Be careful what you wish for

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I wanted Michelle Bridges arms and a six pack. As I have had numerous people point out over the past four weeks, you don’t need legs for that.

Maybe I should have added in killer thighs – plural – or curvy calves – again plural. But I didn’t, so I really don’t have any excuse if I don’t get them, even with my dodgy achilles.

In the weeks following my operation not a lot happened. I was picked up from the hospital, still slightly drug induced and wheeled home with a goodie bag of takeaways including Tramadol, Endone, Oxycontin and my first three weeks of Clexane injections.

I was promptly placed on couch, handed TV remotes and given permission to boss, direct and order others around whenever I needed something.

What I needed was better TV. Even with Foxtel I forgot how boring, yet strangely addictive day time TV is. 16 and pregnant, 4 Weddings and my all time favorite Geordie Shore.

For whatever reason, perhaps because my brain was still floating in clouds and my leg still ached, but whenever I tried to read I had a hard time focusing. The words would swim on the page and well constructed sentences made no sense. So I gave up and just succumbed to the junk that is reality TV.

Along with the bossing and the ordering, I also called on a few more favours.

The first day post operation my ‘almost always paleo’ friend who happens to be a pharmacist bought over the pair of crutches she had ordered and I had paid for, saving me the weekly $10 hire fee from the local chemist. Given I had a bill from almost every doctor in the Epworth, the savings was well welcomed.

Her biggest favour however, was her clinical hand there to steady my own when the time came for my first injection.

Actually her hand was the only steady one, and so instead it was she who injected the preventative blood clot drug into me, slightly pinching my stomach and using one of the alcohol swabs she had thoughtfully also bought over. This time I watched. I wasn’t naive enough to think I was going to have her come over at 6pm everyday for the next six weeks.

The needle pierced my skin and the fluid was pumped into me. It swelled around the area, between her fingers and the flesh of skin she was still pinching and even when she slowly withdrew the injection the fluid remained poised. We could both feel it, bubbling just under my flesh, until she lightly pressed over the pin prick with the swab and sent the fluid flowing through my body to help keep my blood flowing.

The first of many injections was dropped in the safe syringe canister and I popped another pain killer. When my head was too cloudy to focus, she left and I returned to my TV viewing.

My routine of waking, stumbling to coach, being fed, bought coffee, food and handed remotes, iPad and water was interrupted in the first few days by welcomed visitors. My circle of friends who were part time workers or stay at home mums were the biggest help during the day. Not only did they bring conversation that actually made sense and did not involve underage sex, but my visitors also bought well meaning care packages and lunch. And their children, who could run around and distract me from the throbbing that had remained in my leg since the surgery and who pointed at my boot with a confused look on their face and asked what my ‘ouch’ was.

Good old trusty Grandma, Gma to those who know her, was also a big help visiting twice during the first week I was home alone. The first time she came for lunch it was with chicken, salad, fresh rolls and her world famous orange cake. I was thankful and hungry, but also vividly aware her orange cake was loaded with sugar and gluten and the rolls, despite being still warm, were something I had stayed away from too long to risk.

Bollucks. The part of my brain that was less drug affected thought. How was I going to tell my 84 year old Gma that all the food she had bought had recently been crossed off my ‘yes I eat that’ list. The very same Gma that had once scolded my vegetarian sister for not eating the zucchini slice she had made because it had ‘only a little bit’ of bacon in it.

Oh thanks Grandma, but I don’t eat bread very much anymore (at all)

Oh don’t you love? Do you want only half then?

Um, maybe I’ll just have the salad and not the roll.

Ok, I’ll just put you the half, which half do you want?

I faced the same challenge with the orange cake.

I’m a little full now Grandma, I might have some later.

You didn’t each that much love, ill just put you a little piece.

The second time she came, it was with her homemade soup that not long ago was my favorite. Luckily Joel had eaten most of the remaining orange cake and what little was left I had farmed off to my sister so nothing but crumbs remained.

But how this time could I explain that her once treasured and loved chicken and corn noodle soup was now a big NO on the paleo diet.

I didn’t. I ate the soup; nobody likes a fussy disabled girl.

The days were largely boring. I had visions of writing a witty and entertaining blog entry every day, but just like the fog that entered my brain when I tried to read, I couldn’t find the right words to write into my newly purchased journals and so the pencil stayed pointed the pages blank.

