Pulling Out All the Stops

Since WZW was born, I never went back to being strictly on the Paleo diet.  Initially the sleep-deprivation made a huge impact, but even as that improved (thank goodness!), other factors continued to affect my lifestyle.  Time is the biggest factor- no longer could I leisurely exercise after work and come home at 8 pm.  Nor do I have the energy to prioritize meal prepping.

Instead, I’m spent after my work days, and feel like everything else goes towards dealing with a nonstop toddler.  I’ve grown accustomed to eating lunches made by Trader Joe’s, or eating what’s offered at work.  On Mondays, which are the busiest for me and my husband, we get dinner delivered by Munchery.  While we can choose options that aren’t totally carb-laden like pasta, the meals usually involve a starchy side.

A lot of it was my mindset as well- with the stress of work, and dealing with a toddler, I just felt like prioritizing eating was something I didn’t have the capability of doing.  So I got used to comfort eating, and not trying so hard.

But I started realizing that it’s expensive to be half-assing the Paleo lifestyle.  We spend extra money getting things like Paleo crackers and gluten-free bagels from Whole Foods.  It would be one thing if I was really following the diet, but since I haven’t totally been, it’s kind of a waste of money.  It’s like buying organic produce, and then eating Hot Cheetos.

A workplace “Biggest Loser” competition has also motivated me to focus more on my eating habits again.  One of the ladies at work decided to start a Biggest Loser challenge for those who are interested.  Her intent is to promote healthy living, so although there is a cash prize for the winners who lose the most weight, the contest will last 6 months, and among other rules, no fad dieting or other unhealthy methods of weight loss are allowed.

I decided to participate, not with the intention to win (because hopefully I’ll get pregnant during the 6 months), but as a motivator to eat better and also exercise more when I can.  I also wanted to help motivate and educate our staff participating.  So far we’re one month in, and I have been better about avoiding dessert, and being less lax about the carbs.  My husband has been monumental in doing the bulk of the cooking.  The exercising is more difficult due to time constraints, but I’m doing what I can.  Sadly, at the one month weigh-in, my weight still hadn’t budged, but I’m trying not to let that get me down.  I need to focus on the fact that I’m taking better care of my health by eating better.

In addition to the lifestyle improvements, I also decided to get referred to the fertility docs, the REIs as we call them (reproductive endocrinology and infertility).  After 6 months of trying, given that my age is over 35, I qualified for referral.  At that point, I asked my doctor/colleague to check my labs.  We checked my cycle day 3 FSH, which if elevated would indicate age-related infertility.  I was concerned that’s what the issue was, especially since my mom went into menopause on the earlier side.  The FSH was in the normal range.

So that’s a relief, but then what’s the issue?  It’s hard for me not to blame myself for not eating better/being at a healthier weight, and for being under too much stress.  Ultimately, I’m doing the best I can with the situation I have, and logically I tell myself not to get down.  But it’s hard not to beat myself up.

After another 2 months passed for a total of 8 months of trying, I decided I shouldn’t waste too much time and went ahead with the referral.  I have yet to meet with the REI doc- we have to complete our labs, and then schedule the consultation.  In the meantime, I decided to look into another modality to help me with fertility- acupuncture.

My first exposure to the concept was the episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte gets acupuncture to try to help herself get pregnant.  I don’t know much about it, and hadn’t thought about it recently until one of my patients mentioned using it to get pregnant.  That reminded me that one of my OB/Gyn friends had said she used it while doing IVF, at the recommendation of her REI doc.  She wasn’t sure if it helped, but at the very least it helped her destress.

Once I started asking colleagues and friends about it, there were all these mentions of, “Oh yeah, so-and-so was having a hard time, and finally got pregnant after doing acupuncture.”  Of course, it doesn’t work for everyone, and one of my colleagues said it didn’t work for her (she later succeeded with IVF).

Given that my insurance has coverage of acupuncture, I figured I didn’t have much to lose.  I still don’t know the data regarding acupuncture and fertility.  And I’m not sure how best to find a trustworthy practitioner.  But so far, I completed my first session.

