Forgive me Father, for I have eaten cannoli...

Take two and call me in the morning.
Whooo doggies, my joints are achin'!  My wedding ring is snug.  My tummy hurts.  Kinda full.  Sharp pains.  Going potty isn't as easy as it was a few weeks ago.  My ankles look like I'm eight months pregnant... And I've had to start wearing my glasses at night and in really dim lighting.  I feel bloated, gross, and old.  Even the flesh around my neck feels poofy and stifling up on my chin... Dear Lord, are there TWO chins already??

It started the morning Matt arrived in Massachusetts.  The prior week was a nerve wracking agenda of flying to Texas, booking another flight within hours of departing on my Austin flight, attending a time and brain intense (albeit insanely awesome and informative) Paleo Symposium, playing with Olive, early wake-ups, late bed times, more flights, stupidly tight connections, seeing my dad, re-meeting my paternal family after nearly a decade of non-communication... and 24-7 of watching Baba's final breaths.  During this time, I was able to accurately and easily sustain myself on homemade beef jerky, macadamia nuts, dried fruit, and a few Paleo dinners here and there.  All the rest of the time, I just didn't eat.  Couldn't.  But my body felt good.  My mind was sharp.  I was calm.  At least I think I was calm... Matt can better attest to (or more likely, DENY) that assertion.

At least I got my servings of vegetables - spinach, tomatoes, basil... right?
I lost my grandmother on Monday.  I helped my aunts with funeral preparations and miscellaneous errands on Tuesday.  I eagerly awaited Matt's arrival late late late Tuesday night... which conveniently marked the end of my prepacked Paleo snacks.  And then it started - the rapid tumble down the carbohydrate hill...  A sandwich hereA donut and iced coffee thereA rice ball.  A crispelli.  A cannoli.  Some pizza.  Some more pizza.  We had Regina's, but still needed to give Tripoli's a try.  Wash it all down with a few beers.

Aside from the biological and digestive implications... I just plain felt like shit.  By the time Matt left to return to LA, I had spent five solid days of self-medicating with sugar and carbies.  I was numb to the stressors, events, and expeditiousness of the previous week and a half.  And when I boarded my plane in Manchester en route to Austin via Detroit... I promised myself I'd leave all of it behind.  The Food Therapy would stay in Massachusetts... But it didn't.  It followed me to Austin.  I did a hearty amount of damage to my blood sugar levels in two and a half days.  But now... now I am on a plane again.  After a Salt Lick BBQ combo plate, a "tiny" serving of Amy's Ice Cream... and some Jelly Belly Jelly Beans... I AM leaving it here... at 32,000 feet, somewhere over Deming, NM.  My wild ride with Mr. Toad is coming to a close.  I will be home.  In my own kitchen.  With the comfort of my routine and the return to CrossFit after a three week hiatus.  And that feeling of normalcy can't come soon enough.

What am I looking forward to the most?
* No swelling - in my fingers, feet, or ankles
* Clarity of thought - go away brain haze!  I had some great things in the works until you set in...
* Not needing my glasses at night - don't understand this one?  Ask me.
* Feeling good in my new post-Whole30 jeans again
* Normal, comfortable, regular potty breaks
* Getting back in the gym and lifting heavy, moving quickly, and doing another pull-up

Conveniently enough, somewhere between Regina's and Mike's Pastry while strolling through the North End, the Whole9 posted a fabulous and timely article on how to survive life after a Whole30.  (Read this article!  It is fantastic!)  I'm pretty sure not everyone starts day 31 with a family tragedy... but I knew it was an important article for both me and Matt at the time.  The article makes suggestions to journal the triggers that throw you off track.  And to journal repeatedly.  The more data, the easier it is to find a pattern.  Since reading the post, I have documented the location, the time, the people present, the feelings, and the actions that accompanied my habits these past two weeks.  And I will continue to journal every time I struggle.  I like problem solving!

And with that, I want you all to know that I didn't "fall off the wagon"... I'm not "getting back on my diet"... instead I look at it like this:

I accept responsibility for the choices I have made about my food.  I was in a highly emotional, stressful, and unique situation where I did the best I could for as long as I could.  When the one element of comfort and security entered into the picture, I felt safe and protected and resorted to food to enhance those feelings in that situation.  I did not "fall off the wagon."  I am not "going back on my diet."  This is part of who I am.  Part of my journey.  Tomorrow I will choose to eat the foods that I know will nourish my mind and body.  I will not look back.  I will not punish myself (either with food, a lack of food, or exercise).  I will not verbally or mentally beat myself up.  I will pick up where I left off three weeks ago... cooking, documenting, exercising, planning, playing, and laughing...  And that is that.  Life. Will. Go. On.

It's okay to hurt.  It's okay to make a choice that isn't a good one.  But be able to acknowledge that choice or those choices for what they are.  And be strong enough to pick yourself up, dust the pastry crumbs and powdered sugar off of your face... hands... shirt... pants... maybe even out of your hair... and proudly and confidently carry on.  Life. DOES. Go. On.


Saying Good-Bye to Baba (Part III)

One of the chaplains that came through Baba's room spent some time asking questions about her, asking about us, and tried to get a genuine feel of what kind of woman Baba was... when the chaplain thought she had the best conception possible she asked "So she was the linchpin of the family?"

I tried to process that statement for awhile... and it's been with me ever since.  And I realized that even through death, Baba held the family together... probably even more so when it came to me and my interactions.  I finally made it back to New England and in doing so - got to know my aunts again.  I was able to spend a great deal of time with them and talk to them and catch up.  I learned a lot about my grandmother and grandfather and aunts and uncles (and even my dad) that I never knew until this past weekend.  It was enlightening and connecting and for the first time, I felt like part of my OWN extended family.  Thank you, Baba, for bringing us together.

There was never a doubt in my mind about how wonderful my husband truly is... but going through all of this... I was constantly reminded and shown just how blessed I am to have married Matt.  Flying to Massachusetts last minute isn't the most economical thing a person can do.  Neither is renting a car, staying in a hotel, or booking a SECOND flight so that he could be with me.  Even though the circumstances were less than convenient, Matt flew from LA to Massachusetts to be by my side as we said farewell to my grandmother.  He met my aunts and cousins.  And in the days in between traveling, arranging, and the funeral - he made sure that we got our Boston vacation.  It was spontaneous, relaxing, and a lot of fun.  Somehow, Baba's passing managed to bring me and Matt even closer together as well.

