The Highly Unlikely Vegetarian

This may be a bit of an odd forum for this post, but I also couldn’t think of any better place to put it. So here it is.

Depending on how well you know me, you know that I am a bit of a fitness/nutrition freak. I tend to have a pretty low tolerance for those who don’t take care of and respect their bodies. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll plow through some garbage food faster than you can say “yes I want ice cream with my pecan pie”, however it’s the exception and not the norm. I say all of that to point out that I lead a lifestyle that should theoretically keep me from having any major health conditions, particularly at my age. I eat extremely healthy, I exercise regularly, moderate alcohol consumption, no smoking, etc. There’s just one problem…mother nature has been working against me from the start.

This dates all the way back to me signing up for little league football when I was only about 8 years old. They had some half assed health assessment going on during sign ups that year, and I decided to participate. Part of the health assessment was a finger prick cholesterol test. Needless to say as an 8-year-old I thought nothing of it. Within days my parents had received a call stating that my cholesterol levels had come back as elevated, but since the finger prick test is not 100% accurate, they recommended that I get a full blood work up. Still I thought nothing of it other than I was a little concerned about the large amount of blood they were draining from my body for testing. That test indeed proved that at 8 years old, I had elevated cholesterol levels. It was then that I learned that this is something that runs in my family. Relatives on my mom’s side in particular from aunts, to uncles, to cousins have all dealt with this issue. The doctor recommended that we take a trial run at what was thought to be a cholesterol lowering diet by late 1980’s standards. We did, and after a few months there was no change, and so it was pretty much abandoned.

For the next 25+ years I didn’t think all that much about it. By the time I had graduated high school I had largely adopted my lifestyle of nutrition and exercise. In my head I figured that while my cholesterol may never be considered “low,” it would also not get dangerously high based on my habits, and largely this was true. Whether I was donating blood or whatever, I would generally get a cholesterol test every 5 years or so. As I mentioned, it was never low, but mostly holding steady.

In April of this year I decided to give blood one day at work to benefit the victims of the explosion in West, Texas. Within a few days I received a report in the mail stating that my total cholesterol number was 320 (it didn’t specify LDL/HDL/etc). 320?!? Are you kidding me?? Anything above 240 is considered high. In the past it had come in around 260 or 270, which is obviously still high, but I took comfort in the fact that I led such a healthy lifestyle and had no other contributing health issues to be concerned about. However this hit me hard. Maybe it was the sheer size of the number, maybe it was my age, maybe it was the fact that I now have a kid, or more than likely some combination of those factors. I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but as a person who lost their dad before they even graduated high school, I immediately had fears of doing the same thing to my daughter. In addition to my dad, life expectancy throughout my family tree has not been all that great historically, some of which likely had a connection to high cholesterol. However in the short-term, I was just plain ol’ pissed off. If you Google “how to lower your cholesterol,” that’s literally what I was already doing. So what the hell?! Now what?? Cholesterol lowering medication? Again, if you know me you know that part of me being such a fitness/nutrition freak is that fact that I think as a society we are ridiculously over-medicated. In short, we don’t bother treating the actual causes of our issues, we simply treat the symptoms. The cure for obesity is not surgery or a pill…it’s a getting active, and educating yourself about nutrition maybe a little positive reinforcement and so on. So for me, simply going out a getting a prescription for Lipitor was not the answer.

I began to do some research. I learned that while I had always believed my genetics predetermined that I have high cholesterol, it wasn’t necessarily that simple. Research suggests that the real culprit in people who claim to have “genetically high cholesterol” is the fact that they are actually hypersensitive to dietary cholesterol. Normally, when a healthy person eats foods containing cholesterol, the liver reduces its own cholesterol production to keep blood cholesterol at a healthy level. In cholesterol-sensitive individuals, this internal monitoring mechanism doesnโ€™t operate, so their blood cholesterol level goes up when they eat high-cholesterol foods. It appeared as though I may have a broken regulator.

