Running on More Than Empty

I did it. I honestly wasn’t sure I would, but I did it.

I ran 5k.

If I’m honest, I’ve never run 1k before this year.  I’ve never wanted to run before this year.  Despite all the nay-saying — entirely in my own head — I got myself up on Sunday morning and ran 5k for Cancer Research UK.  The most amazing thing is that I only felt like dying a little bit along the way!

As soon as I woke up, I knew I wouldn’t get far without a green smoothie.  I’m not a morning person, which is primarily due to the fact that I don’t believe in sleep.  I used to average about 3 hours of sleep a night, and I never felt worse for wear for it.  After cutting out gluten, I added about an hour a night.  After my nasal surgeries, I added about 30 more minutes.  I still have difficulty actually falling asleep, and my anxiety gets the best of me when something important is happening the next day.  It was no surprise when I was staring down the clock at 2am, only 8 hours before the race was scheduled to begin.

Why a green smoothie, though?  Well, I learned a lot in the 30 day challenge, especially about what my body needs.

  • Fruit sugars are important fuel because they are unprocessed and unrefined.  They feed your cells to keep you moving.
  • Hydration is desperately important in physical activity.  Even if you’re like me and don’t sweat much, your body burns up moisture and releases it through your breath, as well.
  • The fibre in the greens and whole fruit keep things moving in your system — the last thing you need is to feel a big lump in your belly as you’re running!
  • I put a banana in almost every smoothie, and the potassium it contains helps to prevent and repair muscle tears, cramps, and spasms.
  • Chia seed and flax meal are easy additions to add protein to maintain muscles.
  • Coconut water as a base lends more than just water as it is high in electrolytes, which combat dehydration.  Choosing one with added sodium means that it’s a bit more processed, but studies have shown that it hydrates at the same level as sports drinks.
  • You need calories to burn as you run.  They might as well be from real food sources.
  • Green smoothies taste good.

Fuel in and shoes on, my mother-in-law picked us up to drive to the Stormont Estate, the home of the Northern Irish Assembly and the 5k.  They didn’t release a course map, so I did not expect that big hill in the front would actually be part of it.  Equally, I didn’t know that the gorgeous paths through the woodlands trail would be included.  I’ve never run on loose gravel, in mud, or up a giant hill, so there were a lot of firsts in that day.  I didn’t exactly have a good run time, but it was more a matter of showing myself I could do it at all.  It’s a success in my book.

30 Days Complete!

30 days complete!  You may have noticed that I didn’t post a check-in for week four.  What can I say?  As the end of the challenge was so near the end of week four, I figured it was better to wait and report in at the end.

I’m happy to say that we finished all thirty days of the green smoothie challenge.  I reminded CB today that the challenge is over and asked if he wanted to continue incorporating them into our diet.  He shrugged and said, “Yeah. Well, why wouldn’t we?”  I think his response shows how much a part of our daily life they have become.  A special thanks is due to Desi (and her helpers) at Unconventional Kitchen and all the folks that I’ve met along the way in the Facebook community.  Having a support group is an amazing help!

In addition to the smoothie challenge, I did my 250 squats today to complete THAT 30 day challenge. I’m gaining stamina in running, too, which is none too soon considering my 5k is on Sunday. (If you find yourself wanting to donate to Cancer Research UK, you can still do so at my sponsor site.  I have met and exceeded my goal, but every single penny goes toward a great cause.)  I can’t wait to get out there and prove that I really can do it . . . mostly to myself, if I’m honest.

Here is the last round-up of smoothies.  Two days are missing.  The first was a day where I ate something that truly disagreed with me; I spent the evening sprawled on the sofa, and CB made his only smoothie of the challenge, serving it up to me in the dark.  The second missing picture is when we knew we were going to have a completely mad day — there have been a lot of them lately as May has been a particularly stressful but, hopefully, fruitful month — I made a double batch on the day before.  I tucked our smoothies away into small coconut water packages.  This tactic kept them fairly fresh but rendered them unphotographable. (I mean, I could have photographed them, but you wouldn’t have known what was in them.

Week Three Check-in — Green Smoothie Challenge

It appears that the green smoothies are having an unintended (or, at least, unexpected) consequence for both CB and me. Whenever we eat food that I haven’t made in the house, we feel sick. Have the green smoothies made us picky eaters?

