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The Green Glow: Day 5 – Mango Madness & other things

I’ve never done this before! This is the 5th day in a row I’ve posted to my blog. I attribute it to my excitement and enjoyment of sharing my 10-Day green smoothie challenge with you. Check out my earlier posts to see how you can join. This whole experience has been EASY BREEZY!

I’ve also been sharing some light lessons on successfully maintaining healthy habits and goals in general. It occurred to me how important it is to assess your progress periodically.

As a breast cancer thriver, about 30 minutes prior to every 6-month appointment with my oncologist, I get blood work done. In December, I had been anticipating my blood work results because I wanted to know if my iron deficiency anemia was improving. I didn’t think so because of the symptoms I was having. I also wanted to know if my glucose level was decreasing.

The benefits of seeing my oncologist so frequently is that he addressed the anemia right away by prescribing medication. That was about 6 months ago. I was concerned about my glucose level because my primary care physician told me about a year ago that I should avoid the “bad” carbohydrates because my glucose was getting high for me.

My anemia has improved as my numbers are in range, but my glucose was higher than it was 6 months ago….still within range, but not where I want it to be.

With doctors, perspective really matters because my oncologist’s focus is on the cancer; whereas my primary care physician is focused on the big picture. She identified an upward trend in my glucose level. My oncologist has never said anything about my glucose. From his point of view, my numbers are within range. In the big picture, I need to prevent any future illnesses if I can.

This is a wake up call that I need to rethink some of my food choices, including reassessing my green smoothie healthy habit. Granted, the holiday season just ended and I tend to eat more sweets during this time. In fact, I’ve yet to post about all of the baking I’ve done. Whatever the case, I inevitably get back on track after the new year.

For the green smoothies, I will complete this challenge. Afterward, I will continue to drink green smoothies, but will focus on low glycemic fruits like berries instead of the ones that tend to be higher on the glycemic scale like the features of the Day 5 smoothie – Mangos, oranges, and banana (some of my favorites). Update: I did a search since typing this post and the three fruits in this smoothie actually are not high glycemic fruits. Oranges are low, bananas are low to medium, and mangos are medium….so Not bad.

I also plan to reduce my intake of high carbohydrate foods like white pasta, white rice, and white potatoes.

Pasta alternatives

I purchased a couple of boxes of what I’ll call “pasta alternatives” months ago because I vowed to be on a low glycemic diet. These versions have more protein and fiber. It’s funny that the boxes indicate “Product of Italy”. Do they makes pastas like these in Italy? I just asked my husband, Bryan, who lived in Sicily for two years and he doesn’t think so.

Tonight, I used the pasta made with pea flour to make macaroni and cheese. I did not like the taste of the pasta itself after I boiled it. However, combined with my delicious cheese sauce and some time in the oven, it wasn’t bad. And to my surprise, my husband and kids enjoyed it. I also plan on using my spiralizer more for vegetables as an alternative to pasta altogether.

Reassessing your goals is important to make sure you’re staying on track. You don’t have to beat yourself up. Just do an honest self-assessment. No shame, no blame. Readjust if needed.

How are your 2020 goals coming along?

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The Green Glow: Day 4 – Very Berry

Oh my goodness! What a gorgeous day to be outside in Austin and we did just that. On my way out to begin my errands, I had the LUSCIOUS Day 4 green smoothie in hand – VERY BERRY. Mixed berries, an orange, banana, and spinach made this a REFRESHING smoothie!!! I replaced plain water with coconut water and added ground flax seeds and ginger. I finished drinking the smoothie in a matter of minutes. That smoothie was VERY, BERRY GOOD!

It occurred to me that consistency is another key ingredient in maintaining healthy habits. I’ve been drinking green smoothies for years and it’s been the last few Januarys that I’ve participated in green smoothie challenges. You don’t have to be perfect in following your plan, but consistency will help you reach your goals.

Even if you slack off a bit, get back at it. Never give up. One healthy habit executed consistently will inspire another healthy habit and so on. Just don’t give up!