Now although I was eating a very healthy diet, it was actually fairly high in cholesterol. In an effort to ingest large amounts of protein to support my workouts and goals, I would consume significant amounts of animal protein throughout my day. All animal protein sources contain dietary cholesterol to varying degrees no matter how lean the source. Chicken breasts, seafood, lean pork, and lean red meat all contain cholesterol. So as I analyzed my diet, I realized I was averaging anywhere from 500mg to 600mg of cholesterol intake every day via many small servings of chicken breasts, lean pork, lean red meat, and eggs. Was this the culprit? Tough to say, but at this point I figured, if it ain’t helping, it’s gotta go. It was then that I made a decision that for most of my life I would have said was completely out the question…no more meat (or at least drastically reduced).

Was I going to become a freaking vegetarian?! What kind of tree hugging, granola eating, animal rights activist was I thinking of becoming? So then I shifted my research to vegetarianism, veganism, the side effects of such a lifestyle, and of course how it would effect my workouts/physique/etc. For one thing I learned that there are some pretty damn jacked vegetarians/vegans in this world. I also learned that some research suggests I had spent the last 15 to 20 years putting far too much emphasis on the amount of protein in my diet. I also began to search for things that could naturally help to lower cholesterol. Some studies suggest things such as artichoke extract, turmeric extract and plant sterols can help to lower cholesterol. While other studies suggest that you might as well be taking sugar pills. Given that most of the supplements I came up with were relatively cheap, I figured “why not?”

Fast forward 6 months, and since April 22 I have largely avoided meat. I still eat meat a few times a week if I’m in a social setting or if/when I go to a restaurant, but about 90% of my caloric intake has come from plant sources. My diet has consisted mostly of fruits, vegetables, egg whites (which most vegetarian/vegans don’t eat), nuts/nut butters, and plant-based protein powders. I have also greatly reduced (but not eliminated) my dairy intake for the same reasons as meat…it contains cholesterol. Other than the fact that I sometimes find it difficult to come up with things to cook, I really haven’t missed the extra meat in my diet. To be honest, my diet during the week wasn’t all that exciting anyway. I was mostly eating baked chicken with plain brown rice or vegetables anyway. My lunches may have actually become MORE flavorful with these changes. Oh and there is one other little side effect from these dietary changes. I’ve lost 20 pounds.

*SOAPBOX ALERT* I have tracked everything I have eaten for the last 6 months just as I have always done. Calories, protein, carbs, fat, all of it. While I largely eliminated meat from my diet, I did not change my caloric intake. I continued to take in around 2400 calories a day just as I had done while I was eating all that meat. Obviously my macronutrient intake changed pretty dramatically. I went from eating about 225g of protein, 225g of carbs, and 65g of fat, to taking in about 140g of protein, 300g of carbs, and 70g of fat. So again, my caloric intake and exercise level did not change, but I lost 20 pounds. Feel free to take a look at those numbers again. So many of these “diet plans” have you focus on consuming protein/meat while avoiding carbs, and I just lost 20 pounds while doing the exact opposite. Will this work for everyone? Beats the hell outta me. If I had to make an honest guess I would say it would work for some, but probably not all. The point is, anyone who tries to sell you a “diet” that will work for you is full of crap. Everyone is different and you have to learn what works for YOUR body. How do you go about doing that? Here is some advice I would give:

–Track your food intake. There are numerous apps that make this extremely easy and convenient.
–Be consistent. At least for long enough to notice how your body reacts to variables you are adding/removing.
–Eat whole/clean/fresh foods.

Last but not least, don’t be so quick to just accept a prescription as the answer to a health problem. There is more than likely a source or cause of your given health issue that can be controlled and altered by you. I’m not trying to say that medicine is never the answer, I’m just saying maybe we should exhaust some other resources before we settle for a prescription. Taking a pill everyday is not without long and short-term side effects.

Oh and my cholesterol levels? I mean that is the point of this whole thing right? Well after 6 months of living my new reality, my overall cholesterol went from 320 to 197 (72HDL/115LDL). Yeah…go back and look at those again. Even if I had taken the easy way out and gotten on Lipitor it wouldn’t be that low in 6 months. I was just hoping to get the number down below 300 to see that I was at least making some progress, but I never imagined a 123 point reduction in that time span. It’s borderline unbeliveable.