The companionship of family and my husband was wonderful... almost numbing to the emotions that were welling up last weekend.  I made effort to spend as much time with everyone as possible - even getting hugs and saying good-bye on multiple occasions, just because I was local and I could.

The past week and a half have been quite an adventure... a roller coaster, both physically and emotionally... and at the end of it, I arrived back at the platform safe and sound.  A little bit changed.  All for the better.  Baba truly was the linchpin of the family... she always will be.  And we will never forget her.  I only wish I could've stayed to help with all the tasks that remain... the cleaning, the sorting, the selling... even if only as moral support and encouragement.  To be there to give hugs and pass the Kleenex.  Instead, I now know I am only a phone call or an e-mail or a text message away.  Which is a whole lot closer than I've ever been.  And that is the real blessing in all of this.

Saying Good-Bye to Baba (Part II)

I cannot express the gratitude I have for The Merrimack Valley Hospice House.  The kindness they showed my grandmother, my family, and me during our short interaction with them was above and beyond anything I could've ever anticipated.  Baba's remains were given the most beautiful send-off from the facility... quiet, respectful, and incredibly touching.

And then the hardest part began... the arrangements.  Hard for my aunts.  Hard for my dad.  I remained quiet and supportive - assisting when I could, offering moral support when I couldn't assist.  I sat and observed as they coordinated with the funeral director - preparing the obituary, naming the survivors, identifying her lifestyle, selecting readings and music, choosing a casket and a vault, and trying to not freeze around the conference table of the 57 degree funeral parlor.  I had to double check to make sure the table wasn't made of marble slab and we were in fact UPstairs.

The next few days were spent following my aunts around as they ordered flowers, selected apparel and accessories for the burial, planned the dining arrangements, and made all the other last minute preparations that were required.  Organizing a funeral is ironically very similar to planning a wedding.  There is a coordinator that gets everything set for you - the church, the timing, and the announcement in the paper.  Then you select a dress, the colors, the flowers, and the food.  And somehow - it all comes together with your entire family and group of friends gathered in a church... many of them weeping... celebrating you and your life.  Kinda weird, if you ask me.

My Aunt Leslie and I were able to settle down on Tuesday evening and she very kindly treated me to a pedicure... a fancy, spa, red wine in one hand, massage chair controls in the other type of pedicure.  Later, I was able to sit down with her, my Uncle Dan, and my cousin Dan (L.D. for Little Dan) and eat a meal together.  The first meal I think any of us actually sat down to eat in a long while.  It was nice.  After some great conversation and a little bit of television watching - I was kindly driven to a nearby hotel where I would be meeting Matt after he arrived on his flight from LA.

Wednesday was sort of an off day for everyone... a day for everyone to take time for themselves.

On Thursday morning, we said one last good-bye to Baba.  She looked great.  I barely recognized her without her housecoat and slippers... wooden spoon in one hand, a pan of sauce in the other.  The funeral service was beautiful.  I realized the only other time I had been to a Catholic Mass was when she came to visit us in Dallas many many years ago.  I cried.  I cried for my aunts and my dad.  I cried for the loss of my grandmother.  I cried because the service was just so moving and incredibly touching.  And I cried at the grave site because it was the first time I was able to visit my grandfather, Yuyu, and my Uncle Rickie who passed away when I was 8.  As we all laid our purple and pink Gerber daisies and roses by the casket, I told Baba one more time how much I loved her... and how much I was going to miss her.


Later on in the day, after the family ate lunch together at a local restaurant, Matt and I made the rounds in Lawrence.  Unfortunately for my jeans, my appetite was back... and being in a place with amazingly unique ethnic food, having just lost a grandparent, and being away from home for a week and a half... meant stocking up my tummy and the hotel fridge with everything I could possible round up.

Rice balls, a cheese crispelli, cannoli, meat pie... and Cherry Wheat Sam Adams made it back to the hotel that night.  I introduced Matt to the delight of Italian treats, paid for with CASH ONLY... and for the first time in almost two weeks - I was able to fall asleep fast and sleep deep until morning.

Continue reading more HERE.

Saying Good-Bye to Baba (Part I)

I'm not exactly sure where to start this post... to get all fancy with a little 'in media res' or just start from the beginning and GO.  I'll just start from the beginning - this will be complicated enough for me without trying to be a literary pro at the same time.

My grandma, fondly referred to as Baba, passed away at noon on Monday March 19.  It was the Feast of St. Joseph and the sun was shining brightly on a gorgeous 80 degree day in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  I loved Baba very much... correction.  I still love Baba... her essence, her memory, every time it gets quiet and I process my thoughts - I get that warm, fuzzy grandma feeling.  From the time I was little, there was just something about going over to her house... walking up those wooden steps and turning those old door handles.  She always had something cooking or recently prepared, the fridge was full of chilled soda, and within moments of sitting down in front of the plastic covered table cloth - I had a full plate of food and an ice cold can of Canada Dry with a bendy straw placed in front of me.  It didn't matter if I was 6 or 26.  Unfortunately, I was the grandchild that lived in Texas.  And then California.  And making it back to visit family was never in my budget or on my annual agenda.  I wish I could go back and change those priorities.  The last time I saw Baba was 8 years ago, when I flew from Los Angeles to Massachusetts to visit with my very ill grandfather one last time.

I spoke fondly of Baba to Matt.  I insisted he just had to meet her.  She was so wonderful!  We were in the midst of planning a trip to Boston in July... to see the fireworks and The Boston Pops on the Esplanade,  to walk the Freedom Trail, to nosh on North End goodies... and to head up to Lawrence to once again walk up those wooden steps and become overwhelmed by the inviting smell of Baba's home.  On February 29th, I received a text that Baba was rushed to the hospital.  After much back and forth over the coming week - I learned that she was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Congestive Heart Failure, had suffered two minor heart attacks, and had a pulmonary embolism.  I called her that Monday and we talked about the hospital food and how she enjoyed the meatloaf and how she was feeling a little better.  I told her I missed her and that I loved her.  I didn't know it at the time, but that would be the last interactive conversation she and I would share.  Baba moved from the hospital to a rehab facility by the end of the week and I began planning a trip to go visit once I returned from Paleo F(x).  End of March would probably be best - so I'd look at flights later... later... later.  Sometimes, we don't get to choose our "later"s.  As I was packing for 80 degree muggy Austin, Texas weather on the morning of Tuesday March 13, I received another phone call.  Baba was in pain.  She couldn't breathe.  She was rushed back to the hospital.  She might not make it to the end of the week.  My heart sank.

