Tag Archives: no alcohol

Moving Forward

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It is amazing how quickly things can change. Hard to believe that 4 months ago I was in a bed in an ICU unit. If there was ever a testament to the power of healthy lifestyle changes, I would be it!

In 4 months I have managed to keep strong and clean my life of the toxins of alcohol, and cigarettes. I have improved the quality of my health through proper nutrition that includes low fat, low sugar and most importantly extremely low sodium. I have increased my ability to move and workout. In relation to that I have also lost 32 pounds, thanks to my new lifestyle!

My heart ejection fraction has improved from 20% to 35%! I no longer have trouble with dizziness and blurry vision when I walk. On the other hand I have been able to walk 1 mile every day in the last 2 weeks. Today was a test of my endurance, I increased my walk to 2 miles!! It was a push, but I did it! 

From not being able to walk to the mail box, to walking 2 miles in my rural area is a wonderful improvement! I am so amazed and proud of the changes I have made and the strength that I have found to not only keep it moving forward, but learn to love it!

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90 Days

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January 1st I was laying in an ICU unit attached to machines. I was faced with the daunting decisions of how to go forward and survive and live a full life, with heart failure. It seemed so overwhelming at first. When I came home, my head was swimming in all the guidelines I had been given, restrictions I had, and worries regarding how I would ever be able to follow it all. 

90 days later, I have found a great balance in my life, and managed to make it fun. What I thought was going to be a very hard task, giving up salt, caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes all at the same time, turned out to be a great adventure. I had to have a conversation with myself, did I want to live a long happy life, and fight my addictions? Was I strong enough to fight this fight every day, one day at a time for the rest of my life? Yes, I was! 

From the very start I have had to change my relationship with food. I have had to change my relationship with alcohol. I have had to change my relationship with life!  I have been determined to be a survivor, not let this condition disable me. If there are things that I can do to strengthen my heart and improve my quality of life, I am going to do it. 

I have strengthened my relationship with god. I have asked and allowed him to provide me with the strength to keep up this fight and to win the daily battles. This has opened my life to an amazing support system of people and teachings that give me faith in myself. I am not sure exactly what it is, but I am sure that god has a purpose for me, and this is all part of the process of learning and growing.

When it comes to the food in my life, at first, I thought it was going to be a long boring life of under seasoned food that was just necessary to live, but no longer fun. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have had more fun, already, researching ingredients, reading labels, tasting herbs and spices, and finding the best resources for shopping. I quickly learned that this was neither a bland or boring way to cook or live. Soon after I started this lifestyle, my taste buds started to change and the foods began to taste better, the seasonings began to have a depth and flavor of their own. As my mind and body began to adjust and overcome the longstanding addiction to alcohol, so did my taste buds overcome their addiction to salt. I never knew how amazing natural foods tasted. never did I know the depths of flavor that herbs and spices have on their own.

I have for a long time have had a screen saver on my computer that I created that said “nothing tastes as good, as skinny feels”. I have had to change that because my relationship with my life has changed. I no longer live with the “diet” mentality, thinking constantly about all the things I can’t have, wishing I could have those things that I shouldn’t. I love the the things I eat, and even more I love the healthier steps I am taking in my life. Rather than being miserable, and gasping for air, and hoping I don’t die. I now live, create, smile, enjoy and look forward to everyday I have. I appreciate every little step in life and every accomplishment on a daily basis. My life is no longer a search for a buzz, a party, or comfort food  to forget my worries. My life is exactly what it should be, it is a Life that is being lived healthier, happier and will hopefully be longer and forever full of new foods, spices and fun. 

Busy, Busy, Busy….

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It has been a couple days since I posted, Sorry about that. I have been feeling much better the last few days since Dr. Hanna lowers some of my medication. I haven’t been getting dizzy and no blurry vision, YAY! My blood pressure is coming up a little, this morning I was up to 103/65, this is a huge improvement from the 64/44 i was at a week ago. I go do blood labs tomorrow, so we will find out how my kidneys react to the medication changes. I get short of breath really fast, and my heart races faster since the changes, but at this point I would rather breath heavy then not be able to see. I sure hope the blood pressure stabilizes soon and they can do the cardioversion. Then maybe I can have even less symptoms to deal with.

