Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Busy, Busy!

It is becoming more the rule than the exception that my time between posts is long...

The 4th broadcast of Journey to Wellness is now playing on ALL NOiSE RaDiO. If you missed it, you can 'tune in' via the internet or the mobile app tomorrow and Saturday, Aug. 27 (both at 10 am Eastern) to hear the show. Our 5th show is recorded and ready for broadcast starting on the following Thursday. Due to time constraints, I decided that the Journey to Wellness show would run for two weeks giving Marcus and I more time between sessions. It is a bit difficult to coordinate our schedules on a weekly basis. When each new show debuts every other Thursday, I am also uploading it to the podcast server.
My other show, Armchair All-Stars, runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 3:00 pm Eastern. This one runs weekly, so I need to get together with my group (sometimes consisting of just me and Chris) every week to record and edit the show for broadcast.
In addition to the two internet radio shows, I am still going in to Hartford once a week (sometimes more) for my internship at The Rock 106.9 WCCC.

Yesterday, after my recording/editing session with Chris and our special guest, Randy Rowe, I had a meeting in North Haven regarding an upcoming video project. The videos that are currently being planned will be part of a nationwide, online training program for school nurses specifically dealing with asthma management for students. This is a really exciting project to be involved with! This is an unpaid position, but major doors will be opened for me because of it.

Tomorrow is going to be another full day for me. After my internship (10am-5pm), I have a production meeting for our student-produced cable access television show - ConnecTV - at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. We are fast approaching our deadline of Sept. 1st for video pieces for inclusion in the show and we plan to tape the final show on Sept. 8th. There is a lot yet to be done, but things are moving in the right direction!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time flies!

Wow, it has been over a month since I last updated this blog but there is good reason for it - I promise! My journey to wellness has led me to places along the way that I could never have predicted. While I still feel that I have some 'walking' to do on the journey, the things that I have been able to achieve have been amazing. (Song: "Feels Like The First Time" - Foreigner)

As you know, I attended - and completed - phase 1 of classes at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. One result of my completion of phase 1 is that I now have two internet radio shows that are broadcast over ALL NOiSE RaDiO - one show is a direct extension of this blog, suitably called Journey to Wellness and the second is a sports talk show called Armchair All-Stars. Journey to Wellness has now seen three shows go over the internet and also has a presence on iTunes as a podcast. Armchair All-Stars is just getting underway. My co-hosts and I got into the studio this past Tuesday and recorded what should be our first show. Our original intent was for our session to be a sort of dress rehearsal, but after reviewing the recording we will likely post it for broadcast. Armchair All-Stars will also be available on iTunes once we officially launch.

A little over a week ago, I went to my 25th high school reunion. It was great to see my friends. While there were a few that weren't there that I was really hoping to see, I was glad to see everyone that did attend. If you had asked me back in 2006 to go, I would have had to decline. There is no way that I would have been able to do it. Even the condition that I was in two years ago would have made it next to impossible.

Finally, I interviewed for a job! On August 1st, I spent almost two hours on the campus of ESPN in Bristol, CT interviewing and touring the campus. It was great experience and totally a result of my journey to wellness.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Journey to Wellness - the Podcast!

It is finally live! - well, live in a recorded sort of way...

Through an interesting path on my journey to wellness, I have started a radio show/podcast! Having completed my course at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, I am now able to host my own internet radio show through ALL NOiSE RaDiO. It seemed a logical step to bring my blog - the very blog that you find yourself reading right now - to the airwaves. I invited my good friend, Marcus Milukas, into the studio as a perpetual guest on the program. We discuss various wellness related topics over the course of a 1 hour talk radio show.
As an adjunct to the ALL NOiSE RaDiO broadcast, I have posted the individual segments (four 14 minute segments make up the hour) on a podcasting service and have submitted it (pending approval) to iTunes!

You can also visit us on facebook at Journey to Wellness.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Fix the Flapper!