It probably goes without saying I will be happy to answer any more specific questions about my nutrition, or the supplements I took or whatever else if you’re curious. You only get one body…treat it with some respect.

Harper Begins the Countdown

Happy Memorial Day friends and family! I know it’s been forever since I’ve updated but the Nelson parents haven’t exactly been hanging out in bliss like I have. We’ve all been really busy!

Let’s see, we’ve had 2 showers to spoil me for my arrival, a few out of town trips, childbirth prep classes, more doc visits, MiMi moving, family car purchasing, shed building….and the list goes on but those are the big things.

Well, let me start to let you all know how I’VE been doing…that’s the most important right? Me? As of today I am 34 wks and 5 days…so pretty close to only having 5 wks left and 9 months down. CA-RAZY! I know mom feels ‘ready’ to have me but not ‘prepared’…does that make sense? I’ll get more into that later…
I’ve been gaining a ton of weight the last few weeks and will probably pack on 1/2 a lb a week till I’m fully cooked. I’m around 20 inches and probably around 5 lbs right now…so mostly I’ll just be plumping up from now on. I will probably start dropping now making my way south planning an exit strategy over the next few weeks.

Let’s talk about my showers! One was in LA and one was two days ago here in Allen at Mi Mi’s new house. Both were amazing and really nice and I can’t wait to use all of my new stuff! I got most of the nursery stuff and just waiting for a few last minute things to come in so my room is feeling more complete. I got lots of fun clothes, shoes, socks, and I can’t forget to mention some FUN dress up items! My tu-tu count is 8….Sooo let’s just say that my birth announcements will probably be very sassy. ;o). We’ll be sure to share some pics.

Dad also built a shed in the back yard to help clean out some of the bulky things in the garage to make room for future kid toys that will be taking their place. It looks great and he’s very happy with it. They also bought a sweet new ride to tote my cute booty around in. They’re super excited about it! 2012 VW Passat. Or the ‘V DUB’ as they’ve called it…my parents are so cool. ;o)

Mom and dad also went to a childbirth prep class over a 3 week period and learned about scary things such as ‘dilation’, ‘contractions’, ‘pain management’…etc. Hence a little elaboration on my previous mention on not being ‘prepared’. The labor and delivery part of the hospital is really nice so mom is actually pretty excited to experience that sweet hospital visit but the two night stay in postpartum is more like a typical hospital room…blah blah. We’ll be happy to get home and comfortable after that…especially dad bc he’ll get to sleep in a chair. :o). Mom also learned about breast feeding…it will be a crazy experience all in itself so we’ll see how that ends up going. Hopefully really well. We also start weekly hospital visits next week…I think that will spark the realization that the end (and beginning) is near. Aaaahhhhhh!!!!
The last doc visits have gone really well, everything seems to be going smooth and pretty much on pace. I’m sure the upcoming ones in the next few weeks will be more in depth and we’ll know more on when to expect my debut…a little early? Right on time? Mom’s at least hoping that I come after the Allen 4th of July event which is June 30 bc The Bangles are performing! I can come the next day as far as she’s concerned….gee thanks mom. Hahaaa…maybe I’ll let her have that one last ‘hoorah’ before I take over her life. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Speaking of, let’s talk about mom a little. She feels pretty good for the most part but if you haven’t seen her lately she’s got a WHOLE lotta belly going on. So breathing is harder, she’s had some reflux, and standing for a little period of time is pretty hard as well. And if you were wondering before how she handled heels all the time, try struggling with your feet hurting in flip flops. She’s a little worried how work is gonna go this last month with the hot weather and all of the walking because she’s already struggling to get through the day. But she’s going to try and stick through it till the end so her time off will be with me. She’s definitely really tired at the end of the day and just needs to put her feet up to rest and feel better. She’s ready for me to come bc it’s only going to get even more difficult, but then it means I’m ‘here’ and that’s a scary thought too bc everything is going to change and who knows what to expect then! She’s also somehow managing to still work out but she’s taking it much more easy these days.