In between a doctor's appointment, last minute errands, and packing - Matt and I were able to coordinate a flight from Austin, Texas to Manchester, New Hampshire first thing Saturday morning.  I won't get into the timing - that was a personal choice - but it worked out and that's that.  Paleo F(x) was incredible.  I'll be posting a summary of those two days later.  Spending time with Jess and Olive was great, but short.  And it was all blanketed by the ominous looming cloud that I was about to embark on a journey on Saturday that would not be easily traveled.  And although I wasn't clear on the path, I knew exactly how it was going to end.

Quick sidetrack - after finishing a very successful Whole30 on Monday night, I didn't see any reason to veer off.  Tuesday was the same ol' same ol' and I prepped a giant batch of homemade beef jerky to take with me on my travels.  I also stashed a few bags of macadamia nuts and Trader Joe's dried peaches in my suitcase.  I figured that no matter what, I'd always have my own food to resort to in case options became limited.  I ate great while in Austin.  Meat.  Some veggies.  Nuts.  A little fruit.  I didn't eat often or much... my stomach was a little knotted in anticipation of the upcoming events.  Once I arrived in Manchester, I didn't eat.  Hardly at all.  My aunt and I both agreed that we were forcing food into our stomachs because we knew we had to... but even then, it wasn't much.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon to see Baba in the hospital bed... she was asleep... and in pain.  And clearly uncomfortable.  Her room was full of family - all except my dad, I hadn't seen in over 15 years.  One of my aunts was fervently coordinating Baba's recently approved transport to a nearby hospice house.  Within a few hours, she was loaded into an ambulance with a very protective family watching over her and following close behind.  She was soon set up in her new room, eyes closed tight, deep furrows in her brow, and consistently groaning in pain.  The staff cleaned her and provided her some medication to help make her more comfortable.  Baba settled down... the hours grew late... and my aunts, uncles, and cousins made their way in... and back out for the night.  I chose to stay with her.  The facility encourages family to make themselves at home and I felt that there was no other choice than to stay with my grandmother.  I pulled out the hide-a-bed, settled in as best I could... and then pulled up a chair next to Baba's bed.  And I talked to her.  I told her all about Matt.  I told her about our wedding.  About life in California.  I held my computer in my lap and went through my wedding pictures and described them to her.  I held her hand.  I told her I loved her.  And I went to lay down in my own bed.  She screamed a few times in the night - and I ran in my pajamas to the nurses station to get her some help.  Baba received a few doses of morphine and Ativan that night.  Once she was comfortable and quiet, I was able to settle down in my bed.  Maybe around 3 am or so?  This would be the last time she would respond with a yes or no nod when asked if she wanted a nurse or medication.  This would also be my very last sleepover with my grandma.

Family started to arrive the next morning.  Not much had changed in her condition.  Baba had retreated deep inside somewhere and was no longer responsive to the stimulus around her.  It was a beautiful warm day outside and we had the windows open so that the sun shone brightly and her room was filled with fresh air.  Everyone took turns talking to her, holding her hand, her arm, brushing her hair, caressing her forehead.  We talked.  We prayed.  We told stories.  We reminisced.  We listened to Polka music.  We talked about the family pictures that were now adorning Baba's bedside.  Late in the afternoon, we were informed that Baba's breathing had shifted into one of the final stages... and we should expect one last shift in her breathing.  Once that last change transpired, she would be gone within 24 hours.  I think most of us started to believe that Baba wanted to pass quietly by herself and not in a room full of loud Belavitchs joking about Uncle Ricky or Dominican hot dogs or long lost baseball cards.  I left Baba her peace that night and stayed at my Aunt Leslie's house... all of us entrusting Baba's final hours with the astounding nursing staff at the hospice house.  I barely ate or slept Sunday night.  I couldn't.  I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling until almost 1 am.  I kept waiting for my aunt's phone to ring.  For her to poke her head in with the news of Baba's passing.  The house was silent until I woke up the next morning.  Still no news.  I drank a mug of green tea.  Ate my last Larabar.  And my Aunt Cheryl called my Aunt Leslie to let her know that Baba's breathing pattern had just changed for the last time.  This was it.

There wasn't much time to organize thoughts... we made our way over to the hospice house, arriving around 10 am or so.  The room slowly started to fill up again - aunts, uncles, dad and my step-mom, one of my cousins.  And we watched.  We waited.  We prayed some more.  We encouraged Baba.  We comforted her.  We told her we loved her.  What an amazing life she led.  To relax.  To be at ease.  Her pain would soon be gone.  The next part I remember very clearly...  It is something I hope to never forget...

I was on the side of Baba's bed, sitting just lateral to her left shoulder.  I remember listening to her breathing.  How slow and quiet it was.  I was fixated on her chest.  The slow rise and even slower fall.  Her eyes were now gently closed... not the uncomfortable scrunch as they had been since I first arrived two days earlier.  Her jaw was agape.  She looked so peaceful.  The room had started to fill with discussion again, the volume slightly increasing with time... Dad was talking about his Dominican hot dogs - he was excited to have ventured to the Lawrence Common to give the food trucks a try... and that's when I noticed Baba's chest stopped moving.  I remember thinking to myself about how our hearts have a specific number of beats in a lifetime and how in these last minutes... Baba's heart had beat through them all.  These last few pulses were all her heart had left.  I made a gesture to everyone that she was passing and after notifying the nurse, we all sat in silence and watched as she took her last breaths.  I couldn't help but wonder each time her chest rose - "is this the last one?"  And at just before noon on Monday March 19, The Feast of St. Joseph... it was the last one.  Baba took her final breath.
That's Baba's hair in the lower left corner... She would come to visit us in Texas when I was young and would cook all her awesome goodies while she was in town.  7 year old me is in the process of preparing the dough for Baba's pierogi.

