Monday, 30 November 2015

The Art of Surrender

This week was a quieter week for me.

I can admit that I have been struggling with grief, guilt, and a whole lot of self-doubt over the past few weeks. And I have been trying to find a peaceful place to breathe, to relax, and to hope.

The truth is that I am a little a broken.
This a difficult and vulnerable place for me.

I have spent the last four years struggling. I have lost. I have compromised. And I have tried to accept and embrace the changes that have been forced into my life.

With each battle I chose to look for light. I chose to quiet that negative voice and embrace the positive instead.

But that does not mean that the negative voice does not exist.
It does.
And some days it can be extremely loud. Saturday that voice was loud. I cried. A lot.

Life has been hard, the last few years have been dark, the universe has been cruel to me - and I am getting tired.

The way I feel has only a little to do with just this loss, and more to do with the fact that it has come after so many others. I truly believed that this battle was not meant for me. I thought that I was done fighting. So it is hard to face that I was so wrong.

Each new loss makes it harder for me to ignore that negative voice, as I do not have the strength and the resolve I once had.

It has been hard to find a peaceful place this time.

My knee jerk reaction when I am struggling is to do more. I look for places to put my nervous energy. I look for steps I can take to help ease my fears. It is a place of action.

This time is different.
This time is I am seeking stillness.

This is a lesson in the true art of surrender.
This is uncomfortable for me.
This is scary for me.
This is hard for me.

Going forward I will be doing less - less running, less training, and no racing.
I will be doing more yoga.
I will be doing more meditation to help combat that nervous energy.
I will be practicing better self-care, because despite what my negative voice may make me feel, I am worthy of that.

And I am going to surrender all my hope and my fears to the universe, because I have faith in something greater.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 27 November 2015

Friday Thoughts and Rambles

It Friday! And today's post has no real theme or serious objective. It is really just a hodgepodge of pictures from my iphone and a glimpse at life around here lately.

I got New Glasses this week. I went for a check up and my prescription has actually decreased...weird right?! I wear my contacts 70% of the time, but picking out new glasses is always fun!

I have spent the last couple of weeks decorating for Christmas. I know a lot of my American Friends feel it is too early because you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week. But we Canadians celebrated our Thanksgiving in October, Remembrance Day (aka our Vetrans Day) was November 11th, and the Toronto Santa Clause Parade was November 15th - so it is officially Christmas in Canada.

I tried to get a second projection light for the other side of the house, but they are sold out everywhere! I went to 4 different stores. So apparently I am not the only one who is eager to decorate for the holidays. I would say about 60% of our neighbours have their lights out now.
And while we are on the subject of the house, I have recently stumbled upon this little Rug Company - Rug and Weave. They have such gorgeous colours and designs, and they are having a Black Friday Sale...Tell me I need this one for my bedroom (*and tell my husband too*)
And lastly, a lot of people have been asking questions about my Acupuncture Treatments. And in hindsight I wish I took proper before pictures. But I am spent much of the last 11 years hiding my swollen left arm, so it didn't occur to me to document it. I was also skeptical about the effectiveness of acupuncture. It was something I wanted to try, but I didn't go in expecting the results that I have experienced.

I took a picture during my second appointment, mostly because my husband was curious what the treatment looked like. I had already noticed some changes in the colouring, but no real lasting results in terms of decreasing the inflammation. So while this isn't a true before shot - you get the idea. My left arms is pretty swollen here and kind looks like a blob.
This next photo is about 2 weeks later at treatment #4, and you can see there is a pretty drastic difference in size and it is starting to have more of a shape.

This photo is about where I am right now after 6 treatments, and after a 4 week break since my last. (I have had 1 more treatment since I took this photo) You can see that my left arm is slightly swollen through the bicep and tricep area. But there is no swelling through the chest or down through the lower half of my arm.
I will likely have to continue with regular treatments to manage the inflammation, but hopefully the frequency of my treatments will decrease as my body begins to adapt.