I filled out a health questionnaire with some different inquiries than you’d find on a Western medicine form- things like the color and consistency of my menstrual flow.  The practitioner checked my pulses (done for a different purpose than in your usual medical office), and my tongue.  Then she proceeded to do the needles and left me for 30 minutes, during which I started to drift off.  It was similar to what people probably experience during a massage or savasana at the end of yoga.

Though I didn’t think I fell completely asleep, I did end the session feeling more energetic.  I’d also been feeling more anxious from my general stress, and that feeling improved as well, which was a pleasant surprise.

Interestingly, she said that she recommends eating in line with the Paleo diet more or less.  Her list of foods allows quinoa and buckwheat, but mostly everything else goes with Paleo.  She recommended eating lots of eggs.

One big difference is that based on the Chinese medicine recommendations, she advocates eating only cooked foods- that means no salads, no yogurt for breakfast.  That is going to be hard- especially avoiding raw fruit.  Now, these recommendations probably aren’t for everyone trying to conceive.  It’s based on my particular constellation of issues.

In my limited understanding of Chinese medicine, I know that there are various organs that are different from the same organs in Western medicine.  My acupuncturist said my “liver” is too strong, and the “spleen” is weak, which is the reason for the dietary recommendations.  My friend said that they generally work on the “kidney” system for fertility issues.

So we’ll see how it goes.  Hopefully between the healthier eating, acupuncture, and eventually seeing the REI doc, we will finally get pregnant.

 

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Beef and Southern Greens Recipe

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Thanks to my inclination for carbs during this pregnancy, I haven’t been posting much Paleo-related material.  But there is one dish that I consistently find very satisfying.  It’s good for me, since I get protein and iron from the beef, plus it’s got the healthy greens.  Best of all, it’s very easy to make, particularly if you live near a Trader Joe’s.  It’s my husband’s creation, and he’s not much of a measuring type of guy, so I apologize ahead of time since the recipe isn’t super exact.  But it’s easy to adjust things to your taste.

So here it is, the soon-to-be world famous Little Willie’s Papa’s Beef and Southern Greens recipe:

  • 1 bag Trader Joe’s Southern Greens Blend
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s Braised Beef Roast
  • Beef broth, about 1-2 cups
  • Tomatoes, chopped into large cubes (optional)
  • Hot sauce (we use Cholula), about 1 oz.
  • Garlic powder, heaping teaspoon

Here are the two main ingredients that you can find at Trader Joe’s:

Southern Greens BlendBraised Beef Roast

First, take about a cup or two of beef broth, enough to cook the greens in a large pot.  Just take the bag of greens, empty it into the pot with the broth, and boil until the greens shrink down and wilt.  If you’re adding some tomatoes, feel free to add them now.

Now open the package of beef, and if you’re lazy like me I just plop the whole sucker in there, including the sauce.  I later break it up into smaller pieces in the pot.  Or if you prefer, you can cut up the beef into smaller pieces before adding it to the pot.

Now for the seasoning.  We have a 5 oz. bottle of Cholula hot sauce, and I’d say my husband adds about an ounce of it, as well as a little of the Cholula Chipotle variety we have in our kitchen.  I have no idea about the hotness of Cholula compared to other hot sauces, so if you’re working with something else, it’s always safe to add conservatively and you can always add more.  My tolerance for spice is medium- I can take some heat, but when my Indian friends say, “Don’t worry, it’s not that hot” I have learned to never trust them.

My husband likes more spice, so he’ll add a little cayenne as well.  I don’t find it necessary.  Once you’ve added the hot sauce to your liking, then add a heaping teaspoon of garlic powder.

That’s it!  Then just let the thing simmer for 20 minutes.  If you had plopped the beef in whole, then as it gets more tender you should be able to cut it into smaller pieces fairly easily.  The way we make it, the stuff does get a bit soupy with the excess liquid, but I enjoy that part as well.  Bon appetit!