R E M I S S I O N

Monday was the best day I’ve had in a long time.

“Are we allowed to use the ‘R-word’? Are you saying I’m in remission?”
“Yes. You can say that you’re in remission! Be proud of our hard work.” <- my doc.

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After nearly five years since my diagnosis with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, my medical chart has added a new word to its history: REMISSION

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A brief recap:
Late September 2012: began noticing symptoms (x rated version: bloody stools 30x daily and through the night, fatigue, sudden weight loss, nausea)
October 2012: Diagnosis “Moderate to Severe Ulcerative Colitis”; began Remicade IV treatments immediately
April 2013: hospitalization (“holistic approach” without meds didn’t work- oops)
May 2014: Mega-flare
June 2014: diagnosis changed to “Crohn’s disease” after 2nd colonoscopy
July 2015: Ran first half-marathon while fundraising for cures to Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America; still not in remission
August 2016: Concerns that Remicade infusions are losing efficacy; increase frequency of infusions
December 2016: New medical center, new doctor, new state, new meds
February 2017: Diagnosis is confirmed to original dx after 3rd (or 4th?) colonoscopy and biopsies, “Moderate to Severe Ulcerative Colitis”
May 2017: Reached clinical REMISSION

…what does that mean?

My labs are normal, showing no signs of active disease, meaning that my inflammatory markers are all within normal range. Also my micronutrients are all within normal ranges. I have zero symptoms in a day. ZERO. And then I wake up the next day after sleeping completely through, and I have zero symptoms again, and it keeps happening.

There’s no guarantee how long remission will last, since there’s no medical cure for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. My doctor is enthusiastic to work with me though, and he thinks there’s hope in the future for me to eventually live life without my IV infusion with a 50% chance of relapse. I actually like those odds, and I’ve NEVER heard a doctor reference my life without infusions, so this made me cry happy tears…and I’m not a happy tears kinda girl. However, weaning my body off of the infusion will take months, potentially even years because it’s a slow balancing act: increase the time between infusions, check blood, remain on oral medications, check symptoms, lower dosage of oral meds, check blood, etc.

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The goal now is to stay in remission and eventually get into “deep remission”. To me it sounds like I’m currently in remission with training wheels, but I gotta ride like a pro before I can be set free. More patience and hard work, and I am completely up for it!

In order to appreciate a milestone of this magnitude, I’m gonna be nostalgic for a hot second. Lessons I’ve learned from Crohn’s/ulcerative colitis/whatever the heck my diagnosis was when I learned these lessons:

1. Vulnerability is your friend. Vulnerability leads to empathy. Be vulnerable, because it creates a genuine connection with people that you can learn from, be encouraged by, or befriend. You can still keep your dignity and humility AND manage to be vulnerable too- don’t worry :).
I can connect with people on really weird, strange, close levels now because of my new-found empathy powers…and sometimes that freaks me out. But it’s cool, too.

2. Disease is a lens to view the world. NO WAY could I see the world in the way that I am able to see it now had I never been diagnosed. I’m able to feel the importance of time. Time is vital. Time is not on our side, but we can make the most of it…because it’s a gift. Truly. Sound cliche? I don’t care.

3. Humor is your greatest weapon. Whether I’m shitting my pants in traffic, dealing with a bad report, debilitated by fatigue, or having the greatest day of my life…humor. Always, always a good reason to laugh, usually at my own expense, and that makes my day. It’ll make yours too, if you let it.

4. Strength isn’t something that comes by osmosis. Life is tough- no, really. Life. Is. Tough. But one day you’ll look back thinking, “How did I survive that? How did I make it through?” You got stronger. While you were driving that struggle bus, you were gaining character, muscles, emotional fortitude, and badassery. You couldn’t feel it, but you were resilient. And now your resilience has made you strong. Way to take those trials like a champ! Find joy in trials, because you’re gonna find strength.

5. Kindness. Be slower to judge. You don’t know what people are enduring. We’ve all been through some small version of hell at some point, and some people handle that with more grace than others. Be kind to yourself, also. Rest, breathe, relax, sleep in if you need to, but don’t beat yourself up. You’re a work in progress, and you deserve a little kindness; we all do.

Oh- and celebrate every little accomplishment along your way. The best is yet to come!

