Neuroplasticity and the human brain in action

Posts tagged ‘Fast Food to Real Food’

Brain Balance Days 1-4

 Yep, this picture pretty much sums it up around here.

At this writing, we are on Day 5.

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This was our last fast food trip, pre-Brain Balance. I chose one of my favorite places, The Purple Turtle.  None of this food would make it on to our approved menu list now. Dash was mad at me for choosing this place, so he made sure he let me know how miserable I was making his life! I thought to myself at this moment, “Babe, you have no idea. Come back in another week or two (after we get going on the Brain Balance diet), and you will be pleading for corn dogs and tater tots. In the days leading up to Day 1 of Brain Balance exercises and diet changes, we went through our kitchen and purged. I’ve learned the therapeutic value of a household purge. Every time I do it, I feel like the world is new, and the brain clutter has vanished. I highly recommend it to anyone, and every six months is best!! That said, this is the first time that I’ve managed a complete food purge on a broad scale. Excepting a few long term food storage items like whole wheat, sugar, and powdered milk, anything that we couldn’t eat on this new regime was put in one of two places: In a box for Leilani and Jake (10 kids in their blended family), or in the trash. The guidelines are: no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no MSG/Additives/Preservatives/Artificial dyes/flavorings, no refined sugars or flours, no white rice or white potatoes, and only 5 raw sugars (pure maple, honey, agave, stevia and coconut sugar) in small amounts. Organic produce is encouraged as far as possible, and organic products that meet the above specs. Boa Sorte to us!

Day 1

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My husband and I are lucky to have a great realtionship. It is rare that we lose our tempers with each other. When this happens, it is usually about one thing: Money. If you know us well, you know that we have very different paradigms about how to approach money. We each have good and bad elements that we bring to the financial table. We learned early on that this fact was likely never to change. So we make do, and set the parameters together, because that is all we can do. It was a HUGE, GIGANTIC deal to get us to a place where we were both willing to put out the big bucks to enroll in this type of program. But some resources are worth it. Those like the Brain Balance Center, which are changing families and lives every day, in significant ways, is one of them.

We are almost 5 days in to the process of making over our family diet, and undertaking some pretty involved physical exercises to help us rewire our brains. It’s not as intense as I imagine a military boot camp might be, but it is tough. We went through the excercises for the third time, and found that Big B has a hard time even getting into the formation to do some of the exercises. So we are starting slow, not expecting a lot. On Day 1 of the new diet, Michael and I had more fights than perhaps we’ve had in the last 6 months put together! I have no idea what came over our household, but apparently stuff happens when you start messing with lifelong eating habits :).

In our (almost) 15 years together, we have learned about and implemented a number of health strategies, with varying degrees of success. In spurts of collective energy, we’ve learned how to de-tox from sugar as a family, and incorporated green juices and green smoothies into our diet. We’ve gone to counseling when trauma has arisen. or when my depression has become too much. We’ve intermittently jumped off the conveyor belt of public schooling, and replaced it with a homeschool routine. We recently upped our aerobic levels together as a family, by way of running together. All of these interventions have been helpful and necessary. But the emerging pattern is that we haven’t been able to sustain excellent diet and lifestyle habits over enduring lengths of time, and this keeps us stuck on the proverbial treadmill. Throw one or more special needs kids into this mix which, and it can get pretty insane.  This is one of the big reasons we needed to pay the big bucks. Once you give that kind of money to someone, to change your family’s life, you can’t afford to blow it off. You can’t give up when it starts to get rough.

We took Dash and Big B to their first Brain Balance sessions at the center. B ran a path from one wall of the lobby to the next. They have the cutest built-in miniature house, right there in the lobby, complete with a couch for mom and a shelf of toys to make the wait pleasant. He’d occasionally pause there. but mostly chose to run around. Both boys came out happy, and excited to return in two days. After dropping them off I dashed madly to the Harmons nearby to load up on whole foods that we could eat. This was a hungry day. And I had a big headache.