And that about sums up what has been happening around here.

What have your been up to lately? How has your week been?
Tell me something that made you smile this week?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Balancing the Physical and Mental Effects of Diet

This is the post that I planned to post last week, but didn't. This is definitely still part of my journey, but last week I needed to be honest that "diet" wasn't exactly top of mind.

Recently I have been getting a lot of questions and comments about my new diet. And I wanted to talk a bit about balancing the physical and mental effects of diet.

I realize these are two different topics, but for me they are linked.

Admittedly, after my experience with me elimination diet a few years ago. I felt somewhat reluctant to head down a path of potential restriction again.

There was no doubt that following the diet the way I did provided relief for my acid reflux. I had more energy. And from a physical standpoint I felt great! I was going through a really difficult time in my life, but I was training hard and completely honed in on taking care of my body.

The problem for me is that as a type-A person I tend to easily embrace an All-or-Nothing approach.

And this diet was full on. Combine that with marathon training, striving for a half ironman, while needing something to control when my life felt completely adrift - it's safe to say I loved it. I loved it a little too much.

And I started to see it as a bit of a slippery slope.

Despite eating really well and training really hard I was constantly thinking of other things I could do to be EVEN healthier. Maybe I should go full vegan? (* I tried for a month*) I should definitely try to add more mileage? I should also do yoga 2x a week too?

And that's when I knew the balance had shifted too far in other direction. Physically those dietary changes were working for me. But mentally it was starting to have a negative impact.

You have probably read the articles floating around online about the Blonde Vegan (now the Balanced Blonde) and Othorexia. And if you have spent anytime in the online health and fitness world than you know it is a Very Real Thing and it is around us. There is this constant pressure to be our "healthiest selves" - often at the expense of just that.
I saw myself caving to that pressure.

So I pulled back. I walked away from my half ironman. I seriously relaxed my feelings about food. And I spent a lot less time on my blog and social media.

Walking away from all that pressure was necessary for me. And it has given me some time to reflect on what I want from my life and what I truly value.

I have been willing to make changes to my diet because these changes are for my health. It is something I am doing to combat my hypothyroidism and my Hashimoto's diagnosis.

There are more extreme elimination diets out there. Many people have suggested I look at the AI Paleo approach (including my naturopath because medically it has a lot of valid points). Others have commented that I should also cut out hummus. Some of suggested that I be careful about nightshade vegetables (*which I had to google by the way here's a list if you are curious too*). And while I am always interested in hearing what has worked well for people, I am also only willing to modify my diet so far.

There certainly are more aggressive plans available. And perhaps as I settle into these initial changes, I may become more willing to look at other aspects of my diet. But I want to ease into these changes and make sure that I am making them for the right reasons.

I am truly seeking the idea of Health and Balance.

And that for me means striking that elusive balance with diet that allows me to make lasting and sustainable changes to improve my health physically, while not becoming so restrictive that it begins to impact me negatively mentally.

So I am working with my Naturopath to make the right changes for me.

The internet is often a world of extremes and that is not really the kind of life I am interested in living.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 23 November 2015

Meal Planning + Weekly Workouts + Grief

Last week was a tough week for me, but necessary as part of my grieving process. In the past, I have been really good about meeting my grief head on. I have always been able to own it, to accept it, to feel it, and to move forward.

I didn't do that this time.

I tried to put it away. I didn't want to face it. I didn't want to talk about. I simply didn't want it to be part of the story. I was tired of being the tragic misfit who overcomes. I just wanted this joy. So I didn't want to face my grief and allow it become of my journey.

But it is.
And I have to feel it to let it go. Last week was part of that.

And I may have eaten some of my feelings along the way. I remained gluten-free. But I definitely had more than my fair share of gluten-free cookies. And I definitely had a burger (with veggies so I wasn't completely out of control) on Tuesday Night. This week's meals definitely reflect a stressful week.