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^ How I celebrate/deal/rationalize/breathe

Thank you all for celebrating this milestone with me!!!

-Stacey

 

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The Healthiest Month Yet

Hi, Friends! It’s been a hot second.

After I completed the Low-FODMAPs elimination diet (doctor recommended for heavy symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis), I thought I would have an epiphany list of foods that were contributing to my symptoms.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, not much bothered me at all once I reintroduced the restricted foods back into my diet. Not garlic, not onions (maybe some kinds of tea?), not bread (I know, I know. You’re going to tell me to go gluten free and give me a schpiel about leaky gut. I can’t for the life of me notice a difference with or without bread, but I don’t eat it often just because it doesn’t excite me), and not even some kinds of cheese bothered me.

Before Low FODMAP I stuck to a [mostly] dairy free diet (with the exception of Greek yogurt, because it is fermented, so the lactose doesn’t cause unpleasant reactions for most people), and of course, I ate pizza every infusion day.

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Because it’s important (to me) to find ways to make infusion days suck less.

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And pizza elicits a genuinely positive, happy response from my body from the depths of my soul, which is the perfect cure from feeling like an actual sick person hooked up to an i.v. pole at the hospital for the better part of the day, when I should be mid-twenties and feelin’ fabulous. Amiright?

So you get the idea. Mostly cheese-free/milk-free diet (except every 8 weeks for infusion pizza days). I also didn’t eat processed meats, or beef, or fried foods. It’s great not having many symptoms after Low-FODMAPs. IT WORKED WONDERS for my symptoms, but I couldn’t seem to identify which foods didn’t work…which was kinda the whole point.

So I started eating mostly everything. Bagels in the morning. And drinking beer slightly more frequently. And working out less. And eating a cookie a day. And then maybe a handful of hot tamales candy, because why not? They didn’t hurt me! But then it happened.

I began, slowly but ever so surely, allowing food to control me, instead of using my “no” power button (Note: this WILL happen if you allow too much sugar in your diet- it is addictive…but ultimately it’s up to YOU). If I bought Justin’s peanut butter cups, I couldn’t keep them in the house, even if I froze them. I had to eat them. “I’ll start returning back to my normal, healthy eating habits tomorrow, so I better eat all the chocolate today.” And that accidentally became my daily mantra. “Tomorrow.”

“I’m going to eat CHEESE and enjoy today- but tomorrow I’ll go back to my good habits.”

Until suddenly my habits weren’t my habits anymore. Eating a cookie a day became a fix. Feeling energy-depleted and a good amount of self-remorse…I knew I had no make a change.

Which brings me to today. Now, today. As in I woke up before work and ran some miles, today. No more tomorrow.

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Today begins the Healthiest Month Yet.

And just what does that look like?

A bit of Spring cleaning on the inside. Simple. Eating foods that are fibrous and nutrient-dense and thought-out meals instead of “what’s at the cafeteria at work today?” because for me, that ends in disaster lately. And I deserve a colorful, planned meal that gives me a reason to get excited at lunch time. My main focus for the Healthiest Month Yet is non-scale victories. I don’t own a scale. I want to completely focus on how I feel. What are my runs looking like? How’s my energy fluctuating throughout the day? I shouldn’t need to rely on an afternoon coffee to carry me through until 5pm. Fueling well. That’s the name of this game (and if I happen to lose some fluff from my love-handles, I’ll take it).

But I don’t want to stress myself out with rules. I LOVE Whole30, and I reaped tangible benefits from cutting out high-FODMAP foods from my diet for six entire weeks. But I just need to apply all my food knowledge into my own daily life, no restrictions attached. Just eating good, fueling well, and moving lots; having energy and using it for good.

Because this month is the Healthiest Month Yet, starting NOW.
(Er, started on my 6am run this morning).

What are you doing for the month of May??? Sticking to an old routine? Trying something new?


P.S. If “Healthiest Month Yet” is TOO ambiguous for you, check back periodically where I will post some meals that I eat, workouts, and updates.

-Stacey

Workout Wednesday + Antioxidant Smoothie

Hi, Friends!

Hope you’re all having a great Wednesday.

I’m starting a Wednesday series called “Workout Wednesday” where I will share a workout. These always seem to help me stay focused when I need to reference some workout inspiration in a pinch, so hopefully they’ll give you some support, too!