My best explanation (and please let me know if you have any other information and/or theories!) is that, as our bodies are getting more good things, we are satisfying the cravings we mistake for wanting bad things. When we want sugar and are giving it full fruit sugars with the fibre with which they are meant by nature to be consumed, our bodies are sated. We give it what it wants in a more healthful form and also make it work for it. I also know that, when your body is missing or not getting enough of certain nutrients, it tells you to eat things it shouldn’t because, well, your gut is good, but it lacks a brain. This phenomenon is often cited as the main reason pregnant women crave non-edible things — a baby requires a lot of the vitamins and minerals in a woman’s body, and her body is begging her to replace them without being able to actually articulate what’s needed.

I’m getting away from myself. My point is that I’m giving my body good things, and it’s starting to forget about the bad things. Why does that means that we’re not feeling well when eating outside of the house? Well, even though I carefully police everything I eat for gluten/other allergens, not everyone has the same standards for quality food as I do. When home, I try to make as much “real food” as possible. I try to balance foods without depriving us of what we want. You can have sugar, salt, and fat as long as you use the right sugar, salt, and fat in the right amounts. Assuming that every bad thing we eat does a tiny, tiny amount of damage means that we should assume that every good thing we eat does a tiny, tiny amount of repair work. I am suddenly thinking of Wreck-It Ralph. If you have more Felixes (Felii?) than Ralphs, the building is more quickly repaired. (If you haven’t seen Wreck-It Ralph, repair that now.) A building that is in good shape requires less daily repair, and I can only imagine the same must be said about our bodies. If our bodies are in constantly better shape by all the little good things we eat, the bad things have less of a chance to wear us down, make us tired, and make us want more bad things; however, you also notice a broken window in an otherwise pristine house faster than you can count the broken things in a derelict one.  When something is wrong, it will let you know right away.  It may sound bad, but wouldn’t you want to know about the problem before it has the chance to cause more damage?

In addition to having more things like magnesium and manganese, I have also realised that eating these raw fruits and veggies provides my body with more prebiotics for my probiotics, making them that much more effective. If you think I’m just talking nonsense now, let me tell you about these -biotics. I’ve talked before about probiotics, and you’ve no doubt heard about them from countless other sources. They are helpful, good bacteria that your body often depletes in poor health. They can also be killed off when you take antibiotics because the medicine can’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria. Less talked about are prebiotics, but they are just as important as their pro- friends and come in more bright and shiny flavours. While probiotics are only found in foods with live cultures like yogurt, prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates found in some fruits, most whole grains, and foods like honey, onions, and garlic. (Bonus tip: yogurt and kefir actually contain both prebiotics and probiotics and are “complete” in that sense.)

While you can’t digest prebiotics, guess who can: probiotics. Prebiotics are used as fuel for the probiotics (are you still with me?), which allows them to grow, thrive, and repopulate your gut. We tend to eat prebiotics even when our body has depleted good bacteria, which confuses our body because it can’t do anything with it. It spends a lot of energy trying to digest the indigestible, and we can get tired just from eating food. Balancing pre- and probiotics works to your advantage because you get the fuel you need to go about your day, and your helpful bacteria get the fuel they need to help you do what you need to do.

All right, I’ll take off my teacher hat. It is summer, after all, and I know you only come here for the cute animal pictures.

She sure knows how to work an angle.

She sure knows how to work an angle.

All that up there is to say that, while I might feel poorly after eating something junky or not to the same standards as I would make at home, I feel better as soon as I have my smoothie. It’s like it magically makes everything inside me better. With all the new and varied prebiotics I have had by eating whole greens and smart fruits like bananas, my probiotics seem to have kicked into high gear and worked even harder to heal my body. I may be becoming a picky eater in the meantime, but I think it’s really just listening to what my body really wants, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Week Two Check-in — Green Smoothie Challenge

We had one beautiful, sunny day last week where we got the whole family out in the garden and had our green smoothies.  I’m reminding myself of this event partly because there were snow flurries yesterday and we got rained on in the wind today.

I think I assumed that, at some point, the benefits of the Love Your Greens 30 Day Challenge would taper off. I have worked tirelessly over the past two years to reinvigorate and revitalize my body. I have been reading and researching treatments and natural remedies. I have been removing and replacing in my diet. I have been recognizing and responding to what my body says. I have been reintroducing foods and recording the results. I am now running out of R-words to use for the process.

I still believe that one of the biggest changes in my life came about when I found the right probiotic for my body. I started healing in leaps and bounds. With the exception of the ever-present need to look at labels and menus very carefully, I often feel good enough that I “forget” about being Celiac. I put “forget” in quotation marks because it is clearly still on the forefront of my mind as food is one of the defining characteristics of my life — Hey! That’s the tagline of the blog! Folks without dietary restrictions in their life, whether for themselves or for someone they love, whether self-imposed or required, rarely think twice about what all is in the food they eat. They don’t have to carefully plan outings based on where they can eat or when they can get home to make food. They don’t have to turn down food offered by a friend because they’re not 100% sure of every ingredient. They don’t have to have the same level of trust in companies, shops, and restaurants because of the consequences of cross-contamination. My point is that, at some point, these actions become second nature. We read every label of every food without thinking I am reading this label because it might have X ingredient that I cannot have. We just do it.