The beautiful weather inspired me to get out and attend a health expo at Huston Tillotson University. I’m glad I did because I ran into the dancer who used to teach my daughter ballet when she was little. After that, my husband and I enjoyed a long walk in the woods.

Bryan and I on a trail 1-4-2020 LPC

What was the weather like in your neck of the woods? I hope you get some SUNSHINE when it comes around.

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The Green Glow: Day 3 Pineapple Dreamcake

Happy Friday everyone! I’m energetic on the third day of 2020 and my third day on this 10-day green smoothie challenge. Have I told you how much I LOVE tropical fruits like pineapples??? Today’s smoothie features pineapples beautifully with cherries, a banana, almond milk, and spinach. I added ground flax seeds and a small knob of fresh ginger, which took it over the TOP! Scrumptious!

In order to maintain any healthy habit, it’s key to set yourself up for success. For example, with this challenge, I did some things ahead of the challenge to ensure I wouldn’t have any excuses not to reach my goal of completing the 10-day green smoothie challenge.

Although the instruction manual divides the shopping into two grocery trips (likely to be spaced out by a week), I completed all of my shopping for the challenge in one weekend.

Most of my fruits are frozen, so I don’t have to worry about them spoiling. One tip I did to ensure my fresh spinach doesn’t spoil is I immediately froze some of the fresh spinach. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for a while, so frozen, fresh spinach works great in smoothies. When I’m ready to blend, I just let my frozen fruit thaw a bit in a measuring cup on the counter.

It’s essential to set yourself up for success in maintaining any healthy habit, or any goal, for that matter. Preparation and planning will help get you there.

What are some of your health goals for 2020? How will you set yourself up for success?

Smoothie prep LPC
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The Green Glow: Day 2 – Pink Flamingo

Pink Flamingo Smoothie is a Winner! LPC

Happy Thursday! Today is my first day back to work in 2020 and I’m feeling FABULOUS! I prepped today’s smoothie recipe last night and it was more “pink” last night than this morning. It was more of a greenish brown by the time I drank it, but still DELICIOUS!

Pink Flamingo LPC

I suppose the strawberries, combined with the mango, spinach and almond milk would make a “pink” hue; however, I substituted strawberries for mixed berries. The hue came out to a shade of pink, which may not be very reflective in the picture. To this smoothie, I added ground flax seeds. I forgot to add the knob of fresh ginger, but it was still YUMMY. Each recipe serves one, but I always end up with a little extra. The jar to the right is about a half a cup. I’ll drink that up as a snack before dinner.

I want to share a tip on acquiring a collection of mason jars. It’s really simple. Don’t ever throw away used jars such as spaghetti jars, jam jars, coconut oil jars, pickled pepper jars, salsa jars, spice jars, etc. I remove the labels by soaking in hot water and then BOOM, I have a new jar in a different size. I have a cabinet full of purchased and re-purposed mason jars I use for my smoothies.

If you’re interested in adding this one healthy habit of drinking a green smoothie to your day, check out the website at https://simplegreensmoothies.com/ for more information.

Cheers to our health!

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The Green Glow: Day 1- Beginner's Luck

Hi friends from across the globe!!! Happy 2020! Today marks the first day of my participation in a green smoothie CHALLENGE. As promised, I will post my daily progress for 10 days. The challenge itself should be a piece of cake. After all, I’ve participated for the last 3 or 4 years. Listen, I don’t need a challenge to make me drink a green smoothie because it’s an everyday healthy habit I’ve done for a few years now, but who doesn’t love a challenge??? It helps remind me of my health goals. I want to encourage you to add at least one healthy habit a day.

I’ve been enjoying green smoothies, cleanses, and vegan recipes from https://simplegreensmoothies.com/ for years now. Almost more than drinking the green smoothies themselves on this 10-day challenge, I love the names of the smoothies. Today’s smoothie is called Beginner’s Luck. I’m not a beginner and I don’t believe in luck, but this smoothie is like a tropical themed party in my mouth. It features some of my favorite fruits – mangoes, pineapples, and a banana. Once the spinach is added, the result is a scrumptious, creamy, beautifully green smoothie. I think anyone new to drinking green smoothies will be hooked after trying this one.

