Random Thoughts

Adventures in International Traveling (while Keto)

Me and the fam just returned from a 1 week trip to Nicaragua! We had some friends who helped advise on where to go and some of the arrangements, but it was a bit of a last minute trip since we booked it only 3 weeks out! Fortunately I had a ton of airline miles to use and that helped, but I have to say, its not cheap to fly from the Midwest to Managua, Nicaragua. Once you get there though, its extremely cheap travel. Actually, we met and saw many backpackers on our travels – mostly European and Canadian.

We were advised to have a driver (by some acquaintances who have family there), and at the minimal extra cost, we decided to get one. However, he didn’t speak a lick of English (which we were not told in advance) and we did a poor job of brushing up on our Spanish before this shortly planned trip, so communication was challenging to say the least. We relied heavily on our dictionary and Google translator app! But even then, we had a really hard time understanding, more than ever before (have traveled to a number of Spanish speaking countries in years past). The only thing we can figure is that he was from an area with a different accent than we are used to. Not sure, but it forced us look up words, practice, and write out what we wanted to say in advance. I have a strong appreciation for language and have always wished I had more of a natural ability to learn language and also that I had started much much younger! By the end of the week, I felt like we had made some progress, immersion works people! This was MAJOR motivation for me and my husband to work on it over the next year and we are going to have competitions on Duolingo to see who can keep up their streak the longest!

So on our trip, we flew into Managua, picked up the rental, groceries and had dinner and then drove all of the way to the Pacific coast (approx 3 hour drive w/ traffic). Traffic was thick and at night it was difficult to navigate the roads if you didnt know where to go, which made is glad we had a driver for that leg of the trip. However, after getting a lay of the land we are sure we could have done it w/ a GPS and if we drove it in the daytime. It was a brutal day after catching a 5:45am flight and we didnt get to the beach house in Playa El Coco until around 7:30pm at night. Our (almost) 4 year old was a trooper though. He handled it all like a champ and we were super impressed with how much easier he is to travel with these days. I had new (cheap) toys lined up for the trip for him to open up as we went through the day as well as lots of cartoons and movies and of course loads of snacks and a sweet treat for him! He was truly amazing! We got to the house after dark, so just settled in for the night and got to bed early, but woke up to a beautiful view of the ocean!

Playa El Coco is really a small beach with mostly private homes and so very quiet and not crowded at all. It was really relaxing. Our house also had a pool, which was super fun for all of us. We mostly ate at the house, but one day went into Playa San Juan del Sur to eat lunch. We had lunch right by the water and it was beautiful and relaxing. San Juan del Sur had a cool beach town vibe and with a bit more hotels and resorts. I say resorts, but mind you we never saw any truly big resorts. Im sure they exist, but they are not very common. We got the feeling that in general this area does not cater to the all inclusive crowd, but more of your independent explorer type – like us. 🙂 My husband ordered lobster, and I wish I had taken a photo b/c for $20 he got FOUR lobster tails on his plate! I had some pork ribs which were barbecued and perfectly fatty (staying keto). I skipped the rice and had a little side of cooked veggies.

Speaking of staying keto. The main way I did this was I traveled with my MCT oil powder, collagen packs and coconut oil. I had a fatty coffee every morning and eggs and sometimes a 1/4 cup of rice and beans (just cause I couldn’t pass up the authentic stuff). I stayed satiated through lunch. I focused my meals around meat and topped any lean meats with coconut oil before eating. I definitely ate a little fruit and a few bites of carbs here and there, but I actually felt really good. No digestive issues and I think I even came home a hair leaner! It was much easier than I expected to stay keto while traveling. I also had lots of good snacks for the travel days including nut butter packs, meat sticks, and some Bulletproof bars (which are actually quite good). If you are traveling, go into it prepared and do your best but dont stress about it. I still felt totally fat adapted when I got home. No adjustment needed.