Continue reading more HERE.


Paleo F(x), cont.

 "The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
-Thomas Edison

Thursdays events and excitement are all summarized HERE.  If you haven't yet, take a peekie to get caught up.

Friday most assuredly brought another full day of presentations and inspiring information that topped off my notebook and dried out my stash of pens.  The morning began with a sampling of the Paleo F(x) DVD of which I am eagerly anticipating the release.  The first session of the day was an Ask the Paleo Experts Mastermind Panel.

Dr. Jack Kruse, Dean Dwyer, Dr. Ron Rosedale, Nora Gedgaudas, Jimmy Moore from Livin' LaVida Low Carb, Dallas Hartwig from Whole9, Dr. Emily Deans of Evolutionary Psychiatry, Dr. David Pendergrass, Keith Norris, Dr. Lane Sebring, and Dr. Paul Jaminet of Perfect Health Diet... that's quite a panel of experts if you ask me.  This also meant quite a spectrum of thoughts and ideas on particular subjects and a 50 minute Q&A session on topics ranging from Vitamin D deficiencies, causes, and remedies... to the consumption of safe starches and a few differing views across the panel regarding them... to identifying personal goals and understanding what you want from yourself and of your body and establishing methods to achieving those goals accordingly.  Even after a few back and forths between Dr. Paul Jaminet and Dr. Jack Kruse - the one note that I keep seeing throughout my book of notes is this: I have to be the expert on me.

My next session was entitled Paleo 101: Smartest Loser Program, A Case Study.  Dr. David Pendergrass of appetiteregulation.com and the Director of the Molecular Biosciences program at Kansas University started off by leading the audience in a delightful rendition of "Paleo People"... a fun little song about the diets and habits of Paleo people.  Once we all felt a little goofy and a lot more at ease, Dr. Pendergrass then moved into his presentation covering the science behind addiction, what happens to our bodies neurologically when we consume carbohydrates, and discussed a program that he and his daughter had conducted at their local community center... how to transition a group of people from the Standard American Diet into a Paleo diet.  He was met with resistance at the beginning from the center director - after some modifications and tweaks to their approach, the 12 week program a success.  I didn't capture the notes on the final statistics and for that I apologize.  Overall, a very engaging and informative presentation.

I rounded off my morning with Nora Gedgaudas, who is a Certified Nutritional Therapist and author of Primal Body, Primal Mind.  Nora's presentation was entitled "From Carbovore to Carnivore" and was completely enthralling.  This was probably another one of my absolute favorites of the symposium (I'm realizing there are more favorites than I originally thought)... for some reason, what was presented really hit home for me.  Nora began by showing images of a fireplace then comparing the food we consume to the types of fuel for the fire.  If it's a cold winter and we're snuggled up next to that fire - we don't want to have to keep adding fuel and adding fuel... she likened this to beans, rice, potatoes, starches, and alcohol... they are like trying to keep a fire burning with twigs, paper, and gasoline.  The fire will burn but we have to keep continuously grasping for something else to burn, something else to burn, something else to burn.  When we fuel our metabolic fire with carbs - we are sugar burners.  On the other hand - protein and fat are like the huge robust logs that you put on the fire and it lasts all night long... much like not having to worry about the fire after you've placed those hearty logs, if you are an efficient fat burner - food and thinking about food will no longer preoccupy your mind.  BOOM!  Palm smacking face.  I will never forget that analogy and will continue to share it with those who question my choice to eat a high protein/saturated fat diet and not a low-fat, high-carb diet.  Nora also pointed out that if we cannot afford to be sick, we cannot afford to NOT eat optimally well.  The presentation continued on to explain disglycemia, food sensitivity, conditions that are a direct result of food sensitivities, serotonin deficiencies, and the impact that poor sleeping habits and extreme stress can have on our bodies.  If you read my first day summary - you also read that relaxation is not a luxury.  It is a necessity.  The presentation was fascinating and fulfilling and I couldn't believe I absorbed as much as I did in the mere 40 minutes of discussion and 10 minutes of Q&A.  Here's a snippet that I know will resonate with some of my friends - hot flashes are NOT normal!

The first time I heard Chris Kresser speak was during the Underground Wellness Paleo Summit.  I was fascinated by all he had to say about cholesterol and statins and I went back and listened to that particular piece three different times, the second time I insisted Matt sit with me... all in one day because it was only available for 24 hours.  It was exciting to be able to hear him speak in person about cholesterol and the evolving beliefs around it.  I won't even begin to summarize Chris's presentation, but I will direct you to a few links on his blog.  I sincerely suggest you head over there and take a peek at this one: 5 Reasons Not to Worry About Your Cholesterol Numbers and this one: Why You Should Eat More, Not Less Cholesterol.   While you're there, why not subscribe to his podcast so you can stay abreast of the nutritional and health information as he shares it.

Once my brain was substantially aching, it was time for a little fun and I made my way back to watch the cooking demonstrations in the main room.  One of my all time Paleo heroes and recipe queen - NomNomPaleo started by hand whipping a fresh batch of mayonnaise and then preparing Spicy Crab and Avocado Temaki.  It was exciting to watch as the Paleo Paparazzi snapped photos, including Michelle Tam's husband - FitBomb!  I couldn't wait to see those exact pictures posted on her blog the following day.

Next up on the cooking stage were the delightfully charming Food Lovers - Bill Staley and Hayley Mason.  They're even cuter in person than on their web page and cookbook.  I have to admit, it is so much more fun cooking their recipes at home once you have met them!  While Hayley sweated and worked hard to prepare the Primal Palate's Skirt Steak Fajitas, Bill did what he apparently normally does in their kitchen... and took pictures!  They were fun to watch, the food smelled great, and we even got a few photography tips from Bill.  If you haven't seen his pictures, be sure to visit The Food Lovers' Kitchen... or even better - buy their cookbook.  I love it and have been staining it with sauces and oils since I got back from Austin.  Kidding about the stainage, not about the excessive use.

