Monday, April 29, 2013

Just So We're Clear: I Cannot In Any Way Recommend HCG or the HCG Diet. Ever. Period.

One of my friends called me up a couple days ago and asked my opinion on the HCG diet. She and her husband had been considering it because nothing else they were doing was working. I started laughing out loud. She and her husband, who regularly participate in Insanity or P-90X workouts that would knock me on my butt within two minutes, are anything but fat. They're not even a little bit chubby. But she asked me my opinion of HCG and not whether I thought she needed to lose weight, so I answered her question.

(I think I've written about my revised opinion of HCG on here, but I can't be bothered to check, so I might be repeating myself. Bear with.)

In short, the HCG diet is designed to kill a person. That's the honest truth. It's completely unsustainable, for one thing, because you are consuming only 500 calories a day. 500 calories is not enough for your body to live on, and because of that, your body will desperately fill your head with visions of sugarplums just to get you to quit starving it and eat something. Starvation does a number of terrible things to your metabolism and your internal organs. Starve long enough and there's a good chance that you won't be able to reverse the damage.

Because you're starving yourself, your body begins shutting down non-vital processes in order to conserve resources. You're also forcing your metabolism to slow down to a snail's pace. So while you're proud of yourself for sticking with your 500 calories a day and your dose of HCG, your body is cannibalizing your muscle tissue for energy, which is exactly the opposite of what you want. Muscle burns more calories than fat tissue, so building muscle is vital in a weight loss plan, but it's extremely difficult to exercise and build muscle when you feel like you are going to faint at any moment.

When you start eating like a normal person again, your body is relieved that you have enough food and is determined not to starve any more, so it packs on the increased energy resources as fat against future starvation. For 99% of people, you'll gain back more weight than you took off, but it will be fat tissue and not muscle tissue. You've just made future weight loss that much more difficult for yourself because now you're more jiggly-puff AND you've damaged your metabolism.

Meanwhile, you're probably wrecking some really vital internal organs. Since you need your liver and kidneys to function well, and because it's nice to have a gall bladder in good condition, quit the HCG immediately.

I've done a lot of research since my own experience with HCG. I admit I was desperate when I spent a lot of hard-earned dollars on this wonderful miracle drug that promised so much, and I did lose 12 pounds before I gave in to my need to eat enough to sustain me. Actually, what really stopped me during that second round of HCG was a strong spiritual witness that I was hurting myself needlessly and uselessly. I quit at that moment.

There are probably other health issues you are not addressing if you've been steadily gaining weight without changing your diet or exercise patterns. This is a toxic world, and I think a vast majority of us are in need of cleansing. We have parasites sucking the nutrients from our food and flooding us with toxic chemicals, we eat refined flours and sugars, and many, many of us are probably suffering from hormonal and other imbalances. All of these could be affecting your weight. HCG won't fix the underlying problems; it will just make things worse.

I've come to the conclusion that the only way to safely eat is to stick with whole grains, plenty of vegetables and some fruits, herbs, legumes, and coconut oil as a fat, and to completely avoid caffeine, soda, coffee, non-herbal teas, alcohol, most dairy, and meat (except in times of hunger or when food is scarce). If you eat right, you can get away with eating a lot of those good foods without putting on weight, so you'll never be hungry or send your body into starvation mode. You can research whether or not you feel you need supplements, but I also think that if you grow your own vegetables using organic mixed material compost, you most likely only need vitamin B12 supplements and occasionally some Vitamin D. Add exercise for muscle building and to keep yourself happy and in good working order.