After a few nights at the beach, we headed to San Jorge to catch a ferry to Ometepe Island. We thought we had communicated that we needed the driver to make a ferry reservation clearly enough (Ill spare you the details) but apparently that was NOT the case. We arrived at the ferry to find out that we had no reservations – not for us or the car. So, what do you do? Bribe the port authorities of course! Money talks in Nicaragua and for only an extra $25 we got on the ferry! We are all excited and get in line and then we sit…and sit…and sit for 3.5 hours b/c high winds end up canceling two ferry runs! So when we finally get on the ferry, there are about 3 boats worth of people crammed on one boat! It was interesting to say the least. It was also rough and wavy waters and we got a seat on the top deck. The tot was exhausted by then and as soon as he laid across me and my husbands legs, he totally passed out and slept for the hour and 15 min journey to the island! Magic!

When we get to the island, my husband offers to drive, and the driver says yes. We later find out he didnt really even know his way around the island (not that it was too complicated) and we really should have just done the rest of the trip on our own. Lessons learned. Anyway, we didnt realize just how off the beaten path our hotel was. We didnt get our first pick b/c of the last minute reservations; however, I found a super cute place with private huts and a restaurant that looked magical. Its called Finca Mystica and is run by an American couple. Getting there involved driving on a pretty rough dirt road for 20 minutes and then up their driveway which was like off-roading! SO glad for the 4WD Toyota rental! I was laughing by the time we got there b/c it was just comical. The typical way around the island is on rental scooters and we saw numerous couples on scooters WIDE eyed and white knuckled just trying not to crash on this road. Lots of hitch hiker backpacker types and lots of locals walking or biking.

We saw many very poor homes and communities (not just on the island but throughout our travels). I found the arrangement of their communities fascinating though. They typically had one water source which was in the middle of a group of very small block wall homes (some with dirt floors others appeared to have concrete). This area seemed to serve as the communal area that people hung out at and then the houses were only used mainly for sleeping and most likely cooking. Clothing was washed on old school wash boards built into their sinks or on rocks at the edge of the lake. Strangely enough, even our hotel on the island manually washed their laundry. They only had 4-5 huts, but you would expect with all of the towels and sheets they would have a washer. Also, you can forget about a hot shower. We didnt have hot showers until our last two nights there. Neither the beach house or the island had hot water. It didnt bother us much but really made us appreciate the amenity of hot water to shower! I literally saw an ox cart on the island. There were lots of wooden carts pulled by horses that we saw throughout our travels – right next to cars and motorcycles and cyclists.

We had a wonderful waterfall hike, great meals and socialized with some interesting folks while at Finca Mystica. I wish we had stayed a third night. The ferry trip back was much less eventful. We went on to check out Granada (north from San Jorge) which is an older Spanish style town. Very cool with lots of restaurants and night life. I could have spent a whole day taking photos of the architecture. It was beautiful.

Other random sightings: 
*Of course everywhere you see kids riding on the top tubes of bicycles driven by parents or siblings – often going down busy roads
*Bicycles holding onto motorcycles or cars to “hitch a ride”
*We picked up 3 French girls who were hitch hiking on the island back from the waterfall hike to their hotel. Fun to chat with them. They were on a 3 month trip through Central America.
* Impressed by a family from Vermont that were staying at Finca Mystica with their 4 yr old and 6 month old! And also did the waterfall hike!
* I literally saw an ox cart (above). I got a thumbs up from the driver!
* Best of all I saw a mother and child riding a legit horse cart while she showed him something on her smart phone. Old world meets new technology! I wish I had a chance to snap a photo of that!

Overall it was a great trip. An adventure which my husband and I both really enjoy. We were reminded of how much excess we and all Americans have and Im currently looking for more ways to minimize my carbon footprint. We tested the limits of our toddler (and found them) but he also surprised us many times with his patience and new skills and abilities. We were stretched as a family and it brought us closer.
This is why I love to travel.

photo of Granada (bustling little town)
Random Thoughts

Ketogenic Backpacking

Well hello there! Its been over a year since my last post. Those who are still following this blog, I bet you thought I was a gonner! 🙂
Nope, just trying the juggle it all: career, house, child, husband, pets, fitness…along with trying to self-experiment on different eating styles to address some hormonal imbalances.