Last night’s workout took no time at all but left me feeling accomplished, and here it is:

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I loathe burpees, and today I’m having trouble walking…that’s about all I have to say about yesterday’s workout :). Really good for the legs and REALLY gets the heart rate up.

Antioxidant Smoothie Stuff

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Here’s a great recovery smoothie recipe!

-1/2 C almond milk
-1/2 C yogurt of your choice
-1 tbsp coconut oil
-1/4 C rolled oats
-1 scoop protein of your choice (choose one with glutamine! It’ll  help with muscle recovery. Here’s one of my favorites by Vega).
-handfull of spinach
-3/4 C frozen blueberries
B L E N D & serve

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Enjoy 🙂

We may have our first bout of “severe storms” this week in Oklahoma. How to deal?! Tornados are a thing I have no experience with. Fingers crossed!!! Words of advice welcomed…

-Stacey

Keepin’ On + Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Guys. I’m gonna be real.

For the past few weeks I have struggled with feeling inspired…more than just with my blog content (you may or may not have noticed that I slowed down from hammering out a post daily).

I started wondering, “Should I continue pursuing my degree in dietetics?” Graduation seems so far away at times since I’m working full time using my sociology degree (Yes, kids. You CAN get hired using that liberal arts degree after all!) and taking one/two classes at a time is DRAGGING.

So naturally, I started looking at other degrees career paths. Master’s in Pubic Health? Oh. I could do that! But as I was doing a case study for my nutrition class on Friday night I thought, “I love this crap. I’m just gonna have to suck it up and stick it out.” So that’s what I’m doing. Sticking it out- juggling work with school, and keepin’ on (even though TBH I wish my school wasn’t online and was in person- I LOVE THE CLASSROOM. But I’m thankful anyway).

And today on my run I was reminded of how I always struggle during the first mile and a half and forget why I love running. It’s not until I push through until miles two or three that I FEEL it. “THIS is why I run. Because I’m out here, when I could be anywhere else.” And it’s liberating, after the first mile and a half of clumsy feet/ gettin’ into my groove.

But I keep on.

And then suddenly my muscles remember what we’re doing. My breathing picks up and settles into a familiar pattern. My legs swing happily beneath me. I can feel the wind (on a good, breezy day anyway). There’s nothing like it. And there’s nothing comparable to the feeling of finishing a race after months of training hard. There’s nothing sweeter than the feeling of accomplishment.

So I’m keeping on.

Past this semester of “Ugh why am I doing this?” until I get my groove back. Because I will. Because nutrition is my ultimate jam, and I’m good with people.

So whatever you’re pursuing, keep on…past the mile/semester/time of being uncomfortable, because trials develop perseverance, and perseverance develops maturity. One day you’ll find joy in what seemed like suffering, because you’ll have accomplished your goals…and there’s nothin’ sweeter than that. (1)

Except this, maybe this:

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Vanilla Berry-Kiwi Chia Seed Pudding

It’s gluten free. It’s dairy free. It’s pudding.

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-1 C coconut yogurt (I used vanilla)
-small splash of milk (sorry, I’m still working on the measuring thing
-1/4 C chia seeds
-1/2 C raspberries
-1/2 C blackberries
-1/2 C strawberries
-1/2 C kiwi, peeled and sliced

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-Mix kiwi, blackberries, and splash of almond milk (we’re talkin’ probably less than 1/4 cup of almond milk, guys. Jusssst a splash) in a medium-large mixing bowl.
-Once mixed(ish), stir 1 C coconut yogurt into mixture
-Add chia seeds and stir some more
-Pour in glass container and refrigerate overnight.
-Enjoy a serving for breakfast (about 1/2 cup), topped with favorite granola

When you wake up in the morning, this should be your view:

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I know it doesn’t look all that appetizing, but it is. Oh. It is. Promise.

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About chia seeds:
-not just for chia pets

 

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source: Target.com

-high in Omega-3 fatty acids (if you don’t like seafood, here’s your substitute!)
-high in protein (about 4g/serving in this pudding!- not including the protein from yogurt)
-an antioxidant! Healthful anti-inflammatory properties in these seeds

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Let me know what cha think if you give this recipe a shot! I’ve got a fun Workout Wednesday post in the works for mañana.

