Embracing the Plate... of Life.

Time, oh how you slip away.

This post has been a long time coming, and I think I'm ready to write it, now. (Warning: It's going to be good and long.)

I especially notice the passage of time in my children. I must have heard it more than a hundred times from other mothers, "Oh, they grow up so quickly." Many are the times I've shaken off their melancholy warning with a smile and a nod. Perhaps I didn't really believe them, maybe because I was stuck in a moment. When you're stuck in a moment, you often don't realize that it will end. The baby who cries on and on; the financial stresses; the crazy month at work that has you pulling your hair out; the house that will simply never stay clean; or the neverending refrain of 'diet and exercise' that seems to be going nowhere... it all seems like it is far to big to go away. Time doesn't seem very speedy, then.

But now, that first crying baby is 10, and the tears - his and mine - are a distant memory. The financial stress of being a young newlywed is long gone. I can see that my job has its ups and downs, and it won't always be stressful, nor will it always be my job. My house will one day stay clean, because my children will grow up. And my body, no matter whether I achieve my fitness goals or not, will stretch, and sag, and wrinkle, and bend. Time passes away, and things change forever.

I'm not being defeatist - far from it. I want to remind myself to seize the moment in the most positive way. To welcome each moment like a strange and wonderful new dish, studying its nuances and appreciating its uniqueness, savouring the new flavours presented in each circumstance.

Our desire as a couple was to have a big family, but our attempts to become pregnant over the past two years have not met with success. I have four children, and they are growing and changing so rapidly. I try, each day, to memorize them and learn from them and treasure them for all they bring to my life. I am so deeply thankful for them.

I'm going to take a deep breath right now, and share something very personal. I hope it will help you to be thankful for the gifts in your own life, and to embrace your plate.

I spent a lot of 2013 'stuck in a moment'. My goal for the year was, quite simply, to lose the rest of the baby weight gained with #4, and to get pregnant with #5. I had a plan of attack, and I was determined. (I've always been determined. It can be a bit of a curse.) But then, between January and May, I not only did not lose weight, I gained it. Up until that point, the only thing in the past 10 years that had made me gain weight was pregnancy, so I didn't know what was going on. I was trying to modify my focus to be more on health than weight. I was trying to stay positive, eat whole foods and enjoy my life while losing weight. It wasn't working. How could someone eat 1800 calories a day, and exercise 6 days a week gain weight? I reduced my intake to 1500 calories. I still gained. I reduced to 1200... and then 1000. I was still gaining. 

I thought I was lazy: Maybe I wasn't working out as hard as I thought? The number went higher. I thought I was crazy: I must be lying to myself about what I'm eating. I became panicked and anxious, and pushed myself harder and harder. By the end of April, I had gained 20 pounds, and lost hope. I finally went to the doctor, suffering from depression and a self-loathing deeper than merely the issue of weightloss. I felt like a failure at everything, from parenting and homemaking to my job and my friendships. I just wanted off the ride. 

The doctor listened as I cried, and then he started asking questions and planning a series of tests. As I left, with one fist clutching Kleenex and the other a sheaf of requisitions, he put his hand on my shoulder. 

"Don't give up. It's going to be okay."

After a rigorous series of tests, I was called back to the doctor's office. That was when the first chord of fear rang through the depression. What if there was something really wrong with me? I already knew I had a non-functioning thyroid, but what if I had thyroid cancer? The doctor sat me down, and we went through all of the lab results, the ultrasound and exams. "It's Polycystic Ovary Snydrome. It looks like your symptoms have been emerging over time, especially the past 6 years, and have worsened in the last year."

I was simultaneously devastated and relieved. A syndrome means it isn't curable. I can minimize the symptoms, but the underlying syndrome is still there. PCOS puts me at increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, and messes up fertility. On the other hand, I was monumentally relieved that I wasn't crazy. Looking back, I could see that many of the symptoms had exhibited themselves but had never added up to one cause in my mind. I had never considered PCOS as a possibility, because I had children, and thought that the two were mutually exclusive. 

The doctor explained that PCOS is on a spectrum, and for some people, the syndrome doesn't present until the patient is older. My tests showed that I was not ovulating. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with gratitude! How thankful I am that I have four healthy children, and that I had those children while I was in my 20s! If I had gone with the current societal norm of career first, kids later, I would be in the same boat I am in right now, but with no babies to show for it. Thanksgiving soaked into my core, and I knew right then that I would never take another moment with my kids for granted.

After half a year of struggle, frustration, anxiety and eventual despair, it was hard to believe that something would actually work, and that I could really take control again. The doctor gave me some options, including medication, but told me that a dietary method has been shown to be the most effective. Eating "like a diabetic" can help to balance the hormones that have swung more and more out of level. 

When I got home and shared the news with J, he was endearingly enthusiastic. "That's great! It's an opportunity to learn all kids of new recipes together!" I was overwhelmed, so thankful to have a husband who would walk this journey with me. I had so many questions about what this would mean for me, and how my future would look.

During our research together, I found the single most calm-in-a-storm website for PCOS sufferers.  It felt like I had found a safe haven, a peaceful place amid the chaos.  If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, please join pcosdietsupport.com. In the early days of just wanting to understand WHAT I was up against, when meal planning for new restrictions seemed impossible, this website and support community make things bearable.

I shared my burden with family members and some close friends, knowing that their support would help make the difference. I wasn't ready to share it with the world yet, but by the time I wrote "Eat Yer Porridge" I was already a lot more positive and happy.

Since May, I've been off of sugar (it's honey and maple syrup for me!), dairy, white rice, gluten (except for occasional whole grains), all processed foods, soy, and more. It's a long list, even if you're used to eating healthily. The science behind PCOS changed things for me. Finding out how crucial frequent eating is (when I had been counter-productively starving myself), figuring out why certain foods (like dairy!) are a no-go for me, these made a gigantic difference in results. The diet, coupled with an insulin-leveling medication, allowed me to start to feel better within a week, and I started to slowly but surely lose weight. Now, in January 2014, I've lost that 20 lbs that I gained in the first half of 2013. It's not much, but not much to sneeze at, either. If I can get my symptoms under control and keep them there, there's the hope that I will begin ovulating again, too.

Last night, my sister-in-law had to have an emergency c-section to deliver her 32 week old baby. Mother and child are doing well, all things considered, but it was a scary evening for everyone.  We almost lost someone we love, and a little someone we love but haven't even met yet.

All of this encouraged me to share this journey. It also reinforced my desire to appreciate life, to take what I'm served and spice it up, to savour it... to embrace the plate. 


  1. My heart is warmed as I reflect on the past year, my friend, and how your spirit has blossomed as your behind got smaller! Keep up the good work! Keep being kind to yourself while continuing to be better today than you were yesterday, everyday!


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