Drips & Drugs, Pills & Paleo, Bed pans & Bed pains

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My surgery was largely uneventful. This was a good thing. I waited as expected for four hours in the day procedure area of the Epworth Eastern hospital, ready to eat my arm off after fasting since the night before, and as luck would have it was only called in once I had successfully hobbled my way to the disabled loos and back.

Standard issue hospital gown, mootboot finally off even if only for a moment. Nurse painted my leg red with a cleaner and antiseptic, and also to highlight in surgery which leg it was that needed attention. My assistant surgeon introduced himself and gave me a few pointers on what they were doing and how. The anesthetist came to explain the post op pain killers he would prescribe, made some bad jokes and left. Dr Hau popped in long enough to draw an arrow in black marker on my leg and a smiley face on my right big toe and then I was wheeled into the surgery area.

No gas, just an injection or two, the methodical count down and before I knew it I was asleep in la la land.

I was told during the surgery I was turned over, face down and Bonds undies on display while they worked on my leg. Incision at the back of my ankle, about seven centimeters which would leave the scar Joel was so worried about. My mop ends were successfully attached with no major issues or surprises. I was sawn up and the entire thing took about 30 minutes.

I woke to find my moonboot back on and groggy from the remains of the anesthetic.

No real pain – that would come later. Nurses fussing over me. I remember asking if they had called Joel yet to tell him I was ok, since his mum had died not 10 months earlier during a routine biopsy, he had a fear of anyone going under anesthetic.

For the next few hours nurses came and went administering me with antibiotics through the intravenous needle in my left hand and providing various pills for me to swallow that were designed to prevent the onslaught of pain I knew was coming.

I felt largely, ok. Thirsty, and a little hungry once the harder drugs were flushed out of my system. I managed to keep down water so the drip in my arm was taken out, the bung left only for the antibiotics I would need to prevent infection, one of the most common risks associated with an achilles surgery.

When I felt strong enough to eat the Nurse, Juile, bought me my gluten free lunch option. Sandwiches.

She left the still cold from the fridge white bread ham and salad triangles on my hospital tray table along with two more blue pills and a glass of water. I eyed off the sandwiches with disgust. Even before my gluten free days I hated premade sandwiches, and had an intense phobia of them which started when I was a child and used to hide standard school lunch of vegemite sandwiches in the bottom of my schoolbag instead of eating them. Where they remained until my Mum eventually smelt them out.

I popped the pills with another swig of water and tried to work up enough courage to tackle the ‘food’ in front of me. I was pretty hungry.  I still hadn’t eaten since dinner last night and it was well past lunch time. Ok so they weren’t paleo. I knew the substitute flour would be corn based or something and the ham would be mass purchased and produced, not free range, and I spied what I thought was margarine not butter, which I have never eaten, but really, my options were limited. Very limited. As in, I had nothing else.

The only food place in the hospital was a Hudsons coffee, which would also serve premade sandwiches, and while I had a smoothie or two in waiting I had made the night before the operation and were in the nurses refrigerator, I first needed something I could chew.

I took a bite and like a catholic girl on her wedding night tried to think of something else.

Half way through the first non paleo triangle, the blue pills kicked in and I had trouble thinking at all. My vision went blurry, my hand seemed to move a tad slower than I wanted it to and my sandwich had no taste at all. When I moved my head it took a while for my vision to catch up, and a warm feeling was creeping all down my body.

When Julie returned I slowly, deliberately, as by this time I was quite dizzy asked her about the pills.

Are they meant to space you out?

Yes they are morphine based, so they might have a strange effect.

Ok, good, so it wasn’t just the sandwich that was sending me into a fog of delusion.

In my field of hazy fog I finished the sandwich and when it eventually lifted, I finished my hide the greens smoothie too.

Much later, when the blue pills had almost warn off, I had been administered a second round of antibiotics, my smoothie was gone and a jug of water had also been put away, I needed to use the bathroom.

It was my first pee post surgery – almost five hours ago.

I buzzed nurse Juile. I hadn’t been out of bed since my surgery either so wasn’t sure if I was even allowed, but knew either way I would need some help.

I was humiliated when she returned with the bed pan.

In addition to my premade sandwich phobia is my dislike for use of public toilets and my inability to squat to pee. Ever.

Now at the risk of providing too much information, let me offer some background to my unusual toilet behaviors.

