What If I Hadn’t Been Held To Higher Standards?

gold medalI just happened to view one of “Jacks Rants” over at The Survival Podcast, and it really got me thinking.  What if I hadn’t been held to a higher standard when I was a kid? What if I got a reward just because I showed up? How would my life be today?

In many ways, I wasn’t any different than any other kid growing up in the Midwest in the ’70s and ’80s.  My parents worked hard, and we kids spent a lot of time playing hard.  There were expectations though.  And it wasn’t until the last few years that I actually realized the value of life schooling that my parents and other adults in our lives gave us.

Obviously, my specific situation was a little different.  Growing up legally blind, it would have been easy for my parents to baby me.  It would have been easy for them to say, “Oh, it’s OK, Honey.  Let me do that for you since I know it’s hard.” Or even worse, they could have said to me, “Here’s your award for participating.  That’s good enough.”

See, I honestly think that if I’d been treated that way, I never would have learned to take care of myself, I never would have learned to read or write, and most importantly, nobody would have realized that I was gifted.  People would have looked at me with pity while saying, “Oh, that poor little girl.  Life’s gonna be so hard for her.”

Now let me tell you that life WAS hard for me, but it didn’t take me long at all to adapt and overcome.  In fact, I’ve always said that if I hadn’t had challenges at an early age, if the people around me didn’t require anything of me, I likely would have grown up to be a lazy person who just did enough to get by, never realizing her full potential.

As parents, it’s tempting to baby our kids.  It’s tempting to tell them that they deserve an aware for showing up and participating.  But I know from my own experience that children meet the expectations you set for them.  Set the bar low and they’ll meet those challenges, but set the bar high and they’ll surprise the heck out of you! Essentially what I’m saying is that if we reward everyone for everything, we encourage mediocrity, but if we expect and reward the best, everyone strives to fill the top slots.

Here’s a f’r instance for you.  When I was in the fourth grade, our little elementary school had an art contest.  Each child made a picture, and the best from each grade were picked for a final judging.  Then, the best picture from the entire school went to a special exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  I worked and worked on my picture.  It was supposed to be the ocean, and I remember trying SO hard.  I even tried to use some techniques that I’d learned from Bob Ross on PBS back in the day.  I really wanted to win.

When it came time for the judging, I was thrilled to learn that my picture was selected as the best in the fourth grade.  Even more shocking to me was the news that my picture was selected to hang in the Museum of Art.  The picture was mounted and it got a special frame.  I was so proud.  I still remember feeling that pride and accomplishment when my parents took me to view the exhibit with all the other kids’ pictures.

Now, as far as I know, the contest wasn’t rigged at the local level.  People weren’t saying, “Let’s pick Sarah’s picture because she’s blind and isn’t that just so cute that she could do that?” I really think my picture was picked because it was good.  I worked REALLY hard on it, and I REALLY wanted to win.  (And just as an interesting aside, I still have that picture in my closet all these years later.)

If I HAD gotten the sympathy vote, that victory wouldn’t have meant anything to me.  Winning was special because winning was special.  It wasn’t something that everyone would do.

Today though, we’re setting a completely different standard.  Everyone’s supposed to be special.  Everyone’s supposed to win.  Everyone’s supposed to get a reward for simply showing up.  In my kids’ classrooms at school, for example, they’re given “rewards” for doing what was just expected of us when we were in school.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying there’s no value to positive consequences.  Positive consequences can be extremely effective.  But when positive consequences are being showered upon our children for the dumbest of reasons, those consequences lose any sort of meaning.  The kids just come to expect them.  “OK, Teacher.  I walked into school and hung up my backpack.  Where’s my candy?” It’s become utterly ridiculous.

And then there’s this idea that everything has to be “fair”.  What did our parents tell us when we were kids though? “Life ain’t fair!” I’ve changed that bit of priceless wisdom with my kids though.  They can all recite it word for word.  When one of them says, “Well, that’s not fair,”, I say, “If life were fair, you’d be paying rent!” Basically, it’s my way of telling the kids that life isn’t always fair, and in reality, the world wouldn’t be that great a place if life WERE fair all the time.

I know I sound hard, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to set expectations for my kids that’ll help make my job obsolete.  I don’t want to still be doing their laundry when they’re 30.  My kids are capable of greatness, but they won’t discover that for themselves if greatness isn’t expected.  They’re still allowed to be kids, but they’ll be prepared for the way the real world works.  They’ll be able to adapt and overcome, and I don’t think they’d be able to do that if they got a reward every time they accomplished the most meaningless of tasks.

And I guess there’s one other important point that I haven’t made yet.  If we attempt to motivate children purely with external rewards, those children can’t develop the skills to meet their needs internally.  What I mean is this.  If I’m always giving my kids candy as a reward, they never have the chance to learn how to feel rewarded without candy.

Kids are amazingly creative.  If we let them figure out the answers without spoon-feeding them, they’ll be remarkably resilient in the end.  If we give everyone a gold star though, nobody has to try.  Nobody has to innovate.  Nobody has to figure out how to improvise, adapt, and overcome!

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Sarah’s Pumpkin Soup with Italian Sausage

This soup has been a favorite in the Wittekind household for years.  It’s a variation of a recipe called “Phoebe’s Pumpkin and Sausage Soup“, and it wasn’t until I got ready to prepare it for a pitch-in that I realized I’d never shared it on my blog!


  • 1 roll Bob Evan’s Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (I use a garlic press.)
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 quart chicken stock or bone broth
  • 1 15-oz can pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 c heavy whipping cream


  1. Brown sausage, mushrooms, and onion in a large pot.  When veggies are soft and translucent, add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
  2. Add the chicken stock and the canned pumpkin.  Bring the soup to a boil, and then turn it down to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the heavy whipping cream, stir, and reduce heat to low.  Allow the soup to cook for another 10 minutes.  Serve!

Note: I’ve made this soup ahead of time and I’ve kept it hot in a crock pot set to LOW (or even “WARM”, depending on the crock pot.) I’ve also frozen leftovers with good results, but when I make it, there are almost never leftovers that I can freeze.