After watching the folks behind the blogs that I follow and who's recipes I pilfer from in great frequency, it was time to head over and watch all of them speak at once on the Virtual Foodies Panel: Contributions to The Tribe, moderated by Whole9 co-founder Melissa Hartwig.  Dallas Hartwig was tweeting live-action commentary from the side of the room.  I was in Paleo blogger heaven!  These are the folks that all made Paleo doable.  Here was a stage full of people, not much different than you and I, that had taken their talents and skills and shared them with all the world.  Dallas and Melissa were the spark that started my journey three years ago and Michelle Tam, Melissa Joulwan, Charles and Julie Mayfield, Bill Staley and Hayley Mason, all pushed me along... keeping me (and my husband) very well fed along the way.  Michelle Norris, executive chef at Caveman Cuisine, also sat on the panel with much to offer to the discussion.  In fact, my favorite comment of the entire session was from Michelle in reference to eating Paleo:  It is a 'what you can have' lifestyle, not a 'what you can't have diet.'  YES!  Absolutely yes!  My second favorite comment was from Charles Mayfield of Paleo Comfort FoodsPaleo is an awareness of what you're eating... It's not lines you've crossed, it's an awareness the lines exist.  It was reassuring and comforting to hear the encouragement from the panel and relaxing to know there was going to be no discussion about cortisol or leptins or adrenal fatigue... even with Dallas and Melissa standing so close.  This was the panel for every day folk just trying to make it through a day in their Paleo kitchen and I loved it!

The next presentation was another tough decision between the three offerings - but I opted to hear Erwan LeCorre speak about his MovNat program.  I'm not gonna lie... he's easy on the eyes and I enjoy listening to him speak.  It must be the accent.  Although Dean Dwyer was speaking on a different stage, his Canadian accent just wasn't strong enough to lure me toward his presentation instead.  Even though my initial reasons for attending may not have had a "paleo purpose",  I did get a lot of valuable information and insight from Erwan's presentation.  He pointed out that the general population of "we" now live in an unnatural environment... we live in a zoo.  And we've become domesticated.  Think about it - we sit all day.  In our cars, at a desk, at home.  Modern exercise has become an optional activity.  Machines should not dictate how we move.  Moving naturally is a "bioLOGICAL" necessity.  The remainder of the presentation consisted of Erwan walking the audience through his programming and about how to relearn natural movement.  MovNat programming is for everyone and NOT specializing is encouraged.  Quality of movement is primary.  There are currently MovNat workshops in the U.S. and internationally.  For those trainers and coaches who have a particular interest in the programming, there is also a MovNat Certification program.  Once life settles down, I'd really like to take Matt out to one of these workshops - they look like so much fun and we both love being outdoors and MOVING about!

The next presentation I attended was by far my most favorite, favorite, favorite of the entire symposium.  Before this trip, I had not heard of Dr. Lane Sebring.  I was intrigued by some of the comments and input he had made during a few of the Mastermind presentations and was looking forward to hearing him speak during his own session.  I was not only not disappointed, but what I heard far exceeded my expectations... whatever they were.  Dr. Sebring is a primary care and integrative anti-aging physician with 20 years of clinical experience, 13 years of which have been strictly Paleo diet based.  He was present in 1999 for Dr. Loren Cordain's presentation on - Cereal Grains: Humanity's Double Edged Sword.  Dr. Sebring explained that drugs and scalpels are the only thing taught in medical school and how all of the other modalities of care - nutrition, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc. are viewed to be ineffective and potentially dangerous.  He explained why statin drugs are a sham.  What I really appreciated hearing was "We are not smart enough to do what we are doing [with medicine].  We do not know enough to do what we are doing [with medicine]."  We need to go back to when we DID know.  "Paleo and practice can treat everything... except stupid."  Very well said.  The rest of my notes are page after page of teeny handwriting about orthomolecular medicine, IV Vitamin C for cancer treatment, diseases that he's seen in his clinic and has treated or made nearly non-existent... including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, neoplasms, infertility, psoriasis... and the list just goes on.  As expected it would.  I also heard for the third or fourth time during the whole PFX Symposium about changing insurance to allow for the freedom and flexibility to select a doctor and treatment that will truly get you well and not just make you sicker, keep you sick, and drain your savings in the process.  I called Matt later in the evening, trying to not bounce off the walls and relayed everything I possibly could from Dr. Sebring's presentation.  When I got home I showed him the pamphlet for the clinic... and in a very hopeful attempt to start introducing some alternative treatment methods to the rest of the family, I passed the information on to my in-laws.  My father-in-law is ill to a degree I won't post on here - but I so strongly believe that nutrition and lifestyle changes would have such a great impact in the outcome of what he is facing.  And who couldn't use a nice trip to Texas Hill Country for a consultation, at least?  I wish I lived closer to Wimberly, as I'd probably be on Dr. Sebring's doorstep for a few of my own personal health concerns.

The final presentation of the day was about the Psychology of Change with a panel featuring Nora Gedgaudas, Dan Pardi of Dan's Plan, Mark Sisson of MarksDailyApple, Dr. Emily Deans of Evolutionary Psychiatry, Dr. Shilpi Mehta, Roger Dickerman of CrossFit Relentless, and Dr. David Pendergrass.  What was exciting was how each presenter really reinforced the fact that the ancestral movement, the Paleo lifestyle, etc. is a revolution.  It is gaining momentum and as one person spreads the word by serving as a living example, others will continue to follow and the movement will continue to grow.  This was another presentation that was full of information, fun to watch, and incredibly inspiring.  To see a panel comprised of trainers, nutritionists, and doctors reminded me that there is still hope for the future of health and wellness in this country.  And that we need to get involved, be active, and spread the word.   The concept that stuck with me most from this particular panel was presented by Roger Dickerman - he suggested that we become a "community architect" - be the person that finds the "dream team" of Paleo experts in our local area... medical doctors, alternative practitioners, nutritionists, trainers, etc and be the source that people can go to when they are looking for a Paleo supportive environment.  Apparently there was a greater explanation around this at the Community Outreach Mastermind panel discussion the previous day.  Just one more reason I'll be purchasing the DVD!

