, busy kids, she had even found the time and energy to take a high-end baking class that was a long-time dream of hers. My chapped face was in full-force, and as usual, my ass was dragging. I couldn’t help but lament about how weird middle age is, all full of vague ailments and no effective treatments. Doing what we X-chromosome toters do best, she empathized and shared her own journey that started with mysterious dizziness that defied diagnosis, and ended when she went to a holistic doctor. In that moment, I realized I was ready to try anything to feel better again, so I took the doc’s number.

Three weeks later, I finally made it to the holistic doc’s office with a blood panel she’d requested. I had no idea what to expect, but I was hoping for a quick fix. 

Instead, I got a gigantic long list of all that’s failing me, mainly concentrated in the digestive and endocrine systems. According to the doc, I’m a “hot toxic box.” (Please note this is also the name of my new punk band; so don’t try to claim it for your own!)

I’d like to say it’s all malarkey, but as she broke things out, I heard the names of diseases that have affected my family — diabetes, thyroid disorders, and cardiac. Not that I have anything specific at the moment, but carry on the way I’ve been going with pseudo-healthy eating and running myself ragged fueled by stress and adrenaline, and I’d end up slamming into a wall on this crazy ride called life.

Did I need a holistic doc to tell me that pushing myself to the edge and being half-assed not just about multi-tasking, but about taking care of my own physical, mental, and spiritual health, was a problem?

Probably not.

Did I need a wake-up call, however, where somebody said out loud the things I’ve always known — that genetics, lifestyle, and prioritizing everything else to the detriment of my health — is not sustainable?

Uhm, YEAH. (Cue primal scream from Hot Toxic Box.)

TAKE THE BITCH’IN CHALLENGE: 30 Days to a Brand New You!

The holistic doc told me that if I give her just 30 days, she could help me feel like a brand new person. (This includes stripping 20 years out of my colon, but I will spare you the details of that. Suffice to say healthy eating, taking necessary vitamins and minerals, meditation, yoga, and lifestyle adjustments are all part of the equation.)

I challenge you to join me for the next 30 days to get ready not just for 2015, but for the rest of your beautiful life.

The only catch is you have to get real. It’s not good enough to know there’s something that’s bringing you down, you have to deal with it. You can’t just fake your way through taking better care of yourself (eating, sleeping, fitness, etc.), you really have to do it. And at the most tempting time of the year, mind you. A simple trip to Trader Joe’s and walking past the displays of Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels will be a divine test of will.

This first week you only have to do ONE thing: decide on the ONE thing you want — and need — to change.

I’ll be updating you each week about my progress. For the first week, I’m focusing on shifting my diet. (Notice that I’m conveniently starting this AFTER Thanksgiving!) I’ve been advised that carbs are to be kept to a minimum (which for healthier blood sugar makes sense), and dairy is out too (this is an eczema thing, too). The word “paleo” has been bandied about, and I’m going to ask some of my cavemen/women friends what that’s all about and report back. (I know it’s nothing new — been around since prehistoric times — but I’ve always scoffed at desserts made with avocado. Maybe not so much anymore…)

So if you see me bypassing the end caps and heading right for the coconut oil and produce aisles at TJ’s, just know I’m taking the Bitch’in Challenge. I hope you’ll join me — 30 days will be over in a blink, and wouldn’t it be nice to be a brand new you?!

Photo: Courtesy Alan Cleaver

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