Since I have had more energy and the ability to move around more, I got some house cleaning done, some good grocery shopping done (I actually made it through the whole store without losing my vision) and been able to do some rearranging around the house. it feels so good to be able to get up and do something!

Saturday was weekly bible study, and Sunday I was well enough to get up and make it to the Kingdom Hall for Watchtower Study. I always feel so much better about my ability to fight this health battle when I get to make it to fill my spiritual plate. Just being around such positive people and learning all the great things the bible has to offer makes it easier to get through each week. I thank god all the time for each day I manage to get through with out a set back. It is certainly by the grace of god that I have had the strength to quit smoking, drinking, caffeine, and salt all at the same time. Many people struggle each day with just one of those battles, I have managed to endure all four battles for 86 days now. I know that I by no means have been fighting alone, and I appreciate it every day.

I am also very excited to say that I have enrolled in an online Bachelor degree program. Since my mother works for Charter College, I can use their family waiver program and complete my degree online for free. I figured that as long as I can’t work, and am stuck at home with all this extra time on my hands, I may as well be learning something. I decided on Business and technology. I will be learning things like computerized accounting systems, e-commerce, project management and employment law. I am a sick individual and these subjects all have me very excited.

I have a few things in the works in the kitchen, I will port them as soon as I get the last tweaking of preparation right. I also have had requests for a list of some of my favorite no sodium seasonings and spice mixes…these are also soon to come.

Hope you all had a blessed weekend

 

Sweet Potato Stuffed Bell Peppers

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Since I didn’t have to continue to worry about my cardioversion, and I didn’t have to fast, I decided to cook instead. In the past I found my self dealing with adversity or disappointment with unhealthy comfort food and a lot of whiskey. This time I took the conscious effort  to keep on my life path and avoid all the harmful crutches.

I have learned well from past experiences, that in my life there is never just one drink to relax, or just one comfort treat. It may be one this time but then the door is open and the next time it is 2. Or the next time it is easier to talk myself into “needing” a drink to relax. The next time the bothersome event is a little less important. Next thing you know “the dog is barking too much and annoying me, I need a drink” or I have been good all week a drive-thru burger won’t kill me turns into “Friday is treat day”, then becomes “weekends don’t count” . 

This is not a diet, this is not a punishment, this is a LIFE. On any given day I enjoy the food I eat, I do not go hungry, I do not deal with hangovers. This is not something I need a break from, or a treat for dealing with it. This time this is a mindset and a lifestyle. The demons that would like to sway my actions to the negative can fight with me all they want, this is one battle I am happy to fight and even happier to win.

Yesterdays little battle was won, and the prize….this supper yummy stuffed dinner….

INGREDIENTS

3 Bell Peppers

1 Carrot

1 Stalk of Celery

½ White Onion

6 Cloves of Garlic

1 Med Sweet Potato

1 Med Summer Squash

1 Tbsp Cumin

1 Tbsp Paprika

1 Tbsp Onion Powder

1 Tbsp Raspberry Red Wine Vinegar

1 Tsp Creamy Horseradish

1 Tsp Ground Red Pepper

1 Tsp Worcestershire Sauce (low sodium)

2 Slices Aged Swiss Cheese

Pre-heat oven to 375ºF

Wash and trim all vegetables thoroughly, peel the sweet potato and carrot. Cut the tops off the Bell pepper and clean and wash out all the seeds and veins. Save tops of peppers to use in baking. Put Peppers aside for later.

Bell peppers waiting to be stuffed

Finely chop the onion ans saute it in a skillet on med heat until translucent and slightly caramelized. While the onion is cooking, either by hand or in a food processor, chop all vegetables (excluding Bell peppers) to a very fine chop. Add prepared vegetables to the skillet with the onions. Add dry seasonings and the red wine vinegar, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce and saute on medium until carrot and sweet potato start to get tender, stir frequently so not to burn the bottom of the skillet.

Spoon vegetable mixture into the cleaned bell peppers and place the tops on them to create a lid steaming effect for filling. Place on baking sheet and bake in oven for about 1 hour. Remove from oven and remove tops and place ¾ slice of Swiss cheese on the top of stuffed pepper. Place back in oven for about 20 min, until cheese is bubbly and browning. Remove from oven and let cool for 3-5 min and serve.

Fresh out of the oven

Inside the peppers

With just the use of herbs and spices and letting the natural flavor of the vegetables come through, you get a great amount of flavor and very little calories or sodium.