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Tornadoes in November: An After-Action Review

tornado clipart image

I thought we’d made it through the 2013 tornado season with relative ease, but as yesterday’s mid-November tornadoes tore through the Midwest, I realized that Mother Nature had other ideas.

Yesterday’s storms gave me an interesting perspective, so I thought I’d share what worked for us and what didn’t work so well.  Most folks seem to want to share nothing but success stories.  That’s not really my style though because my hope is that my readers will learn from my successes as well as my failures.  So here goes.

By the time severe weather rolled into my neck of the woods, we’d had several days worth of notice.  To be honest, I actually thought the threat had been sensationalized.  In fact, as the Facebook notices flooded my husband’s phone, and as the talking heads on TV kept warning us of the potential threat, I couldn’t help but think, “OK, guys.  It’s Indiana.  We’re used to dealing with severe weather.”

I even experienced something that seemed almost comical to me.  I needed to pick up a prescription after church, but the grocery store pharmacy didn’t open ’til 11:00.  Rather than coming back later, we decided to sit outside the pharmacy and wait.  When my husband stepped away to grab a cup of coffee, a fellow parishioner approached me.  “Oh hi, Sarah.  Are you here to pick up groceries before the storms hit?” It was all I could do not to laugh out loud.  See, people joke about running to the store for bread and milk before a severe winter storm hits, but it had never occurred to me that folks might consider doing that with thunderstorms that MIGHT produce tornadoes.

So anyway, my family finished errands and we headed home for what was supposed to be a restful afternoon that might possibly be punctuated by a few rounds of bad weather.  I put a few things away, I helped the husband and the kids get a little food in their bellies, and I grabbed a snack.  I headed into the office to spend a little mindless time with Facebook, and my husband took the kids into our room to watch Netflix.

Now this is when things started to get interesting.  When I sat down at my computer, I had some email alerts from my county.  Several warned about the severe weather that was headed our way later in the afternoon, but one of them was a warning from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.  Apparently, they felt the potential threat was a big enough deal that folks consider cancelling their evening activities and staying at home where it’s safe.  This warning struck me as a little odd because I’d never seen that kind of advice in advance of a storm that might produce tornadoes.

That warning inspired me to do a little more digging, and at that point, we were already starting to hear about the damage in Illinois.  I also saw a few Facebook posts from a local volunteer fire department that warned of the “high risk” of tornadoes for all of Indiana.  Since the National Weather Service was saying “slight risk” back on Friday, I figured that things were getting serious.  And after chatting with my mom (who was watching the storm coverage on the news), I realized that yeah, this storm probably wasn’t anything to play around with.

Before I tell anymore of the story though, I feel it’s important to point out that I ALWAYS take the threat of tornadoes seriously.  Back when my daughter was just 5 weeks old, I lived through a historic tornado outbreak that leveled buildings within blocks of my apartment.  Before that day, I was one of the “severe weather rubber-neckers”.  You know the type — the ones that are standing on their back porch watching the storm eat their neighbor’s car.  Yeah.  That was me.  But on that day back in 2002, I had the good sense to take shelter in a bathroom under the stairs with my newborn, three dogs, and a cat, and I wasn’t even aware that our neighborhood had been destroyed until the media gave the all clear.  From that point on, I’ve had a healthy respect for Mother Nature.  Storms don’t scare me, but I take the warnings from the National Weather Service seriously.

Because of my previous experience with dangerous storms, I decided to take a second look at my preps.  I gathered the rechargeable batteries, flashlights, headlamps, and lanterns in one place.  I grabbed the CB, and my husband and I tossed our cell phones back onto their chargers.  I felt as ready as I was going to feel at that point, so I went back into the office to keep an eye on things on Facebook and the National Weather Service.

It didn’t take long for things to get crazy.  The storms were moving FAST, and they were doing so much damage along the way.  About an hour before the worst of the weather got here, I saw a post on Facebook.  Apparently, authorities had decided to open several schools in the county so that folks could take shelter if they needed to.  I’d never considered doing anything like that before, but to be honest, I’m not sure that the offer was there BEFORE the storms hit.  Apparently, all the county’s fire departments were hitting mobile home parks knocking on doors and advising folks to evacuate to the shelter locations.  Upon reading that, it occurred to me that riding out the storms in a school building that’s rated for that sort of thing might be a smarter idea than staying in my manufactured home that has no basement.  Yes, my home sits on a permanent foundation, but I always feel vulnerable when tornadic storms strike.

I told Fred what I’d read online, and I told him that I thought it’d be a good idea for us to consider going up to the school if it looked like things were going to get really bad.  Then, I called my neighbor (who doesn’t have a basement either, but at least she lives in a site-built home) and told her what we were going to do.  (If we decided to abandon ship, we figured she’d want to go too, but her husband was at work with the family truck.)

Both Fred and the neighbor agreed that going up to the school might be a good idea, so we all set out to make sure we had what we needed to “bug out”.  As Fred and I were grabbing a few things though, he suggested that we might consider bugging out to his work.  We decided we’d answer the question of where once we’d answered the question of when though.

It got a little chaotic there for a minute.  I was checking to make sure the kids’ bags were ready to go.  Fred ran a GMRS radio to the neighbor (in case we lost cell service), and by the time he came back, the weather radio was sounding a tornado warning for our county.

Fred had the forethought to bring our chainsaw.  He tossed it into the back of our SUV, and we raced over to the neighbors’ to grab them.  We decided that we had time to make it to Fred’s work, and I’m certain that we made it there in record time.  Fred was being careful, but he didn’t spare the throttle! I was actually quite impressed.

It was just sprinkling when we got to Fred’s work, but one look at the sky told us we didn’t have a lot of time to spare.  We piled into one of the safest spots in that building with plans to hit the ladies’ room if things got really bad.  We had our weather radio, we had snacks and games for the kids, and we had time to kill.