If a toilet door does not have a lock, I request a friend or sister to wait out the front for fear of someone walking in. The first toilet I use in a block at work, is the toilet that becomes, when possible, my one toilet for the rest of the day. I won’t go camping unless there are public loos and when travelling around Asia and Europe I managed to bypass all drop holes to find a toilet with a seat and functioning flush button, even if it meant I was in the end running for one. Literally running for one.

So when Julie returned with the bed pan and instructions that I was not yet to get out of bed, I almost thought about holding on.

But I was still hazy on drugs, full of medications, antibiotics, smoothie and water, and only had one foot I could jig or tap my bladder pressure away, so really had no choice.

My first problem was stage fright.

For 33 years I had managed to never be put in such a position where this method of peeing was required, and now, dispute the intense pressure on my bladder which was calling out for a release, my mind was having trouble letting go.

Julie came back to see how I was doing, but I shook my head so she disappeared again.

Like with the sandwich, I shut my eyes and thought of something else, and a few minutes later, perhaps because by this stage my bladder was bursting and I had no other choice, my release came.

This isn’t so bad. I remember thinking, almost settling into it.

Just like a loo, only portable.

The relief on my bladder as the pressure began to ease was instantaneous, and I relaxed into the bed pan. Maybe I relaxed a little too much, or maybe it was just the amount of fluids I had consumed during the day, but I had trouble shutting off.

A memory from a drunken night out when I had held my bladder from one pub to the next, before running into the loo and peeing so much the person in the cubical next to me called out to congratulate me on my long stream came back to me, and as it did a sudden moment of panic and fear.

What if the bedpan was not deep enough.

Bollucks.

Now if you are not a fan of toilet humor, toilet stories or other low brow attempts at making a funny, or if you have an angelic image of yours truly you would like to preserve, stop reading now.

Things do get worse.

I thought about not posting this, not writing it to begin with but life is often messy, and I figure I am only embarrassing myself, and life writing is about writing about life – good bad or otherwise.

So here goes.

By the time Julie came back I was sitting in a bed pan of my own pee.

I had well and truly outdone myself this time round.

Stomach muscles engaged I was resting lightly on the brown paper bowl in fear I would fall too deeply into the pool of my own urine and tip it everywhere.

I need not have feared, that happened anyway.

For when poor Julie came to take away the pan and empty it, it was so full she couldn’t prevent it from tipping and sloshing and spilling drops – well more than drops – of urine onto my hospital gown and sheets. And yes, I had been sitting in it.

I was mortified.

Julie drew the curtains around my bed, blocking out the family visiting the only other patient in the six bed ward, but they had seen enough anyway. They had seen Julie come in with the bed pan, only for her to return later with a bucket of hot water, soap and a set of new bed sheets.

Like a child once again in nappies I was stripped, bathed, and changed into my own pajamas. The bed was stripped and new sheets put on me. Julie remained professional the entire time, as I lay there red faced, dignity gone as she washed my back and butt, and wondered if this is how the elderly felt when they too were unable to bath themselves.

This is why I only use toilets. I thought as Julie finished up, smile on her face and told me not to worry, it happens all the time.

As the curtains were opened and the family opposite glanced my way, I wished for two more of the blue pills that would space me out so I could forget this moment ever happened.

An hour or so later, when I needed to relieve myself again, Julie returned smile on face, wheelchair in front of her, and said she had checked with the orthopedic surgeon, I could get out of bed.

Thank god.

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Learning the Rough Way

I spent the next two days pre operation at work. Some thought I was crazy, coming into work before having an operation. Why wouldn’t I just take the days off? I would like to say it was the allegiance and dedication I felt to the job, and perhaps there was a little of that. I probably wanted a little bit of sympathy also from my colleagues. In truth though, the main reason I went back to work on Tuesday and Wednesday was to keep sane.

I was already worried about the boredom I would find at home waiting for me on the couch; between the remote control and the mound of cushions I would need to support me for the next few weeks.

I was grasping onto the remains of normality for at least the next two days. I needed people. I needed routine. I needed to keep busy.

The Monday after we left Dr Hau, me with a fake smile plastered on myself to try and pretend I wasn’t shocked or surprised at the length of recovery he had outlined for me, I called in a bigger favor from Laura.

Time to fit me with a cam walker, or what I affectionately (not) refer to as a moonboot.