Slowly, at my brothers warning, I tried to wean myself off the pain killers. Perhaps I tried a little too early but his sms had freighted me

What drugs are you on? You better be careful, some people can get addicted to those you know. You should try not to take them.

Three years ago, my brother had broken his neck playing football and while thankfully he is fine now, he had been in a world of pain and bother back then, and had also been doped up on various blood thinners and pain killers. I was worried his warning may have come from personal experience, so excluded my daily helpers only a few days post surgery.

It was a mistake. By Tuesday I found myself in a bout of depression and pain. I had been home alone for most of the day left for once to manage my own snacks and hobble up to the kitchen every time my water bottle needed filling. TV had been bad, I was bored and feeling a little sorry for myself. And my leg was throbbing.

Epic fail.

Dad called, criticized my brother for his ‘well meaning’ warning and told me to pop a pill if I needed it.

I took two.

Nights were better.

At night friends popped over with care packages. Annie with parcels of food – all paleo food I might add – recipes she had taken the time to photocopy from the Against All Grain cookbook. Magazines, books and DVD’s. Nisha with more magazines. Megan with hand weights to help focus my frustration (and get those Michelle Bridges arms) Anna came to see me on a visit from Perth and together with Annie and Nisha, I broke my paleo diet with Thai food, wine and champagne.

But it was worth it, I felt human again.

And of course there were the flowers. A beautiful bunch from all the coaches at Crossfit Hawthorn East that arrived (conveniently) on a day when my sister was babysitting me.

A bouquet from work, cuts from Gma’s garden. Nisha, Anna and Charly all bringing a bunch when they came. My house smelled and looked beautiful, even if I didn’t

And then the first week was over.

The second week I went back to work. Well I went back working, from home. I had decided again to stop taking pain killers and for the most part the days were fine. But long. I had underestimated how much longer everything would take when dong it on one leg, by oneself, still slightly fragile from the surgery and post op week.

Getting dressed – unable to take my moonboot off until the stitches came out – meant that my wardrobe was limited. Very limited. As in I often stayed in my pajamas all day or managed to stretch a pair of trucksuit pants over the boot and hoped I had no visitors.

Making a coffee. Travel mug strategically placed on the edge of the kitchen bench. Down the two stairs I go on the crutches, leg held in air. Mug placed carefully in bag then gently lowered onto right crutch or over shoulder and slowly, very slowly, maneuver over to the couch or into the study. By the time I got there, the coffee was cold.

Showers. All of a sudden I was a child again and couldn’t perform this simple task on my own so resorted to (as hideous as it sounds) bathing only every second day. Garbage bag over moonboot, stool in base of shower. Leg stretched out of shower door and resting on another chair so it didn’t get wet and stayed elevated. All of this had to of course have a helper to lower me on stool and get me out of the shower when the time came.

Food. It was almost too hard. Breakfast was provided to me by well meaning husband (who now refers to me as the English patient) before leaving for work, but lunch and snacks were left up to me. It meant I got up only when I was starving and not for snacks, although my appetite still had not come back from the operation. At least I managed to FINALLY give up my nut addiction.

I was exhausted.

Just getting around on my own sapped my energy, and my brain trying to focus on working that first week was tough. I took regular lunch breaks, plopping myself in front of the TV on the couch for an hour while eating whatever it was I had managed to make and carry on my own.  I answered emails and dialed into meetings said a silent thanks that I didn’t have to make any massive decisions.

On Friday of that second week I glanced at myself in the mirror after negotiating the shower and was a little horrified by what I saw.

Dark bags circled my eyes, unwashed, greasy hair that hadn’t been brushed in a day or so. Pale face, very pale face from sitting indoors for weeks. Track marks and bruises some purple, some black and blue spotted my stomach from the daily injections.  And I had lost weight. The muscle tone I had tried so hard to achieve had faded into the background and left my stomach, arms and back with a thin layer of flesh. It wasn’t fat, it was just skin. For some reason despite the lack of exercise I had lost both size and weight.

Defiantly no sign of Michelle Bridges arms and a six pack. I looked hideous.

