Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘Blood Sugar and Depression’

Resolution for Improvement, Weeks 9-10

September 2012_Bob Hardy

Fall has Arrived in Utah
(Photo by Bob Hardy, Sept. 2012)

In Week 9, we achieved our lowest home exercise output. Ever. I decided that we needed to make a resolution as a family to work harder at completing all of our daily exercise requirements.

We figured that the BB program has three parts to it: Weekly sessions at the center, Home Nutrition Compliance, and Home Programming Exercises. It could be argued that equally important to home programming is the effort to keep the kids physically trying new things (like swimming lessons, a new sport, stretching their physical limits, etc). But for our family, the most we could do was add in a month of swimming lessons, and to go to the park more often. It has been all we could do, just to focus on getting all the home exercises in. Hence we allotted an entire third in our equation to Home Programming Exercises.

This is what we came up with, in a spur-of-the-moment family meeting, on the last day of September. I made each of us, myself included, take a turn making a verbal commitment to do better. I have since modified our committment to include “I will do my best.” It is proving difficult even now, to get all five sets in. We each placed our right hand on a Book of Mormon in our turn, and repeated:

I promise to do my best to do (or to help others do, in the case of Baby Blues and myself) five sets of exercises every day, for six days a week, between now and October 31st. This action will help our family not waste $XXXX.XX (a third of our BB costs, also representing the portion of Brain Balance that we feel home programming fulfills. The other two portions consist of weekly BB sessions and home nutrition compliance). I make this committment in front of these five (siblings and Mom) witnesses. In return Mom and Dad agree to take the kids swimming or to the zoo at the end of each week, and also make a (Brain Balance diet approved) treat on that same day. And they will let me eat all of my Halloween candy (the volume which will be collected at lower-than-normal levels this year).

Now this may seem like trading one Brain Balance requirement in for another. After all, Home Nutrition Compliance represents an equally solid 30% of the whole program. But we have been really good about nutrition compliance since the start. I figure sacrificing a day or two of candy consumption near the end of the program is a lesser evil than continuing down the path of shoddy Home Programming output.

Since we all made our agreement, we have done much better getting exercises done. We haven’t reached the ideal five per day yet, but we have come much closer, usually at three or four. I am also allowing for kids to add in extra exercises one day if they have missed some the day before, in order to keep their cumulative totals up. Often it is Freckles and Sparkle who are working hardest at this. When I can get Dash to help Big B, it is an exceptionally good day. Big B definitely performs above and beyond, when either Dash or Daddy serve as coach.

In other good news for Week 9, we welcomed a beautiful new cousin to our family. This beautiful girl makes four new cousins for our kids, born since June 2013. Two are girls born in Utah from my side of the family. And a set of twins, a boy and a girl, were born in week four on Daddy’s side, in Texas. All are beautiful babies. Here are the photos from the most recent addition, when we visited my sister and family.

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We love this tiny girl. It has been so long since we held a newborn, we are all enthralled. On this day Daddy came home from work to take all of the kids down to visit their new cousin while I held my monthly classics colloquium group at our house. This month we discussed our summer reading selection, The Count of Monte Cristo. Thank you Sweetie, for helping me take a break from all the BB work to do something I love!

Count of Monte Cristo

(Not my Photo)

Speaking of reading, Dash has continued to pick up new books that never interested him before the Brain Balance program. In weeks 9 and 10, he has read “The Real Story of Indians,” finished “Return of the King,” and surprisingly, read Glenn Beck’s “An Inconvenient Book.” He also picked up a new that book that fits with his interests, and read it entirely: “Greatest War Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from Military History,” by Rick Beyer.

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(Not my Photo)

In Week 10, it was also General Conference weekend for Mormons all over the world. So we spent ten hours listening to talks by all of the Apostles and General Authorities of the church, speaking on all kinds of subjects related to the gospel, and gospel living. We made an exception on daily screen time limits, because it was important to us that our kids attend the sessions with us. All conference sessions were broadcast over the internet, so we were home bodies for most of the weekend. Our kids watched all four sessions like we asked, though admittedly they weren’t super attentive or excited through all of them. Since Dash is a Deacon, he attended a fifth session. After a Brain Balance session at the center on Saturday, Dash and I went on a drive through Draper, and took the scenic route over South Mountain while we listened to one conference session by radio.

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Dash and Daddy on their way to the Priesthood Session of General Conference

All Broadcasts available here.

One of my favorite talks at conference was Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk about mental illness. This is a subject that many people, LDS and otherwise, struggle to understand, but which is a common affliction in our times. I felt like it extended validation and encouragement to those with mental illnesses, and those who have loved ones who suffer with it, sometimes for their entire lives.  I highly recommend his talk to anyone.

Deseret News Article on Holland’s “Like a Broken Vessel”.

I have struggled with depression ever since we started having babies, and so I appreciate the encouragement. Fortunately for me, it has only been severe during post-partum times or when a family crisis has occurred. The rest of the time it has been mild to moderate. One of the great blessings of following the Brain Balance program has occurred for me in modifying my diet, as I have mentioned in previous posts. I have found that taking out all of the common allergens and refined foods completely has helped my chemistry to balance out significantly.