Laura paid me a home visit that night and expertly fitted me with the shoe, showed me how to use it and left me with a few compression socks and bandages to use in future. Helpful tips on how to shower with one on (cover with garbage bag and use electrical tape) on sleeping (pillowcase to keep your sheets clean) and promises that eventually I would get used to it.

Her visit saved me not only a trip to the hospital the following day to get one fitted, but also saved me some much needed cash. At this point, after paying $100 for the Dr visit, $90 for the ultrasound and $98 for the Xray’s – all before operation and post operation care – I was starting to wonder why I had private health insurance in the first place and with election time looming, was almost half interested in the ‘policies’ our ‘level headed’ governments were trying to sell.

Her visit also meant I was free on Tuesday and could go to work and given it would be the last two days in a few weeks I could, I actually really wanted to.

Plus I knew what was coming. Weeks of alone time, getting bed sores and most likely putting on a few kilos and loosing the 15% body fat I at worked so hard at achieving.

I couldn’t drive. The moonboot had seen to that – for at least three months.  So not only was I couch bound, but housebound too. I had to rely on others for everything – something I’m not really good at.

Good old Dr Hau with his remarkable bedside manner had been very stern about the first two weeks post operation and their significant in helping me to repair. Leg raised, elevated to prevent swelling that could then rip at the stitches or pull at the recently attached tendon. No moving unless I had to. And by had to, it meant unless I had to go to the toilet.

Just sit on the couch, Dr Hau had said. Like this was easy.

I’m sure for some it would be, but I have never been a couch sitter for lengthy periods, unless I have lost myself in a novel or with my notebook and have successfully managed to lock out the outside world.

Just sit on the couch.

So no crossfit in the morning, no yoga at night.

Just sit on the couch.

So no cooking dinner or preparing meals.

Just sit on the couch.

So no driving, no grocery shopping, no walking the dogs.

Just sit on the couch.

So no working, no visiting friends, no brunch on Sunday mornings, no drinks Friday night.

Just sit on the couch.

So no dusting, no vacuuming, no mopping or sweeping or cleaning.

Just sit on the couch.

I was worried.

I may have a slight obsessive compulsive nature when it came to housework and if I spot dust on my dark chocolate brown coffee table can’t relax until I remove it. Couch time was only after dinner had been cooked and dishes had been washed and dogs had been fed and the next day smoothies had been made.

My day used to start at 5:15am and end at 11pm. That was going to be a lot of couch time.

At some point during a fit of self pity I reached out to Jarryd Roughead via twitter.

I never expected him to respond, although I hoped he did. After all he had done this same injury and had come back to play some of his best footy. He was in the lead for the Coleman medal, surely if someone could spark some sort of fight in me it was him. It was a simple message, and he responded not half an hour later.

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I’m not ashamed to say, this made my day.

It pepped me up when I needed it. It also reconfirmed to me what I heard from the surgeon, the doctor and everyone else who knew me well. I needed to stop, relax, and not try to rush this or do too much. I needed to literally, once my leg had been cut open and my tendon mop ends reattached, do nothing.

So that Tuesday and Wednesday, before my operation date, I went to work. I worked hard, not leaving until late on Wednesday night. I tried to handover what I could, tidy up other things and ensure my team had what they needed. I hobbled to the disabled loos on my own with my hired crutches and yet to be named moonboot and managed to master the art of carrying my drink bottle in a bag over my shoulder every time it needed filling.

I smiled and joked and laughed and told the story of my popping achilles about 20 times over and never once minded, because I knew I would miss this, this normality, when I was alone on the couch for two weeks.

And I may have, when the cab had dropped me home and I was alone for an hour before Joel came back from his day trip to Sydney, stumbled around the house trying to dust what I could, putting away clothes where I could and trying to arrange the study in some sort of order. Because this was also normality, and while everyone hates housework, I knew I would miss this also.

Pop goes the achilles

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Pop.

That was the sound my achilles made as I turned to run another 10 meters.

I wasn’t even running fast, let alone sprinting. It was death by 10 meters and I felt great, was at the head of the pack, keeping up with the men. I knew I could go further and faster when I had to, had hardly broken a sweat and can be a little speedy when I have to be. I am better at speed than distance.

So I turned and heard a loud pop.