One of the big changes I have touched on before is medication. I carefully weaned myself off all my IBS medicines. I have now also taken myself off of all of my medications. Since my surgery in October, I haven’t taken anything to help me breathe or control airborne allergies. A few months ago, I realized that my body had actually healed enough that I didn’t need daily acid reflux medication, either. Not even two years ago, I was taking 21 pills a day just to do what little I did.

Here’s where the greens come into the story. I have had heartburn since making that decision — not everyday and not badly enough to think that I needed to start the medicine again. Since starting the green smoothie challenge two weeks ago, I haven’t had ANY heartburn. None. It’s gone. I have gone from feeling like my throat would catch fire if I even took my medication late to no medicine and no pain.  In addition, my energy levels have stayed up, I feel like I have lost more weight (I try not to weight myself often), I feel comfortable wearing jeans without fearing I might swell too large for them, and I have started sleeping more — this last point is a huge deal for a life-long insomniac.

It goes to show that, when you do right by your body, give it effective and personalized fuel, and listen to what it says, you never stop healing. I made my mother-in-law her first green smoothie this week to help kickstart her own positive changes, and I’m learning how to make my own green smoothie recipes to add variety to the program. This recipe is one I made for CB when he had to leave before the crack of dawn to travel for a conference. If possible, it’s best to make it the night before you want it and let it get really cold; you might want to blend in some ice if you don’t have the time to spare. It is thick and filling with enough fibre and protein for a great start for your day.

Sweet Green Porridge Smoothie

Ingredients:
1/2 cup almond milk (substitute with water or coconut water if you don’t have or can’t have almond milk)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon chia seed
1/4 cup gluten-free oats, blitzed beyond recognition in a food processor
1 handful spinach
1 handful collards
1/2 banana
1/4 cup frozen mango
2 teaspoons natural peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
handful of ice (optional)

Hardware:
Blender
Food processor
Measuring cups and spoons
Freezer

Directions:
Put almond milk, water, chia seed, and greens to the blender and blend until there are no big chunks visible. Add the oats and give a good spin. Dump in all the remaining ingredients (banana, mango, peanut butter, cocoa powder) and blend to combine.

If you want to drink it immediately, blend in the ice and serve. If you will store it for later — my recommendation — pour into a freezer safe container and park in the freezer overnight. The ice will thin the smoothie, which you may like, but it is needed to make it cold enough to drink right away.

Our week in smoothies:

Week One Check-in – Green Smoothie Challenge

Week One of the Green Smoothie Challenge is complete! Here’s where I am:

1) I have really enjoyed all the recipes so far. I already know some things that don’t agree with me, so I leave them out to ensure I complete the challenge. There’s no sense sticking a whole knob of fresh ginger in that blender if I know I won’t be able to choke it down. As good for your body as ginger is, I think the important thing is to actually drink the smoothies you make.

2) I didn’t actually ASK my husband, CB, to participate with me. I wasn’t sure that he would do it. When I told him I was going to do a month-long green smoothie challenge, he replied, “I might have to miss a couple when I’m traveling for conferences.”

3) CB has referred to several of the smoothies as “yummy” so far, which I take as a higher compliment than, “It tastes good.” He has also requested that I balance the protein and fats in them to have nothing but green smoothies for an entire week. It also pushes me to discover and create new recipes to keep it from getting boring for our minds and mouths. I’m thinking it’s time to try things like peanut butter and GF oats . . .

4) The difference in my energy levels is incredible. I don’t get winded as easily, and, even when I’ve been stuck at a computer screen for work, I have WANTED to get up and do something.

5) My digestion has improved already. I have long wanted to find a way to incorporate more greens into my diet, but, as I have mentioned, they can be very difficult to digest when you have intestinal disorders. With the smoothies, my body has the opportunity to get all the goodness these greens have to offer without having to work so hard to process them.

6) Having what we need from fruits and veggies has leeched over into the rest of our food patterns. CB asked if we could have quinoa salad much more often. It was our dinner last night, and I loaded it down with more vegetables than usual.

Quinoa salad with chicken and extra veggies

Quinoa salad with chicken and extra veggies

7) Some of my running pants don’t fit anymore. I’m talking about the ones that fit last week. Yeah, those.

A few of the week’s smoothies (some were finished too quickly for photography):