Moodiness is still there during PMS times, but to a lesser degree. Also I have found that if I eat at normal intervals during the day, and without the junk, I feel better, and I cope with kids’ demands much more kindly. Conversely, if I allow my blood sugar levels to become too low by not eating regularly during the day, I become moody. As soon as I eat something, I feel better. This last scenario is also common to my kids. If no one has been eating at regular intervals, as happens in our home, no one is in a good mood. You can imagine how exponentially worse this was before, when we were eating junk refined foods, which mess with blood sugar in a big way. This all may be common sense for most of my readers, but unfortunately it has taken me years to cultivate healthy meal planning and providing three square, clean meals a day. Thus the positive effects are exceptionally clear for us at this time, when we are beginning to master clean eating. Tally so far: I’ve lost 15 pounds. Michael has lost at least 20 pounds in my humble opinion, but he isn’t monitoring so it is an educated guess. The kids have lost weight, but don’t continuously lose as we do, thank goodness. 🙂

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Compulsion versus Coaching, Weeks 5-6

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Baby Blues, First Day of Preschool, Fall 2013

“The miracle of children is that we just don’t know how they will change or who they will become.”
“The path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect, and it’s rarely a straight line.”
As a 12-year-old girl in provincial Utah Valley many years ago, I had my first experience with “coaching” from an older girl in our LDS youth program. She was assigned to lead our young women’s volleyball team. I was brand new to the program, and without team sport experience . We got started into the first volleyball practice, and I had no idea how to play. I just came because someone invited me, and it sounded fun. You can imagine my horror, when the ball was served and came straight at me for the first time. I think I just watched it drop in front of me, no attempt to bump or set it to a teammate at all. Well naturally this didn’t please my young coach, and she immediately shouted something at me, like “YOU NEED TO HIT.THE.BALL!!!”. I mumbled something like, “Sorry!” and braced myself for the next time the ball came at me. Well, as volleyballs inevitably do, this one came back to me numerous times during the practice, and each weak attempt of mine was derided with a shout that increasingly diminished my confidence. In fact I was ready to sit down and cry right there, but my pride would not allow it. Thankfully, there were two or three girls on my team who saw me ranging close to tears, and rallied around me after each verbal onslaught. They helped me to shake it off, and carried me through the rest of the practice. To this day, wholly thanks to those kind girls, I LOVE volleyball. I surprised myself and returned to practice the next week, and then the next. At some point during that season I stopped apologizing, and decided to channel my anger over this girl’s abuse into learning the game, the end goal being to shut her up. And I succeeded. I don’t think I’ve ever written a thank you note to these girls. Good thing I can find them on Facebook!
Have you ever noticed that God doesn’t compel us to do things the way He wants us to? No matter what, regardless of how stupid we are in our choices, as a perfect parent, he never compels us to do what He wants. I have been extraordinarily blessed to be raised by parents who followed this principle, of respecting agency, above all else. As far as I can tell, compulsion was never a tool in their child-rearing tool box. I’ve spent most of my parenting years trying to follow their example, and allow my kids to made as many of their own (age appropriate) choices as possible. So when I step out of my head long enough to observe how I have sometimes interacted with my kids lately, I shudder. I hear myself talking to the kids during Brain Balance exercises, and I really want to put myself in time out! Compulsion is SO much easier than Coaching!! I never played team sports growing up, so my experience with coaches was limited. But I have often observed with AWE the positive energy that I see in men, women, youth, and youth leaders, who spend their lives and energy being a cheerleader to others.
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My Sweet Parents
Kennedy-Moore expresses an idea that resonates with me. It touches on the inevitable and universal unknowns of parenting. Our entire experience here on earth is defined by unknowns. We humans love the illusion of control over our lives, and we cling tightly to it. I’m fairly certain that I am not alone in feeling that the unfolding 21st Century, with all of its unprecedented disasters, whether natural or man-made, could easily intensify our determination to control everything. In truth, we aren’t in control. We’ve not yet learned to dictate to the elements. Our life’s path and in this case, that of our children, is unknown. It doesn’t mean that we can’t prepare ourselves and our kids effectively for the future, or that we can’t consciously determine to plot our course in a given specific direction. But unless we have the foresight of a prophet, the exact nature and form of the scenery along our respective pathways remains hidden, sometimes until we are already traversing that thorny and stony personal ground.
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Big B, traversing stony ground. 😦
Henry B. Eyring wisely observed once that the only thing many of us have in common is that life will surprise us.:”Years ago I served as the bishop of a ward (congregation) composed of young people. Time has wiped away much of what I learned then of their sorrows and mistakes, but I can still see in my mind most of their faces. I meet some of them as I travel about the world. Their faces and their physiques have been changed enough by time that I sometimes stumble trying to remember names. Others I have followed more closely, with a chance to know what life has offered them. When I learn of their lives, I am amazed at the variety of their experiences. Each life seems to be unique. About all they have in common, as nearly as I can tell, is that they have been surprised by the pattern of the tests of their faith. The surprise has come because they could not know when the tests would come, what they would be, nor how long they would last.”
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Unexpected Trials, Fellowship of the Ring
(Not my photo)
I’ve learned to function, albeit imperfectly, within the realm of the unknown. God will illuminate the path immediately in front of me, and I step into that lighted portion. After making that step, I’m in a position to see the next portion lighted for me. From the moments Dash and Big B were born, Michael and I found ourselves on a course that was relatively lonely during the early years. Some of this loneliness was admittedly self-inflicted. I always felt like I should have control over my kids, but didn’t, and sensed judgment on numerous occasions from others. Rather than risk more judgment of my parenting by closer association, I often chose to avoid situations where I might encounter it. Thankfully, God placed various angel-women in my life. As fellow sojourners, they reached out to me despite potentially awkward differences they might have anticipated. They were sometimes my age, but more often than not, they were my elders, by at least a decade. I managed to gather a collection of friends along the way, whom I could also be helpful to, having learned never to judge another’s parenting harshly. “The path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect.” Thank you, Eileen Kennedy-Moore.
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(Not my Photo)
“The valleys of discouragement make more beautiful the peaks of achievement.”
Gordon B. Hinckley
The last while for our family in the Brain Balance program is distinguished by numerous peaks and valleys. We have wanted to improve on getting all three sets of exercise in each day at home, and it has been tough. Finally going into week 7, it has become easier. We are getting them done now, without WWIII descending! But in weeks 5 and 6, it was a lot of hit and miss. We’d get 3, even 4 sets of exercises done one day, and then for two days straight, none whatsoever. There was one stretch of days, at least five in a row, that we saw huge, repeated meltdowns from Big B. I seriously wondered if he would ever manage a normal three-set day. Ever. Again. Just one measly set would take us an hour and a half!