Going forward, I am not going to be tying every post - well, nearly every post - to a song or album. It was fun while it lasted, but as it went on I found that it was hindering me in posting entries. If I didn't have a good song reference, I wasn't posting anything. It had taken over from the real reason for this blog. While I might, occasionally, make a song reference or two, it will no longer keep me from posting when I just can't come up with one.
What has been and will continue to be the primary focus of this blog - my personal journey to wellness - is becoming an internet radio broadcast - suitably called Journey to Wellness! My recent completion of Phase I of courses at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting comes with some privileges. In addition to lifetime use of the studios (at any of the 12 campuses), I can develop and broadcast my own radio show via ALL NOiSE RaDiO - an internet radio station powered by CSB. Actually, I have several radio shows in the works, but putting together Journey to Wellness has been a major thrill for me over the last couple of weeks. One reason for this was the fact that putting this show together resulted in a reunion with a good friend of mine, Marcus Milukas. Marcus and I reconnected through facebook a while ago and found that we live only about an hour away from each other.
Marcus is going to be a perpetual guest on Journey to Wellness. Together, we are going to discuss wellness-related topics. He is going to focus on the emotional wellness while I focus on the nutritional and physical wellness. In addition, we will be inviting various guests to discuss financial wellness, spiritual wellness, and other aspects of wellness - it all depends on the guests that we find!
I will be announcing when the show airs once I have that information so please be sure to tune in! that I am not referencing songs in every post's title, just what does the title of this post refer to? "Fix the Flapper" is my new motto and to find out what it means you will just have to listen to the show!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Spirit of Radio

After a month of (almost) daily posting - except for Sundays - during the month of April, it has been over two weeks since my last entry. My absence can be explained by the fact that these last couple of weeks have been really busy!
I finished up Phase I at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and have been getting things started for Phase II. While Phase II is likely to be a lot less intense than Phase I, there is still work to be done - demos to record, resumes to be sent, radio shows to be broadcast... all hopefully leading to an internship and a job! When I started attending classes at CSB, I was pretty sure that I wanted to get into radio. Now, I am not so sure if I prefer radio over TV. Honestly, I like both and would be happy with a job in either field. I couldn't resist using Rush's song The Spirit of Radio as the title of this post!

Today, as a sort of reward for finishing Phase I, I purchased a new pair of shoes for myself. In a previous post, I mentioned Vibram's FiveFingers. Originally I decided to pass on the FiveFingers, but I kept wanting to take another look at them. Additionally, I kept seeing other people wearing them. While I don't pay a lot of attention to the shoes that other people are wearing, these shoes are pretty noticeable. Well, I went back to the store to give them another shot. I tried on two different pairs - one that I had tried on my previous trip and a new style that wasn't previously available. I ended up buying (and loving!) the FiveFingers Bikila LS. I am really looking forward to going for a walk wearing these shoes! I think that they are going to be a major part of my journey to wellness.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'Z'

As you might imagine, coming up with a topic that begins with Z is not the easiest thing to do. Compounded with the fact that my personal challenge is to somehow incorporate my a-z challenge topics with my journey to wellness and it becomes even harder. In fact, I actually had a couple of options in mind for the letter Z but I decided on the use of Z in the popular phrase 'catch some ZZZZ's' for my topic today.

To catch some ZZZZ's means to get some sleep. According to The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, this phrase traces its origins to the common use of the 'ZZZZ' or 'zzzz' in cartoons to indicate a sleeping character.
An example of 'Z' indicating sleep - note the final panel.

 Sleep is an absolute necessity on my journey to wellness. When I first started treatments in the hospital, my wake/sleep schedule became completely messed up. Fatigue had a major role in that - I would sleep anytime that I needed to - but having to take a dose of medication every six hours meant that I would be awake at times that I would not normally be. The combination of sleeping due to fatigue and waking at odd times (and being unable to fall back to sleep right away) was not a good one.
Though I am no longer dosing with medication at odd hours, I still have bouts of fatigue that just demand that I am frequently dozing at odd hours. I absolutely refuse to take any sleep aids. One doctor recommended (and was rather upset when I refused) that I do so in order to restore a more normal sleep schedule. I just didn't think that I needed any sort of pharmaceutical assistance with it. The last thing that I want to do it to become dependent on a drug for something as natural as sleep. The further recommendation to take a stimulant in the morning so that I could stay awake through the day and 'would be tired at an appropriate time' cemented my decision to avoid drug-assisted sleep.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'Y'

Yogurt is my topic for today - the second to last post in April's A-Z challenge. Yogurt plays a slightly smaller role in my journey to wellness now than it did even a couple of months ago only because it has taken a back seat to my homemade kefir (check out my post - Wouldn't It Be Nice - for the start of my kefir adventures). Like kefir, yogurt is a cultured milk product and is beneficial for digestion.

