Thursday, February 28, 2013

On going plant-based

The first three weeks were the hardest. Besides giving up meat and dairy, I quit all my vices: sugar, coffee, chocolate, alcohol and the occasional diet coke.  I had to figure out what to eat.  Dr. Fuhrman's Eat To Live set out a simple plan which I tried to follow.

I admit, I got started, but was quietly having a little pity party for myself. Why can't I eat like everyone else?  I ate in moderation and even counted calories. I buy organic, rarely eat out, never fast food, no junk, reduced sugar, whole grains, etc. Now I have to give up dairy and meat?  I didn't feel fair, but I was willing to do what ever it took at the moment and really, there was really nothing left to do.

But, then I realized I had a lot of habits to change.  My morning coffee, my late morning coffee, a diet coke at the grocery store, afternoon sweet snacks, a few chocolate chips here and there. I had to muscle through those first few weeks, but I wanted to change, so it didn't feel too hard. However, giving up caffeine is not easy on your body. I felt tired every afternoon and had a mild and constant headache for the first 2 weeks.  Most afternoons, I would lay down and rest, but not fall asleep for about a half an hour and then go on with my day.  I was losing weight, and that kept me going.

I also felt like I was letting go of part of my identity.  I am good cook, I can bake anything, and I know how to put out a delicious spread. I had a hard time wrapping my head around not being those things anymore.  But I thought, where had that gotten me?

I continued to read and finish Fuhrman's book quickly and the pity party also ended quickly.  The book is full of information, motivating research, personal stories, and menu and recipe ideas.  There is one page that gets right to the point and I often go back to it:

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify  
Breakfast: fresh fruit
Lunch: salad, beans on top, and more fruit
Dinner: salad, two cooked vegetables (1lb), fruit dessert

I started each morning, and still do, with a delicious chocolate smoothie made with spinach, unsweetened almond milk, flax seed, unsweetened cocoa powder, banana, and frozen blueberries.  Delicious and chocolately without any added sugar. By the way, I did not have a Vitamix for the first 4 months, and I got by just fine, but I do love my Vitamix now.  Lunch is a large salad, such as one the pictured below.  I like a spicy salad, so my beans always have a chili/cumin, spice mix on them and fresh garlic, I also include onions and herbs on my salad and top it with balsamic vinegar.  Lots and lots of flavors.  If I need a snack, I eat fruit or veggies, which admittedly was easier in the summer when a variety of fresh local veggies were available.   For dinner, I usually eat another smaller salad, cooked veggies, a stir fry, curry dish, bean burger, or veggie chili. I make everything from scratch.

For those first few weeks, I focused on my own needs and for dinner, Dan and the kids ate a lot of easy meals, including plenty of sandwiches.  After a while we started changing the kids diet too and we all gave up meat and dairy (Dan had given up dairy 6 months prior). Making dinner for everyone has been the biggest challenge and we are still trying new recipes all the time, but we have quite a few favorites now.  In those first few weeks, I also bought 2 excellent and now favorite cookbooks: Let Them Eat Vegan and Everyday Happy Herbivore.  We have found many favorite dinners, muffins and cookies for the kids in those books.

After those 3 weeks, I felt better and it wasn't just willpower propelling me.  My back stopped hurting, my carpal tunnel and other aches and pains disappeared and little things changed, like my ankle stopped popping while walking down the stairs.  Also, my period got shorter, less crampy and lighter.  Later my skin cleared up completely.  My BP was reading 95/65, last September, my total cholesterol was 105 (down from 185), my resting heartrate is 55, blood glucose down to 85.  So, I knew it was working for me.  The most surprising part is still that you don't have to be hungry and exercise like crazy to lose weight.  Given the nutrients your body needs, it will heal itself, which includes stabilizing your weight.

I have been on a long slow walk in this direction for a some time.  I finally feel like I have figured it out for myself and real change has happened.  I can not imagine going back to the way I was eating before.  It is hard to explain, but I no longer feel controlled by food.  I don't need caffeine, sugar, alcohol, or decadence.  I don't treat myself with food.  The real treat is the joy I feel everyday.  I am less grumpy and more active and I feel like I am a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend.