But I spent the weekend with family, and felt myself relax (mostly, it is still a work in progress).
I hosted the family Friday Night for my Mother-In-Laws Birthday, something I actually really enjoy doing. I put on my apron, I baked, I used my fancy china, and everyone left full.

My husband and I ran together. We went to spinning on Sunday. We went hiking. We decompressed with Jessica Jones on Netflix. I even let myself have a glass of wine on Sunday without guilt.

So now I feel ready to start the week. And better able to greet life with my plan for "life without a plan". (*that Type-A stuff is deeply rooted, so this is as relaxed as I get. There is no timeline, but there is always a plan*)

This week's dinners included...

Monday - Gluten Free Veggie Pizza
Tuesday - Gluten-Free Beef Burger from The Works with Veggies
Wednesday - Baked White Fish with Salad and Rice
Thursday - Gluten-Free Pasta with Garbanzo Beans and Pesto
Friday - Chicken, Quinoa Salad, and Green Salad (with a slice of gluten-free Carrot Cake)
Saturday - Prime Rib and Salad
Sunday - Coq Au Vin

This week I opted to scale back from my endurance training. Admittedly I tend to gravitate towards distance, because I am not a speed demon, but I want to work on lowering my body's cortisol levels. So while I am still doing tough workouts, they are going to be shorter. My runs are now no longer than 45 min. And I opted out of the last 30 min of Sundays Spin class and relaxed with a series of Sun Salutations instead.

I have also decided to sign up for the Santa Shuffle. It is December 5th, and it feels like a good way to ring in my 31st Birthday. Jamie and I are going to run it together, and because I have been feeling strong on the run lately I am going to try for a PB. My speed demon husband is going to pace me, so fingers crossed.

This Week's Workouts...
Monday - 10km Run
Tuesday - Rest
Wednesday - 60min Spin
Thursday - 60min Hot Yoga
Friday - Rest
Saturday - 8km Tempo Run
Sunday - 60min Spin + 15min Sun Salutations

I hope you all have a great week.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Some Reflection after spewing my guts on the Internet

Thanks for letting me spew my guts out to you all earlier this week. For me, my blog is a place where I try to be brutally honest (both with myself and with you), and that post was reflection of my open heart Wednesday.

Generally, I do feel okay about things most days. But because I was able to get pregnant so quickly the first time, I just expected it to be much the same the next time. Especially because I felt like I had been working hard to do all the "right things" - acupuncture, supplements, diet, working with my naturopath, the list goes on.

It wasn't until I saw that negative pregnancy test that all the stress I had been carrying around came tumbling out.

As many people rightfully commented, I need to let go of some of my guilt and try to relax.

I had acupuncture Wednesday which did help calm me down.

We talked about doing some things help decrease stress where I can. We joked that I tend to be all Yang energy - very direct, very type-A, very driven. But I need to focus on being more Yin - calm, passive, relaxed. This is not my natural state.

I am a planner, and while life has certainly made me more flexible than I used to be. I tend to prefer a more rational linear approach. Life is not always so linear, and I should know this, life certainly has not always gone according to plan. But it is still hard for me. Things are a work in progress, and as I mentioned I am still working towards finding my balance.

I had a conversation with my friend Michelle yesterday, and something she said really stuck with me. She reminded me that I have already done the hard stuff. I have had my surgeries and worked to rebuild my health. I have bought my house and started to create a home. I got that promotion at work I was striving for and created the career I wanted. I have planned. I have already put in the work. And now I just need to relax and embrace the life I have fought for.

Again, this isn't my natural state.

I am used to fighting. I am used to the struggle at this point. But this doesn't have to be one of those things. This is just one of those things that I cannot control. So I need to let life take care of the details.

I am going to try to surrender my fears. Embrace a life with no set plan. And work on letting go of the guilt and negative thoughts that do not serve me. Moving forward I am just going to work on taking care of myself, while remembering that this is enough and I am worthy of that.