Early on my journey to wellness I attempted making yogurt at home with varying degrees of success. Yogurt doesn't take a lot of effort but it does take patience and warmth - and a little yogurt to get the process started. The only available heat source I have that suited my needs - well, the yogurt's needs - is my Crock-Pot. Sometimes it got too warm in the Crock-Pot for the culture and the yogurt didn't always come out right. At $7.50 per gallon of raw milk, I didn't really relish the potential of having a failed batch as a result of too much heat. As a result, I gave up on making my own yogurt until such time as I could acquire a yogurt maker designed for the purpose. They don't cost much, but kitchen space is a premium so I have held off on getting a new gadget. Making kefir is so much easier and requires no heat above room temperature, so that is now my primary source of probiotics.
The best commercial yogurt that I could find is from Stonyfield Farm though Deerfield Farm - the source of my raw milk - also makes yogurt regularly. When I get yogurt, it is from one of these two sources. In both cases though, the milk is pasteurized prior to being cultured.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'X'

Today's post is one that doesn't impact my journey to wellness too greatly as I have not come to a decision as to how I feel about 'xylitol.'  Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that metabolizes differently than sugar. According to, xylitol is "a naturally occurring carbohydrate. It is found in fibrous vegetables and fruit. It also occurs naturally in our bodies – in fact, an average size adult manufactures up to 15 grams of xylitol daily during normal metabolism. Pure xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar."
My uncertainty stems from the fact that in order for xylitol to be used as a sweetener it needs to be extracted from a source. How it is extracted - what process and/or chemicals might be used - is a mystery to me at this point. Additionally, the food that it is added to would have to be processed to some degree. On the upside, there are some known benefits to using xylitol - specifically as a cavity fighter.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'W'

Today's topic for the A-Z challenge is 'walking.' Since the onset of my symptoms, something as simple as walking has often been a struggle for me - though considerably less of an issue now than even one year ago.

I was admitted to the hospital in September of 2006 when I attempted to walk a short distance from the courthouse in Middletown to Russell Library - a grand total of 0.2 miles, though with a slight incline. I experienced an extreme shortness of breath and barely made it. Prior to that, walking in a straight line without some sort of support was an issue.
In the hospital, I was immediately put on a corticosteroid similar to prednisone and issued a pair of red socks - the steroid was used to reduce swelling and the socks indicated that I was not allowed to walk without assistance (they were afraid that I would fall and hurt myself).
The prednisone-like steroid caused me to gain a lot of weight over the almost 5 months that I was taking it. While steroid helped me in one aspect, it hurt me in other aspects. After coming off of it, I had odd issues - super-sensitive teeth, no appetite at all (just the smell of food made me sick) - in addition to the problems that go along with obesity.

Prior to October 2008 (you may recall from previous posts that this is when I started taking VIDACELL), my walking was limited to flat surfaces with hand rails for support and then only for short periods. Grocery shopping with a shopping cart to lean on was a decent option. After October 2008, walking became a regular part of my journey to wellness.

Walking for fitness and walking for mobility are two different entities yet very similar. The first is something that we all should do more often yet it seems like a chore for many of us. The second is something that we easily take for granted.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'V'

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you likely know what my topic is for today - VIDACELL! I credit VIDACELL for kicking off my journey to wellness. October 2008 is when I began using it and it definitely turned me in the right direction.

Rather than repeat everything that I have said about VIDACELL in this blog, I encourage you to go back and read about it. The first post that mentions VIDACELL was posted on January 5th, 2010 (over a year after I began using it!) called "New Year..."