I don't think of my diet as restrictive. Instead it has open up a new and delicious world of food. My taste buds have truly changed.  I eat super nutritious food because I want to and that leaves very little room for other foods.  I love what I eat and my body loves it too.  I am thriving again, not just surviving.

The best part, is there are so many excellent plant-based cookbooks out there, that I can still put out a good spread and I promise, you won't think you are missing out on anything and you won't feel a bit of guilt about it eating any of it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On changing everything and finding myself again

My friend Carol and me out on a ski at dusk.  It was about 10 degrees
that evening. I think I had that giddy smile on my face most of the weekend!
I just got back from a fantastic weekend with friends.  We spent our time crosscountry skiing, enjoying the hottub, sharing stories and eating deliciously healthy food.  We did this same trip last year, but I didn't go skiing and the food was delicious, but different.  I enjoyed the trip last year, but this year I felt almost giddy the entire time.  I went skiing! Last year, I didn't think I could keep up, so I didn't ski. This time,  my skis gave me a serious workout, not because I am not fit, but because I don't weigh enough for them to work right.  No kick.  I borrowed my friend's extra skis for the last 2 outings and loved it. In many ways this weekend, I felt like my old self and could finally admit out loud, that being overweight was crappy.  I don't like to wallow in self pity, so I couldn't even admit it to myself before.  I just kept moving forward, trying to find the answer and the energy to make things different.

I feel like I have been moving this direction for a long time, but there were many other pressing issues: motherhood, miscarriages, more babies, homeschooling, moving, planning a house, 7 years of sleep deprivation, etc, etc.  By March of last year, I had been logging calories online and exercising and had managed to lose 4 pounds.  In two months.  Not exactly big progress.  I started thinking that maybe it is not as simple as calories in/calories out. Thankfully, a pivotal moment came at the end of March. I was sitting on the couch with a fever, watching my kids play outside with their dad.  I decided to watch a movie on Netflix called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend this movie, but it was the arrow that pointed toward the rabbit hole.  A man goes on a road trip around the Lower 48 while juicing fruits and vegetables   He doesn't eat any solids, meat or dairy.  He loses a bunch of weight and heals many of his health issues. I was intrigued.

The movie was inspiring, but I wasn't willing to juice for 60 days.  I am a parent, a homeschooling parent too.  My kids are with me nearly 24 hours a day.  I consider myself a role model to them in every way.  I have to be what I want for them.  So, I have never talked about my weight in front of them, I never degrade myself out loud about the way I look, I have never gone on a fad diet, and have strived to put what I believed to be healthy food on our plates every day.   Juicing was not an option I was willing to do in front of my kids.

I googled "most nutritious way to lose weight."  At the time, the second item was to Dr. Fuhrman's website.  I checked it out, I was skeptical so googled him some more, found blogs of people who had read his book, read reviews on Amazon and within a few days ordered 2 books- Eat to Live and Engine 2 Diet.  While I had that fever, I quit caffeine and dairy.  A day later, I decided I had eaten my last turkey sandwich.

I began reading Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman.  Based on a significant amount of research, he advocates for a nutrient-dense diet, focusing on a whole-foods, plant-based menu.  I decided to give it 100 percent for the first 6 weeks, during which I lost 15 pounds, without adding exercise.  Then I decided to give it another 6 weeks, then I was on board until I lost all the weight I wanted to lose.  In the meantime, I fell in love with all the wonderful foods I was eating every day; so many veggies and delicious summer fruits and trying new recipes with the kids.  I also read The China Study and learned more about why it is such a healthy way to eat. I was busy doing activities with the kids, but I was not exercising in a vigorous way, just my usual outdoor adventuring, but I felt so much better about it.

From Thanksgiving through January, my weight loss plateaued (not a pound gained or lost over that time), which is an accomplishment in itself. I made a few adjustments recently, and began losing weight again. Since starting last March, I have lost 60 pounds without counting calories, being hungry, excessive exercise, or compromising my health.  Rather, I have dramatically improved my health and my life.  I am working on losing another 25 pounds and have recently started exercising without my kids because I want to, not because I think I need to.