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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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Glorious & Gluttonous Paleo Gingerbread Cake

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If you read day 29 of my blog you know that during my 30-day primal/paleo challenge I was enticed, seduced and ultimately fell in love with a sweet treat introduced by a friend of mine, paleo gingerbread.

If you haven’t read day 29  – then get on it!

The seduction itself occurred on day 21, but I was too in lust and love with the dessert to bring myself to post about my forbidden love and treachery.

I admit, weeks after I ate that wonderful paleo gingerbread that my ‘almost always’ paleo friend made for me, I thought perhaps I had just imagined the goodness of it given I was in the middle of a tempting feast of sugar (dinner party) and was in day 21 of a 30 day paleo challenge.

So when the challenge finished, and I along with fellow challenges were invited by Primal Junction, to join a celebration, I thought I too would try my hand at making the gingerbread goodness, and see if a) I was a good as cook as my friend and b) if it really was three slice worthy and that good.

So I pulled up the original recipe, and just as my friend did for me that day made a few modifications. The modified list of must have’s is below –

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup coconut nectar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract or vanilla bean (I have used both)
  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Now the recipe we had, said stern words like follow the ingredients exactly, and make sure you do everything just as I have blah blah blah, and while I very much appreciate the author had taken the time to experiment and find a great paleo option for us all, there were adjustments to be made.

For instance the original recipe called for 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses, which we substituted for coconut nectar, and also for maple extract, which we left out completely. The first time I made these I also omitted the baking soda (by mistake) but it didn’t seam to matter and I didn’t have cloves so just added in extra cinnamon. So basically, you can just work through the spices to your taste and don’t get too hung up about it.

And best of all, its very easy to make.

Simply combine the eggs, coconut nectar, coconut oil and vanilla and beat well until its combined.

While your kitchen aid is churning that goodness, combine the rest of the dry ingredients in another bowl and mix with a spoon so it is combined.

While your blades are still churning, add the dry ingredients to the wet slowly, until it is combined and mixed well.

Now the recipe I had also was very particular about cooking this in a glass greased dish, 13×9. I used a metal non-stick square loaf pan that I greased with a coconut oil. On one occasion, because I was scared it wouldn’t come out cleanly; I also used baking paper to line the tin. Again don’t get too hung up about what you cook it in – but it does effect cooking times.

Choose your tin/pan/dish and spread the batter in evenly as best you can.

Bake in your pre-heated oven at 180 degrees and cook for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to about 110 for another 30 minutes.  Personally, my tin takes a little longer at this temperature so keep checking and don’t stress out if you need to keep the oven hot for a little while longer.

I also found this temperature and time often did not darken the cake enough, so would crank up the heat again to get a nice dark colour. You know its cooked inside if your poker/prodder/toothpick comes out clean, so if you do like a darker colour you might like to do the same. Word of caution however, this baby tans quickly so keep your eye on it or your brown will soon turn to black….

Once cooked, let the cake cool enough that you can safety take it out of your pan, but not completely or it might get stuck.

If possible try to let it cool completely before cutting  – more harsh words from the original recipe author – although again the first time I made this I was running late and cut it as steam was rising from it, and it still got rave reviews.

So, back to my original questions.

A)     Was I as good a cook as my friend? – No. Her colour was better, and its always nicer when someone makes it for you.

B)     Was the paleo gingerbread cake as good as I thought it was? Yes. It was snaffled up by most of the challenge celebrators and the recipe was asked for. Even my sugar loving family and Great Baker Gma complemented it the second time I made it for a family dinner.

The only problem with this little puppy is its so easy to make and eat, you will end up doing both WAY too much!

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The Primal Challenge Day 9

I have a confession to make. Some 10 odd years ago when I still fell into the early 20’s bracket, I ate McDonalds two to three times a day. I know, disgusting right. I can hear you gagging, or trying to swallow that little bit of vomit that has crept up your throat. The rest of you have foreheads creased in disgust and horror. But it’s true.

I got into a bad habit. Working 10 hour days at McDonalds while studying full time with a naïve focus of trying to fit the most in my day rather than get the most out of it. Yes there is a difference. Food was a necessity. I ate when I was hungry and never really worried too much about what it was.