Well, that pretty much covers everything so far…I’ll try to send another update when it gets closer to my debut. Hope you all are well, I’m just gonna chill in here and get fatter…aren’t some of you ladies jealous? I’m supposed to gain weight!!

~Harper~

Sent from my iSac

Her First Message to You as Harper

What’s up future friends and family! I know it’s been a while but mom’s been really busy and I’ve just been getting bigger so there hasn’t been much to say regarding development.

Well, if unless you’ve been living under a rock my mom and dad finally decided on my name! Harper! Pretty cool right? They’re still a few middle names up in the air but the first name is most important. Now I guess there will be some personalized items in my future. ;o)

On to a little info about me…I’ll be 28 wks tomorrow. This means I’m 7 months and mom’s in the 3rd trimester. Seems like I was a little embryo just yesterday….sigh. Funny with this aging process I’m getting FEWER wrinkles as I produce more fat! I’m sure some ladies in the outside world would love to ‘fill out’ their wrinkly skin for free like I can!
Speaking of body fat, I’m about 2-3% right now…once again, I’m sure some women could only dream of that! And speaking of dreaming, I’m doing a little bit of that these days too! I’m also opening my eyes these days too…utilizing my pretty eyelashes I have now. :). It’s hard for me to tell with no mirror in here but I could possibly have a full head of hair at this point. But with the 2 blonde parents I have there may not be much up their either based on their baby pics!
From this week on, I’m also going to be more sensitive to sound, light, smell, and taste. I can now distinguish between ‘sweet and sour’….why do I want pork all of a sudden? MA! Chinese run! Now! J/k, she hasn’t had any cravings on my behalf.

Not that the following info is interesting, but here’s how ‘ma brain’ is doing:
It’s no longer smooth…it has grooves and canals making way.
My bone marrow is producing red blood cells.
My adrenal glands are producing androgen and estrogen. These hormones are going to stimulate mom’s milk production…hellooooo fun bags!!! I mean, they’re for my future nourishment…get your head outta the gutter people. ;o)

Other fun facts, I did double in weight over the last 4 weeks…mom felt a little better knowing 2 of those 4 lbs she gained was ME at her last appt. I’m a little over 2lbs now and over 14in long. By the way, she has an appt in two weeks, and then she’s going to need to start going to the doctor every other week after that! The end is upon us people!

Now, about mom….

Things are just starting to become a little more difficult. Her belly is finally affecting dressing and putting on shoes a bit. Crossfit is still going good, but getting more difficult. She’s going to start dropping the weight a little more and doing more substitutions. But, working out has made everything seem great so far and she’s felt really good throughout all of this. (Probably bc she doesn’t feel as guilty snacking a little extra or making that frozen yogurt run…)
It did seem like one day last week was the turning point of her belly feeling ‘heavy’ and having to pee more. She’s gotten up at least twice a night lately to run to the restroom. Luckily she doesn’t have too much of a problem falling back to sleep.
One amazing thing since my last update is that she can see me moving in her belly. Things are getting tight in here and I’m getting stronger so my movements are more pronounced now. Whenever I’m shifting around, the skin moves on the outside and the area feels hard when she touches it. She’ll just sit on the couch and look at her belly and not watch tv…for those of you who know her, I must be REALLY interesting to divert her attention! But, I’m only in here for so long so she better soak it up while she can!

She hasn’t craved any foods which I’m sure dad has been thankful for. No midnight Taco Bell runs right? She loves going to Yogurtville (which is nothing new) but she goes through a seedless watermelon a week though. I may have a pink tint to my skin when I come out! Haha

Oh, and my room is starting to make way from what I hear. There’s still things to add, and all my cute clothes need to actually get washed and put away, but at least it’s all in the room and it’s all MY stuff. No more mom and dad’s stuff in there! :o)

Well, I guess that’s it for now…hopefully you’ll see an update sooner rather than later. There is a party in my honor in a few weeks so maybe I’ll have some fun things to dish about after that! Louisiana, make way for Harper! She wants a shrimp poboy!