All three friends that went on this weekend trip, eat like I do.  I am so excited that I helped inspire them to make a change for health too.  While losing weight was my initial motivation, it is not my sole motivation now.  Great health and a long and healthy life are my goals, but really, I love, love, love the food.  I don't want to eat any other way.

Our weekend felt indulgent, mostly because as moms, it is rare that we have free time or someone else making our meals. We took turns with the meals and if you are wondering what we ate, here is an abbreviated menu: after our first ski we had veggies and salsa with a few chips, a hearty curry stew with sweet potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, carrots, mushrooms on top of spinach, peas, green onions, with avocado and cashews. We had some heart-healthy black bean brownies for dessert and there was wine too. The next morning we made smoothies and oatmeal, skied, came back for lunch, which was a big salad topped with mexican quinoa salad, and homemade hummus and veggies and pita, fruit, back out for a ski, then back to the hottub. Dinner was a moroccan sweet potato stew with greens and a bit of wine.  The next day we had a similar breakfast, ski, and big lunch.

I headed home grateful for my heath and new found energy, grateful for old and newer friends, looking forward to the next trip and new skis!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The design program

We had an initial meeting with our architectural team, accepted a scope of work and cost proposal and then met with them again. At that second meeting, we got into a few more design ideas, talked about our old house and our current house, how the rooms might flow in the new house and I shared the following document with them. Sometimes it is called a Program. Sometimes architects make their own version after listening to your needs, but we had been thinking about this house for a long time and had a clear vision of what we were looking for in the design. Maybe we should have been more open minded about the design, but we knew what we liked, and after a disappointing experience with a different architect, we thought it best to be clear about what we wanted. Thankfully, our new architects, Erica and Liz, were willing and able to design a house even better than the one we'd been imagining.

As I read it again, I kind of wanted to edit it. It has been over a year since I handed it to them and few things might not matter anymore. More than that, I really want to ask Erica (the architect who designed our house) what she thought about this list, but maybe I'd be too embarrassed to hear an honest answer. At the time, I really wanted her to know more about who she was designing this house for and what we hoped it would be for our family.

Whatever she really thought, she is an amazing professional and I don't think I could have found a better person for me to work with in Anchorage. Traditional design is not the norm here and is not necessarily Erica's style, or anyone else's here. There were lot of reasons we picked Olberding and White, but a tiny part of it was that Erica grew up in Alaska but went to school at Savannah College of Art and Design and was familiar with the architecture of the South. After living in an architecturally rich neighborhood of Atlanta, I kind of liked that. She was the right person to help us create an Alaska appropriate home that had some of the character of a more traditional home. She and Liz were also interested in helping us build a beautiful and energy efficient home.

For the most part, I am impressed with how much the plans match this list. The biggest difference I can see, is that we went over on the square footage, which also raised our budget. :(  We are at about 3400 sf on the interior of our 10" SIPs walls. When we had a preliminary design, Erica did suggest we start whittling it down, but I said I didn't want to. So, it is mostly because we didn't make many compromises from this list. We could have gone back and cut things, but we didn't.  I feel like we are getting the house we wanted, but we had to wait an extra year to start building it.

So here it is:

The Boorsteins - Dan, Kjerstin, Oliver, Benton, Linnea, and Birdie (the dog)

Our lives center around our house and the adventures we go out on.  Dan works from home and I spend my days learning with our three children at home.  We cook our meals at home and eat together and everyone gets in the kitchen to help.   

We enjoy outdoor activities all year long.  So, we are often heading out for an activity or coming back in with all our stuff that needs a place.  When we are home, we have many hobbies.  We are all avid readers and everyone has their pile (or two) of current favorites, everyone spends time at a computer, Dan does woodworking, and I love to sew and bake.  

We like to be together, but everyone needs a quiet spot sometimes.

We would like our daily activities to follow the sun (morning sun in the family studio and kitchen, evening sun in Living Room).

We like the house to be tidy, so all those books, learning and art materials, games, toys etc, need a place to go when we are not using them.  As well as all our outdoor gear and such.

I love a party, so we have lots of special occasion items, including dishes and serving ware, speciality appliances etc.  Dan also brews beer, so we have considered a kegerator in the house.

We want a place where out of town guests can be comfortable, but not a room that sits vacant the rest of the year.