The Symposium closed with Keith, Michelle, and Kevin thanking everyone for attending and requesting that we all stay in touch... provide feedback... and stay in the loop.  Most definitely!!  Paleo F(x) was life changing for me in that I realized I'm not alone on my journey.  Faces behind the blogs, the web pages, the articles belong to real people whose beliefs, thoughts, and ideas make sense.  Since I left Austin in March, I have started following more Facebook posts, read more articles, and can't get enough around what we are doing to our bodies and how to truly be good to ourselves and work toward optimum wellness.  I will most certainly be an annual participant.  I can't wait to get back.  And I think I may even have my husband on board and perhaps a few friends who believe in what I'm doing... leading by example does work.  I left PFX12 a starfish... and have since lit a fire in others to be starfish, too.  It is empowering.  It is exciting.  And I can't wait to see where this all goes...

Keep following my journey until PFX13 at www.kaizenneener.com


Paleo F(x)

 "The change that takes place when you go to Paleo is like being able to finally see The Matrix."
- Dr. Shilpi Mehta, OD

Phew.  It has been a whirlwind of a month... March started with a mind blowing week of staring at my computer and diligently taking notes while listening to the Underground Wellness Paleo Summit.  Throughout the summit, I was exposed to some of the biggest names in the Paleo movement for the first time:  Dr. Jack Kruse, Nora Gedgaudas, and Chris Kresser... not to mention all the other Paleo folks I already followed online and from whom I sought nutritional expertise.  The summit was a perfect precursor to the Paleo F(x) Symposium that took place mid-March in Austin, Texas.  What is about to follow is my take on the experience of attending PFX12 - it will be long and wordy and typical of my writing style.  So grab some jerky, some toasted coconut, a handful of macadamia nuts and settle in... What the following is NOT - a transcription of all of my notes.  I might crash the blogspot servers if I attempted that.  Instead, I am sharing the highlights and the information that I found exceptionally profound.  I am sharing my experience, my thoughts, and my realizations.  If you are specifically interested in my notes - contact me and we can sit down over green tea and discuss the details.  So now that you are nice and cozy - let's begin!

I mentioned in an earlier post my predetermined notion of the Paleo F(x) attendees.  And within minutes of walking into the North End lobby of Darryl K. Royal Memorial Stadium on Wednesday evening, all preconceived thoughts of being uncomfortably surrounded by perfect specimens of humanity were quickly dispelled.  These folks were normal!  Like me!  A vast spectrum of ages, shapes, sizes, and colors.  Sure, there was plenty of chiseling roaming around.  But there were even MORE normal sized healthy folks.  My nerves soon subsided, I gathered my registration info, and headed up to the Stark Center on the 5th floor.

For the details of the first day, read my post on Day 1 HERE.  The main point to take away is this: we should each take time to invest in the wellness and care of others and encourage transformation... because we never know who we may impact through our efforts...and who will continue on to share that love with others.  Like I mentioned in the Day 1 post, this "starfish story" became the theme of the entire Paleo F(x) event.  During the first evening of socializing and crowd watching, I met a delightful woman from Aromas, CA (visit her blog at www.oursacredroots.com).  She is an organic greens farmer and works at the farmer's markets in Menlo Park and San Francisco.  Since we were both traveling alone and got along quite well, we naturally buddied up over NorCal Margaritas and chased down our Paleo heroes for casual introductions.  Everyone we encountered was so down to earth and willing to converse and share her (and his) own stories.  The evening was certainly a very warm welcome to what was to be one heck of an intense and informative two day symposium.

Thursday morning started bright and early.  The very small leadership team that dreamed up this incredible event enthusiastically introduced Paleo F(x) and gave a short introduction of what it took to get from a kitchen table 150 days earlier to the spectacular event that we were about to witness.  Kevin, Keith, and Michelle each had their own story and busted their butts to present to us the very first PFX Symposium.

The first presenter of the day was CJ Hunt, creator of "In Search of The Perfect Human Diet."  His story is a fascinating one, suffering a full cardiac arrest while running.  He was given a second chance at life and told by the doctors that he couldn't walk up stairs, no more motocross, and don't go anywhere without someone by his side that was trained in CPR.  Instead of living a limited life - CJ Hunt began his quest to find out what was REALLY wrong.  His presentation led us through his journey of seeking out The Perfect Human Diet... which in the most simplest terms breaks down into Human Food vs. Non-Human Food.  A concept that we should be using to explain what we should be eating.  The DVD was on sale at the PFX bookstore and before the presentation was even over, the special edition was completely sold out!  I haven't yet watched the film, but can't wait to do so... it only reassures and offers an even deeper insight into what many of us are already discovering about our health and nutrition.

Next on the stage was Paleo Genius, Robb Wolf.  Much to everyone's surprise, Robb did not speak about Paleo.  Nothing on nutrition, no endocrinology to wade through, no science.  In fact, Robb's presentation barely even mentioned food... he spoke completely about how to "Run Your Gym Like a Caveman: The NorCal Method".  Quite simply - one of my most favorite presentations of the symposium.  The timing of this couldn't have been more perfect, so I sat with my ears perked and pen at the ready to scribble every word of every slide.  Robb spoke about NorCal Strength & Conditioning  and the methods that are employed in training their athletes.  He spoke about how to create a quality experience for each client from the client's very first interaction to their first workout to a long term commitment to improving their health... and how having a gym that feels like "home" - where they feel like they belong is such an important component.  Robb talked about retention, how to think about the big picture, class structures, programming.  I have over 6 pages of detailed notes from a 40 minute presentation.  Anyone that is or aspires to be a coach or trainer would benefit greatly from listening to Robb Wolf's philosophy on gym ownership.  If there's any question on the quality of his experience - take a peek at NorCal Strength & Conditioning.  If there are any coaches reading that would be interested in the details of Robb Wolf's presentation, let's get together and chat.  There is much to be gained!  One other note:  Robb mentioned that every coach and trainer should have read The Talent Code.  With so much traveling that was about to transpire in my life - I loaded it onto my Kindle and have been glued to this book ever since.  Fascinating, fascinating read, people.