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Perhaps the important lessons of life don’t occur in a linear fashion at all, even though we may have been trained to expect that in our results-centered society. I have a journal that I have kept over the years. It mainly consists of the thoughts that have come to me from month to month, as I’ve prayed over different issues, and gotten insight when studying the scriptures. Sometimes when things are tough, I pray again, over parenting problems that seem always to reappear, familiar iterations defined by the same emotions and recurring communication patterns between me and my kids, me and my husband, me and God. Does that make sense? Virtually every time I read back over these particular journal records, it seems that the current answer is right there. Even though it was written in the past, the solution is in renewing my commitment to honoring those insights. I’m all over the board here, I know! I guess I’m saying: keep a journal, people! And pay attention to the solutions you find as you make your way through new challenges. Though conceived in former times, they may become the solutions for your next iteration (of trials).
And let your child fail. It’s really OK. Wouldn’t you rather see him learn how to pick himself up NOW? With enough practice, our kids will become pros at failing gracefully, and then move forward to what works. When they are done pouting on the ground, we are there to pick our kids up and point them in the right direction.
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“Whether your child succeeds or fails is up to your child, not you, and the measure of success or failure must be your child’s, not yours.”
–Peter Gray, Free to Learn
Moving on to some of the peaks, shall we? Great news on the Dash front, in weeks 5 and 6. While Big B spent much time pouting on the ground, Dash was on an upswing, and did something unprecedented. He has been in the Brain Balance program for a month. Since he was a very small boy, has always been hyper-focused on military ships, aircraft and weapons systems. Poring over encyclopedias of military stuff, etc. His room is full of these books. My homeschool bookcases upstairs, on the other hand, are full of classical literature for all different ages. We’ve encouraged our kids to pick books from this genre as reading material, with varying levels of success over the years. Dash has usually looked at them and said “BORING, Mommy, can we just go to the library?”
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Our Homeschool Library
So I was really surprised when early this week, Dash went up to the homeschool bookcase and took a second look. In weeks 5 and 6, he has read in their entirety: The Red Pyramid, The Jungle Book, Heroes from Roman and Greek Mythology, the Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and parts of Moby Dick and The Mysterious Island. Then to change it up even more, on that same night, he cleaned up his entire room, hung up all of his favorite posters that had been sitting in storage for a year, organized his closet, then came upstairs and gathered his (very-full basket) of clean laundry, took it to his room, folded and put everything away, and THEN went across the hall and scrubbed out his entire bathroom like a pro. These are all things that I have asked him to do as part of his weekly chores, never having secured his compliance without great contention. He also threw me a curve, when we started making dinner a bit late one night, and Dash decided that he wanted to help me set the table. Apparently when he says: “I’ll set the table, Mom, ” this is what he means:
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I was duly impressed.
In other good news: Even though our peach supply has finally dwindled away, in weeks 5 and 6, our pear tree began to drop some beautiful fruit, which we are still enjoying immensely. We have a golden delicious apple tree that we are watching anxiously for evidence of readiness. AND, this is actually the big news here. Sparkle, my 9-year-old picky I’m-living-on-popcorn-right-now-because-there’s-NOTHING-to-eat daughter, made a discovery. She LOVES pears!! Yahoo! I’m jumping for joy, because it has been a very long time since I have seen her try ANYTHING new to eat, most especially food from the fruit family!
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Home Grown Pears and Sparkle
I also learned something for myself, which opened my eyes about the relationship between what I eat and how I feel. Near the end of Week 5, I helped to host my sister’s baby shower. She is having her first girl after three boys, so it was time to party it up with the pink! So I made a yummy pan of brownies with some left over butter from the freezer and some refined white sugar I still had in a storage bucket. I used to make and eat these all the time, before Brain Balance. I took Sparkle with me to the event, and in an effort to help her consume more needed calories, I decided to ease up on the diet just for that morning (except we didn’t eat the cupcakes, because they were on the high-end, sugar-wise, but oh how yummy they would have been!). So I ate a lovely croissant with a delicious chicken salad filling, a bunch of veggies with Ranch dressing, two excellent salads that were mostly in compliance with our diet, and then allowed us to eat one brownie and one cream puff. We enjoyed it all immensely.
But then Sunday came the next day, and in the middle of the morning service, I found myself getting really emotional. And it just kept getting worse as the day progressed, until by that night NO ONE wanted to be around me. And even Monday it seems like I was just a mess, for unfathomable reasons! That night it dawned on me: MAYBE the food I ate on Saturday was contributing to my mental state. There is no scientific test to certify this was the case, but I believe it to be so. It was the first time in over a month on the new diet, that I had had this type of palpable depressed mood. And I couldn’t blame it on PMS, which usually is pretty bad for me, because that all occurred the week previously —- and it was a historically mild case. As if by magic, I woke up Tuesday morning without a shade of moodiness, feeling like my newer, healthier self again. If any of my readers have had a similar experience with moods being affected by diet change, I’d love to hear about it!
Well this post has already meandered down a long-winded path. Let me see if I am missing anything else that may be relevent here. Oh, here are a couple more food pictures. After whipping up several different versions of a gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free chocolate chip cookie, I found one that I will keep as our favorite. And it doesn’t even use eggs. It’s from a whole foods recipe website that I love, which provides fresh inspiration every time I peruse it. These cookies were gone in almost 2 minutes flat. They were that good. Here is the recipe, it is a keeper!
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Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, from Stalkerville,
a Paleo-inspired real foods recipe clearinghouse.
We also started all the kids into swimming lessons again. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can work lessons in at any time of day, and just rearrange the homeschool schedule when needed. We decided that our homeschool schedule for this Fall would be heavy on Health and Physical Education, in order for us to give due attention to the Brain Balance diet/programming, and helping our kids strengthen their mental and physical health. We still keep the other basics (Reading, Writing, Math, Field Trips) in the schedule, but we spend a bit less time on them now than we do normally. After we have completed the BB program, they will be more confident in academics and learning skills all around. Two lessons in, the kids are divided in their responses to the swim classes. While the oldest three: Dash, Freckles, and Sparkle started in a lower level class, we discovered that they are actually advanced beyond that level. Baby Blues on the other hand, HATES swim lessons. He refuses to stay in the water with his classmates, which include Big B. Today’s lesson saw me picking him up when it was his turn to practice the skills with the instructor, and handing him into the water. At which point he squirmed and screamed earnestly, and then carried out the exercises with stoic resignation.:(
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On Day 1 of swimming lessons
Other stuff we have been eating recently:
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Left: Carrot Ginger Bisque, garden fresh tomatoes, Egg Salad on City Creek Bakery’s amazing bread,
fresh peaches, pears and apples with coconut milk drizzled on top; Right: Deviled Eggs
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Another A-MAZING recipe. I may never go back to our old brownies again!
Photo Courtesy of Gluten-Free Goddess

Sunshine and Nutrients, Days 12-17

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(Not my photo)

The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together. ~Kurdish Saying

Well, we’ve passed through two intense weeks. Emotional intensity has always been a quality of our family’s life together. I’m OK with that. I wouldn’t know how to be anything else, and hope that others will just accept this fact and embrace it, as our friends. It should not be surprising to anyone who knows us that this program would crank up the pressure for us, and boy, has it! I was not certain at the outset that this would be a bad thing for us, and hoped sincerely that it would mean the opposite. And boy, has it! This post is dedicated to the enumeration of the positives that have come into our life since we commenced. Unfortunately my written descriptions and past images will have to suffice, as we have misplaced our camera once again.

August 1st was a great time to start this program for us. We have no birthdays in our immediate family (no need to make a birthday cake anytime soon) and school has been out of session, giving us the maximum latitude and flexibility to change up our routine. Our garden and fruit trees are producing well, providing an abundance of fresh produce which is directly incorporated into daily healthy meals. We have a farmer’s market every Saturday across the street from the Brain Balance center, both of which are situated less than two miles from our home. This helps me a ton. I received a note from one woman who moved out to Utah from Wisconsin this summer, so that her kids could participate in the Brain Balance program here in South Jordan. Her husband had to stay behind to work, leaving her to navigate the demands of this program as a single parent. I’m so lucky that it is all so convenient and close by, and that this house we bought last year was already stocked with the raw tools to assist us in our effort. Here are some pics of our garden and trees.

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Pears Galore

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Zucchini to Spare

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A bough from one of our mature peach trees, broken under the weight of beautiful peaches.

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Two garden boxes full of veggies.

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Golden Delicious Apple Tree

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Peas, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Pumpkins

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Dash holds the BIG zuc, with Sparkle and Freckles. We just made Paleo Zucchini Brownies with that baby.

Physical provisions notwithstanding, the spiritual and  mental blessings that we’ve received since beginning the Brain Balance program outshine them. Right around day 6 or 7, my friend TS from church called me out of the blue. She thought she should call, but didn’t know why. Unbeknownst to her, we were in the thick of the overwhelming diet changes, and she had just recently gone through her own journey. They’d learned that her husband has Celiac Disease, and subsequently took the whole family off of gluten. In that process she had gained insight and resources that she could now pass on to me. Beyond the resources, she comforted me by just listening to my complaints, and giving me encouragement.

Last week, around Days 12 and 13, I needed more insight into how I could try my hand at improvising with food, and experimenting with the new ingredients. I also needed more recipes that were yummy and would fit the regime. The BB diet is not quite as restrictive as Paleo or GAPS, but more restrictive than most. By this time we were eating in compliance, but still not thriving. Great recipes have to be pretty narrowly defined. Thanks be to God, a couple of people came to my rescue at this juncture, with excellent resources, both with years of experience.

DB is a family friend who remarried last year, and at the same time undertook the huge task of thriving on a Paleo diet. He and his kids have lived with some of the same sensory issues that we have seen in our children, and have found a variety of tools, a Paleo diet included, that have helped them conquer their symptoms. Lucky for him, he married an adventurous woman, who not only took on the Paleo challenge, but turned their kitchen into a veritable Paleo Laboratory. She employs her daughters as taste testers, and regularly turns out what appear to be gourmet masterpieces! Her blog, if you haven’t seen it yet. Thanks Miss Julie, and your Superman!

ND is a perfectly beautiful woman, who also happens to be the former owner of our happy home. She and her family filled this home with happy and healthy traditions, and she inspires me to do likewise. She read my last blog entry, and was moved to have compassion on me :). After midnight on Day 13, she was going to bed, but decided to write me an email before retiring. In true stream of consciousness form, she wrote down some of the ways she has modified her family’s meals to include a healthier array of options. With each meal idea, she included how she had improvised to make it better. Thanks to her writing form, common ingredients and recipes became useful to me. I began to see a bridge being built in my mind, between our former eating lifestyle, and our new paradigm. I begin to see how we can move forward, even after program interventions are complete, and settle on a healthier norm for our family. She also sent follow-up emails, along with more recipes and ideas in each one. THANK YOU, ND!!

Just to give my BB friends a couple more ideas, and to highlight how helpful her email was, here is an excerpt:

“Hamburger curry over rice: I love this because I can make it in the crockpot and it is ready when we are.  Cut up 2 cups of cabbage, 1-2 c celery, add cooked hamburger and onions, 1 to 2 t curry pwd and some ckn broth or water. It will need 1 t or so salt and serve over rice.  The recipe calls for a bit of catsup, but it should be good without it.  You could even grate some zuc or slice it. I like it if the veggies don’t get too done..nice and crispy.

Our family really liked a casserole I made with rice and hamburger and zuc.  I cooked the rice, added a package of cooked frozen hamburger (or what you have, I cook mine ahead and freeze it since it is such a mess to cook up), and some zuc sliced–I used to add some cream of something soup, but I think it would be yummy with a little coconut milk. Salt and onions would be yummy in it too.

You could make a zuc casserole with taco seasoning–the Schilling at Costco I think is clean for you, or you could make your own–, hamburger, sliced zuc and onions.  The recipe calls for Doritos on top (which are so not good for you) but maybe you could sub some rice chips–Dave’s has some yummy ones seaweed and something–also can get them at Smiths market place.  Maybe chips are totally out now, you could use the Costco plain corn chips to add some crunch–or it would probably be good without oh..it needs some tomato sauce, maybe two cans–boy, these are really rough recipes, but I hope they will give you some ideas to experiment with.

The apples from your tree make wonderful apple crisp–they won’t need much sweetening and I bet you could figure out a great topping with a bit of sucanut, oats?/gluten-free flour or pancake mix and a little oil. The apples are sweetest when they are yellow, can freeze and stay best and crisp right on the tree. I am so glad we planted all those trees for you!”

Oh, and here is another healthy food blog she linked from another neighbor. Thanks again, ND!

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Love this meme. It’s true.

Beyond the heaven-sent help, I have also seen mental and physical health improvements in myself, Big B and others. Dash seems to be cruising through the exercises, and has accepted the diet, not without some grumbling :). As I mentioned in an earlier post, Big B’s balance is improving, and he is losing some of his tummy. Eye exercises have been hard for him to do each day, but he is trying. He can do sit-ups better than before (still working on the push-up formations, but that’s OK). His ability to do all the exercises and complete them continues to improve, albeit not without meltdowns. He needs lots of breaks, and still does the whole routing much better for Daddy than he does for me. I could be imagining it, but Big B’s eyes seem to be better aligned than they were previously. We go to the park a lot, and his coordination/ability to run around without falling down seems to be improving as well. Oh yay, Baby Blues just found my camera! Here are some park shots.

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We try to have the whole family do the exercises each day. With the exception of our 4-year-old, everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. (Baby Blues just watches the rest of us laughingly.) My own lower back, which seems always to have been quite weak and prone to back pain, especially when I was pregnant or nursing a child, is much stronger now. The morning back aches, a fixture in my life previously, are gone. Earlier this year and last, I saw my hair thinning at what seemed to be an unnatural pace. I’d read enough to gather that it could be an indicator of a hormone imbalance, which of course can be greatly exacerbated by diet. Since we changed our eating habits, I have noticed that my hair seems to have stopped shedding. This has been a relief to me, if not an unexpected stroke to my vanity. I’ve lost five pounds. My husband isn’t keeping track, but he’s lost weight too. (I can tell because there is less of him to wrap my arms around.) This makes both of us happier with ourselves, as we have carried unnecessary girth around for some time now.

heart in sky

(Not my photo)

Perhaps this biggest benefit to the diet changes for me, is the way I have seen my moodiness and stamina stabilize in a big way. With a predisposition for depression in my family of origin, and having lived it firsthand for many years, I’m indescribably thankful to God for helping us put our aspirations into action through the Brain Balance program. To be sure, there is more than one way to achieve balance in one’s life. If I had hired a personal trainer for myself, I’m certain that I might see similar results, though perhaps not as dramatic, because a personal trainer’s diet would not have eliminated all of the inflammatory foods that BB has. As a mom, I have never been able to make that kind of investment in myself, worthwhile as it may be. What got us on board here, is that the well-being of our kids would be directly improved thereby. We had no idea how transformative it would actually be. For Michael and I, Brain Balance is a means of accelerating our physical and mental development beyond what it was. For Dash and Big B, and to a lesser extent, all five of our kids, BB is a way for us to help them over developmental hurdles that have heretofore been insurmountable. It may as well have been Mt. Everest to us.

climbing everest

(Not my photo. Mt. EVerest)

Nutrition Burnout and Recovery, Days 5-11

I knew it would be tough to completely change our eating habits. It was clear from Day 1 (see earlier post) that we are dealing with lifelong, deep-seated stuff here. Every time I’ve sat down to blog about this last week, I’ve been blocked. It was hard to feel anything but discouragement as I looked back at the end of the day, and saw only what looked like failure to me. I’m glad I waited to write it all down, because I think what we were seeing was probably the normal stress that comes when you undertake this kind of major dietary shift.  I’m thinking a bit more clearly now, after having seen good progress in making the transition. The only question remains, how to construct the narrative, without too much negativity, while at the same time describing a reality-based picture of our experiences this week. I will go with unadulterated honesty first, and try to work in the hopeful elements where possible.

One of the conditions that had to exist for our family to be able to dive into an intense program like this was that my mental health had to be at a place where I could stay present for the kids, and carry out the demands of home programming without going into full retreat and isolation mode. Since the day I became pregnant with our first child (Dash), depression has been a part of my life. For as long as I was either breastfeeding a child, or expecting one, my brain chemistry would be out of whack. This means that for the first 10-12 years of our marriage, I was an emotional mess. When our youngest turned three, I began to feel like myself again. It is a touch disturbing to acknowledge that my good husband has seen the whacked-out “me” much more often in our life together, than he has the real me. Thankfully he stuck around anyway, reaching out to my alternating selves, with unfailing love and patient devotion.

Here is a picture of me when I was a small girl. I don’t remember the year, but it is in the mid-to-late 70’s. I’ve always loved this photo, perhaps sensing when I view it, that this represents the real Rebecca. She is a very happy girl, insatiably curious, and a bundle of intense energy. I’ve had to re-introduce myself to her from time to time, but she never fails to make me smile, inspiring me with grateful remembrance. That girl can do anything she puts her mind to, and guess what? It’s still true, 30+ years later. Often when I look into the sweet faces of my own five babies, I see a little bit of that cute Becca. In Big B’s case, I see a lot of her.

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Me, at approximately age 4.

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(Courtesy Angela Marie Photography, 2012)

Left to Right: Sparkle(8), Freckles(10), Big B(5), Daddy, Mommy, Baby Blues(3), Dash(12)

Brain Balance requires all of their clients to commit to eating a very specific diet, which for the average American, means a big change. In short, we now eat no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no refined flours or sugars, no MSG, artificial dyes, additives, nitrates, and only occasional raw sweeteners in very small amounts, limited to: honey, stevia, 100% unrefined maple syrup, agave, organic coconut sugar, or molasses. It’s not as restrictive as say, the Paleo Diet, but Paleo fits within the scope of what we can eat. So I refer to their resources quite a bit. One such excellent blog is authored by a family friend, and could be helpful to anyone who is serious about Paleo. We decided at the outset that any diet and exercise changes that Dash and Big B had to adopt, the rest of the family would also sign on to it. I had a few dishes planned, but no snacks for in-between meals. I figured yeah, they know how to eat carrots, apples and almond butter. But wow, I was SO off. They rifled endlessly through the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator, wondering what they could possibly eat that they were familiar with. The compulsive rifling persisted throughout the week, almost as if they believed the next time they checked, their old foods might have found their way back to them.  They did know how to eat carrots or broccoli, yes, but only last week it had always been dipped in Ranch dressing! Where was the Ranch? It was no more! And of course I couldn’t send them to friends to play in this state, they’d only find our OLD Ranch bottle in THEIR fridge, and then complete melt down would be assured.

paleo pyramid

So here we found ourselves, on Day 5. We had by this time made a trip to the farmer’s market and to a local grocery store to purchase a variety of new staple supplies, like coconut oil, coconut sugar, coconut flour, almond butter, GF/DF/sugar-free pancake mixes, Easy Life chocolate chips, more produce, almond milk, rice milk, and cage free eggs. We got ourselves through the weekend alright, thanks to Dad’s skills at making a mean Curry Chicken over Rice, which the kids have eaten and loved for years. But by Monday Dad was back at work, and Mom was up. I had laid out a menu plan which I thought would work fine. And it did work fine for me. I love my Brazilian Beans and Rice, and could eat it every day, no problem. But my kids were tired of it. We’d eaten it at least a couple of times since Day 1. On this Day 5, Sparkle was visibly wilting, having NOT found anything she could bear to consume. Admittedly, I saw this coming with her, but did not prepare well enough. She is a stubborn girl, and can dig her heels in for days if she wants, depending on the issue of conflict. She was pale, and kept filling up her water bottle with her tried and true lemon juice, honey, and ice water, to get her through the hours. Absolutely nothing was left in the kitchen that she liked. And honestly we did throw out 99% of her diet with this change. What saved her from complete starvation here was a tuna sandwich on GF/DF/SF bread from Eleanor’s Bakery.

Noelle Christmas 2007

Sparkle, Age 4

As I was saying, my mental health had to be in a decent place before we could benefit from a Brain Balance program. I felt when we started that we were in the right place and time to move forward. But this last week, I seriously questioned whether I could really do it. I lost sight of Becca, the real me, the do everything girl. Depression for me has always been greatly aggravated by low blood sugar levels. The first impulse is always to sequester myself in my room, and put the kids in front of some screen. (Oh, and did I mention that the BB program also requests you limit your kids to no more than 30 minutes of screen time per day? That doesn’t seem unreasonable, until you as the mom are spiraling down into retreat, and you need a buffer to keep the kids out of trouble. And yes, neurobehaviors of an atypical child left to his own devices will inevitably lead to trouble!) When we filled up and delivered those four boxes of dry goods and two bags of dairy products to our neighbor, we said goodbye to foods that represented perhaps 60-70% of our habitual diet. So things got BAD, and FAST. Not helpful was the fact that this week at my husband’s workplace was especially demanding on him. They’d flown in a whole contingent of analysts from a market research firm which looks to be merging with his company here soon. He was not able to come home before 9pm on virtually every night of this week.

Burnt-Out-Mom

(Not my Photo)

As Day 5 passed in utter hellish frustration, we moved through the subsequent days of this week as if we were “walking in molasses” to borrow a phrase from a local author. We were all hungry, as Plan A menus became Plan Bs, only to be rejected. And I had no Plan C. My Plans A or B, only a week prior to this, had been jumping in the car and running to Little Caesar’s or Iceberg. So yes, we had many a mile to go, and it seemed as if we only moved forward by inches. This post isn’t dedicated to how we are doing on the home exercises. But our performance there (indeed, our performance in virtually ALL other essentials) was invariably influenced by our limping along nutritionally. We managed to fit in two exercise sessions per day on all of these days but Day 8, which I will mention later. During this time, what we did eat was 98% in compliance with the parameters outlined by Brain Balance South Jordan. The only problem is that it wasn’t enough. We languished. Day 6 was a little better food-wise, but in terms of meltdowns from Big B, he was just getting started. I was told that setbacks and reversals in behavior were to be expected, as we move through the program and make the necessary adjustments. But I seriously wondered if what I was seeing could possibly be in the norm. Have I given you enough of reality yet? I’ll move on now to some of the good things that happened this last week, shall I?

Day 7 started out very badly. Freckles and Sparkle had come down with bad head and chest colds, and all the kids were dying to get out of the house. So we packed us up, and headed to the zoo as quick as we could get there. Unfortunately by the time we’d made the 30-minute journey, Sparkle had gotten worse. We sat on a bench inside the zoo for 45 minutes, while Dash, Freckles and Big B walked around some of the nearby exhibits. At this point I was so desperate to get my daughter to eat a clementine, I bought a rice crispy treat from the nearby bistro to help coax her along. I also bought water and a big veggie cup that had Ranch dressing in it. She seemed almost to the point of nausea, and I felt that it was most likely because she simply wasn’t eating. I made a deal with her that for each bite of clementine (a fruit she’d heretofore rarely eaten, despite countless opportunities) that she took and swallowed, I would give her a bite of the rice crispy treat. This she attempted, with an appearance of true illness (and a touch of martyr), but unsuccessfully. She managed to swallow one wedge, but then threw up the second one. I thought maybe she should eat the veggies first, to get her tummy to a better place before attempting the oranges again. So I just gave it to her, Ranch and all, with an order that she eat as much as possible. Post-veggie consumption, she still could not manage the clementine, so I gave up at that point, gave her the rice crispy treat, and told her to eat it so she wouldn’t faint on the way back to the van.

Oh, but I was going to move on to the good stuff, sorry!! Did I mention that we just harvested two of our peach trees , one of the big ones and one of the baby ones? They are beautiful, and we are benefitting from the fresh fruit daily. Our garden is producing endless zucchini in all sizes, gorgeous tomatos, tomatillos, cucumbers, peas, eggplant and beans. Our pear tree is nearing harvest time, I think. The color is looking rosier, and I think pears don’t soften on the tree. So we will bring some of those in soon and watch. For this fresh and free organic food, I am daily grateful. Sparkle has yet to avail herself of this resource, but I have hope for her. Sooner or later, she will pick something up and take a bite. I recently read in a book called French Kids Eat Everything that it takes a minimum of 7-10 introductions to a new food for a child to decide they will like/eat it (great book, I highly recommend it!).

The night of Day 7, we went to the Summer Party for my husband’s company. It is always lots of fun, and they always have good food. Michael asked the organizer if there would be any food there that would be compatible with our new dietary regime, and was informed that there would be. So our dinner consisted of cut up fresh fruits, green salad with a vinaigrette dressing, corn on the cob with no butter, and grilled roast beef. The kids didn’t stay long at the picnic table, because there was a huge inflated water slide that had been set up for all the children of employees. Miraculously, Sparkle and Freckles recovered long enough to enjoy the water play for the residue of the event ;). And an extra tender mercy from God, I met one of his co-workers from New Jersey, who has two kids with Autism/Aspergers. I talked his ear off for at least 20 minutes, and discovered that his family is going through a similar experience to ours.  They are enrolled in a program out of Princeton University, which also includes intense home programming every day. That helped to lift my flagging spirits. Also on this day, or perhaps the next, I don’t remember, a friend from my neighborhood called me out of the blue, who happened to have just gone through the process of taking her family off of gluten. She had some good recipe ideas for me, and checked in again Sunday (Day 11) to see  how it was going. More tender mercies from God.

I did not expect to see much in the way of sickness next day, but such was not to be. Since I’m moving on from the negative here, I’ll just say briefly that their symptoms got worse as the week progressed, and other family members caught the germ as well. On Day 8, I had contracted a full-blown version of it, and decided to take the day off from exercises. At this point we threw the media limitation out the window, because I seriously couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed for a sizeable chunk of the day. So they got some Netflix and Minecraft time. Bright spot for the kids, no?

On Day 9, Daddy came home a little bit earlier. It was Friday by now, and we managed to get in two sets of home programming exercises. Unfortunately, Daddy had also caught the bug, and would require the rest of the weekend to rest and recuperate. However on the bright side, I was able to re-up our Costco membership, and purchased a good amount of ingredients I’d been lacking previously, to avail myself of some excellent recipes. I found two great recipe books online for my Kindle App. Both were written by fabulous moms, who had spent the time experimenting until they found what worked well for their families. My friend Heidi wrote one of them, and I can attest that her GF/DF/SF brownie recipe is really tasty. By Day 10, I was starting to feel better, and knew that the worst was behind me. Sparkle still struggles to find foods she wants to eat. But we are slowly finding things that she will choose to eat. With more tools and supplies at my disposal, we will be able to eat a broader variety of foods. With some great recipes on hand (can’t wait to try the substitute Ranch dressing recipe in the Brain Balance binder!), we won’t have to struggle so much to get our kids eating what we prepare.

TheBakingBakersCoveredited

My friend Heidi’s Gluten Free Cookbook

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Another great cook book

I am feeling stronger, and the healthier foods seem to be clearing up some of my brain fog. I’ve lost about five pounds, and it seems to be a trend. Big B looks trimmer to me. Still chubby, but uniformly trimmer than before. The frequent home exercises for strengthening the back and spine and core muscles have helped me a lot. I’ve always had a lower back that is prone to fatigue and aching. But no more, thanks to the home program. I can do sit ups again, which I hadn’t done in I don’t know how long! I can do push-ups better than before, and I am seeing our kids making similar improvements. Big B initially had a hard time even forming himself into the right shapes for the daily exercises, but he now can do most of them without help. Freckles went from not being able to do even one sit-up on his own, to doing 75 sit-ups in three sets last night. Dash has mastered the exercise routine very quickly, and seems happier. Last night when I was  helping Big B change his shorts, he actually stood up and balanced on one leg. This has never happened before. He has always leaned heavily with his body on Daddy or me, when he had to change clothing. So we are seeing small improvements day by day. Thanks, if you read all the way to the end!! I expect the next post will be a bit more positive. I suppose to enjoy the great things, we must also acknowledge and appreciate the not-so-great.  Please share if you feel someone else could benefit from my experience.

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