As in recipe on stuffed pepper is Approx: 136 Cal / 4g Fat / 120mg Sodium/ 22 Carbs/ 6 Fiber/ 13 Sugar / 6 Prot

This dish can be switched up with a variety of fillings, such as rice, ground beef, beans, or even added cheeses or cream cheese to give it a creamy texture. One variation I also enjoy is to use portabello mushroom chopped and sauteed. It adds a great mushroom flavor and the texture resembles ground beef. When making changes to the filling just be aware for the added calories, fat and sodium.

Happy High Flavor Healthy Heart Eating


Great Adaptable Taste Buds

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The body is an amazingly adaptable thing. Whatever changes you make in your life, your body adjusts to them. So many people are afraid of cutting out the junk food, because cravings send them right back to it. It is so hard to quit drinking alcohol, because of the cravings and withdrawals. Almost every change in life you try and make has a period of adjustment. The hardest part is taking the baby steps through the adjustment period.

My hubby is one of those people that us overweight people look at with envy. He can eat anything, and not gain weight. I have always joked, “I can put weight on smelling the food, he works the calories off chewing it.” He is super supportive of my lifestyle changes. Most days I think he is more scared of my condition than I am. I am extremely lucky that his biggest passion in life is cooking. Although he started this out having no idea how to cook without salt. He is a hearty, creamy, salty, country cooking guy. So, he had to change the way he thought of seasonings and preparations too.

For the first 2 weeks he ate everything right along with me. As we created seasoning mixes, I researched brands and places to shop for low and no salt products. Anyone living low sodium needs to shop at healthy heart market online. By the end these 2 weeks my poor skinny hubby had already lost 10 pounds. It was now apparent that he needed more to his diet than I did. So he went back to including what we now refer to as “boy foods” in his meals. I wish he had more of a desire to eat healthy and limit his sodium and fat also, but he has never been sick and doesn’t want to think about how the food effects him too.

I live with temptations around me all the time. Lunch meat, Sharp cheddar cheese, canned chili, frozen pizza, and the oh so tempting bacon! Most mornings while he makes me a low calorie veggie and egg scramble, he will have a skillet going with his sausage, or bacon in the oven getting crisp and making the house smell oh so awesome.

This is where we get back to the concept of, the body adapts! This morning the bacon was smelling better then ever. I swear I could see the flavor waves floating across the room like in a cartoon. Coming directly to my nose and pulling me in to the kitchen. He took that cookie sheet out of the oven and it was covered with brown crisp bacon slices, and my mouth started to water. I couldn’t help myself, I grabbed a little crispy end piece and popped it in my mouth.

Th instant that bacon hit my tongue….I cringed, and spit it out. It was like licking the top of a salt shaker!! The overwhelming taste of salt in my mouth was enough to make me sick to my tummy. I gave the piece of bacon to the dog.

My taste buds have actually changed. They have adapted, and adjusted themselves to the natural flavors of herbs and spices and fresh foods. These are the flavors I actually physically crave now. My nose is a little behind the times and still thinks the “boy food” is what we want. But my taste buds quickly slap that nose into line like a Drill Sargent….”damn you nose what do you think you are doing, you pansy little weakling, you better whip into shape or I will send the mucus squad to teach you a lesson you don’t want to learn!”

This realization of the adaptation has happened a couple times over the last week. We were having dinner at a friends house last Monday and she made fried cornbread fritters with dinner. If you aren’t familiar with this (not being from the south I had never seen this) you take cornbread batter and just drop a spoonful into hot oil and fry it up to a golden brown. I tasted a pinch of my hubby’s piece, that he was attacking like a rabid animal, and all I could taste was oil. I very rarely use oil anymore because it is so high in calories and is all fat. One tablespoon of cooking oil or olive oil is 120 calories.

These events are very reassuring. It is great to get these experiences that prove to me that I am fighting the good fight, and I am winning! My body, my mind and my soul are accepting this lifestyle with open eyes and because of that I have a greater chance of succeeding and living this high flavor, healthy heart life forever.

I Have Always Been A Fighter

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Lets start with where this lifestyle started.

I currently am being treated for Dilated Cardiomyopathy , Congestive Heart Failure and Atrial fibrillation

Basically, in terms easiest to understand, the left side of my heart is enlarged and damaged, the top of the heart is beating irregularly and too fast, and the heart can not pump enough blood to run my whole body correctly…..I know it sounds like I should have one foot in the grave, but I am way to stubborn for that.