I'll let you know when I'm at my ideal weight if I'm right about the eating plan. Like Alice in Wonderland, I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it. I'm trying to solve my own issues with this desperate and nearly crippling fatigue from which I suffer, but if I can get that worked out, I think eating right and exercising will start producing the results I really, really want.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I'm Really Not a Snob, but I Can't Claim I'm Not Lazy

Part of my church calling is to visit ward conferences. Since we have twelve wards in our stake, there's one ward conference per month. I get to hear a lot of different speakers and teachers present their thoughts, and there are some very dynamic teachers out there. Today, one of the other ladies in the Stake Relief Society Presidency leaned over to me during the Relief Society meeting and whispered, "This ward is always interesting to visit." We had enjoyed a lively discussion during Sunday School discussing Section 46 of the Doctrine & Covenants, and in Relief Society, we were talking about a General Conference talk by Elder Hales entitled "Being a More Christian Christian." Many of the women shared ways in which we LDS people can interact with our neighbors and friends.

In Utah, there are a lot of LDS people (Mormons). That's a fact. And with so many LDS people living nearby each other in neighborhoods, it often seems to the non-LDS neighbors that the Mormons are snobby and clique-ish. While there are always people in any group whose behavior makes you positively cringe with embarrassment, most LDS people don't actually intend to be snobby. We are busy, like everyone else, and as a result of our callings within our congregations, we often interact more with other LDS neighbors and not as much with the others. We know those members we see at least once a week at church, and that makes it easier. But then we often don't take the time to get to know our other neighbors. Or we're shy. Or we're afraid they won't like us because we're LDS. Or for whatever stupid reason, we never really follow up on our intentions to invite them over and get to know them.

On either side of me, I have non-LDS neighbors or neighbors who are baptized members but who don't attend church. I'm happy to say I know all of their names and we all get along fine with each other. But I have never asked them to dinner because I'm always aware of the fact that my house isn't exactly how I want it to be. Why I think they expect perfection from a woman with six kids and half the neighborhood hanging out in various rooms of the house at any given hour, I don't know. I have never forbidden my children from playing with non-LDS kids, but I haven't invited their parents over because I'm tired, the house is not tidy, and I get too stressed out about making everything lovely and perfect. What a sad excuse.

I grew up in Northern Minnesota, where LDS people are few and far between. I had friends who knew nothing about my church or who had very odd ideas based on rumors and myths they'd heard from uninformed people. Most of the kids I went to school with were Catholic or Protestant or Jewish or didn't affiliate themselves with any religion in particular. If they had questions about what I believed, I had no problem answering them. It never occurred to me that they would be offended at my beliefs, and they never were. Puzzled, maybe, but not offended. It was great to go to church on Sundays and worship with people who believed like I did, but I was not afraid of people who were not LDS.

I'm not afraid now, either. I'm tired, though. And lazy. And busy. And so I probably seem snobbish and clique-ish to my neighbors, even if I wave and smile at them or share a few comments about the weather or the one neighbor's amazing home-grown tomatoes.

Anyway, we had a very interesting discussion in Relief Society, and yes, that ward is always fun and interesting to visit. You never know what's going to happen or what someone's going to say. I love that. It was a great day at church and I felt spiritually fed. Maybe one of these days I'll feed the neighbors.

Monday, April 15, 2013

I'm Cuckoo for Coconuts!

My poor family. I start reading something or other, and if I get excited about it, they have to listen to me cement the information in my head by explaining it to them at great length. My blog is supposed to partly relieve that pressure, but if I don't manage to write it all out, my family gets to hear me process it.

"You talk a lot about things like this," said Elannah one day. I think she had me all to herself and must have asked just the right question to set me off on some pet topic. "Sorry," I said, sheepishly. "No, it's okay," she said. "You're excited about things and that's okay." She is an energetic and busy 12 year old. Sitting around listening to old people talk is not her idea of fun.

Sian is far more complimentary. She'll come and ask me a question about something or other, and then off I go on a long spiel. It's not a harangue; I mean, let's be clear. I'm not lecturing her or the other kids on what they should do and why they're doing things wrong. I'm answering the question and then offering evidence to support a specific opinion I've come to. So after I've talked and talked and Sian has sat and listened very patiently, I'll stop and say, "Wow. I'm so sorry you had to endure that," and she'll answer with perfect sincerity, "No, Mom. I like hearing you talk. You're very intelligent and I always learn a lot. I wouldn't ask you a question if I didn't like to hear the answer you give." Such a bright, bright child.