So My Self Care Plan includes...

1. Yoga 1-2x a Week
I went to a hot yoga class on my lunch break Thursday and it felt amazing. I don't know why I always wait so long to go, but my mat is always a healing place to be and I think I need more of that right now.

2. Acupuncture
I am starting acupuncture for fertility this month. And while there is obviously no guarantee that it will change anything, I always feel good knowing that I am doing what I can to work towards something.

I have also had a lot success using it to de-stress. And to help with the inflammation I often experience on my left side. So if that is all it continues to do, I am okay with that.

3. No more endurance training
This is a conservative approach to things, but endurance training raises the cortisol levels in your blood. You are stressing your body in a good way, but your hormones don't know the difference. So in effort to lower the stress levels in my body I am going to be shortening my workouts.

I will be limiting my runs to no more than 45min at a time. And I will be limiting my time on the bike to an hour, rather than the 90min-2hrs I usually do on the weekend.

4. Nightly Meditation and Sleep Monitoring
I have long been a bad sleeper. I wake up on and off throughout the night and often struggle to fall back asleep. Lately, that has been improving. I think in large part to eliminating gluten and reducing my acid reflux. So this is something I want to continue to work on.

I am going to use My Muse before bed each night for 3-10 min of meditation. And I will be tracking my sleep via my Polar A360 to strive for 7 hours of "restful" sleep each night.

5. Enjoy the little things
I have been living in the future a lot lately, and I have not been embracing where I am right now. This is actually my favourite time of the year, so I need to focus on being present.

I have been decorating the house for the holidays. I am planning on experimenting in the kitchen and searching for the best Gluten-free Christmas Cookie recipe. I want to enjoy my birthday with my family and friends in a few weeks. I am looking forward to entertaining over the holidays. And just generally enjoying some downtime with my husband.

Sometime you just need to stop, reassess, and recognize that you need to make some changes.
And I know what I have been doing hasn't been what I needed to do to take care of me. But I will get there.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Right Now...

I had every intention to publish I post I had written about the dietary changes I made over the last few weeks. But as I stared at that scheduled post, it just didn't feel right.

It wasn't honest about where I am now.

Over the past few days I have been struggling. I want very much to be pregnant again, but I am not. And the waiting and wondering is hard. Really hard.

We were supposed to have a baby in March. And as I watch other people announce their happy news, share photos of their bumps, and new babies I feel like a failure. And I find myself worrying that it will never happen for me.

 After my miscarriage I envisioned all these alternative timelines. I will get pregnant again before my girlfriend's wedding. I will get pregnant again before my Mom's birthday, so I can surprise her and tell her. I will get pregnant again for my 31st birthday, so I can celebrate with my family at Christmas. I will get pregnant again before the end of 2015.

Several of my imaginary timelines have passed. And I don't know if I will accomplish any of the other ones.

I am struggling because while I wait and wonder, I feel so unlike myself.
So many of my feelings have been summed up in this article that I shared earlier today on Facebook. The tissues were necessary as I read it this morning.

As a runner who is typically always training for something and someone who's career is centered around sport, trying to conceive and my initial pregnancy was a difficult transition for me. Every day people ask, "what are you training for?" and "when's your next race?". And since May I have been lying. "Nothing planned right now", "Work is just too busy for me to focus on training seriously", "I am taking some time to focus more on my base training". I am a horrible liar and being dishonest about my intentions was hard.

As I started to gain weight with my pregnancy, I felt insecure about publically representing my role with a fitness company, without being able to explain why my body was changing. I just wanted to be able to share my news, so people would look at the way things had changed over the past 6 months and say, "yes, that makes so much sense."

And I would be lying if I said that I haven't thought about conceiving, pregnancy, the baby, and motherhood everyday since we first decided to start trying. I keep telling myself that I need to just do my best to carry on and that I can't let this consume me, but it does.

