Finding Balance in Chaos

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To say life has been hectic over the past 6 weeks would be gross understatement.  In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m  interrupted every 5-10 seconds by our two month old foster son, who continues to abruptly wake from a peaceful sleep because the pacifier fell out of his mouth.   Meanwhile, our 4 dogs are barking at a squirrel…or a bird…or a leaf…or nothing, our new pig persistently searches for an escape, the goats scream for more food and the chickens are in danger from being eaten from a wild bear roaming the mountain.  This is all while I’m working from home.  In a few short hours, I will have to pick my son up from the bus stop and take him to karate, while my wife desperately tries to finish the farm chores as quickly as possible before I explode from lack of time to breathe.

There are moments in our lives where we feel as though we cannot handle one more responsibility.  Our hobbies (for lack of a better word) are our escape and provide solace in times of overwhelm.  They can keep us afloat when we risk submerging into the underworld of reality and responsibility.  For me, I find escape in triathlon.  For my wife, she finds it in the farm.  They are our passion and keep us engaged in life when the chaos closes in.

But how do families balance two time consuming passions?  It isn’t easy.  At times, it is down right impossible. But what makes it possible is understanding and sacrifice.  It’s about setting realistic goals that are achievable along with your spouses.   Obviously, it would not be a realistic goal for me to train for an Ironman given our circumstances at the time.  Also, just know that you will be required to give a little more from time to time.  Right now I’m on baby duty most of the time so my wife can accomplish the highly time consuming tasks she needs to do for the farm. And when I need extra time to train or race…she will be there to support me in the same way.

For our family, finding balance is about gratitude and understanding.  It’s not always easy and certainly not always pretty, but it is always better.

Driven for Success

Successful people are not gifted; they just work hard, then succeed on purpose.

– G.K. Nielson

One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell.  He is a unique man with an afro that wrote several great books, including Outliers, an intriguing look into success and how some of the most famous humans have achieved greatness.  Surprisingly through, he does not speak about the accomplishments of the individual outliers such as The Beatles and Bill Gates, but rather to HOW they became successful.  Their accomplisments we not solely due to talent or genetic gifts, but opportunity, environment, resources, and sheer time spent engaged in their craft. I often think about the power of opportunity and resources in my own life. I am a working mother of three kids, two of which are foster kids. (This adds a whole other aspect to the responsibilities of parenting that I never imagined).  We have limited financial resources and often struggle to keep afloat.  My wife and I both have hobbies that are not cheap, but they bring us great joy and help us be healthy models for our children.  I have a wonderful life!

But one thing that stands out about Gladwell’s stories is that the individuals in the book have an unyielding amount of drive and passion.  One does not spend 10,000 practicing the piano, programming computers, or writing stories because they want to get better.  It is because they do not feel alive without that one thing.  Now, I’m not saying I have one thing in my life that I live for….but I do have passion for triathlon…otherwise 4 am would not seem so exciting. I also understand that I do not have the time to train like a professional nor do I have the resources.  I support a family of 5 and that will always take priority.  But that does not mean that I do not continue to set reachable goals and work towards my own successes, as small or great as they may be.  When I do accomplish goals, it is because I have set my mind and worked hard.  I am not gifted, I am driven.

Breaking Free from Pain and Prescriptions

About 8 months ago I began to have some significant GI distress.  The pain presented in the mid/upper section of my abdomen and initially, occurred a couple times a week at night after eating certain foods.  I visited a doctor and was prescribed antacid, which I took.  The pain only intensified and became more frequent.  Within a month it was occurring 2-3 times a day, every day, and so painful that I was throwing up after hours of being hunched over in the bathroom. One afternoon, I couldn’t take it any more.  I had my wife drive me to the ER….where they recommended I see a GI doctor (which I had already scheduled two weeks prior).  I left the ER with more medication – one to coat my stomach before I ate and another to relieve pain.  I took both as prescribed.  All along I had been keeping a food journal which produced no significant trends in food sensitivities or times of day that pain occurred.   For a couple weeks, the symptoms seemed to subside, mainly because of the medications.

It was about mid August when I hopped in my car to head to North Carolina to meet up with the rest of my family, who had taken a week long vacation.  About two hours into the drive I stopped off in at a pit stop to give my dog Kona a water/potty break.  I bent over to pick up her water bowl and immediately after standing up right, I had a blurry spot in one eye and the left side of me body was heavy and difficult to control.  I shuffled back to my car and began to text my wife that something strange was happening.  Within minutes the fingers on my left hand were numb and the numbness began to travel up my arm to my head, down to my abdomen, to my legs and toes.  The numbness never stayed in one stop, it continuously moved, crawling all over the left side of my body.  Then I began to have trouble texting and speaking.  I could read just fine, but trying to convey what I wanted to say was impossible.  I tried texting my family and friends, some texts being successful, others not so much. And amongst all the terror, I developed a very intense headache.

It took me 45 minutes to call 911.  And even then, I couldn’t tell them where I was.

It was by far the scariest moment of my life.  My mom, brother, and friend Victoria drove long distances to sit with me in the ER, get my car from the rest stop, and rescue poor Kona from animal control.  All the while, my wife was stuck in NC without a car of her own and very poor cell reception.  And in the end…it was a migraine….a migraine!

But why?  I had never had a migraine before. Ever!  Turns out,migraines are one of the side effects of the medications I was taking.  I was beyond frustrated.  Pain brought on more pain which brought on more meds.  Pain meds for the stomach, pain meds for migraines, anti nausea meds because pain meds caused me severe nausea.  I was over it.  I had become some pill popping manic and I hated every second of it.  I was paralyzed by pain and prescriptions.