I've discoursed at length about all kinds of subjects. Recently, my FIL and I discussed the 2nd Amendment and why Americans find it so important. He's a Brit, and he thinks in an entirely different way about the whole thing, so it was enlightening for both of us. I've also been thinking about the Word of Wisdom, which is the LDS (Mormon) code of eating (in a nutshell: plenty of plants and whole grains, very little meat, and no alcohol, tobacco, or strong drinks like tea or coffee). I read a book a couple weeks ago called The China Study, which is an example of excellent and thorough scientific research, and it agrees with the Word of Wisdom, though the author hadn't the slightest inclination of it. Boom.

My latest thing is coconuts. I happen to love coconuts and coconut products. I considered it a superfood before I found out it really is a superfood. You can throw the husk in your compost pile for its plentiful nutrients, the water is incredibly healthful, the meat is delicious, and coconut milk is a staple in my pantry. I've started using coconut oil instead of any other vegetable oils (and certainly instead of margarine or shortening, which are anathema to me). Even the refined, deodorized coconut oil I can get from my local grocery store is working for me.

I'm very tempted to start listing all the reasons why coconut oil is amazing and wonderful, but I'll limit myself to the fact that I've lost four pounds by using coconut oil instead of any other fat (except a little butter). I try to eat three tablespoons of it a day, and it's definitely increased my energy and endurance (which are both abysmal). It all starts with medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) as compared to the long-chain triglycerides (LCT) and how they act in your body. MCTs in coconut oil encourage the body to burn fat as fuel, where LCTs in vegetable and other hydrogenated oils encourage your body to store fat. MCTs boost metabolism and provide the saturated fat that your cells require to work. Read a book like The Coconut Diet to get a more thorough understanding of it all.

I made my own coconut milk yesterday, in fact. I then used it to cook up a batch of my favorite rice pudding. Husband said it was the best rice pudding he's ever eaten, and he never says things like that on a whim, so I know he was serious. And fortunately, my mom and grandma have really enjoyed talking about coconuts with me. My parents, brothers, and grandma come over for dinner and they get an earful of whatever it is I'm thinking about. The fact that they keep coming over says to me that either they're gluttons for punishment or they are really, really great about forgiveness. Good thing. I'm not sure I'll ever change.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Enjoying the Journey for Today

I've been reading George Eliot's brilliant Middlemarch during the pauses in the last few days. I love the old English classics for several reasons, and one of them is because they are so different from modern fiction. No one writes like that anymore. No one today would dare make a three or four paragraph aside to the reader, leading them through various philosophical studies before meandering back to the plot at hand. No one takes pages to cover all the aspects of a feeling or thought so that you end up leaning back in satisfaction and savoring the incredible insight wrought so simply and acutely before your eyes.

I get into a strange mood when I read stuff like this, however. George Eliot, in particular, was an incredibly keen and sharp observer. She holds up her characters to a very bright light, allowing us to see every single facet, good and bad. I always walk away from a reading session feeling faintly ridiculous. Here she is describing all my own little faults and foibles through the medium of her fictional creations; and even if she does love them overall, I can't help but do a lot of self-introspection and examination to see if I'm really as weak as all that. Yes. Yes, I am. But I might have a few of their strengths, as well, let us hope.

Husband is playing his ukelele. He's always wanted the joy of being able to play an instrument, and he knows how much I love ascending into a musical trance while playing the piano or cello. So he thought about it and thought about and then selected the ukelele. He already knows guitar chords, so since he got his ukelele, he's been able to immediately sit down and play and sing. I've loved hearing him spend hours enjoying himself. Right now, all the kids are in bed (except the two oldest, who have a bedroom in the basement and who are far more autonomous with their bedtimes), and Husband is accompanying himself while singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Good-bye, Dear Gandalf

This weekend was General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When I was a kid in Idaho, we borrowed someone's little, portable black and white television to see it (my parents didn't believe in owning a television almost the entire time I was a child) or we used the radio. In Minnesota, we went to the chapel to watch it broadcast on satellite, since having a satellite in those days was only for the wealthy who had enough of a yard to support the huge dish. Now, of course, living in Utah, we can see it on television or cable or satellite, stream it on the internet, or get it on radio. Since we relegated the big-screen back to the basement family room and we have refused to pay for satellite or cable television for several years now (and the antenna doesn't work very well down there), and because the computers aren't in places where it is possible for all the family to watch at once, we ended up listening to the radio. I felt a little like we'd traveled back in time.