I have always been a fighter. I have always credited my mother for that. She is the most positive, upbeat, strong woman I know. She has taught me a lot about how attitude effects how you feel. She is a 2 time cancer survivor. All through her chemotherapy she kept a smile on her face, and didn’t miss a step. Sure there were days that she was a little green, but she was always at work setting a positive example for her employees. There were days they would have to just close her office door, because it was easier than watching her look weak, but she was always there fighting and not letting cancer take control of her life. From the time she was diagnosed and began treatment she never said she had cancer, she always considered herself a cancer survivor.

That is the attitude I want to emulate. I could just sit around and be sick. I could just feel bad, be depressed, and wait for this to kill me. It would be too easy to give up. Not me, Not now, Not ever!! I am fighting, I am living, I am going to beat all odds, I am going to help others fight!

On January 1st 2012, I went to the emergency room and the Electrocardiogram showed that I was in A-fib and I was admitted into the ICU, the next day my Echocardiogram revealed an Ejection Fraction of 20%. Common guidelines generally consider an EF below 20% to be terminal and below 18% to be grounds for being put on the transplant list. Luckily I have never been anything close to common, nor do I ever follow normal guidelines. What would be the fun in that, right? Who wants to be common? I want to be the extraordinary, the one that the doctors talk about, the one that blew all the guidelines out of the water.

After 6 days, I was released to go home to a very scared hubby, and dog that was very happy to see me. After about a half hour of face kisses, big hugs and some tears, the adventure began! I now had 7 prescription medications to take daily. Coreg 25mg twice a day, Aldactone 25mg daily, Lasix 80mg twice a day, Benazepril 20mg daily, Aspirin 81mg, Pradaxa 150mg twice a day and Nitroglycerin in case of chest pain or emergency. My counter looks looked like I was either 90 years old or just robbed a pharmacy. Taking the medications was going to be the easy part of this journey, the hard part was yet to come, changing how I lived my entire life.

The things I was told to do by my cardiology team (yes I have a whole team) were clear. Don’t over exert your heart, but do get a little movement each day to try and build some strength. No Caffeine at all, this means no caffeinated soda, tea, coffee, and even no chocolate. Yes you heard it, NO CHOCOLATE. Apparently this lovely creamy sugary friend that most us women love so much has a natural amount of caffeine in it and it was now off limits. NO alcohol, it is a Vasodilator so it makes your heart race, and mine already does that on it’s own. NO smoking, it also speeds up the heart rate. Eat healthy and slim down, the smaller you are the harder your heart has to work to run your body and organs. Most importantly, and the item that was stressed the most to me every day of my stay in that hospital bed….NO SALT!!

The normal dietary guidelines for sodium in a 2000 calorie diet is approx. 2300mg per day. A basic low sodium diet is suggested to be 1500 – 2000mg sodium per day. Then there is the regulation for food labels. You may ask What is low sodium on a food label? Well this a start, but my team put me on a “Very Low Sodium” diet. The basic thing my team told me was, to read labels, and avoid processed food. Do not buy or eat anything with over 120mg sodium per serving. Items with between 60-120mg per serving limit to 4-6 servings per day. Items below 60mg per serving go ahead and eat. Fill your meals with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. Avoid canned and packaged foods, processed meats and cheeses, and always read labels. Always remember if it tastes salty it probably is.

How in the world was I going to be able to have the strength to quit, smoking, drinking, and eating processed foods and salt, ALL at the same time. People always say how hard it is to cut out one thing, is it possible to do it all? I am sure going to give my best fighting try!

It is now 67 days since I got home from that hospital stay, but for all intensive purposes the changes started on January 1st when they put me in ICU, and I have not had a drink, smoke, caffeine or over 1000mg of sodium or even over 1200 calories in a single day. It is getting easier every day. I have lost 27 pounds since I got home and started this life. Tomorrow I will let you in on how I started the changes, and we will start working on the ways to love them and keep the lifestyle going.

My heart is still very damaged, I still have very little energy, I have weekly trips to my cardiologist, I have procedures scheduled to try and fix some of the problems……. but I am always fighting! As long as there is a fight to be had…I will be on the front lines of my battleground for survival!