I find myself googling a million different things about miscarriage and fertility every week. I almost burst into tears every time someone knowingly smiles at me and asks me why I am not having wine with dinner. Instead I have this lengthy inner-dialogue about how I want to be pregnant, so I just want to make sure that I do everything right, so there are no lingering questions about anything I did or didn't do, because part of me blames myself for my miscarriage in August. I was too relaxed. I had a sandwich with cold cuts one day without thinking. I raced before I knew I was pregnant. So I know I must have done something wrong.

This is where I am right now.

I am trying really hard to focus on being present and to hold on to hope. But a big part of me feels a little worn down.

There is no real purpose to this post, just really more of an honest account of where I am today. While hoping that spewing it out will be some how cathartic, and I can leave some of these negative feelings behind.

I know I need to patient. And I hope one day soon I will that happy news that I am longing for to share with you all.

Fingers crossed.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Weekly Workouts + Meal Planning

Admittedly, this week is not exactly any special training-wise. I managed 4 workouts this week. But what is note worthy, is the shift I noticed in my attitude about it.

When I started this blog, about 4 years ago now, I was looking for a creative way to share my journey. But I was also looking for a place to share my training and be held accountable. The original goal was to strive for hard training, clean eating, the "perfect" blog, while continuing to give my all to my career, family and friends. I was wrapped up with faux idea of perfection. Being able to Do-All and Be-All at All times.

In the past, a week like this would have stressed me out. I would have beat myself up. Because although I planned to write a 3rd blog post, I never managed to find time for it. I was fighting a bit of a cold and I only ended up doing 4 workouts. I would have felt like I didn't do enough. I would have looked at everyone else running 100s of miles and qualifying for Boston, and felt like I didn't measure up.

But as I get older (*yep, I can't avoid the fact that I am getting older*), the idea of Balance is something I strive for a whole lot more than perfection.

More and more, mostly because I have made mistakes and burnt myself out plenty of times before, I recognize that the are only so many hours in the day. And while, I still strive to train hard and generally eat clean, I realize that I am balancing all of that with my other priorities. And my priorities are always first and foremost my family and friends, my career, and then my athletic endeavors. I love sport and fitness. I want to take care of health and body. But a lot of what that really means for me involves embracing balance.

This week I went easy on my training, so I could shake my cold. I spent a lot of extra time planning the holidays with my family and coordinating birthdays. I chatted with a few of my out-of-town friends (**Hi Sarah! Hi Amber**). I made a care package for a blogging friend who recently lost her daughter. I started decorating for Christmas. I experimented with a gluten-free cookie recipe. And I went to visit my Mom for her birthday in Niagara.

I did 4 workouts. I stayed on track with my meal plan. I took my supplements daily. I got 8 hours of sleep each night. I felt rested come Saturday. I felt happy. And I felt balanced.

For me, a lot of what I have discovered since I started this blog is that All-or-Nothing can only work for so long. And that what I have really been striving for is the ability to create a sustainable, healthy, happy life - Not a Perfect One.

And I think I am finally finding my stride.

This week's dinners included...
Monday - Gluten-free Mediterranean Pizza with Feta
Tuesday - Shrimp Tacos (gluten-free tortillas)
Wednesday - Gluten-free Pancakes
Thursday - Chicken, Salad, and Acorn Squash
Friday - White Fish Curry Soup with Rice Noodles
Saturday - Dinner with Mom at Peller Estates
               - Squash Soup, Strip Loin Steak, and Yogurt Panna Cotta 
Sunday - Chicken Salad

My Dinner at Peller with Mom deserves better documentation, so it gets it's own little section

This week's workouts included...
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 5km Run
Wednesday - 60min Spin at 3Sports
Thursday - 3km Run to Goodlife Fitness, 15min Stairmaster, and Arms
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - 5km Run

I hope you all had a great week too!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,