These smoothies are nutritious as is; however, I add extra boosters to amp up the nutrition factor. For Beginner’s Luck, my liquid was brewed organic green tea that I chilled instead of plain water as the recipe indicated. I also add flax, chia, or hemp seeds to all of my smoothies. And for good measure, I add a small knob of fresh ginger.

If you’re interested in this challenge, check out the web page https://simplegreensmoothies.com/ to find out more information. It’s free join…you just need to purchase the ingredients.

Here’s to health, happiness, adventure, joy, success, and love in 2020. May the light lessons you face along the way help you reach your goals. Cheers!

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The Green Glow: Coming in 2020

Green smoothie challenge January 2019

Hi WP friends from across the globe. For the past 3 or 4 years (I’m too lazy to confirm) on January 1, I’ve participated in a green smoothie challenge, which I LOVE. I drink green smoothies every day, but this is a treat because I will be doing a LIVE cleanse with people from all over the world. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve written about my green smoothies many times. If you’re curious, you can read a few posts here: https://enlightenedsocialworker.blog/2019/09/28/sometimes-a-vegan/ https://enlightenedsocialworker.blog/2017/04/15/glowed-up/ https://enlightenedsocialworker.blog/2016/11/08/i-love-green-smoothies/

Normally, I post to my facebook page daily when I’m on the challenge (hence, the pictures from January 2019); however, I’m thinking about doing a quick post to my blog site daily. The difficulty with doing a daily blog post is my work schedule, but if I can post to facebook, I can upload a blog post to wordpress.

What I LOVE about doing the LIVE challenge is I get to connect with people from around the world who also want to make better healthier choices for themselves. It just motivates me even further!

Tall, Green and Lean

I am SO looking forward to better health in 2020! How about you? Do you want to join me?

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What breast cancer has taught me…

Breast cancer awareness month is nearing its end. I often spend September and October reflecting on my life after my breast cancer diagnosis, mostly because I was diagnosed right at the onset of breast cancer awareness month.

About 10-12 years ago, when my mom was attending to her breast cancer treatment, I had no knowledge of the disease. She told me she was struggling with how to proceed in her course of treatment considering how much her breasts meant to her. My mom had a mastectomy and breast reconstruction with an implant. I didn’t think she needed to get a breast implant. Admittedly at the time, I thought it was odd my mom was talking about her relationship with her breasts, considering she was in her late 60’s. I thought she wouldn’t care so much since she was in a different phase of life. Looking back, I was insensitive.

She wasn’t sure what to do and I wondered if she was repeating what medical staff might have told her to consider in her decision making. It’s possible I wasn’t accepting her position because I had never heard my mom discuss how she felt about her own body. The procedures took a toll on her. There was a complication with the breast implant, so she had a repeat surgery. She got through it. My mom is my finest example of a strong Haitian Queen.

Three years ago, I was faced with contemplating what my breasts, and LIFE, meant to me. Upon initial cancer diagnosis, doctors arm you with so much information. In a week’s time, I had met with my primary care physician, two different surgeons (one who would remove the tumor and one who would perform the breast reconstruction), and the oncologist. It was overwhelming. I presume they do this to ensure you know all of the options because of the unknowns about the cancer until the initial surgery to remove the tumor is performed.

There are different regimens of breast cancer treatment – surgery to remove the tumor, plastic surgery for breast reconstruction, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and oral medications.  These activities don’t necessarily occur in this order and one may not need every type of treatment. Characteristics of the tumor, and whether or not the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, determine the course of treatment. The initial surgery to remove the tumor is the main treatment. Tumor pathology results further dictate the course of treatment.

Ultimately, I had a lumpectomy, followed a week later by breast reconstruction of both my natural breasts, then radiation therapy daily for 3 weeks, and finally (I pray), due to my age, I take oral medications for another 2-7 years.

I have a long complicated history with my breasts, but not as long as women who are diagnosed around the average age of 55 years old. I’m an anomaly, along with other women diagnosed at younger ages – twenties, thirties, and forties. We may no longer be anomalies in coming years given younger women are diagnosed every day. Much of that has to do with the increase in breast cancer screenings and earlier detection thanks to breast cancer awareness campaigns.