For the first few seconds I thought I had just stood on the cone, or kicked it. It wasn’t until I pushed off my foot and realized there was something wrong with it, all floppy and not working the way it was meant to, that I linked the popping sound to my ankle.

I tried again, before realizing I couldn’t put any weight on my heel. I knew then it was my achilles.

I was at the game when Jaryd Roughead from Hawthorn did his. What looked like a seemingly normal move resulted in him hopping a few seconds before sitting down and putting his hand up in the air to call for the stretcher.

I think I did similar. Poor Leasa, her face all stricken and not quite understanding what I was saying as I hopped over to her waiting shoulder.

Everyone thought I had just kicked the cone, a few thought I was opting out of the challenge gone hard too early and was now just a big failure. I struggled on Leasa’s shoulder to the front of the room and sat waiting for the pain to kick in.

Strangely, it never did.

A bit of a dull ache and throbbing but no shooting pain to let me know a major injury had just occurred. Nothing like the horror stories of feeling like I had been kicked in the back of the leg or the pain being so bad people have passed out.

Not much swelling either when runner came off. A slight concave ball at the back of my ankle and my toes curling forward a little but nothing that would suggest a full ligament had gone wrong.

If it wasn’t for the pop to begin with, I would have thought I had simply jarred my ankle or something. I could still point my toes, just not flex.  But when I tried to walk it was clear I was missing a crucial something that could help me bend my foot – my right foot – my driving foot – my I am right sided foot – and allow me to walk. Instead I had what felt like a dead fish at the end of my leg.

Someone pointed out to me if I had no pain it was most likely due to the fact I had torn my nerves off. Thanks David, not helping in this moment.

Leasa and I turned to Google to self diagnose, but were a bit put off by one helpful website who encouraged us to find a 10cm needle and inject it into the back of the foot to see how much damage had been caused…

Both a little nauseous we shut Google and put the phone away.

I had to ring Joel to get me. He eventually arrived, flustered and coming across more troubled by the inconvenience than by my injury. Shaking his head he entered and hardly looked at Leasa or me. I knew this look. It was his ‘I’m shitting myself and very worried but trying not to show it look’.

It’s the look he gets when he is stressed and overly concerned, so of course I flew into fixing mode and all on the way home in the car ride tried to reassure him it could just be nothing, but we better go to the doctor just in case.

The next seven hours I spent being pushed around in a shabby second hand wheelchair that we had ‘borrowed’ from the first doctor’s office by my father in law. It was uncomfortable, I could feel its metal prongs stabbing through the thin material I was sitting on and it didn’t quite steer straight.

Overall however it was better than having to hop everywhere on one foot, which is what I had been doing before we decided it was easier to take the wheelchair with us for the xray and the ultrasound appointments and deal with the questions later.

I was just going through the motions. Still no pain, but I knew what I had done and had already resigned myself to the fact that my achilles was broken, or if still there, literally hanging by the thread.

I saw it in the doctors face as she pinched my ankle tried to move my toes and looked at the indent above my heel that used to hold a muscle.

I saw it in the xray technician’s face as she told me nothing was broken, and almost said it apologetically – for if it was a broken bone the recovery and rehabilitation would be much quicker and easier.

But it was the ultrasound assistant who confirmed it for me as she rubbed cream on my dead foot before placing the camera on it and sighing the moment my missing muscle was displayed on the screen.

A full rupture of my achilles tendon, just as I expected.

My father in law and my husband were devastated. Shaking their heads and rubbing hands through their hair, the same scowl on their faces.

To be honest, I was devastated too, although I locked up my little parcel of grief and anger and hid it deep inside of me to deal with later. It was more important at the moment to try and stay positive.

Plus we still had the surgeon to see.

I called in a favour before hobbling up the stairs to see the stranger who was set to fix me. My friend Laura, who works in orthotics and prosthetics and knew about these things helped me to stay focused and on track

“Often with achilles repairs they immobile ankle in planer flexion (foot pointing down) to promote healing and gradually bring it back to natural (90 degrees) over a number of weeks.  Make sure you ask if you are allowed to weight bear, and time frames for whatever treatment they prescribe Surgeons often don’t explain things in much detail.”

I took her advice and my notebook into the meeting with Dr Raphael Hau, and was glad I did. He took one look at my films, a quick glance at my ankle and sat back in his chair.