At this point in the day, attendees were forced to make a decision on which presentation they wanted to see next.  There were Mastermind discussions at the east and west stages or a cooking demonstration at the main stage.  Honestly, it was a struggle from this point until Friday night to decide where to go - knowing full well, I was going to miss out on SOMETHING incredibly valuable.  I chose to stay in the main room and watch Chris Kresser prepare Goan Chicken Xacuti.  There was a little discussion about Chris's practice in integrative medicine and acupuncture.  He spoke a little about his online resources The Healthy Baby Code, The Personal Paleo Code, and his Meal Plan Generator and Recipes.  I have to admit, I was quite distracted by the intoxicating aroma that was wafting around the room.  Unfortunately - no samples.  <sad face>

The cooking demonstrations continued with a fabulously entertaining Melissa Joulwan.  If you don't know it already, she is one of my most favorite Paleo and lifestyle bloggers at The Clothes Make The Girl.  Not only was she the best dressed rock star of the symposium, but she was witty and engaging and everything you'd expect from reading her blog.  Melissa prepared coconut almond green beans from her super fantastic cookbook Well Fed.  For those of you that follow my blog - you know my love for this book.  If you have not yet purchased your own copy of Well Fed, you're making me cry.  This book got Matt and me through our Wedded Bliss Whole30.  And I continue to use the seasoning, sauces, and carnitas recipes almost weekly.  For any newcomers - trust me.  Buy the book.  You'll love it.  It will live on your counter and become encrusted with bits of cumin and lime juice and coconut oil and you will love every bit of it.  I mean it.  But back to the symposium... again, no samples of the gorgeous green beans.  I sadly accepted that I'd have to wait to try all this delicious demoed food once I returned home to my own kitchen.

The next presentation I attended was Affecting Future American Healthcare & Food Policy.  I honestly hated to miss the other offerings on the other stages - but I sincerely believe there was never  a bad choice to be made with ANY of the presentations.  I just can't wait for the DVD release so I can rewatch everything I already observed and newly watch everything I couldn't.  The speakers on the panel were:  Diana Rodgers of Radiance Nutritional Therapy, Robb Wolf, Shannon Ford - Mrs. United States 2011 who was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, Judith McGeary - an attorney and the founder and Executive Director of The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Michelle Norris - co-founder of Paleo F(x) and Executive Chef at Caveman Cuisine, Dr. Amy Meyers of Austin UltraHealth, and Heather Isely (I apologize, I didn't write down her affiliation at the time of the presentation).  The whole panel was moderated by a very exuberant and very Canadian Dean Dwyer.  There was a VAST amount of information crammed into this 40 minute presentation and I, of course, have a notebook full of scribble.  The items that really stuck out for me:

*  Just because it is done in a lab, doesn't mean it is good science (or good for us) - in reference to GMO's
*  When trying to identify what is causing someone to be sick, it is easier to eliminate a food or foods from a person's diet than it is to cut into them, explore, and medicate
*  The concept of "cash & carry" physicians - to take a high-deductible/catastrophic only insurance and put a monthly deposit into an HSA instead... that opens up the flexibility of seeing doctors that TRULY want to get their patients well and can order tests that are not covered by standard insurance policies
*  Get involved!  Sign petitions, talk to congressional representatives, write to manufacturers.  Food is a non-partisan issue
*  Our current healthcare system was referred to as "Putting a band-aid over a bullet wound"... we only continue to perpetuate a bad system for everyone
*  Robb Wolf made some excellent comments about sustainable permaculture and not wanting a top-down food policy - a fascinating explanation and one worth purchasing the symposium DVD to see

The day was barely half-way through when I scurried my way back to the main stage to watch the Longevity vs. Optimization Mastermind Panel.  Dr. Amy Meyers, Amy Kubal, Dallas Hartwig, Keith Norris, Dr. Lane Sebring, Robb Wolf, and Dr. Jack Kruse made up the panel that was moderated by Kevin Cottrell.  The panel started by discussing the shortened life spans of competitive athletes which quickly transitioned to a talk about elevated cortisol levels and the extreme effects that high cortisol can have on the body - in short, it speeds up our chemical clock.  It was also mentioned that ultimate performance does not equate to health.  We must decide what we are working towards... "what's the goal?"  We were told: don't chase performance at the expense of your health.  One of the key points that was reiterated was that we must get more good quality sleep.  And that vacations aren't a luxury - they are a necessity.  There was extensive discussion around the cortisol imbalance, adrenal burnout and fatigue, identifying WHY we need caffeine and addressing it from the root of the problem.  (I can't see it in this picture, but I'm almost certain Dallas Hartwig had a venti Starbucks at one point)  I'm not sure I wrote this next part right - but here goes... Aesthetics is a symptom of dysfunction... not something to focus on.  Work on the dysfunction directly instead of 'whack-a-mole' with the symptoms.  Whether I captured that thought correctly or not, it is a concept that I've believed in for a very long time and it was so incredibly reassuring to hear that from the mouths of experts - especially those in the medical profession.

Luckily I didn't have to move for the next presentation: The Future of Paleo.  Carlos Andres Toro of the Ancestral Health Symposium moderated the panel - Keith Norris, Dean Dwyer, Abel Bascom, Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, and Dr. Jack Kruse.  Quite simply - we are at the early adoption phase of Paleo and we need to continue in the direction we are going to maintain the momentum we have.  This is a 1:1 movement that will spread by talking to friends, to neighbors, to our doctors... Challenge the medical profession.  From the words of a doctor: if you go to your doctor with lab results and he/she can't figure out what's wrong... challenge him.  Make him feel uncomfortable.  This was the first time I had heard about The Paleo Physicians Network, comprised of medical professionals that believe in the benefits and the importance of this type of lifestyle and the role it plays in healing patients.  Believe me - I bookmarked that link as soon as I got home.  My favorite quote from this particular panel and also an idea that I firmly believe... The greatest liberty is controlling your own health, your destiny... in your own health.  The panel also mentioned that the best way to spread the word, to encourage more of the 1:1 is to have a story to tell that is different than what anyone else is doing.  People will come to us because they have a problem and it is up to us to find a creative way to offer a solution.  And share our story with them.