Eventually, I was able to stop taking the medications.  All my GI symptoms disappeared before my appointment with the GI doctor.  She said to come back if the symptoms reappear.  And guess what?

They’re back…

About a month and a half ago, the same pain began to present in the same way.  As you may guess from my previous experience, I did not immediately scramble to make a doctors appointment.  I did, however, scramble for my computer.  I began to search my symptoms and natural cures.  The one thing that continued to pop up: The Autoimmune Paleo Diet.  Now, I have been trained to have a fair amount of skepticism in what I read, but the more I delved into this diet….rather lifestyle, the more I wanted to give it a shot.

In a nutshell:

“The autoimmune protocol was derived from the recent research indicating that autoimmune disease stems from a problem with intestinal permeability (or “leaky gut”), instead of the commonly assumed infection that resulted in autoimmunity. Simply put, when a person has leaky gut, irritation in the gut lining causes the tight junctions in the intestinal barrier to let unwanted molecules (food, toxins, bacteria) into the bloodstream. All the foods avoided on the autoimmune protocol are those that have been shown to irritate the gut or cause increased permeability in the gut. If you want to dig in to the science behind the autoimmune protocol, check out Sarah Ballantyne’s book – The Paleo Approach.” Mickey Trescott from http://autoimmune-paleo.com

Now, I don’t know if I have an autoimmune disorder…I don’t know what I have. But I do know my stomach and GI System as a whole is not healthy; evident by multiple a week stomach aches.  And I don’t know if this will cure my symptoms, but I do know that doctors prescribed me medications without running any test or having a definitive diagnosis.  And putting healthier foods into my body sounds like a much better idea than shoveling some pills down my throat.

So, pretty much, I have to cut out a ton of foods including

-eggs
-nuts
-seeds (including cocoa, coffee, and seed-based spices)
-nighshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and the spices derived from them)
-alcohol
-NSAIDs
-excess fructose (more than 20g/day)
-potential gluten cross-reactive foods
-non nutritive sweeteners (including stevia)
-emulsifiers, thickeners, and other food additives

Wait…NO COFFEE….NO CHOCOLATE!  Wouldn’t it be easier to just take a pill…..you would think but after this summer…I’ll try this first.

Sarah Ballantyne from thepaleomom.com outlines these food to eat:

  • organ meat and offal (aim for 5 times per week, the more the better)–read more here.
  • fish and shellfish (wild is best, but farmed is fine) (aim for at least 3 times per week, the more the better)–read more here and here.
  • vegetables of all kinds, as much variety as possible and the whole rainbow, aim for 8-14 cups per day
    • Green vegetables
    • Colorful vegetables and fruit (red, purple, blue, yellow, orange, white)
    • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips, arugula, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, watercress, mustard greens, etc.)
    • Sea vegetables (excluding algae like chlorella and spirulina which are immune stimulators)
  • quality meats (grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild as much as possible) (poultry in moderation due to high omega-6 content unless you are eating a ton of fish)
  • quality fats (pasture-raised/grass-fed animal fats [rendered or as part of your meat], fatty fish, olive, avocado, coconut, palm [not palm kernel])
  • fruit (keeping fructose intake between 10g and 20 g daily)
  • probiotic foods (fermented vegetables or fruit, kombucha, water kefir, coconut milk kefir, coconut milk yogurt, supplements)–read about them here and here.
  • glycine-rich foods (anything with connective tissue, joints or skin, organ meat, and bone broth)

Anyway, this diet is only supposed to last for 30-60 days…maybe 90.  Then you begin to reintroduce foods as you are able to tolerate.  Sometimes it takes months and years to reintroduce all the foods, some foods I may never be able to eat again.   I’m still preparing the begin the diet, as this is not something you can start on a whim.  It is either all or nothing.  If the diet is not followed 100%, then the potential benefits cannot be reached.

I know there will be critics of my choice, but it is my intention to demonstrate how healing can come from controlling what we put in our bodies, not simply adding pill after pill to cover up symptom after symptom.    For those of you with similar stories, I wanted to chronicle this journey of healing and restoration.

A Photo Training Update

I can’t believe it has been more than three weeks since my last update.  Illness and the holidays can really take a toll on your body and well being.  So instead of writing a lot of hullabaloo, here is the past few weeks in pictures 🙂

IMG_8752Spent nearly a week on the road for work.  This little hotel gym really made me miss home.

IMG_8806For Thanksgiving, we traveled to Holden Beach, NC.  Came down with a vicious chest cold and lost my voice, but it seemed less bothersome when I could look out a window and see this.

IMG_8845A little trot on Turkey day with the family.IMG_8853Followed by an overindulgence of whipped cream.

IMG_8864Tried to go for a swim in the cold ocean still with a hint of a chest cold = FAIL

IMG_8873Road my bike instead and stopped at the grocery store for some laundry soap.  The brought on some odd looks as my shoes click clacked through the store.IMG_8863 Post ride meal –> awful stomach ache –> I will not eat avocado again. 😦

IMG_8889Got plenty of rest

IMG_8799And enjoyed some much needed time with the little man.IMG_8917Had a running analysis completed and discovered there are tons of problems with my form stemming from underlying weaknesses. I now run with a metronome. IMG_8937Enjoyed a 90 minute ride and am finally feeling back to 100%.  Woot Woot!