Hope you’re having a lovely week. Keep on keepin’ on!

-Stacey

Footnotes: (1) Romans 5:4

Transitioning from City Life to Townie Life + OKC Finds

Moving from the fourth most populous city in America to a small town outside of Oklahoma City has been an adjustment. People drive and talk slower, and the drive to  my beloved Trader Joe’s takes over thirty minutes in one direction.

But getting home from work takes eight minutes in rush-hour, and my neighbor brings my dog back with a knock on the door and a smile when my deaf dog inevitably wanders into their front yard on occasion.

I grew up in a small, rural town in South East Texas close to the gulf. We had the beach, pastures and open spaces, and that was enough. Then I moved to Austin for college and fell in love with the city (I am still madly in love with Austin, honestly). I loved walking everywhere and living close to everything I needed. This transferred easily to living in BIG Houston, even though the culture seemed more corporate/industrial in comparison to Austin, and I still firmly believe that the drivers in Houston are some of the scariest in America.

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But I grew to enjoy living there.

Now I live in a small town. I feel like I’ve stepped back in time where businesses close early, and people still throw a fit about not being off on Good Friday.

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But we have a yard!!!

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Honestly couldn’t afford a yard in inner city Houston for at least another few years.

And I love living just down the street from the Sprouts store that I like. I love the small sandwich shop that I found near my office. I like the people. I like the slower-paced life. I confessed to Zack the other day, “I’m a total townie.” I actually LOVE living in a smaller town. It feels so…me.

I worry sometimes about forgetting what America really looks like, though. It’s not just the white “denim lady” down our street who walks her cat on a leash (bless her); It’s the Pakistani family on Richmond teaching their five year old son how to run a family restaurant business as he clumsily delivers my food in the rain to my car. It’s the Nigerian immigrants who work hard at the Kinkos FedEx and blast Beyonce through the speakers. It’s you, and me, and colorful, BIG America. It’s not just my small, quirky town that I have grown to love. It’s big; it’s diverse; and I fully believe that it’s for everyone.

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In other news we’ve been working on some home-improvement projects here and there around the house:

Behold Zack’s college dining table. I’d be worried to look at this thing under a black light from all the beer pong tournaments that it withstood.

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But after some convincing, Zack labored and sanded this thing so I could sand it 🙂

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And now it feels SO. MUCH. CLEANER. I think we will get a few more years of use out of it now. Jaxon is a fan too, clearly.

We recently explored Oklahoma City with some close friends who came to visit for the weekend.

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We LOVED Fassler Hall. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. I’m not a big fan of sausage…because it’s processed meat, and that normally catalyzes symptoms for me and ends in literal disaster. But I took a chance on the lamb and habanero chicken sausage and it was amazing. When I say amazing, I mean mouth-watering and full of happiness. And I have never said that about sausage. Ever.

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Just yes.

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Then we spent our sunny Saturday at Bleu Garten, hanging out with other peoples’ dogs, and some food trucks. I discovered a lemon ginger beer by Radler from Kansas City that is a new favorite.

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Then we headed to Oak and Ore

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They have a TON of drafts that change regularly, so they write the menu in chalk. They had a good selection on sour beers, so I had one that I can’t recall the name of…but it was delightful.

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We still have a lot of exploring left to do in Oklahoma City, but we really LOVE the city so far. Can’t wait to see what we find next!!

Hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Fuel of Choice for Long Runs + Slow-Cooker Recipe

For today’s post, I’m combining my two favorite worlds: food AND running.

A question I get asked often is “What fuel do you use for longer runs?” I have two answers.

#1. Blue gatorade mixed with water, and it has to be blue, and it has to be Gatorade. Don’t gimme that G2 stuff. Gatorade by itself is TOO sweet for me, so I learned to mix with water. I have tried: Gu, Powerade, coconut water (two different brands), an Advocare thing, and lemon-lime gatorade. If you (like me) have autoimmune intestinal probs, try out different fuels BEFORE your race!!! Some things will NOT agree with you, and it’s a solid idea to figure that out before you start your race. No shame in the fuel belt game if you need to bring your own fuel for a half-marathon. You are fuel-belt fabulous. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

#2.  Say hello to my little friend:

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This also took a lot of trial and error on account of my crappy ulcerative colitis, but these,  consumed 1/2 at a time, don’t make me symptomatic at all. I normally take one around mile 8/9 and then again around 11 during a race if I feel like I need it. I have friends who carry grapes, gummy bears- all sorts of stuff. Find what works for you and stick with it! Disclaimer: If you try this while you’re not running, it’s gonna taste salty and weird. Wait until you need it, then give it a shot. My favorite part about these is the packaging, “Pull It!” so there’s no worries about having to find a small tear tab while running. Love these.