Conference was good and I loved the talks, but I wasn't completely focused this time. Along with the worry about my MIL and her operation (she's doing fine, by the way), there was an emotional upheaval about one of the kittens. Gandalf, the little white kitten, was obviously not well. He had stopped eating and was getting progressively weaker. He hadn't grown and thrived like his siblings, and I suspect it was because his rib cage was malformed. Yu is a very small cat, so it's possible that being squished in her small womb with two other kittens may have caused this malformation, which then made it very difficult to breathe, which made it impossible to eat, which made him weak and small. However it came about, it was obvious he wasn't going to make it much longer. Most of the kids were beside themselves with grief, and they spent the day taking turns holding him carefully as he slept.

By evening, his breath was coming slower and slower. Husband and I left to take Jazzee (our day dog) back to Ruth's house, and by the time we got home, Gandalf was gone. Elannah has taken it the hardest. I don't think she went for more than a few minutes yesterday without tears falling down her face, and she was still distraught this morning. I was harsh and forced her to go to school, as I did with all the children including Gabrielle, who was certain last night that she wouldn't be able to get through school without bursting into tears.

We lay his tiny little body on one of his kitten blankets in a shoebox and covered him with another blanket. Joseph, after a burst of inspiration, ran upstairs and printed off a picture of Gandalf, which we placed in the shoebox as well. Services and burial will be held this evening.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Spot of Bad Luck, Duck!

My mother-in-law (MIL) had her first brush with the American healthcare system Friday when FIL rushed her to the emergency room in the wee, dark hours of the morning. MIL has a pretty high pain threshold, so for her to demand a hospital visit meant it was serious. Turns out it was her gall bladder, which was removed later that day.

Their first brush with the American healthcare system does not involve insurance. They do not have individual insurance in this country. To get health insurance at their age would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 a month and more, which wasn't something they could afford.

I don't think they really know what they're in for yet as the bills will start to roll in. In the UK, they could go to the doctor or hospital and be treated without worrying about going bankrupt (although they have to put up with what they get. Socialized medicine is like that.). I don't want to disturb my MIL's much-needed recovery time with talk of how much money this will end up costing; but you, who have experience in this, will understand. There is the bill for the emergency room visit, the physician's bill, the bills for each of the tests they ran, the surgeon, the anesthetist and medicine, the recovery time, medications, etc. She went home instead of staying a night in the hospital, so that will cut out about $1000 or so from the total cost.

I'm afraid for them. I have my theories about why the American healthcare system was broken and the cost of health care is so high, but I am also absolutely and utterly convinced that this Obamacare crap will only make it far, far worse. In any case, the reckoning will come soon for my naive and innocent British in-laws, who, I want to point out, came into the country legally and who will do everything they can to pay what they owe.

Wide Blue Skies Covered in a White Aerosol Grid

I'm sure you won't blame me for believing in some conspiracies at this point -- at least the chem-trail conspiracy. Whatever you know or think about them, let me tell you I have observed them over my small town on a regular basis. Some days I look up and the sky is criss-crossed with white streaks. Sometimes it's just one or two trails and sometimes it's an entire grid system.

I have also observed some incredibly weird rainbows on what look like oily clouds. That may be a natural phenomenon, but the clouds don't look normal. They look like chem-trails that have spread out substantially.