There, I said it, after childbirth I got way out of wack! I think it happens more than women care to admit – or even realize. But its a real thing and I’m bound the determined to figure out how to heal holistically and without hormone therapy. I wont go into all of the details, but Ive been working with an Environmental Medicine (similar to Functional Medicine) Doctor who has helped me improve my symptoms dramatically. I’m still struggling to figure out the last nagging symptoms, but its SO much better. Something I’ve been experimenting with lately (a month) is the Ketogenic Diet. Keto for short; is a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet that stabilizes blood sugar and forces your body into using fat for energy instead of glucose/sugar. I was already on a no-sugar diet (along w/ some other restrictions) while working with my Doc, so I thought, why not, Im kind of there already. So I bought the blood monitor, tweaked my macros (and tracked them for a couple of weeks) and found that my body easily went into ketosis. There is a ton of research going on right now around the ketogenic diet for diabetes and cancer treatment. It has a long history as a known treatment for adolescent seizures (started in the 1920’s). Without going into more details than most of you care to hear…it can really benefit the body in a lot of ways. If you want to learn more, I learned a ton from Dom D’Agostino, Ph.D. in his recent interview on the Joe Rogan Podcast (#994).

Due to the hormone imbalances, I try to stay on the very mild side of ketosis because going too deep can work against the very thing Im trying to improve. While I dont think this is for everyone, its really really feeling good to me. I thought my energy was decent before, but its back, really back! Im thinking more clearly and motivated to get back to blogging and doing more with my passion for nutrition and food!

Since going Keto, I had a few physical endurance events – a 50 mile charity bike ride, and two overnight backpacking trips with the most recent one covering over 12 miles in less than 24 hours (with a ~25 lb pack). I was feeling so good on Keto, that I really wanted to try and stay in ketosis, so I had to rethink how I packed for my ride and overnights. I googled keto backpacking and found some ideas, but I thought Id share my approach and how I felt.

Before hitting the trail, I ate some homemade Keto protein balls. I loved the taste, but they got VERY soft after they warmed up out of the fridge, and would be way too messy for the trail. I think Ill experiment with one that is good at room temp. But a great “fat bomb” (its a keto term for a high fat low carb treat/snack-more on that later) is perfect for pre-hiking calories. After 2 of those babies and I hiked hard for two hours and didn’t feel hungry at all.

Dinner:
Given that I was just super active and that I try to have 2-3 ‘higher carb’ days a week, I packed a small snack sized bag w/ roasted red potatoes. I added that into my reusable silicone bag (Stasher bags are awesome) along with a pouch of sustainable tuna, raw kale, 2 Tbsp sun dried tomatoes, and a handful of pine nuts. I added a quarter cup of boiling water to the bag and closed it up for 10 mins to heat everything. I then stirred in a pouch of mayo and a 1/2 pouch of coconut oil. YUM! I wish I had taken a photo, but it was totally dark by then! Worked great and left me totally satisfied. Night night!

Breakfast:
Earlier in the week, I made a batch of Keto-friendly Paleo Coconut Cacao Nib Granola. I made a flax egg to sub the egg in the recipe (1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water soaked for 10 mins) and sired in two packs of stevia powder for their recommended sweeteners and it was fantastic! I ate about 1/2 a snack size baggie of granola and a small green apple with my green tea matcha latte (w/ coconut oil of course) and I was set to hike!

Snack:
About 4 miles in I got hungry and snacked on my new favorite beef sticks. Mighty Bar makes some tasty low carb bars. A bit salty, but on a hot day, I needed the sodium anyway, so it hit the spot!

 

Post-Hike:
I ate a pouch of my new favorite almond butter pouches with some flax seed crackers and some of my mixed nut medley. This held me over until I got my “real” lunch 2 hours later.

 

 

For a late lunch I chowed down on some beef brisket and slaw. A few hours later, I checked my ketone levels and I was still at 0.3 mmol/l, which is still mild ketosis. Ive been floating between 0.3 – 0.5 mmol/l with the goal of not going any deeper than 0.5 mmol/l.

Considering the distance, I felt WAY less hungry during and after the hike than I previously would have (prior to becoming keto adapted). I felt strong and had a steady energy. Hiking is a perfect exercise for keto since its steady state and not high intensity. Id like to experiment with some high intensity training and keto as I go into some winter weight training. Ill keep you posted!