I developed breasts early. I was around 11 years old. I remember my mom’s friends at times whispering to her while pointing at my breasts. It felt awkward. I was getting the messaging I was developing early.  This caused me to be self-conscious. By the time, I got to high school, I really noticed how the boys reacted to my breasts. They gawked at them, which made me even more self-conscious. I recall my first day as a freshman, waiting on classes to start in the gym. A boy said “hi” to me. We chatted for a bit, then he whispered to his friend (not really a whisper), “Nice cherries!” They both nodded and snickered.

It never occurred to me that I should love or be proud of my breasts. I was conflicted about them for sure. I knew boys and men loved them. They would just stare. I knew this type of attention is what girls are taught is not good attention. Plus, it also made me uncomfortable with my sexuality and how to process the attention I was getting.  Growing up in a religious environment didn’t really address body image issues and sexuality. Sex occurred after marriage and that was it.

Fast forward, I got married and had my two children, both of whom, I breastfed. I loved I was able to breastfeed my babies. I was doing what was best for them. However, breastfeeding two babies left me with sagging breasts. It wasn’t long before I started wishing for the beautiful size C cups of my youth. I was left with some large, lanky size double D’s. I had to double up on sports bars for my workouts. I would complain to my husband, Bryan, I needed a breast reduction. We would joke about it…”one day, when we got a lump of money…”.

Three years ago, I was in my plastic surgeon’s office listening as he explained plastic surgery options. By this time, I had shown my breasts to every doctor/nurse I had seen in a week’s time and this continued for a year. The awkwardness of showing strangers, especially male doctors my breasts can’t be fully explained. I already had a love/hate relationship with my breasts.

If I chose to get a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction, fat could be removed from my stomach to rebuild my breasts. The surgery is 8 hours with a minimum of 1 week in the hospital and 1 month recovery post surgery. I could opt to get breast implants too like my mom. I would need to make a plan for nipples because I would lose them through surgery. But there was a resolution for that too….tattooed nipples. I’m as squeamish as they come, yet he was showing me before and after pictures. I could hardly stand it. My preference with my body is to always pick the least invasive approach.

I didn’t want to go through any surgeries. I wanted to be alive for my children. However, the path to wellness was surgery. Also, I was finally going to get a breast reduction and my size C cups back, but this was the farthest from my mind. I couldn’t imagine how I would get through all that was ahead of me, but I did by taking things in small bites – day by day.

When I told my mom I had breast cancer, she wailed, pleaded, and even told me on repeated occasions, she couldn’t accept it. Her reaction was as if she blamed herself. The fact is, I may have quite possibly gotten it through her genes, considering my grandmother, my mother’s mother, also had breast cancer. Genetic testing results came back negative. Genes are a trip. I’m thankful my siblings didn’t get it. It’s the luck of the draw. My children do have a real risk of getting breast cancer.

By the time, I told my mom, I knew I had a positive prognosis and had full faith I would be healed. I think I surprised her with my calm demeanor and positive attitude. I knew I had to get through my treatments to get to the other side. I was determined to do just that. I showed her how brave I was.

There is no question a cancer diagnosis brings you face to face with your own mortality and makes you consider what’s really important in life. You often will hear people who have had a sudden onset of a serious health condition say things like they know what’s important in life now, they don’t sweat the small stuff, they are more grateful, etc.

I agree with all of those things, but I still have a hard time with overachieving and overall doing too much and feeling guilty when I do try to do less. I’m working on it though. It’s takes awareness and deliberate action daily.

Ultimately, breast cancer has taught I can brave any storm and my one body is beautifully flawed. How people process their diagnosis varies and should be respected. Breast cancer has also reminded me of the need to:

  • Fuel my body daily with nutritious food and liquids
  • Reduce stress
  • Move daily
  • Think kind thoughts about myself
  • Have self-compassion
  • Slow down
  • Do things I love
  • Ask for what I need
  • Say what I mean to say

What have life challenges taught you about yourself?