I could be paranoid, but I can't help it. The sickness levels in this house and this entire city have been relentless. Everyone I talk to is having the same experience. Upper respiratory issues. Sinus infections that don't respond to antibiotics. Always feeling ill even if there isn't a specific symptom you can point to. Maybe 2013 is just an unlucky year, maybe all of these illnesses happen to be really, incredibly contagious and continue to mutate over and over so that we keep getting a new version of the same thing. Or maybe it has to do with the noxious stuff flying out the back of selected airplanes and getting into our air, water, and soil.

Just wonderin'.

Joining the Ranks of Internet Kitties

I defy you to find anything cuter than three-week-old kittens (other than my fabulous self, of course).

Yu, the young female gray cat who adopted us, has had her kittens. I have been midwife to two cats now, so when Yu came to get me at some unholy hour of the night, I knew what was happening. She led me to her chosen spot on a padded bench in the living room (which I immediately covered with a towel. Birth is a messy business even for felines.) and I stayed with her as she experienced something entirely new to her but as old as life. Over two hours, three tiny bundles of fur and mew were born, one white, one gray, and one black. Two males and a female.

I don't need to go into great detail about how much they have been watched over and loved by our family. If you had kittens in your house, you'd do the same. At first, we had to protect them from Marmite, the dog. Being a little male dog, his first instinct -- other than utter confusion -- was to eat these small, ratlike creatures. He would stand stock still and watch the tiny, mewling kittens, his muscles trembling with the need to completely resist the urge to nip at them or suffer our wrath. Now that their eyes are open and they are exploring the living room, he's turned into some sort of creepy uncle. He no longer tries to bite them, but he will stare at them for hours. When they come close, he licks them. The kittens have no fear of him and will eagerly approach him, but he will just as eagerly start licking their behinds. Seriously, Marmite. Have some dignity. How delicious can cat poop be?

Because you're curious, the white kitten (male) is called Gandalf. The gray one (also male) is Ash. Their sister, who is black, is Rosemary. Gandalf was originally named Lightening, but when he developed some gray markings around his ears and his nose, someone changed it to Gandalf, and it stuck. I think it's rather unfortunate. It's such a heavy name for such a sweet little thing. He's the runt, but everyone who comes over and see the kittens picks him up first and coos over his tiny little perfect face. Ash is the playful one, and Rosemary will definitely be the mouser. She's a fierce huntress, stalking her brothers and Marmite on wobbly little legs.

A friend of my parents-in-law, a woman from whom they adopted their cat, Alfie, has offered to neuter and spay the whole lot for free. Those who adopt the kittens will also be able to get vaccinations for a very good price. This is wonderful because already the fields around our neighborhood are full of feral cats just waiting to pass along their diseases and have more progeny. The only reason we didn't get Yu spayed a while ago was because there was some question about whose cat (and who's responsibility) she actually is. I think that the fact that she has had kittens in our house and we are taking care of them makes her well and truly our responsibility. I don't think anyone with any sort of prior claim can now object to our preventing more litters from her, though future kittens would be equally as adorable as the first three.

Just to add some adorableness to your day.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Unfrozen and Breathing

We didn't freeze to death and I didn't end up dying of some horrible respiratory disease, so don't fret your little self any more. In fact, Husband did some research online and figured out which part to buy for the furnace. Once the part arrived (a blower fan, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, you can get from for a pretty decent price), and since he'd already replaced the capacitor, Husband fixed the furnace and it's worked beautifully and quietly ever since. We didn't realize how loud it had been getting.

As for illnesses, 2013 has proven to be an anomaly in the Aurora household. The theme for this year should be, "All sick, all the time!" While I did get over my bronchitis eventually and Husband managed to avoid contracting anything serious, all the kids have been through one or more rounds of...something. Infected sinuses, sore throats, fevers, flu, and more keep sweeping through, mowing down the children in batches. I blame myself, really, which is my right and duty as a guilt-trip-talented mother. I've been feeding the family far too much junk food because of my schedule, lack of energy, stress levels, and the fact that I have developed a sincere and earnest hatred of cooking. Sometimes the kids can go an entire day without tasting a real vegetable. We should buy stock in Little Caesar's Pizza.

I'm just letting you know we're alive. I'm sure you were worried. :)