So, surgery, 3% chance of you doing it again after recovery compared to 15% if you don’t have surgery.  Three months in the cam walker and with crutches, should be walking unassisted between 4 and 6 months, no weight for two weeks while stitches in. Can’t take the cam walker off at all, between 6 and 12 months for full recovery. Don’t expect to run again before 12 months. 6 weeks of injecting medications to reduce the chances of getting blood clots. I can do you on Thursday morning.

Back the truck up.

Laura was right when she said Surgeons don’t explain things in much detail – what was this crazy business of injecting daily for six weeks to prevent blood clots??!!! I can’t even look at a needle without feeling woozy and have never been able to give blood thanks to my irrational fear of something sticking in my arm that hurts.

Who is going to inject me daily?

You will, in the stomach.

For six weeks?!

Raised eyes behind glasses as if not quite comprehending my fear based questions.

Yes, for six weeks. It’s only a small injection. Nothing to worry about.

I swallowed, and tried to regain my composure.

Ok. Do most people my age have surgery?

Yes, it is much better. If you don’t it is still the cam walker and then it might not heal properly.

And how long is the operation?

About half an hour. We keep you overnight, cut you at the back of your ankle and go in, tie the ends up. It’s like a mop, the ends of your tendon like spaghetti, I go in and grab the two ends and tie them up again.

So she’ll have a scar? Joel asks.

Yes, of course. Dr Hau looks at us as if we are mad.

Of course she will, only a small one, between five and ten centimeters depending on how much I have to cut to find the tendon.

Joel looks more shocked at the fact I will have a scar than anything else he has heard so far.

She can wear socks to cover it.

Not sure if it was an attempt at humor or not, but nobody finds it funny.

Ok so, no weight for at least two weeks, and then I’ll be in a moonboot for at least three months.

The cam walker, yes, and you will have physio every week as part of your rehabilitation.

So no running, no exercise nothing for at least six months maybe 12?

Again Dr Hau looks at me as if I am mad. If Joel’s biggest worry is the scar, why is mine exercise?

He nods.

That’s right. We see this injury a lot in people your age, or weekend exercises. Those that don’t do anything Monday to Friday and then think they are still in their 20’s on the weekend.

But I’m not like that. I wanted to yell at him. It’s Monday! I did this on Monday! I exercise everyday!! I’m not like that.

Instead I nodded and tuned out when he told me that exercise could be bad and that maybe I was overdoing it. That is was quite common he does this operation all the time, but the first few weeks were very important to prevent infection, swelling and setback.

I was still adjusting to the “no exercising for at least 6 months” comment along with the “inject yourself daily” comment and the “three months in moonboot” comment.

A little bit of sympathy would not have gone astray!

Instead I went through Laura’s checklist, signed a few forms, told Dr Hau I would see him Thursday and hobbled out of the hospital feeling more deflated that I had prepared myself for.

Not sure if it was the surprise injections or reality finally coming crashing down. Maybe my parcel of grief was floating to the surface, begging to be unwrapped.

Maybe I was just naïve to being with, but all I could think about was it could be 12 months before I got back to doing what I loved. No crossfit, no yoga, no completion of yoga challenge, no running. Nothing.

Then what on earth was I going to do with myself…

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Falling off the Wagon

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I just fell off the paleo wagon.

Well and truly.

It was not just a slight tip; it was a fully fledged stumble, tumble, fall down, unmoving lying on the floured ground in a sugar coma.

I am not even sure why.

Or how.

But now I am sitting here stomach popping over my jeans, head cloudy with a sugar hangover, having heart palpitations, drooping eyelids and breaking out into a sweat even thought its cold and raining outside.

I am bitterly disappointed with myself and angry all at once.  

I know the heart palpitations I am experiencing are just a result of my mental anxiety and not really a physical display of the fact I just ate gluten and grains for the first time in a long time. And I know the sweats is a physical reaction to the mental anguish that of course I just ate sugar too.  I have a headache, but of course that might just be mental also.

I’m lying on the floor, and the red horned wearing version of me has pinned me to the ground with her pitchfork, grin of achievement plastered all over her face.

It was cake I bowed to. Cake!

Cake that I never used to eat, was never interested in, never seduced by.

And not just one piece either…

Oh how I stuffed myself to the surprise, laughter and aghast expressions of those around me as they watched me go back for seconds. Self control gone, restraint not a word that looked familiar, I was on a rampage and nobody could stop me.

I started small.