~Harper~

Sent from my iSac

Week 22 Update From BN

Well hello there friends and family! Believe me, I’ve been meaning to send an update but we’ve all been really busy around here. (Me, growing…mom and dad, working and planning for ME). Plus, it’s always exciting to have a bunch to say too.

Let’s see, I guess I’ll let you know about my cute little self first.

Since it’s been about 4 weeks since I updated everyone, there’s been a few changes. Everything is still in place, mainly getting more distinct and developed. Now, brace yourselves….I look like a big wrinkly red prune (but in the form of a baby). Pretty sexy right? A few weeks ago I started getting this ‘cheese’ like white stuff covering my skin called vernix caseosa. I thought I’d be getting ‘cuter’ every day but that isn’t exactly what I had in mind! Haha. But, it serves a purpose (as everything does) and it’s protecting my skin from the amniotic fluid around me. I’ll shed this stuff near my grand entrance (or ‘exit’ rather) but there may be a little left to wipe off after. Sponge bath pampering in my future? Sounds great and relaxing but from what I know what I should do upon arriving in this world I may just scream my head off. I’ll be naked and cold ok? Give a baby a break! It’s bad enough what I got to squeeze through to get out of here!

Anyhoo, I weigh nearly a pound now! I’m also about a foot in length too. I was compared to a carrot a week ago and now it’s a spaghetti squash….which I shouldn’t talk about too much bc spaghetti is mom’s fav. I hear that stomach growling woman! Speaking of ears, this week my inner ear has developed so I have a sense of balance. My eyes still don’t have pigment, but my eyelids, eyebrows, lips are all fully developed. I can blink too. My fingernails are also growing too and I probably have some hair on my head. Which, from what I gather should be pretty blonde unless God has some sort of crazy plan for me. Helloooo my dad’s name IS Whitey! I also have some tiny tooth buds growing under my gums. I’m sure those are going to feel great when they come out. My pancreas is also developing so I am starting to produce hormones…dad just can’t wait to live with two females I’m sure!

So I mentioned before that I am very wrinkly right now. It’s funny how that happens…start out wrinkly, then have none, then try to prevent them, and then you have them all over again (everywhere)…..skin is weird. But, the current wrinkles are to make way for my fat to come….I’m not sure what to make of that. I don’t have any clothing in here and I’ll enter the world scared and naked…I’m sure people are gonna take pictures, I just hope my butt won’t look big. ;o).

So, mom has been doing great. She was struggling with sleep a few weeks ago but lately she’s been sleeping pretty well from being tired from running around so much. She surrounds herself with all of the spare pillows on the bed and wakes up with some aching hips sometimes. And of course having to wee wee always comes into play. (At least she can go to a bathroom, I swim around in mine….TMI? Sorry). But, she’s been steadily getting bigger and they plan on taking pics every wkd of the belly growth for all to see. Ya know…those lovely looking black leotard shots…haha. They’ll be on the blog.

She’s still working out pretty well but in a month or so she’s gonna have to progressively cut back on the heavy lifting at crossfit. She’s going to be off balance even more so she’ll have to make adjustments. Don’t worry though, she’s watching out on what she’s doing and taking her time. Speaking of working out, i thoroughly enjoyed Monday’s WOD and I was squirming up a storm afterwards! Dad and MiMi got to feel me practice some of my ninja moves! It was great for everyone. My kicks are definitely felt more (and more often) as I’m gaining my sense of touch now and dad’s loving the fact that he can feel them. He actually saw one jab pop through once too. He gives mommy’s belly a kiss to tell me ‘hello’…I think it’s awesome and mom likes it too. I’m sure she’d kiss me too but she cant bend over like that…only I can do that. ๐Ÿ™‚

Well, I guess that’s about it for updates. Hope you all enjoyed reading. I’m gonna go suck my thumb some more.

~BN~

Sent from my iSac