We would like a semi-attached or detached two car garage with storage space for seasonal items and outdoor gear and workshop

As silly as this might seem, we have a family website called the Solstice Cottage (we were married on Summer Solstice) and we kind of like the image that conjures up for this new house; a sunny, welcoming home, with a nod to at least passive solar, if not active.

General Design Concepts
  • Front facing gable
  • Covered front porch
  • new old house
  • living in the attic
  • modest looking - simple traditional shape, appropriate massing
  • about 2500-3000 square feet - medium sized rooms, open (not vaulted), but defined spaces, with more built-ins, plenty of storage and or closets
  • Highly energy efficient, great windows, passive solar, possibly active solar
  • Sustainable and healthy home  - low VOCs, no-added formaldehyde products, radiant heat, properly ventilated with fresh air exchange system, if used, non-toxic spray foam insulation (TEP or TCPP) and foam board (polyiso), check for radon, whole house water filter/purifier (if needed), durable products (timeless)
  • safe home - built-in fire ladders upstairs, sprinkler system?, carbon monoxide detectors,
  • LEED certified? LED lighting, wired for technology, audio
  • considering a standing seam metal roof

The following is what we have imagined our house to include, but everything is up for discussion.

1st Floor
  • spot for everyday and guest coats, boots, hat/mittens
  • 1-2 benches (boot storage underneath)
  • a bit of a gathering area - we often have another family coming and going with all their winter gear while we all greet them or say good bye.
  • little dream - wide front door w/2 square stained glass windows we already own
Mudroom – connection to attached garage and or side or back doorindividual storage areas
storage for assorted gear ( small walk-in?) - seasonal items, extra backpacks, etc.
dog area- feeding spot and food storage

large room for both laundry and storage
storage baskets for dirty linens and rugs
Cleaning supplies area, including spot for vacuum and floor cleaners
Utility sink

¾ bath Guest Bedroom/Sewing Room 2 closets would be nice, but not necessary (one for sewing, one for guests)
may have a murphy bed, so I can use the room for sewing the rest of the year.  

Living Room
wood-burning fireplace or woodstove
symmetrical fireplace and cabinetry 
built-in bookcases
room enough for 2 small sofas/loveseats, and a chair (at least 14’x14’),
preferably not larger than 18’x18’
TV space (54” tv behind cabinetry)

Dining Room
Everyday dining
Round Table – size 54” expandable to 108”
Built-in storage
china, glassware, silverware storage, specialty dishware storage or display
linen storage (tablecloths and napkins)
small wine and liquor storage, kegerator

Kitchen - For me, this house starts with the kitchen, its functionality, an unconventional amount of windows, and its connection to other spaces.
large sink – dish station –sink, dishwasher, storage,
more windows, less upper cabinetry
either large stove & oven  but could do a separate cooktop and ovens
baking area – large mixer, baking supplies, 
trash and recycling area
near kitchen - small spot for phones and calendar, small household tools, etc.
Walk-in Pantry
storage for bulk pantry items, occasional items, freezer?

Family Studio  
connection to kitchen
semi-open (double pocket doors/barn door)
closet or built-ins –kids’ learning, arts and crafts supplies
space for kids table for crafts and learning projects
wall space for computers (2-3 desktops)
space available for a sofa or even built in spot to read books together 
Our current space is about 16x12 plus, 10x10, but just 16x16 should be plenty

Master Bedroom
space for queen sized bed, dresser, chair and ottomancloset for 2 (walk-in?)possibly a small fireplacebuilt-in bookshelvesdreamy extra - sitting area 

Master Bath
double vanity double showerlinen closetprivate toiletfreestanding tub 

Kids Rooms (2)
1)  large enough for 2 twin beds, 2 dressers, closet space for 2 kids
2) same or smaller room (1 child) (she has a day bed with a trundle bed)

Kids Bathroom
double vanity
private toilet
bathtub?/shower (height adjustable shower head)
linen storage

Dan’s office
south facing windows - he dreams of a 3rd floor tower.  :)

Possible Extras Upstairs
upstairs linen closets(s) and storage for 2nd vacuum cleaneradditional laundry closet built in bookshelves and/or cozy window seat

Outdoor Living Ideas
deck and covered front porch