The final two presentations of the day were Mark Sisson and James OPT Fitzgerald.  Since I already benefit greatly from MarksDailyApple.com and have read The Primal Blueprint, it was great to listen to Mark Sisson reinforce and relate all of the information through discussion.  My takeaways that evening were this:

*  What's right for me may not always be right for you.
*  There are no right or wrong answers in life.  Just choices.  (and we must accept the results of the choices that we have made and cannot judge others for the choices that they make)

OPT gave a fantastic coaching presentation on assessment and coaching techniques for taking weight overhead.  He is incredibly enthusiastic and fun to watch and instead of reposting my notes - I'm just going to recommend heading out to his certification programs.  There is some hefty information to be had!

When all was said and done, I headed down to the book signing where I was able to meet all of the wonderful cookbook authors and have them sign my books which are now permanently within reach of my cooking corner.  I returned back "home" late that evening after a brain exhausting day - just in time to chow on some slow-cooked pork roast and pineapple before collapsing into my bed for the night.  More good quality sleep, right?  Not this trip!

Read the rest of the story HERE.


Paleo F(x) - Day 3

Friday morning came awfully early, but I was excited about all the information the day had in store.  Before I get to my Paleo F(x) photo summary, you're stuck with a gratuitous baby picture!

Olive helps her father with a little tune... or maybe she was making him stop?

And now... another full day of Paleo F(x):

Dr. Jack Kruse, Dean Dwyer, Dr. Ron Rosedale, Nora Gedgaudas, Jimmy Moore, Dallas Hartwig, Dr. Emily Deans, Dr. David Pendergrass, Keith Norris, Dr. Lane Sebring, and Paul Jaminet sit for an open panel of "Ask The Paleo Experts" 

A fascinating Dr. David Pendergrass leads the crowd in a "Paleo People" sing-along before explaining his Smartest Loser Program and Case Study results

Nora Gedgaudas gives an enlightening presentation "From Carbavore to Carnivore" with a few illustrative explanations of the difference between how we burn carbs vs. how we burn fat and protein... probably another one my favorite presentations 

My Paleo cooking and blogging hero, Michelle Tam of nomnompaleo.com, prepares mayonnaise on the spot to use with her Crab Tamaki

Really wanted to gobble this up before it got whisked away for professional pictures

Chris Kresser discussed the myths around cholesterol - if you ever get an opportunity to hear him speak on this topic, go.  It is extremely informative and will certainly start to shift your old paradigm around cholesterol numbers

The super adorable couple of The Food Lover's Primal Palate, Bill Staley and Hayley Mason, prepare fajitas - the food smelled fantastic!

Julie and Charles Mayfield, Michelle Tam, Melissa Joulwan, Michelle Norris, and Bill Staley and Hayley Mason discuss cookbooks, food blogs, bear hunting, and just plain silliness during the Virtual Foodies Mastermind.  I believe there were even a few gratuitous middle fingers thrown around.

Erwan LeCorre fields questions about MovNat

I love doctors that really get "it"... that understand not everyone wants to be medicated... that understand that there really is more we can do for our bodies to be and stay healthy.  Dr. Lane Sebring is one of those doctors and I hope his intelligence and passion for doing right by his patients spreads among the medical community.  I only wish I was closer to his practice.

Nora Gedgaudas, Dan Pardi, Mark Sisson, Dr. Emily Deans, Dr. Shilpi Mehta, Roger Dickerman, and Dr. David Pendergrass discuss the Psychology of Change involved with a transition to a Paleo lifestyle

After some Q&A and a few closing remarks from the PaleoF(x) team, the first ever PaleoF(x) came to a close.  I can't begin to explain how incredible the experience was, how much I was able to learn and how much more of what I believed was confirmed, reconfirmed, and justified.  Some day soon I will actually put together a written summary and post it to the blog.  Unfortunately, there was a family emergency that required tending to immediately following the symposium and I haven't had much time since to compile thoughts.  For now - enjoy the pictures and please visit the links of the respective presenters.  Each and every one has so much to offer and can only help enhance your journey to and with a Paleo life.


Paleo F(x) - Day 2

Day 2 of Paleo F(x) was even better than I expected.  I was planning to see a crowd quite similar to that of the CrossFit Games... and walked into a room full of anything but.  The group was diverse - ranging from long-term Paleo lifestylers to folks just getting started, only a few weeks in.  There were kids in college, thirty year olds, fifty year olds... and a few women I would guess were in at least their seventies.  There were folks from New Zealand, from Canada, from the Middle East.  Everyone was vibrant, full of energy, and most important - healthy!  For three days - we all came together with a common goal, a common bond... eating for our lives and optimizing our personal self.  

Here's a photo summary of the days events:

CJ Hunt shares his story about the making of "In Search of the Perfect Human Diet"

Our view for the duration of the symposium

Robb Wolf speaks about what it takes to run a great gym... one of my favorite presentations of the entire symposium!

Chris Kresser demonstrates how to cook Chicken Xacutti - it smelled soooo good in there!

The only part I didn't like was that we didn't get to taste it!

Do I REALLY have to drink my water from these cups?

The super fabulous, incredibly witty Melissa Joulwan cooks up coconut almond green beans

If I haven't convinced you enough already - GET WELL FED!

Chipotle chicken salad lunch provided by Caveman Cuisine of Austin, Texas

Diana Rodgers, Robb Wolf, Shannon Ford, Judith McGeary, Michelle Norris, Heather Isely, Dr. Amy Myers, and Dean Dwyer exchange ideas about Affecting Future American Healthcare & Food Policy

Dr. Amy Meyers, Amy Kubal, Dallas Hartwig, Keith Norris, Dr. Lane Sebring, Robb Wolf, and Dr. Jack Kruse discuss Longevity vs. Optimization and how to address a Paleo diet for each goal

Keith Norris, Dean Dwyer, Abel Bascom, Mark Sisson, and Dr. Jack Kruse cover the Future of Paleo

Mark Sisson gives a captivating presentation on making choices and identifying how to make the best choices for you... n=1 with a Paleo lifestyle

James OPT Fitzgerald covers assessing when and how to go overhead with weight... a fantastic presentation for coaches!

The swag that I won on the Paleo F(x)  Facebook competition!  Heck yeah!  And now 2/3 of them are signed by the wonderful authors!
What a GREAT and very long day!  My brain was overflowing and there was still one more whole day to go!