I am amazed at my own progress when I go back and read the previous posts. In this regard, simply blogging about my journey to wellness has been a considerable benefit for me. On days when I don't feel particularly  good about my progress, I can go back and read about my life from a month or year ago to see how far I have come.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'U'

Today's topic for the a-z challenge is 'ultraviolet light.' This is a bit of a two-fer for me as UV light is the primary source (or, should be) of vitamin D. The kicker is that UV light is also implicated in causing skin cancer. It is a fine line that we walk between getting adequate vitamin D and being at risk for skin cancer! One thing that I have been a lot more aware of is sun exposure. As a part of my journey to wellness, I have been trying to get some more activity outdoors - gardening, walking the dog, playing with the kids - whenever the sun is shining. Here in the Northeast, sunshine is sometimes hard to come by.

The important thing to remember is that we don't need to suffer sunburn in order to get adequate vitamin D production - all it takes is about 15-20 minutes in the sun around noon. Of course, the use of sunscreen will negate the vitamin D production so unless you are planning on spending hours in the sun, don't use them (have you ever considered the fact that more cases of cancer have been reported since we began using sunscreen than in the years previous to it?). One guideline for getting out of the sun is to watch your skin coloration. Once it just starts to turn pink, you are done - tanning is not required for adequate vitamin D.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'T'

My a-z challenge topic for today is 'toxin.' My journey to wellness became a necessity thanks to - I believe - toxins. As I have stated several times, I do not believe that multiple sclerosis is responsible for my symptoms. Rather, I truly believe that I am suffering from the toxic effects of aspartame and sucralose among other things. Prior to the onset of my symptoms I was living a fairly clean life except for a considerable consumption of processed foods. I didn't use artificial sweeteners very much at all. I just didn't like the aftertaste of Splenda (sucralose), Equal (aspartame), or NutraSweet (aspartame) so I avoided using them. Splenda was a bit more palatable so when I did use a sweetener on a rare occasion, that was my choice. Then, the Coca-Cola Company released Coke Zero sweetened with aspartame (after the failure of their Splenda-sweetened Diet Coke) and I was undone. The taste was exactly like their regular Coke - without the nasty aspartame aftertaste. Honestly, I ended up drinking way too much of it. Within a few months, my symptoms started.

Toxins are everywhere. They are not just present in food as artificial sweeteners. Artificial colors and flavors, mono-sodium glutamate, bisphenol A (BPA - found in plastics), and mercury are just a few examples of toxins that we are regularly exposed to. Eating foods as close to their natural state as possible - organic is preferred (but don't assume that 'organic' equates to 'good for you' - as processing can turn nutritious foods into toxic sludge.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'S'

'Soaked and sprouted' is the topic of the day for the A-Z Challenge. Grains, nuts, and seeds are commonly used in many recipes and processed foods. The problem is that grains, nuts, and seeds are all loaded with anti-nutrients like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that can not only render these otherwise nutritious foods useless and even toxic. By properly preparing these grains, nuts, and seeds prior to eating them, we would likely avoid a lot of problems. Soaking and/or sprouting will neutralize the phytic acid and the enzyme inhibitors. In most cases, the nutritional value also improves after sprouting!
Soaking and dehydrating nuts like almonds and peanuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds has become a regular part of my journey to wellness. As I write this entry, I am running some soaked pumpkin seeds through the dehydrator. I soaked them for the last 24 hours in a solution of filtered water, sea salt, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. This makes a really nice, slightly spicy snack.

I recommend the Sproutman's Kitchen Garden Cookbook: 250 flourless, Dairyless, Low Temperature, Low Fat, Low Salt, Living Food Vegetarian Recipes for more information about sprouting.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'R'

My journey to wellness is pretty much all about recovery, so guess what my topic is for today... That's right - raw milk! OK, so it may be cheating to technically talk about milk on 'r' day by tagging it with 'raw' but there really is a difference between raw and pasteurized milk.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'Q'

Today's topic was a no-brainer - quinoa! Quinoa - pronounced keen-wah - is an amazingly versatile food. It is loaded with nutrients - 8g protein, 39g carbohydrate (5g of which is fiber), and 4g fat in a one cup serving.