A protein gluten free and sugar free muffin that had grains and fruit I overlooked hoping it would subside the sudden thirst that had awoke inside of me.

It didn’t.

So I cut a very small slither of Julie’s coconut and lemon tea cake, my knife slicing through the moist goodness and knowing immediately her country baking skills would be second to none. I ate that treasure and wished I didn’t because it was too good.  And I knew then also, it would be better than the cinnamon tea cake – caster sugar and self raising flour included – that I had made.

But just because I wasn’t sure, I cut a slice of that too and ate half of it. Memories of my childhood rushed back to me in that cinnamon mouthful that was exactly like the sugar filled cinnamon donuts I used to heat up and eat for breakfast.  What started as a treat  became a daily ritual until I ate so many of them for many years after I couldn’t stand to eat cinnamon. But now it was ok, and the memory was back and sent shivers running down my spine.

Perhaps to escape the sweet memory or maybe because I had opened a door that had stayed closed for too long and was having a slight – ok epic – relapse of my former self, I immediately cut half a chocolate brownie and ate it, replacing the cinnamon taste with the beautiful chocolate, nutty sensation.

It was amazing.

I have always claimed not to be a cake lover, and I’m not (usually) but brownies are another thing, and this one had me hook line and sinker.

Oh lord, what have I done?!

By now there was no turning back.  I was unstoppable. Not only did I not recognize myself, others around me, many whom have NEVER seen me eat cake, did not recognize me either. Those who knew I very rarely would indulge looked at me with surprise, but silent glee – was I the once again recognizable, reckless Stacey they knew?

In truth, I think a few were silently happy at my failure.

The brownie not only tasted amazing, it also looked better than my muffins, which were also chocolate hazelnut brownie muffins.

And because, like my cinnamon tea cake, the muffins were a new recipe, I cut one in half and promptly ate that too. I tried to tell myself it was to check they were ok, to compare them to the brownie I had just eaten, because I needed to be sure.

I was kidding myself. I had no good reason to eat that thing apart from the fact I wanted to.  And when last night I had been cooking them three of the muffins refused to budge from the pan and I had to scoop them out and leave them behind, I had already tasted the mixture then. I knew they were good (but not as good as the brownie brownie).

So let’s just recap.

  • 1 x protein & fruit mini muffin (this was gluten and sugar free, and where I was meant to start and end in the eating process)
  • 1 x half chocolate brownie
  • 1 x half chocolate hazelnut brownie muffin
  • 1 x small slither lemon and coconut tea cake
  • 1 x half piece of cinnamon tea cake

In the end I needed to leave the group crowded around the table, cakes piled high, fruit barely touched and return to my desk in case I went back for more. 

It’s no wonder I felt ill.

And morbidly ashamed.

Every now and then someone pokes their head over the partition and smiles knowingly at me, or mimic’s throwing up, or offers me another piece of cake just to stir the pot even further. 

I want to throw my spinach and blueberry smoothie all over them and watch it ooze over their smirking faces turning them purple like the awful gum chewing child Violet in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I can’t even stomach my smoothie at the moment and am trying to dilute this sugar swell by drinking bottle after bottle of water.

I need to put it out of my head and move on. To forget about this low point and pick myself up and dust the icing sugar off my pants (literally there is some there) but half of me is still too ashamed and the other half of me knows there is more cake and if I have failed already and eaten so badly already, then surely it’s ok to have just one more piece?

Later, much later, when I have packed up the remaining cake (thanks guys, you had to eat everyone else’s and leave mine!?) and gone home I sms my ‘trying very hard’ sister in law.

I ate cake. A full piece and half a muffin and a quarter of a brownie. Fail.

Her reply did pep me up a little –

I’ve stuffed my face with cake pops and lemon slice all day. Life.

I don’t even know what cake pops are, but the entire thing made me feel much better.  She is right, it is life. So I ate badly one day, its only one day. And the cake was nice.

Tomorrow is another day, and cake is not on the menu.

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Packing Paleo

You know it’s serious when you change your flight dietary preferences to gluten free.

I wish, to be honest, there was more than just a drop down. Perhaps a multi select box, or a free text field and that way I could add in the additions. Gluten free also means dairy free, but of course grains, potatoes, and sugar all find their way onto that small plastic wrapped tray of ‘food’.  If there was the option to choose more than one, I could have gone diabetic friendly also, and hoped that I was left with more than a rice flour sugar fuelled cake and a thimble of soy milk.