If I had the early shift I would start at 5:00am and work until early afternoon which meant breakfast was a bacon and egg muffin and a few hash browns, and lunch was fries and a burger. Sometimes when it was really cold I would make a hot chocolate using the chocolate topping from a sundae and the soft serve, throwing in a dash or two of boiling water just so I could call it a drink. Often the favorite was ‘home made’ jam donuts. Empty the middle out of a cheeseburger bun, fill it with jam then deep fry it in the vat we cooked the apple pies in.  More vomit?

I could go on, about all the things I saw and we made in the greasy fast food kitchen. Burgers that held two or three chicken patties, thickshakes with added oreo flakes and soft-serve, muffins in the warmer heaped with topping and ice-cream. Closing time and the crew got to eat whatever was left so would stuff Cheeseburgers with nuggets and chips and Big Macs with chicken patties.

If I had late shift it was no different. If I had the middle shift it was no different. Work uni, uni work and my only fuel in between was a burger, fries and a litre or two of coke.  It got to a point where my crew would ask me if I wanted a ‘McStace’ today – my custom built favorite burger. That should have been a trigger point. I worked at three different stores and most of the crew at each knew of the McStace.  Of course Ronald didn’t make it any easier by giving all the Managers access to free food. My inner tight ass (no way was it tight on the outside with that diet) thought it crazy to buy lunch when I had piles of it sitting around me I could eat for nothing and I was a poor uni student who otherwise ate two minute noodles. The problem was, I was a ‘poor’ uni student for seven years. Yep swallow that bile now.

And I thought I had no addiction to sugar.

The truth was, it started even before then. High school lunch was a carton of milk, plain or sometimes flavored (ice-coffee was my favorite) a small bucket of hot chips and a mars bar. I never ate breakfast and could often go to early afternoon before eating at all, and then of course it was sugar.

Dinner was better, but not always great. It was quick and easy, and whatever Mum could do after work on a single income that would feed six kids. Chips in the oven with a chicken and some veggies, pasta, stir fries. Things that were easy for the first child who got home to pull out of a packet and pop in the oven.

By now you are probably picturing me as a morbidly obese 20 something and you would be right to paint that picture. The truth was however I was not much bigger than I am today, maybe only five or six kilos.  My body simply rejected almost all of the food and fueled itself on the sugar.

When I got my first corporate job some eight years ago my staple breakfast item was an extra tall latte with three sugars. Over the years I changed the milk to skinny, dropped a size and eventually took out the sugar, but the coffee and milk was always there.

As early as three years ago I would rush home from work and pop open a can of full strength coke. I joked with everyone that it was like my after work beer, but in reality I was no less addicted.

Even before I started this challenge I had the same naïve outlook on my diet. I thought I had limited sugar as much as possible. I hardly ate sauces (tomato, sweet chili etc), had cut out my can of coke – now that was a painful breakup – and barely ate any of the cakes that I made for others.  

But I was eating muesli laced with sugar every morning, and at least two muesli bars during the day that also contained at least 11grams of sugar each. Pop a few pieces of fruit in the mix, a dressing of my salad, even in my soup, and I was already overloaded before even dinner.

You get this is my ‘ah ha’ moment right?

Ah ha I hear you all chorusing in the distance. And why shouldn’t you join in the chorus, I am sure you have had your own – really I ate that much?! moments.

I had long been saying fat doesn’t make you fat; sugar does, but had not once looked deeper into where the sugar was hiding in order to try and fight its fat conquest. And it does hide – everywhere.

There are almost three cups of it in my dark chocolate mud cake I made last night, and that is before the icing and not including the sugar content in the chocolate. Ohh the sweet poison. I made the cake and watched as the mixture ran off the mixers blades with little more than a slight drool. I blocked my nose to the smell that began to radiate through my kitchen and not once did I lick the spoon. I was not even half tempted to.

Well maybe a little.

I’m sure somewhere underneath my ‘second week in, clean eating’ skin it’s still lurking. I am eating one piece of fruit a day, so it’s not gone completely.  I’m even thinking of raining that back in next week just to see if I have fully broken the sugar shackles.

And to think just a decade ago Ronald was my best friend and McStace was my middle name.

 PS – I had my own version of clean cauliflower tabouleh (turmeric, lemon juice, green capsicum and tomato) and lemon pepper chicken skewers last night and really need to use my camera and not my ipad to take photos!  

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