Quinoa is a relatively recent discovery for me on my journey to wellness. It is one of the recommended additions to The Maker's Diet during phase three and I really hadn't even heard of it prior to reading the book. Looking back in this blog, I have made 5 previous mentions of quinoa and, rather than repeat writing about my discovery process in this post, I will simply direct you to those entries:
 Mind you, 3 of these five posts have little to do with quinoa...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'P'

Previous to Friday, if you had personally posed the question, "What is your P topic potentially going to be?" I would possibly have been planning to proselytize the properties of peppermint or perhaps the benefits of proper prior planning and how it impacts production quality - preventing poor production, specifically.
OK, well enough of that...

Seriously, though I hadn't planned on today's topic being a movie called Peaceful Warrior until I watched it on Friday. I borrowed it from the library last Wednesday and I had some time on Friday at home alone, so I popped it into the DVD player. I really didn't know what to expect. I knew that it was based on a true story and that there was also a book - Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives.
The movie and the message were both excellent. I wish that I could recommend this to everybody, but the language was less than family-friendly. If foul language doesn't bother you or you can ignore it knowing that the message is worth it, go ahead and give this movie a chance. I am definitely going to incorporate some of the principles into my journey to wellness.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'O'

I considered a couple of topics beginning with O for today's post. I decided on 'omega-3.' Prior to my need to walk on my journey to wellness - when I thought I was healthy - I had been researching omega-3s. A co-worker who suffered from bipolar disorder had been taking an omega-3 supplement to help with his depression. While depression was never an issue for me, I was interested in learning more about the benefits of omega-3s so I read The Omega-3 Connection by Andrew Stoll as recommended by my co-worker.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in our diets because the human body is incapable of making them. People consuming proper ratios of omega-3s to omega-6 fatty acids have shown improvements in overall health.
Unfortunately, while omega-6 fatty acids re also essential, the ratio of 3s to 6s is far out of whack in the standard American diet. As well, due to the popularity of the low-fat craze, overall consumption of essential fatty acids have also taken a hit.

Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, grass fed beef and raw milk from pastured cows, and wild caught fish including salmon, anchovies, and tuna.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'N'

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats is the topic for today.
Yes, that is a really long title for a book - but it is a really big book! Sally Fallon, the author, is the president and co-founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation - a nonprofit, tax-exempt nutrition education foundation. Both the foundation and the book shine a light on the benefits of proper, traditional nutrition and the drawbacks of the highly processed - supposedly healthy - foods that we are now inundated with.

The back cover of the book says it best:
"Recalling the culinary customs of our ancestors, and looking ahead to a future of robust good health for young and old, Nourishing Traditions offers modern families a fascinating guide to wise food choices and proper preparation techniques. Sally Fallon unites the wisdom of the ancients with the latest independent and accurate scientific research in over 700 delicious recipes that will please both exacting gourmets and busy parents."

This book has been a wonderful tool on my journey to wellness. In his book, The Maker's Diet, Jordan Rubin references Nourishing Traditions frequently. After reading Rubin's book, I immediately checked Nourishing Traditions out from the library and have since purchased the Kindle version of it that I use on the Kindle for PC (a free download from

Friday, April 15, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'M'

One of the first steps on my journey to wellness was when I started following The Maker's Diet, so that is my topic for today.The Maker's Diet is based strictly on the foods eaten in the Old Testament. By following this diet, Jordan Rubin, the author of the book cured himself of Crohn's Disease. Crohn's Disease is "a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract." (Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America) It is generally an incurable condition, though Jordan Rubin has proved that to be wrong.

As with any change of lifestyle, The Maker's Diet is not the easiest diet to follow at first - especially if you are accustomed to the standard American diet.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'L'

Like 'J,' 'L' was another tough one to find a topic that fit with the theme of my journey to wellness. I think that I was trying to be too specific. What I finally came up with is 'liquids.' Proper hydration is a key to wellness. Often we hear the recommendation to "drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water every day." That is not the easiest thing to do.
While it may be a valid recommendation, drinking that much water every day is not as important as consuming enough liquid. My point being that the liquid that you ingest does not have to come via an actual glass of water - milk, juice, and other liquids present in foods do count toward your total. Additionally, the signals produced by the body indicating dehydration are often confused for hunger pangs so proper hydration can prevent overeating and can be a factor in weight loss.
It is important to remember that not all liquids are created equal when it comes to hydration. One reason why water is recommended is because it doesn't carry any unwanted calories. Beverages that include caffeine or other diuretics can cause the body to eliminate more liquid than they provide so coffee, cola, and tea may not always be the best choice to quench your thirst.