Ok, so there was more. A few bits of lamb, some sugar filled sauce, a pile of greens and some potatoes that I really wanted to eat. The only thing that stopped me from pushing them onto my white plastic fork was the fact that if I was going to break for the starchy goodness, they were going to be half decent, not microwaved pre-prepared plane potatoes.

There was also a box of sultanas and a tub of two fruits. Both claimed they were natural and healthy, and I think even sported the heart tick approval, but the nutritional panel on the back showed more than just goodness. Lots more. Like sugar more. Like 63.5g of sugar per 100 gram.

Of course its natural sugar, but over 50% of those dried things is a little too much.

I ate the greens, ignored the potatoes, picked my way through the meat, left the gluten free bread, tried to leave the juice behind and eat only the two fruits and succumbed to the coconut gluten free macaroon.

Half way through the four and a half hour flight when I was starving (after the same flight attendant who had previously provided my gluten and dairy free meal offered me cheese and biscuits and a packet of Anzac cookies) I popped a few of those dried grapes into my mouth and was surprised and shocked at how sweet they tasted. Too sweet. I had to stop eating them.

I should have just had the free wine that was offered. At least then I would have forgotten I was starving.

Travelling with such a long list of requirements is hard.

A day trip to Sydney, not so hard. You can pack your full lunch in one bag and not have an issue with excess luggage. You can decline the meal and not risk starvation, and even though the security guards look at you strangely during the bomb check, they keep their mouth closed.

A week trip to Perth, not so easy.

Before my flight like general Sunday afternoons, I spent cooking my week’s worth of meals. An oversized smoothie that I froze and added extra chia seeds in it to help it last the plane ride and beyond. Some chewy mocha balls to ensure snacks during the week were covered. A few pieces of the left over paleo gingerbread and three of my paleo banana and berry muffins. The standard nut trail mix and a few tins of tuna.  I even went so far as to bake a new paleo crust-less sweet potato quiche and while I froze half of it for my return, I took a piece of that too just in case I had to (god forbid) miss breakfast at the hotel one morning.

I know it sounds crazy. It looked slightly odd also.

All these Tupperware containers full of food going through security, getting put in the overhead locker as I was sitting under a bulk head.

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When my stomach was rumbling so badly on the flight, and I took out one of my muffins from the bag overhead, the passenger next to me didn’t know what to think.

Personally I think he was a little jealous. Mine looked much better than his frozen/thawed/sugar preserved cupcake.

I was hoping my muffins would make at least the flight trip, so before I could be tempted by anything else I packed them away and tried to forget about them.

But I am not that strange.  There are others like me who also pack paleo.

Nom Nom Paleo recently called out to her social media following remarking “I may not have time to pack any food for my flight tomorrow….”

She got 56 comments asking for help to determine where she could get paleo friendly food.

I got about 56 odd looks for packing and travelling paleo style.

But despite the strange looks and carting my containers from customer meeting to office, to hotel and beyond, I was glad I had taken the time to do it.

My Perth friends did remark they had supermarkets and organic shops over here (yes even Perth is not that behind, just don’t try to visit one after 9pm) which also helped to fill my stomach paleo style during the day, and let’s just say nights – well I tried as hard as I could… it was the wine that got me in the end.

Living in the Post-Primal Era

This is what I miss from the challenge.

I miss coming to work, logging on and getting my writing notepad and Primal Junction food dairy ready next to my pc, ipad, water bottle and to do list. I miss having to open up word in case sudden inspiration pops into my head mid mouthful of my latest frittata, zucchini slice or over sized omelette and I need to type it as writing is simply too slow.

I miss completing my food diary. Something methodical about documenting everything I ate, and then when seeing it on the page glaring at me with slightly judging, and very messy, handwriting, knowing that I should really leave the nuts in the draw.

I miss (ironically) having to say ‘I can’t eat that’ or ‘that’s not allowed’ which basically means I miss having an excuse to justify my new eating behavior.