Random Thoughts

Clean Cleanse

Brown rice quesadilla with ground bison chard, mushrooms and Daiya "cheese" w/ guac
Clean Lunch – Brown rice quesadilla with ground bison, chard, mushrooms and Daiya “cheese” w/ guac.

If it seems like have be neglecting my blog lately, well your right, I have! I’ve decided to embark on a 21 day cleanse called the Clean Cleanse. (cleanprogram.com) and this has taken all of my extra time and energy. Time because I am preparing 99% of everything I put in my (and my husbands) bodies. And energy b/c this cleanse has really drained me this time around. I think I had/have a lot of toxins to flush and I also have had trouble making time to sleep longer.

I did this cleanse a few years ago and really liked the results and felt like it was a program I could stick with. I tried a juice cleanse once and thought I was going to starve to death or choke someone! I made it 1.5 days though a 3 day juice cleanse. I hate not finishing something, so this really bothered me. However, on the Clean Cleanse, your eliminating all of the potential allergenic foods (diary, gluten, soy, corn, eggs…along with sugar, caffeine, and alcohol). You have a smoothie or soup breakfast and dinner (with a 12 hour fasting window in between) but you can eat a solid lunch meal and solid “clean” snacks. This allows the body to detox and reduces inflammation in the body. In essence, you are letting the digestive system rest/recover. I stuck with it for 21 straight days the last time and never felt better! I slept great, my energy was awesome (after an adjustment period), and I felt lighter and lost those few extra pesky pounds my body wanted to hang on to. My husband did it with me and I think the effects were ever stronger on him. He even had an acute case of eczema disappear after trying prescription strength creams for weeks.

So, I’m 2 weeks in right now and this time around has been very different for me. One, is my low energy, but that is mostly due to lack of sleep. See, now I have a toddler and he gets me up around 5am. I find it difficult to get to bed earlier than 10pm, but that’s really what I need to be doing. Also, I got swollen lymph nodes in my armpit and behind my left ear. It’s not uncommon for me to have swelling in the one behind my ear when I’m fighting something off. But the armpit one is really annoying. I’m going tonight to try a lymphatic massage to try to drain them. I hope it works. I’ve read that this is common during a cleanse as toxins try to find their way out of the body. On a good note, I’ve dropped 5 pounds and feel lighter and my body feels more supple. I feel good when running (for the first time in a long time) and more flexible when doing yoga. That part of it has been great.

Anyway. Just checking in with anyone who reads this and I’ll be back soon. Hopefully I can make it another week and then get back to posting some good recipe ideas when I have more time.

-Jamie

As a side note. I dont work for The Clean Program and I’m in no way affiliated with them. The views above are only from my personal experience.
Random Thoughts

The start of something fun…

Hi there and welcome! IMG_0675
I’m so excited that your reading this, especially if your not a friend or family member since this is my first post on my first blog! I’ve been wanting to start a food/wellness blog for 3-4 years now and just finally made it a priority and I am SO excited to share my approach to food and fitness – Ill probably even throw in some travel posts as well since my husband and I love to travel and usually incorporate some sort of physical activity into our travels.

I felt like I need an introduction post first and not just jump into a recipe.
Please see my “About Me” page for more info but here is an overview/more info:
I’m very passionate about cooking wholesome and unprocessed foods for me and my family. I truly feel that our diets affect our short and long term health. I love experimenting with foods and even turning “comfort foods” into healthier versions of themselves. I enjoy being physically active and I am a happier person when I incorporate exercise into each day. I enjoy being active with my 1 year old son who loves riding in the bike trailer or hiking with me in the hiking backpack. My husband and I enjoy international travel and are almost always very physically active on our vacations – we both ride road and mountain bikes, enjoy hiking, scuba diving, and yoga. I hope you enjoy my blog. It will be a work in progress for a while, but I hope it will continue to improve with research and practice. I can’t guarantee that Ill post more than about once a week. I work full time and I’m the mother of a 1 year old! But, I’ll enjoy having an outlet for my food/fitness/travel adventures and I hope you come back often.

-Jamie