Personally, I almost always have a glass of water within reach. We installed a faucet-mounted water filtered several years ago and it has turned out to be a major savings over bottled water. You can check out my analysis of it in an article I wrote 3 years ago - The PUR Vertical Faucet Filter with Three-Stage Filtration.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'K'

The hardest choice for 'K' was whether to use kombucha or kefir as my topic. I have great reasons to talk about both of them - so I will! These have really become a major part of my journey to wellness.
Now that the weather is getting warmer, I really want to start brewing my own kombucha. Getting the SCOBY isn't really my concern. I have found several, reasonably priced sources. I would rather find someone local that is already brewing it to get a baby SCOBY from, but so far no luck on that. The bigger part of the problem is having a suitable place to brew it - we just don't have that much room in our kitchen - and buying suitable equipment to brew it in. One website sells a 'continuous brewing system' that starts at about $170. While this isn't too expensive, it is a big chunk of cash up front. Somehow, an average of $4 per bottle seems a lot more affordable when spread over time rather than a big, one-time purchase. Of course, the brewing costs are minimal - a couple of tea bags and some sugar every once in a while will cost me considerably less per serving than the bottled kombucha.

Raw milk kefir has been an almost daily mainstay for me since I started making it in November of last year. While I intend to continue making and drinking milk kefir, I am now also making water kefir. I intend to replace some of my milk kefir consumption (average 20 oz. per day) with water kefir. Though it isn't always daily, I usually drink some milk kefir first thing in the morning - after I drink my VIDACELL -  to start the day with the probiotics and occasionally drink some more prior to eating the larger meal(s) of the day. My plan for water kefir is to use it in place of the pre-meal probiotic in addition to using it for regular hydration throughout the day. I may also alternate it with milk kefir for my morning probiotic drink.
For the last couple of days, I have added some additional whey that I got directly from Deerfield Farm - a by-product of their cheese-making - to my milk kefir. I only added about 2 oz.whey to the 20 oz. bottle of kefir. So as not to interfere with the culturing process, I waited until the kefir was done and strained (to recover the grains for the next batch) prior to adding the whey. The whey provides a nice boost to the protein content of the kefir.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'J'

So far, this has been the most difficult topic for me to come up with. It needed to begin with the letter J and, for my purposes, fit in with my blog topic - My Journey to Wellness. It was then that it hit me...'journey' would be my topic. This truly has been a journey for me over the last couple of years. After my initial hospitalization in September of 2006, I really wasn't expecting to ever approach any normalcy in my life. Prior to the onset of symptoms, I had been in the best shape of my then-38 year life.
A little history here...I was 6'2" and 220 pounds in 8th grade and even though I participated in sports and other activities I would never weigh less than that 220 mark until 2001 when I began following the Atkins Diet. With the restricted sugars and a regular exercise program, I finally got myself down to 205 pounds and stayed there for several years. I truly believe that things began to turn sour when Coca-Cola released Coke Zero. Up until that point, I really didn't bother using artificial sweeteners but I really began drinking a lot of Coke Zero - sweetened, of course, with aspartame. It wasn't too long after that that the symptoms started. After six months of gradually worsening symptoms, I was hospitalized. This was when the corticosteroids started along with ridiculous weight gain. I ballooned up to 300 pounds due to the steroids and the inability to maintain any form of extended activity - 15 minutes of any type of movement would completely drain me.
The good news is that September of 2006 - when I was hospitalized - was as bad as it got. From that point on, things didn't necessarily get better, but they didn't get any worse. Eventually, I was stepped down off of the steroids. With the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis came the prescription of Rebif. While this was supposedly helping me but the side effects were completely unbearable. Injection site reaction (redness and pain) and flu-like symptoms hit me really hard. I took myself off of it largely due to this but also when I learned that it was costing me (and insurance) $24,000 per year. This was probably the true starting point of my journey to wellness. It was when I really started to explore alternate therapies.
My journey to wellness really began to make some progress when I started taking VIDACELL - a little over two years after I was hospitalized. A month later, we adopted Ginger from the Humane Society because I felt that I was able to walk and care for a dog.
The next major advancement on my journey to wellness came when I began to really take tighter controls over the food that I was eating. I began following The Maker's Diet in January of 2010. Since this time, I gradually began to make better food choices - free range chicken and eggs instead of caged, corn-fed chicken, grass fed beef instead of feedlot beef, raw milk instead of pasteurized (or worse, ultra-pasteurized) milk, sprouted grains instead of whole grains, etc. It has been a slow but steady process - and not always perfect - but the results are undeniable.
I haven't quite gotten back down to 205 and I still have some nagging symptoms but I am not the same person that I was 4 years ago. My interest in better food sources has led me to composting and gardening in addition to better meal planning and preparation (the microwave has not been used in well over a year and Teflon has been eradicated from our house).
My journey to wellness is far from over, but I can't complain about my progress thus far!