When the word challenge is lifted, and I no longer have an excuse, this is what happens –

1 x Tim Tam goes missing from the container in the fridge not because I really want it, but because it has been staring at me every time I fill up my water glass and because soon I know the entire container will be eaten by husband and have an irrational fear of missing out

1 x Chocolate bullet is eaten from the bowl in the middle of a friend’s coffee table because they are apparently so good she purchased the last 21 packets of them from the supermarket and I just have to find out for myself

1 x piece (size of 50 cent piece) of Red Tulip Easter Bunny is eaten before realizing that I actually don’t like Red Tulip chocolate

1 x drink on Friday night turns into 1 x bottle (or more) of wine and leaves me with a headache so bad I miss boxing the next morning, sleep horribly and are well reminded of how much better I felt off it, and no I am not 21 anymore so stop acting like it

1 x adjusted flexibility leaves me with pork belly and cauliflower puree that is dribbled with maple syrup sauce and sends a sweetness shiver through my entire body and no amount of scraping that sucker off helps, and no amount of mineral water drives the sickliness from my mouth, and yes it was gluten free but that was about all.

1 x dinner party means I end up eating a handful of organic, sugar free popcorn before my blonde brain is replaced by the rational me, and I remember that corn is a grain.  The same dinner party sees me actively choose to eat two full of sugar and nothing else lolly snakes, but refuse the homemade chocolate chip cookies and carrot cake courtesy of grandma and the small lovingly diced potatoes my sister prepared with their herb encrusted goodness.

Instead I drank two glasses of wine and four pieces of that double brie cheese I finally unwrapped from the fridge.

All of that and only 13 days after the challenge.

I have also been routinely asked since my 30 days were up – but I thought you had finished? And you are not STILL doing that are you? And so you are never going to eat those thing again? And when will you stop?

So why am I still trying to eat clean?

Because I feel better.

Because for longer than 30 days I have been able to keep the Imodium in the draw and the buscoapan in the packet – too much information?

Because when my skin fold tests results came in, while nothing too major, they were enough for me to see there had been a difference. It was real.

And while I hadn’t been one of those people who had made such a lifestyle change they lost four to six kilos, (well done guys!) that is mostly because I would look quote cadaverous if I did lose four kilos, and I should really just be happy with one.

I lost one.

In 30 days.

And when I was already below 60kilos and approximately 170cm tall (ok its 169.5 but I round up) this is enough for me.

But the weight wasn’t why I was doing this. Apart from the note above regarding the change in my previous irregular bowel moments and minor IBS, I could see a difference in my body. I did look leaner. My arms did look more toned (although not yet Michelle Bridges worthy) and I was putting on muscle (in some areas so much my skin fold actually went UP!). It might have been my hopeful imagination but I could see the outline of what could one day be a six pack and my stomach overall defiantly felt and looked flatter.

Here is the before and after nothing to hide–

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So like I said, nothing major, but enough.

Personally, I’m pretty happy with 15% body fat. And while my ‘boring blog’ brother reminds me he is was 7% in his prime, his prime was 5 years ago, 7% for males is the same as 15% for females, and my prime is now, despite being older.

You might also notice, that in typical crossfit fashion my thighs actually got bigger…

But now 13 days after, when flood gates have opened and potatoes have almost entered my mouth, I suddenly have a vision of my long ago ‘tuck shop arms’ making a return.

Already I think the outline of the muscle is fading, and when most girls say it goes on their hips or their butt, mine goes on my arms and I promise you it is just as bad. There are shirts in my wardrobe that quite simply do not do up around my arms, and you know the ‘fat photos’ we all have and cringe over when they come out again – mine are all focused on my arms.

Sometimes when I see those photos I want to slap myself and yell WHAT WAS I THINKING, then I want to slap the person next to me in the photo for not telling me my arm fat was almost suffocating them. Of course they couldn’t say anything thanks to the flesh in their mouth and blocking their nostrail, but anyway.

It’s in my genes.

So apart from feeling better, I’m convinced the four pieces of double brie, and the Tim Tam, and the sugar that has found its way back in my food and my diet is going to send my ‘guns’ to ‘misfired cannons’ and then nobody will be happy.

Which is why I’m trying to stick with the primal diet in the post primal era as much as I can.

Yes there is vanity in there, but I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing because health and well being is the underlying reason. So as long as my arms and my thighs don’t overtake the size of my waist, my head looks like it is the correct size for my body, and I feel as good on the inside as I do now, then I’m happy. And if that means I stay ‘almost paleo’ ‘most of the time’, then great! But if I do want to eat four pieces of cheese or a couple of jelly jubes along the way – then I will.