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And for anyone who doesn’t want to talk about running, here’s the slow-cooker recipe I promised 🙂

Slow-Cooker Lemon Gahhlic Chicken + Potatoes

  1. Chop about 8-10 small potatoes into quarters, layer the slow-cooker with them, adding small slivers of butter on top of them (in total, about 2 tbsp butter- my favorite brand is Smart Balance).

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2. Season 4 chicken breast (or two sliced in half if the breasts are thick) with fresh crushed pepper (liberally), oregano (2 tsp), and garlic (4 cloves, minced)

3. Lay the seasoned breasts on top of the chopped potatoes in the slow cooker.

4.  Use the juice from two freshly-squeezed lemons and pour juice over chicken and potatoes in slow-cooker. I also like to slice the lemons and leave them on top of the chicken breasts.

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^Behold, my very favorite kitchen toy.

IMG_2275-2Do NOT use the lemon juice in the plastic squeezy thing from the store expecting this to taste stellar. Trust me, you won’t want to take the easy way out when it comes to fresh lemon juice. Evah.

5. Pour 2/3 C organic chicken (or vegetable) broth over chicken and potatoes in slow- cooker.

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6. Set cooker to low for six hours or high for three hours. TA-DAHH- Dinnah is served.

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I really love slow cooker recipes because you don’t have to worry about them- just set the timer and go on about your day…just don’t forget about them, because that could end in disaster. Let me know what you think of this recipe if you give it a shot!

Hope your week is treating you well 🙂

-Stacey

[Addictive] Maple Vanilla Granola Recipe

Hope everyone had/is having a wonderful weekend!

The pup and I hung around the house thanks to thunder storms all weekend long. I don’t complain about an excuse to watch “You’ve Got Mail” until I fall asleep though 🙂

IMG_2264-2Zack survived his very first solo grocery shopping trip, and he did quite well. He even sent me texts as he frantically searched for all the items on my list. He returned with a chai tea from my favorite coffee shop in town. Marriage to this guy is so good.

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^ made me laugh. God bless him.

If you follow me on Instagram, you can find a slow cooker recipe for lemon garlic chicken and potatoes on my story that I threw together today. Turned out fantastic! I’ll post the recipe on the blog later this week if you missed it.

But first!

I have to share this granola recipe with ya’ll before I forget it. This granola is like crack, so if you’re hoping for something that’s not completely addictive…oops. But don’t take my word for it! Give it a shot yourself, and let me know what cha think!

This stuff is gluten free and full of goodness.

Maple Vanilla Granola

1/2 C sunflower seeds
1/2 C pumpkin seeds
4 C gluten free oats (or whichever rolled oats are your favorite!)
a dash (or two or three) of cinnamon- I love cinnamon

Mix all these ingredients together in a bowl separate from the wet ingredients.
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Mix:
1/4 C coconut oil
1/4 C organic maple syrup
Justtttt a tad of organic vanilla- I like to eyeball it. (Still working on measuring things!)
1/4 C natural peanut buttah
I like to heat these ^ until softened (not too long!)- it’s much easier to stir.

Then, pour the mixed, wet ingredients over the mixed, dry ingredients.

Stir until nice and mixed, once it seems all the dry ingredients have been nicely covered.
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Spread evenly on a non-stick pan and pop in the oven for 30 minutes on 275, stirring frequently (every 8-12 minutes) and making sure it doesn’t burn. You want it this golden brown color!

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You can also get creative and add raisins, almond slices, coconut slivers, or dark chocolate to this mixture once it cools. Store in an air-tight container. Serve over smoothies, ice cream, yogurt, or enjoy by the handful. This stuff is packed with healthy fats and carbs (complex ones!) and also makes a great fuel for athletes.

Hope you all have a great Monday!!!

Keep moving forward 🙂

-Stacey