Monday, April 11, 2011

So Excited!

Today's song is So Excited by Stevie Ray Vaughn. I am really excited because my water kefir grains arrived today! Moments after reading the really simple instructions, I started the process of brewing my own water kefir. It will take a minimum of 48 hours for the sugar water to fully ferment. If the kefir is still too sweet, I can choose to allow the grains to continue working for up to 6 days.
I went searching for other possible recipes to add some variety and it seems that just about anything will work. One kefir maker suggests straining out the grains, adding fresh squeezed/pressed juices to the 'brew,' and allowing it to ferment for another day before refrigerating. The longer it is allowed to ferment, the lower the sugar content and the higher the alcohol content. Every site that I checked noted that the alcohol content will not get to anything higher than 1% as there just isn't enough sugar to bring it higher. It is at this point that I really wish I had a juicer so that I could juice some grapes, apples, or other fruits to add to the recipe. Citrus fruits are easily squeezed, so I might just opt for lemonade kefir for the first attempt. While this isn't really a new step on my journey to wellness, it is certainly a modification.

Another reason for my excitement today is that I discovered a new flavor (for me) of kombucha! I stopped in to a not-so-local Whole Foods Market to see what they offered for kombucha and found that they had a really nice selection to choose from. They carry a wide variety of GT's kombucha and Synergy drinks. They are also almost $1.00 cheaper per bottle than It's Only Natural. I just wish that they were more local... Anyway, they only had a couple of bottles of the Gingerade flavor so I decided to try something different. My new favorite variety of kombucha is GT's Synergy Ginerberry! Instead of being pure kombucha, Synergy is 95% kombucha and 5% fruit juice so it is a bit higher in sugar. I had previously tried the Trilogy variety and while I liked it, I didn't find it to be all that different. As a result, I wasn't expecting much from the Gingerberry. The flavor blew me away! I will definitely be getting some more of it.

A-Z Challenge - 'I'

'Interval' is the topic of the day - as in interval training. Interval training is a great way to maximize results from exercise without spending too much time working out. It works by alternating bouts of lesser intensity exercise with bouts of higher intensity exercise. Rather than try to explain it myself, I will instead refer you to Dr. Mercola's website and his Peak 8 training. Interval training has been extremely helpful for me on my journey to wellness.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

No Need to Implement Plan B

I purchased a new pack of pepper seeds just in case the ones I planted in the seed starter never ended up sprouting but never got around to planting them. As it turns out, plan B is not needed as the original seeds finally started sprouting. (Today's song reference is actually an album reference - Plan B by the Steve Dunn Band.) The only problem now is that the weather has not been consistently warm enough to move the tomato and cucumber seedlings outside and the pepper seedlings are far too new to take the lid off of the 'greenhouse' during the middle of the day when the sun is strongest. Hopefully, I will be able to plant the tomatoes and cucumbers soon and allow the peppers to fully develop.

Today was a pretty good day. Went to church in the morning, had lunch at Mortensen's with the family, gave myself a haircut (and it came out looking pretty good), and went for a walk (again, with the family but with the addition of Ginger).