Our house lost power at 5:08.  (Fred’s phone gets a text message when our computer’s on battery power.) We never did lose power at Fred’s work though.

When the worst of the storms had finally passed, we loaded up and headed back out to our house.  Based on what we’d seen on the Internet, we weren’t sure what we’d find as we headed home, so we wanted to head home while we still had a bit of daylight left.

There was still no power by the time we got home.  We didn’t seem to have any damage though, and fortunately our chickens did fine.  We headed inside, got some light going, and started to formulate a plan.

See, there were several things that needed addressed.  It was about 6:30, and everyone was hungry.  We also had to decide if/when we were going to drag the generator out.  I wasn’t worried about my fridge, but we were concerned about our sump pump.  We knew our crawl space wouldn’t flood immediately, but we also knew that we’d want power for it if our outage  was going to last for 12 hours or so.

We decided to hold off on the sump pump, and we came back to the issue of food.  I was actually feeling pretty darned cranky because I’d eaten very little that day, and I was looking forward to my dinner of steak with mushrooms, onions, and melted cheese.  I later discovered that what it all boiled down to (for me) was the fact that I was craving fat, and since we weren’t opening the fridge, there weren’t many options that wouldn’t involve a whole bunch of work that I really wasn’t feeling up to at the time.

Something else that struck me as we were discussing food was light.  The lanterns and headlamps are plenty of light for folks with normal vision, but it doesn’t even come close to helping me.  I don’t need light to navigate.  I don’t need light to eat.  I don’t need light to use the restroom, tidy up the kitchen, wash dishes, or take a bath.  What I DO need light for is cooking.  And until last night, I hadn’t realized how much I rely on what little vision I have when it comes to cooking.  So in the end, we ended up running back into town and grabbing food from a place that had power.  While I felt MUCH better after eating, I was still grumpy that I hadn’t gotten steak for supper.

We had a warm meal, some fellowship with the neighbors, and a bit of unanticipated down time.  When it was all said and done though, we got the power restored after little more than a three-hour outage.  I was impressed!

After Fred ran the neighbors home, I had some time to do an after-action review of sorts in my own head.  There were a lot of things that went right yesterday, but as is always the case when putting emergency plans into practice, some things didn’t go as smoothly as they could have.

What I learned:

  1. Next time I have some advanced warning about a severe weather situation, I won’t skimp on meals beforehand.  I kept putting meal prep off because I thought I’d have time for it later, but in reality, it didn’t work that way.  If I would have had a real lunch, I would have been thinking more clearly when it came time to decide how to proceed.
  2. Since I’m the one who does the cooking for our family, I’m going to have to address the light situation.  I need to experiment to figure out how much emergency light is “enough” for me to cook without hurting myself.  In the past, I’d taken it for granted that when the power went out, I’d just pull out a camp stove and start cooking, but since I’d never actually tried to do that, I hadn’t discovered the weakness of my plan.
  3. I need to rethink some of my food storage.  I have plenty of food that’s low-carb, but I don’t have much food at all that’s also high-fat AND shelf-stable.  Yeah, I could have eaten some peanut butter, but I didn’t want anything sweet.  What little food I’d had yesterday was “snacky”, and I wanted real food.  Yeah, I know that if I’d been hungry enough, I would have just eaten something, but here’s the thing.  My “plan” doesn’t have me eating off-plan foods until there’s no other choice.  There was plenty of on-plan food available in my house.  Eating it would have required me opening up my fridge (which I didn’t want to do because we weren’t sure if we were gonna go through the trouble of getting out the generator) and then cooking it on unfamiliar equipment with no usable light.  That didn’t sound appealing to me at all.
  4. We should have gotten the generator ready ahead of time.  When it came time to decide whether we were using it or not, we were less inclined to use it because it would have been a major pain in the butt.  I didn’t realize that we couldn’t just raise the garage door and carry it out.  It would have needed to come through our breezeway, and under the best of circumstances, I can’t navigate our garage and breezeway while my hands are empty and there’s plenty of light let alone helping to carry and 80-pound generator in the dark.  Obviously, we would have figured something out if there were no other choice, but we were much less willing go through the trouble when it wasn’t absolutely necessary.
  5. I need to think more about the things we need when bugging out vs. bugging in.  We’ve never bugged out in a hurry like we did yesterday, so things were forgotten.  In particular, I didn’t have ANY medications with me.  While none of the meds that I would have brought were absolutely required for life, I shouldn’t have to think about going without meds because of a simple oversight.

For the experienced prepper, some of this might seem like “duh” stuff.  And of course all this stuff makes perfect sense to me in hindsight.  The fact that we experienced some of these issues just goes to reinforce the importance of good planning and PRACTICE.  It’s better to find shortcomings in your preps when perfect planning isn’t critical.

Yesterday was by no means a disaster for us.  We did a lot of things right.  Like I’ve said before though, we learned some valuable lessons also, and we’ll just do better next time.  Remember — what you do matters!



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Transformation Update: 10/28/13

sarah-front-092913I didn’t realize how long it’d been since my last update until I looked at my site.  Has it really been a month?

To be honest, I haven’t had anything exciting to report.  I’m still on track with my eating, but the scale has been bouncing around the same few pounds all month.  Since getting into the 220s on September 27, my weight’s been as high as 229 and as low as 224.2, but it’s been staying around 228 for all my “official” weigh-ins (on Mondays.)

I know I’ve said this before.  In the past, all this bouncing around the same few pounds would have derailed me.  It’s been a month now though, and I’m really starting to get frustrated.  Don’t worry.  I’m not getting frustrated enough to give up.  After all, my journey isn’t about weight and nothing else.  That being said, sometimes I feel like it shouldn’t be this hard.  The little kid in me thinks, “It’s not FAIR! I’m working so hard to MAINTAIN!” But don’t worry.  I haven’t thrown a big temper tantrum yet.  I’m still acting like a grown-up.

I did make some changes last week that I’m hoping will yield results eventually.  I started drinking “Bulletproof Coffee”, and that’s been an interesting experience.  I also got some soil-based probiotics that I’m hoping will help with my digestive troubles.  I THOUGHT I was on the right path with the digestive stuff, but I’ve been seriously struggling for about two weeks now with horrible pain.  It’s the kind of pain that I used to associate with eating wheat, but aside from Holy Communion, no wheat enters this girl’s body.  (I’ve received Communion all along, so I know that’s not it.  Besides, it’s not bread.  It’s Jesus, so it doesn’t count!)

For a while, I was thinking it might be coffee (since I started drinking coffee on a quasi-regular basis about the same time that this pain started), but I’m fairly certain that it’s not coffee because I went without it for about three days and I STILL had the pain, gas, and the like.

I’m just not sure what’s going on in the digestion department.  If these troubles keep up, I’m going to have to do an elimination diet to figure it out because I’m suffering.  In fact, I’m suffering to the point where, if I didn’t know my own body the way I do, I MIGHT think I was having a heart attack.  Going through this illustrates how a person can go to the ER thinking they’re having a cardiac event and it’s nothing more than gas.  It’s SO painful!

On an unrelated note, I had two incredibly inspiring encounters last week.  First, a beloved family member told me that she was going low-carb after reading Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers.  I was nearly moved to tears because I know what a change low-carb will make in this person’s life.  I get teary-eyed just thinking about it, actually.

Then yesterday, a dear friend stopped me at church to tell me I had inspired her to “go Paleo”.  She said she’d been doing it for two weeks and had lost some weight, and of course, I was thrilled for her.  See, all along, I’ve wanted nothing more than to change my own life AND help others who want to change their lives.  By sharing my experiences, even if I help just one person, I feel like it’s worth it.  I certainly didn’t expect to have both those experiences in the same week though.  Words can’t describe how overjoyed I was!

As always, I’m still putting one foot in front of the other.  Even though I’m not seeing the kind of movement on the scale that I’d like to see, I know that I’m going the right thing.  Giving up is not an option now, and I’m enjoying that feeling of empowerment that I never really had before.  I think that not eating off-plan foods since August 3 has helped so much, but I have to give credit to God as well.  He keeps me centered.  He gives me the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I WILL get there; the journey’s just taking a while.

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Dr. David Perlmutter: The New Star in Dementia Research

Is your brain health important to you? Do you have a family history of Alzheimer’s or dementia? Is a loved one suffering with neurological issues that affect cognition? If you answered “YES!” to any of these questions, then you’re definitely going to want to learn more about neurologist, Dr. David Perlmutter.

I first learned about Dr. Perlmutter on one of Jimmy Moore’s podcasts.  At first, I didn’t realize that he was anything special.  Surprisingly though, I was captivated after only a few minutes of listening to this guy talk.  It was clear to me that he was a “rock star” in the field of neurology, and he was making mainstream news with his message that carbs damage your brain and healthy fats nourish, protect, and even repair it.

Now, Dr. Perlmutter’s message isn’t news to those of us in the low-carb, high-fat, real food scene.  What surprised me though was how well his concepts were being received in the mainstream.  Just this week, he appeared on the ‘Dr. Oz Show’ to discuss his new book, and you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard Dr. Oz confess that heart doctors including him were starting to understand that saturated fats aren’t the enemy; inflammation caused by high blood sugar was the underlying problem.  Considering some of the nonsense I’ve seen Dr. Oz advocate, I just couldn’t believe that even HE was coming around.  And to be honest, it’s hard to defend the old junk science pushed by the government when new science proves the exact opposite at nearly every turn.

Fortunately for the mainstream, ‘Grain Brain’ is well cited.  Not only has this man been in the trenches changing lives, but he’s spent a lot of time backing up his methodology with studies that are well formulated and difficult to refute.  In the end, it comes down to getting past this bias that most of us have when it comes to carbs.  There’s no such thing as an essential carbohydrate.  There are essential fats and essential proteins, but the human body doesn’t NEED carbs.  And in today’s world of plenty, it’s those very carbs that are killing our hearts, killing our brains, and killing us (in the end.)

I share this stuff on my blog because I care about folks.  It kills me to see people suffering needlessly.  In the end, God gave us each free will though, and I accept that.  What I CAN’T do is refrain from sharing info that changes lives, so if you’re sick or no someone who is, please, PLEASE consider that there is a different way.  We’ve all done some pretty crazy things in our lives.  Taking 30 days to eat the way humans were MEANT to eat really isn’t that crazy in the grand scheme of things, is it?

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Saving Money with Low-Carb, High-Fat, Real Food

Back in August, 2011, I wrote a blog post that addressed one of the most common objections to low-carbohydrate eating.  Folks say, “I can’t afford to eat that way,”, as if it’s some sort of mantra.  And more than two years after writing that first post, people are still reading it.  People still want to know how to succeed without breaking the bank, so I thought I’d share a few more thoughts on the subject of low-carb, high-fat eating when you’re on a budget.

My 2011 post is by no means irrelevant.  I still use all those strategies today, but I think there’s always an opportunity to say more when it comes to one’s budget and healthy eating.  Money doesn’t have to be a barrier.  It certainly hasn’t been for our family anyway.

For those of us low-carb “veterans”, it’s usually pretty easy to rattle off a quick list of money-saving tips and tricks.  A key point that’s often overlooked though is mindset.  At the Wittekind homestead, we do our best to be “producers” rather than “consumers”.  This critical shift in perspective keeps us asking ourselves, “How can we produce more of the things we need to save money?” And the answer to that question drives decisions that impact our budget in real ways.

brown eggI know.  Not everyone can have chickens for fresh eggs like we do.  Not everyone can grow a garden.  But if you start thinking in terms of baby steps, you can make real change.

For instance, how many folks use fresh herbs in their cooking? (If you’re not one of those folks, I suggest you try it at least once.  You’ll be hooked!) Have you noticed how much those herbs cost? It’s insane! Fresh herbs probably have some of the highest profit margins out there because they’re relatively easy to grow but command a high cost in the market.  Interestingly enough, most of those herbs are SO easy to grow in your own kitchen.  All you need is a window with some decent light and a little bit of water.  Heck, I started with a Chia Herb Garden back in 2007, and it worked pretty well.

Later, I learned other tricks.  Did you know that you can propagate green onions and celery in water? I don’t use celery, so I haven’t tried that one myself, but I’ve grown green onions in water many times.  It works pretty well.  I’ll bet you could even use the same trick with leeks, and those things are EXPENSIVE!

Salad boxes are another great option inside.  They don’t take up a lot of room, and the greens grow quickly.  It doesn’t work at my house though because I have an old cat who loves to eat my seedlings.  I guess nobody told her she’s a carnivore!

Something else that goes along with the “producer” mindset is home canning or freezing.  Last year after Thanksgiving, I got some turkeys for a song.  A friend and I canned the meat and we made bone broth from the left-over carcasses.  Now, that might be a little more work than some folks have the time for, but since I’m a stay-at-home mom and my friend is retired, we had the time.  The turkey was awesome, and it only had two ingredients — turkey and salt.  And the stock was out of this world! Better still, the stock was almost effortless.  I put some veggie trimmings, the carcasses, and some water in my stock pot and let it simmer for hours.  When it was nice and thick, I strained it into a huge bowl and allowed it to cool some.  Then I put it in my fridge so I could skim off the fat.  (If I weren’t going to can it, I wouldn’t have skimmed the fat, but this extra step made for a better end product.) Including all those steps AND loading my jars, I think I put a whopping 20 minutes worth of work into that stock, and there’s NO way I could have bought better at the store.  Better yet, there were no weird ingredients.

Another point that’s overlooked when considering budget and low-carb, high-fat, real food eating plans is medical expenses.  When you first start out, you probably ARE spending more money at the grocery store.  There’ll be a bit of a learning curve as you figure out what you like, what your family likes, and how hungry you’ll be.  But by the time you get a handle on food costs, you’ll likely be seeing improvements in your health that’ll lead to fewer doctor’s visits, fewer prescriptions medications, and fewer days of missed work (due to illness or disease.) It’s not at all uncommon for a person to drop all their prescription medications just because they’ve made the switch to eating low-carb, high-fat, REAL food! (Just to be clear, I’m not advocating anyone drop meds without consulting their doctor first.)

Of course it goes without saying that people can save money by not buying “junk” food.  Treats ARE an occasional part of my eating plan, but I make them myself.  I don’t (usually) buy them from a store.  Not only are the ingredients substandard, but food companies have come to capitalize on the whole “net carb” notion that allows them to sell junk food for a small fortune simply because it says “Made with Splenda” on the front or “Just 2 net carbs per serving”.  There’s no reason for folks to buy into that nonsense, and it doesn’t help the budget one iota!

Lastly, one of the most important money-saving tips I can share with you is this.  Get fat-adapted! When our bodies burn fat for energy instead of sugar, we simply require less food.  Because of the appetite-suppressing effects of nutritional ketosis, I often find myself struggling to consume adequate calories.  Because I require less food, I can buy more premium foods (organic, grass-fed, etc) and I’m STILL spending less at the grocery store.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but it really works that way for me, and I can compare it in very real terms.

My husband eats a low-carb diet, but he is not fat-adapted.  Now, I realize there are inherent differences in food requirements for men and women, but the differences in the way we eat are stunning.  My husband usually consumes about 500 calories around breakfast time.  (This includes his first cup of coffee with half and half.) Lunch is usually somewhere around 700 or 800 calories.  Supper is another 800 to 1000 calories.  And of course, we can’t forget the snacks that come sometimes before but ALWAYS after dinner.  Those snacks usually account for another 300 to 500 calories worth of food.

Now, for those of you who’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I think calories are like points on “Whose Line Is It Anyway” — ya know, “The game’s made up and the points don’t matter.”? Because Fred’s not fat-adapted though, not only is he consuming more calories, but those calories are coming from foods that are inherently more expensive.

Think of it this way.  A 5-oz steak topped with two tablespoons of garlic butter is more than plenty for me.  That’s about 500 calories at a cost of about $1.96, give or take a few pennies.  It wouldn’t be unusual, on the other hand, for my husband to eat a 14-oz steak topped with two TEASPOONS of garlic butter.  That’s about 910 calories at a cost of around $4.90.  See how the difference can add up?

In the end, I suppose our best defense against out-of-control food costs is creativity and determination.  I find that when I’ve set my mind on something, it’s amazing how creative I can be in order to make things happen.  I understand that it can be hard for folks on the initial buy-in, but as Robb Wolf likes to say, just try it for 30 days and see how you look, feel, and perform.  After that, I suspect the determination and creativity will be enough to carry you forward so that you too can SAVE money with a low-carb, high-fat, real food eating plan.

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Commentary: ‘Fat is NOT Fabulous’

Not too long ago, I saw a provocative title on my Facebook news feed — “Fat is NOT Fabulous: How the Obese are Endorsing Obesity”.  It came from the folks over at The Family Podcast Network, and while I generally appreciate their no-nonsense, blunt approach to most topics, I have to admit that I had mixed feelings after reading the post.  Upon seeing the title, I was interested, but I have to admit that I was already imagining the kind of stuff I was going to read.  I envisioned a commentary on the ugliness, gluttony, and downright worthlessness of fat people.  (No, I’d never read her blog before.  I’d only listened to Trey’s podcast up to that point.) I was admittedly defensive before reading the article through.

After I loaded the article and began to read, I noticed that I was feeling even more defensive.  The poster was warning us that many would find the article offensive.  “Oh great! Here we go,”, I thought.  “More disparaging of fat people.” I reserved judgement though and read the article in its entirety.

The author made many excellent points about society’s view of obese people.  However, she seemed to be suggesting that the trend in today’s society toward “fat pride” comes about from a fat person’s inability to take responsibility for his or her own choices.

While I actually agreed with many of the things she said in her blog post, I felt she was WAY off base on one particular topic.  The comment that weighed most heavily (no pun intended) on my mind was, “However, obesity is not a personality trait.  Obesity is a choice.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think that obesity is just something that happens to us like old age or gray hair.  There are choices that we make which affect our weight, but it’s definitely not that clear-cut.  In my journey, at least, I was obese in grade school.  You can’t honestly believe that a fifth-grader CHOOSES to weigh 155 pounds.  And even when an adult knows that it’s time to choose a different path, it can be nearly impossible if you’re trying to change using the information that comes from the government and the diet industry.

Many months ago, I posted a story about doctors’ impressions of fat people.  The doctors surveyed thought of fat people as lazy, non-compliant, and disgusting.  I’ve never understood this impression of fat people as “lazy” because most fat people I know have more determination and have to work harder at EVERYTHING than most skinny people.  Think about bad diet advice.  Before low-carb, I’d done all sorts of things that were extreme and crazy because I really didn’t want to be fat anymore.  The reason those things didn’t work had a LOT more to do with the flawed logic behind them than my ability to stick to the plan.  No wonder some fat people just give up.  When you hit your thumb with a hammer enough times, you eventually get used to the idea that you’re never going to hang that picture in your living room.  We humans are smart like that, and it’s hard to convince us to try a different strategy when we’ve failed so many times before.

Believe me.  I get the author’s point about taking responsibility, but many times, we have to meet people where they are.  Yes, I CHOOSE what I put in my mouth, but even that’s not enough to overcome obesity.

I was listening to the Bulletproof Executive podcast for the first time today, and interestingly enough, it happened to be a podcast with Jonathan Bailor who’s writing “The Calorie Myth”.  He used an interesting analogy that I’d never heard before, but I thought the point was so important.  In so many words, he said that telling people to just eat less is like telling them to go to the bathroom less or to only sleep four hours a night every night for the rest of your life.  Our need to eat is driven by many things, and a lot of those things are hormonal and autonomic processes that are meant to maintain homeostasis.

Now just to be clear, I agree with the author that there’s a psychological component to overeating in a lot of people.  There sure is for me.  But I can HANDLE that psychological component WITHOUT food if I’m eating a real food, high fat, ver low-carb diet.  If I’m eating low-fat, high-carb, all bets are off! The biology, at least for me, overrides the psychology.

I’d also like to point out that I think the “fat pride” folks are part of the very vocal minority.  Because they’re so vocal, they get all the attention, but I don’t think they represent the majority of fat people.  The majority of the obese, anyway, AREN’T comfortable for a myriad of reasons, and it doesn’t help that we’re constantly judged.  That judging that people do does tend to put us on the defensive.  The key is learning to balance that tendency with what’s happening in reality, and that can be really difficult sometimes.

Here’s an example from my own life.  When I was in college, I was desperate to lose weight, but my efforts were unhealthy and misguided.  I’d lost close to 40 pounds, but I was still overweight by about 25 pounds.  I went to the university’s health center because I was having trouble with my gallbladder, and the PA did an abdominal exam (of course, because I was complaining about my abdomen.) Anyway, she pulled up my shirt and recoiled in disgust.  “Wow! You have a LOT of stretch marks!” I was so embarrassed, and I just wanted to cry.  I remember thinking, “But you don’t know where I’ve come from.  I’m trying to do the right thing, and you’re still treating me like I’m some piece of rotten meat.  I’m a work in progress here, OK?”

I have no fondness whatsoever for political correctness.  As a blind person, it’s caused WAY too many uncomfortable situations with folks who fall all over themselves trying to figure out how to talk to me.  I think, though, that there’s a difference between being PC and being respectful to your fellow humans.  As a Catholic Christian, I truly believe in treating others the way I want to be treated, and in my book, that means being honest, respectful, and kind.  (No, I’m not talking about that sickly sweet, goodie-two-shoes kind of kind, but I think most folks can figure it out.)

I also think that we have to deal with obesity problem from a different angle than the one that most physicians and the government would advocate.  Eating high-carb, low-fat doesn’t work long-term for people who’re broken, and like I said before, that kind of eating can make us a lot more susceptible to the emotional stuff that can encourage patterns of yo-yo dieting, mental illness, addiction, and more.

I wish more people understood the degree to which the foods we eat affect us.  Just yesterday, I was listening to a Jimmy Moore podcast with Sam Faltham.  Sam was talking about his 5,000-calorie experiments.  To summarize, he at around 5,000 calories following a low-carb, high-fat plan.  During the test period (21 days), he gained less than 3 pounds.  Then he did another 5,000-calorie, 21-day experiment where he ate junk.  He gained almost 16 pounds, he felt absolutely dreadful, and he could have easily eaten still more calories.  (To contrast, with the high-fat diet, he was literally choking his food down sometimes.)

As a low-carber, those results don’t surprise me in the slightest.  I wasn’t at all surprised by the fact that he still felt like he could eat more calories when he was eating 5,000 calories worth of junk each day.  I’ve been there! I’ve done that.  Eating that way triggers more cravings, it lowers our “will”, and it leaves us feeling completely out of control.  So how can someone say with a straight face that obesity is a choice when a person is compelled with their whole being to keep the junk coming? It’s a miserable way to live, and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.  What’s more, what choice does a person have if they don’t have the right information? More of that “count your calories, eat healthy whole grains, and just get off the couch” advice can be something akin to mashing your thumb with that huge hammer again.

I truly think that it’s easier to talk about obesity as a choice once people have the right tools.  Then, if they choose to ignore those tools, that’s on them.  I still contend though that the majority of obese people today are left with a lot of non-option options, so I can’t say that I blame some folks for making peace with the fact that they haven’t found the right answer yet.  It’s not how I’d do things, but I really can’t judge others since I haven’t walked in their shoes.

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Blood Sugar Impact: Breyers Carb Smart Ice Cream Bar w/Almonds

I performed this experiment about two weeks ago, but for some reason, I never got around to posting the results.  I’m not sure how to interpret the results, but here they are, for what they’re worth.

I tested a chocolate and almond covered ice cream bar made by Breyers.  If I’m going to have a “fake” low-carb food, these bars are my choice because they actually taste like real food.  Perhaps it’s because there’s actually a decent dose of fat.  I’m not sure.  But here’s the nutritional composition.

  • 180 calories
  • 15 grams of fat
  • 11 grams of total carbohydrate
  • 2 grams of dietary fiber
  • 3 grams of protein

Like with all the other blood sugar experiments, I checked my blood sugar before consuming the bar (at 12:00 PM.)  Using my ReliOn Prime meter, I got a reading of 97 mg/dL.  After eating the bar, my readings were as follows:

  • 12:35 PM — 91 mg/dL
  • 1:05 PM — 101 mg/dL
  • 1:35 PM — 90 mg/dL
  • 2:05 PM — 98 mg/dL

And just to be clear, yes, I was actually fasting before I ate the ice cream bar.  I hadn’t gotten around to food, so I figured it’d be a good day to conduct the experiment (since I had a sore throat and was thinking about ice cream.)

Like I said earlier, I’m not sure how to interpret what my blood sugar did here.  With all the other “experiments” my blood sugar seemed to have a distinct pattern.  I didn’t seem to jump all over the place like it did here.  Regardless though, the ice cream bar seems fairly harmless where my blood sugar is concerned, and I’ll likely continue to include it as an occasional treat.  My diet is 100% high-fat, low-carb, but it’s probably only 90% whole, real food.  I do have stuff like this on occasion, and I’m completely comfortable with that.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I’ll test next, and I think I’ve come up with a solid plan.  Some folks claim that coffee and artificial sweeteners have harmful effects on blood sugar, so I think I’ll do a side-by-side comparison to see what happens.  One day, I’ll test a measured amount of coffee with a measured amount of cream and a measured amount of EZ-Sweetz.  Then the second day, I’ll test with the same amount of coffee and cream, but I won’t use any sweetener.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens, definitely.

If any of you have any suggestions of items to test, feel free to make suggestions in the comments section.  I’m running out of ideas. :)

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Transformation Update: 09/30/13

sarah-front-092913sarah-side-092913For the first time in a while, I’m actually excited to post an update.  I feel like I’m making real progress, and I have a lot of neat things to report.

First, since I’m in a new “decade”, I had my husband take a new set of progress pictures.  I weighed 228 this morning which means I’ve lost 3.2 pounds since last Monday.  It also means that I’m sitting at a new low since starting this journey in July of 2011.  In fact, to be honest, I’m not entirely certain that I haven’t been in the 220s since the second half of 2005 (although I might have dipped briefly into the 220s after my youngest was born in late 2007.) It feels good to see these kinds of numbers, but I don’t feel like I’ll really be able to breathe ’til I’m a little farther away from the 230 mark.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t FEEL like I’ve lost over 50 pounds since 2011, but I am starting to notice that I’ve lost SOME weight.  In fact, the shirt I’m wearing in my progress photo was a gift from my mother-in-law last December.  When I first got it, my belly would hang out of the bottom of it if I wasn’t careful.  (I have a long torso, but still.) When I put the shirt on yesterday, I really noticed how much roomier it had gotten since last winter.  And then I REALLY noticed a difference when I went to get the sweater that “went with it”; it’s bordering on too big.

My mother-in-law always picks out the greatest clothes for me, but this year, I think I’m going to have to tell her to look for size 20s instead of size 24s.  That puts a smile on my face.

I’m also extremely proud of myself for making it through an especially challenging moment yesterday.  Our little town has an annual festival that’s a BIG deal.  I think our population grows at least one thousand percent during the festival weekend.  There are pioneer crafts, animals, bands, a car show, a HUGE parade, and of course, festival food.

My entire family rode on the Cub Scouts’ float in yesterday’s parade, and we brought some money with us so that we could get something to eat afterward.  It was a cold and rainy day yesterday, so I actually wanted to just go home and get warm after the parade, but I did want to let the kids have some “fair food”.

Nothing appealed to me.  I was REALLY craving a cheeseburger (no bun) with all the fixin’s, but nobody had anything like that.  I did manage to bring home a big bag of fresh pork rinds.  They were quite tasty, but they weren’t really hitting the spot for me.  My daughter ended up eating some homemade chicken and noodles which I thought was a perfect choice for such a cold, rainy day.  My husband had a “taco in a bag”, and he seemed to enjoy that.  Again, that didn’t bother me either.  My boys though — their choice was hard.

Both of my boys picked a funnel cake.  Neither boy had ever had one before.  (They’re eight and almost six.) My youngest was really dubious until he tasted it.  Then he was really grateful that we let him have such a special treat.  I loved watching those boys enjoy their treat, but after a while, it started to get really hard.  The funnel cake smelled SO good, and I’ve had funnel cake maybe 3 times in my own life, so my dark side started talking to me.  “Just ask Kevin for one bite.  It smells SO good and it’ll taste SO good and you can stop after just one bite.  And you know Kevin’ll gladly give you that one bite.  Come on! Just this once.  It’ll be alright.”

Literally, the request for funnel cake was on the tip of my tongue four or more times, but the angel who loves me and protects me from myself would intercede every time.  “Sarah, you really don’t want to do that ’cause you KNOW Kevin’ll give you a bite and you KNOW that one bite won’t be enough and you KNOW that when all’s said and done, you’ll have downed a funnel cake, a pint of ice cream, a pound of peanut M & M’s, an entire can of Pringles, an entire bag of butterscotch hard candies, and you’ll wash it down with some root beer.  Then, you will have gained ten or more pounds in a couple days and it’ll take you four or five WEEKS to take it back off again.  Do you really want that?”

If you’ve never suffered with food addiction, then it’s hard to understand these obsessive, compelling thoughts and actions.  If I weren’t in ketosis, I KNOW I wouldn’t be able to work through these challenges the way I have thus far.  It was agonizing, really, but I came through feeling truly victorious.  And what’s more, my blood sugar this morning was 84 AND I saw a new low on the scale.  Take THAT, you dumb old funnel cake!

It’s a process, I know.  Every one of these successes gets me that much closer to my goal though, and I’m finally starting to see that I’m more than a third of the way there.  It may not sound like much to some, but for me, it’s HUGE.  (No pun intended!)

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Transformation Update: 09/24/13

I didn’t post an update last week because I got a little too wrapped up in other stuff, so it just didn’t happen.  I wouldn’t have had much to report, and to be honest, I don’t have a lot to report this week, but I’m posting an update regardless.

This morning, I weighed in at 231.  I’m SO close to the 220s; I can TASTE it! That means that I’m down two pounds in 2 weeks.  At least it’s headed in the right direction albeit VERY slowly.

I also had monthly labs drawn last week.  It was an absolute nightmare, but I got through it.  (I’m a hard stick, but I’d gotten used to going into this lab and getting stuck on the first try.  Last Friday though, it took FIVE people and FOUR different sites to get the specimens for the tests I needed run.  It was crazy!)

My lab results were somewhat perplexing.  My creatinine fell another tenth of a point to 1.3, but my BUN went back up to 24.  (It was 20 in the August draw.) My anion gap (AGAP) also went up to 16.3, so I’m definitely not headed in the right direction with kidney function.

I did some research, consulting Dr. Google, and I came up with some comprehensive resources explaining elevated AGAP.  Apparently, beta-hydroxybutyrate (the ketone body that fuels me when I’m fat-adapted) can raise AGAP (along with a list of toxins, acetone, and acetoacetate.) It got me wondering if my kidney function issues at this point are merely a function of deep ketosis and some dehydration and there really isn’t anything to worry about.  I won’t know until I can talk it over with the doc, but it definitely gave me something to think about.

On a completely different note, I joined a Facebook support group many months ago, but it wasn’t until just recently that I discovered the utility of the group.  Without those folks, I doubt I’d be moving down at all.  It’s hard to keep your eyes on the prize when you feel like you’re working really hard just to tread water.  Folks in that group have helped me put things into perspective without them (or me) even realizing it.

Yesterday, two important things happened.  First, a gal on the Facebook group was posting about pants that she hadn’t tried on in months.  She put them on and they fell off of her, and she was surprised because the last time she wore them, they were more than snug.  That little story got me thinking.  I own two pairs of dress pants.  I wore them through the winter with various sweaters when I went to church.  Both pairs of pants are size 24W.  By the time I quit wearing those pants (because of weather), one was fairly roomy and the other fit perfectly.  The thing is though, I’ve lost at least 20 pounds since I last wore those pants, and I’d taken for granted the fact that I’m just going to start wearing them when it gets cold in the fall.  Were it not for that gal’s post, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that I AM making changes, and I’m going to have to buy some new pants for church!

The second thing that happened to me yesterday was an epiphany about my eating habits.  As far as I can confirm (by looking back through my notes), I haven’t had even a BITE of off-plan food since at least August 7.  (I might have a couple more days under my belt, but I can’t confirm that.) I’ve made a conscious effort every day to keep eating on plan for the sake of my health and my family, and it’s not always easy.

What was different about yesterday was that I actually felt in control of my body and my eating.  The realization hit me when I was reading about someone who’d eaten off-plan food and was feeling pretty awful.  Boy, could I identify with that because that’s been me WAY more times than I can count.  The thing was though, it COULD have been me yesterday.  I had this irrational craving for cheese crackers that were filled with peanut butter.  I was obsessing about them, even going as far as imagining the texture in my mouth as I chewed them.  I REALLY wanted those crackers.  I had even started to go as far as justifying them.  “I’ve been ‘good’ for so long.  I can eat one or two, and it’s not going to be that big a deal.”

It was at THAT very moment that I realized I was headed into dangerous waters, and it was like I stomped on the brakes and brought the whole thing to a screaming halt.  “NO, Sarah! You know you can’t eat just one or two.  You’ll have to eat the whole pack.  Then, that’ll trigger other cravings, and you’ll convince yourself that it’s OK.  You’ll get back on track tomorrow.  And by the time everything’s said and done, you will have gained 10lb, it’ll take about two weeks to get back into ketosis, and then it’ll take you FIVE weeks to get those pounds off.  Is it really worth it?”

The thing is, I didn’t realize what an accomplishment it was that I’d talked myself out of crackers until I read about another woman’s struggles.  I know that I’m ALWAYS dancing on the edge when it comes to my food, and if I let my guard down even for a SECOND, I’m spending weeks on damage control when I could have been moving closer to my goal instead.

I remember hearing Jimmy Moore talking once about his experience with nutritional ketosis.  He was basically saying that he didn’t understand why folks wouldn’t protect their ketosis with all they were worth because it makes things so much easier.  He’s right, and I didn’t get it ’til recently.  I get it now, and because I get it, it’s easier to protect it.  It’s easier to keep from letting my guard down.  (I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s definitely less challenging than it was before.)

I guess that brings me to my next epiphany — one I had just now as I was typing this post.  Jimmy Moore has changed my life more than he can ever know, and for that, I am so grateful.  Without his podcasts, without all the information that his experts bring to the table, without his personal experiences in his “N=1″ experiments, and without his personal words of encouragement when I’ve contacted him via e-mail, I’m certain that I’d be stuck in the same cycle of yo-yo “dieting”, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and more.  Even when I’ve strayed away from the path since starting this new push to get healthy back in 2011, his voice was that distant call in the woods that would always lead me back to safety.  For that, I couldn’t be more thankful.

Everyone who’s followed me knows that I haven’t always gotten it right.  I’m resolved to share failures alongside successes though because I’m not a superhuman.  I’m just a mom and a wife with real world issues who’s trying to do something that’s REALLY hard.  If my struggles can encourage even one person, I feel like it’s worth it, and I’m happy to share as long as folks are happy to read.

What we do matters, folks.  Always remember that we have choices.

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