Day 2

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(Not my photo)

On the morning of the second day, I woke up on the verge of a panic attack. I had been having bad dreams all night. Incidentally Robert Downing Jr. was in my dreams. He had his Iron Man persona going on, but in a bad way. Iron Man in a leather jacket was a homicidal gang leader in my neighborhood, who went on the attack, anytime someone questioned his authority or stood up to him. Throughout this extended dream sequence, I spent most of my time either fighting him or hiding myself and my family from him, after having inexplicably called him out on his bullying. Any dream interpreters want to take a shot at it? Analyze that and get back to me, will you? What I get from this is that I have been in fight or flight mode for a little while now, trying to gather the resources to fight the incredible forces of habit.

Usually when things get too demanding or chaotic, I stop and take a break to breathe, and address the tasks at hand only when I’ve achieved a semi-peaceful emotional space (you could also read this as procrastination, but it is a coping mechanism). When it’s not possible to work up to big tasks, I do dive in, but often with a bad attitude. I’ve purposely designed my life to be simple and flexible enough to allow me time and space to approach things without haste.

So on this morning, instead of getting out of bed immediately to do exercses like we’d been, I curled up in a ball and asked Michael to hold me. In that moment, I prayed to God to help me do it. I didn’t want to blow the routine off, but the tasks in front of me loomed like Everest. By the way, that’s a tag line for Michael’s company. “What’s Your Everest?” they ask. The idea is that any company which has tough marketing and financial issues to resolve, should come to them to do the tough analysis, and will come away with real solutions. Not even a week before Day 2, I sat in church in San Jose, with the women in my old neighborhood. I’d been asked to read a quote about how God will remove mountains for us when we exercise our faith. I cried as I read it (Mormon women emote a lot on Sundays when they all gather). I felt that God had recently given me the tools to remove what has felt like a mountain of concern and frustration over Big B’s developmental delays. And now here I was, on Day 2, the reality of the task bearing down. I asked Michael to give me a priesthood blessing, which he gladly did. (laid his hands on my head, and invoked a blessing of extra strength and courage from God on my behalf). I felt better. With Michael’s help, I’d given myself the emotional space to put off diving in unprepared, and we got the first iteration of exercises done for the day. Sometimes inertia can be crippling. Thankfully it can be overcome.

Day 3

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(Not my photo)

Today we dropped the kids off for their second sessions at the Brain Balance center, and went immediately to the nearby farmer’s market. They were in the last half hour of their sale time, so we got half price on a lot of fresh, organic produce. A cup of organic raspberries at the market was $3.00. At the local store to compare prices afterward, we found remarkably that it was $2-3.00 more to buy a similar amount of conventionally grown raspberries. With Daddy home on this Saturday, Day 3 was much brighter than Day 2. He helped me do all three home exercise sessions, and the kids listened to him really well. I’m not sure why this happens, but they often listen better for him than they do for me. Today we had a small breakthrough for Big B. He was working on the “lizard” exercises, which have two parts. It was tough for him to execute yesterday, but today he managed to put his body into the mirror formation of the first position without help. He got SO excited, he jumped up and ran around yelling, “I did it myself, I did it myself!! Mommy, did you see? I did it myself!” So yes, a happy moment today. For a treat, I tried to convert my normal brownies recipe into a product that met the new dietary specs. Sadly, this failed miserably. I was surprised how overly sweet it tasted to me, after having no treats for a few days. We had plenty of meltdowns from Big B today as well, but we worked them out. We also weeded a couple of plant beds, and removed a couple of zucchini plants that had taken over a big chunk of the garden. We went to bed tired.

Day 4

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Looking East over South Jordan

On Sunday, Day 4, we took a break from the home exercises to focus on keeping the Sabbath day. This was a welcome rest. Big B kept asking if we could do the exercises. He also loves taking the lemon flavored fish oil pills at bedtime, and kept thinking that he wouldn’t get his fish oil if we didn’t follow the routine (we use that leverage when needed). I went to visit family in the next valley over, and enjoyed the “me” time immensely. Michael made curry chicken and rice for dinner. He added the Brazilian beans I made yesterday as a side dish, and it complemented the menu quite well. On this day I felt loved and supported by my extended family for our new journey. There really is nothing better than to love and be loved :).

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