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the water kefir grains that I ordered the other day. I received confirmation that they have shipped, but there is no tracking information available. Hopefully my order will arrive soon and I will be able to start making and drinking water kefir! I know there is more than just water required to make water kefir, but it will still be considerably more affordable than milk kefir (though I will continue to make that - just less of it) and kombucha (until I start making that, too!). I am really excited about the potential of this next step on my journey to wellness!
I found a site comparing kombucha to water kefir. Check it out at: Common Sense Homesteading.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'H'

I can't think of a better H-word for today's topic than honey - specifically raw honey. Raw honey is an amazing, natural food. It has to be truly raw, however. Honey that has been heated at more than 117 degrees Fahrenheit is no longer considered to be raw - above that temperature, the beneficial enzymes are destroyed.
On my journey to wellness, I have sworn off all artificial sweeteners and avoid using regular sugar. Instead, I opt for raw honey or pure maple syrup when needing a touch of sweetness. I have a firm conviction that multiple sclerosis in not to blame for my condition but rather it comes from excessive use of aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) and sucralose (Splenda). While I never used the little blue, pink, and yellow packets of sweetener, I did go through a phase of drinking way too much diet soda. It wasn't long into this phase that my symptoms began. Though my suspicions had not been confirmed, I immediately swore off diet soda. My symptoms worsened even after discontinuing all aspartame and sucralose usage but, given the way that toxins are stored in the body, my hypothesis still makes sense. Today, in fact, I read an article published by Dr. Mercola regarding the topic of the negative effects of aspartame. Please, take some time and educate yourself about the dangers by visiting his site at: Victoria Inness-Brown's Aspartame Experiment.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'G'

For the letter G, I am highlighting a company. This may seem a bit odd but it is because of this company that my journey to wellness really got started. Prior to my association with them I was in pretty rough shape. GreatLife International is the company behind VIDACELL. Established in 2006, GreatLife International is based in Kennesaw, Georgia but truly is international having a presence in Mexico, Canada, Ecuador, Guatemala, Columbia, and Panama.
GreatLife International's mission statement reads:
"To be a company recognized worldwide for its integrity, purpose, and ongoing commitment to improving the lives of others, through a revolutionary product, and an unprecedented financial opportunity. To be a company whose leadership reflects a sincere desire and dedication to making a difference in the world today, and for future generations to come."
In addition to this, they have established a charitable organization - GreatLife 4 All.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'F'

Fermentation is the topic of the day. When we hear the word fermented we tend to think of alcohol, but there are a couple of fermented beverages that have less to do with the alcohol and more to do with probiotics. Kefir, kombucha, and kvass are three that come immediately to mind (don't worry, I'll be covering at least two of these in more detail on 'K'-day). In addition to these beverages, many foods also gain some nutritional benefits when fermented. Cabbage, for instance, is pretty good as it is but when fermented - becoming sauerkraut - it can be quite a bit better. Personally, this is not a good example as I can't stand the smell or taste of sauerkraut - but most people don't even realize that it is just fermented cabbage.
I have fairly recently embraced fermented drinks as a part of my regular nutritional intake. I have definitely seen some benefits!

For more information on fermented foods - specifically lacto-fermented foods (using whey from milk as the catalyst) - check out the book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A-Z Challenge - 'E'

Nope, vitamin E is not the topic of the day. Instead, I am choosing Ezekiel 4:9 Bread as my topic. One of the giant steps on my journey to wellness was when I began to follow The Maker's Diet which recommends limiting the intake of bread. When eating bread, however, the author suggests using an Ezekiel-type bread - meaning a bread made from sprouted grains.
Ezekiel Bread gets its name from the biblical passage: "Take also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make bread of it..." Food For Life, Inc. says: "We discovered when these six grains and legumes are sprouted and combined, an amazing thing happens. A complete protein is created that closely parallels the protein found in milk and eggs. In fact, the protein quality is so high, that it is 84.3% as efficient as the highest recognized source of protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids. There are 18 amino acids present in this unique bread – from all vegetable sources – naturally balanced in nature.
Ezekiel 4:9® Bread, made from freshly sprouted organically grown grains, is naturally flavorful and bursting with nutrients. Rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and natural fiber with no added fat. Try it served warm to release its exceptionally rich nutty flavor."
One of the major problems with the Standard American Diet is the inclusion of bleached white flour. Whole wheat flour isn't much better, either. Sprouted grains are really what we should be using. I recommend reading any or all of the following books: