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I’m a firm believer in eating as much organic food as possible.  I’m not referring to pre-packaged “organic” food, I mean the real deal.  The foods that contain large amounts of  pesticides and artificial fertilizers; our fresh fruits and veggies.  Unfortunately, the demand is not yet great enough for these organic foods to be cost-friendly, so I can’t always afford to buy them.  In this economy, who can?  This is why I have started my own organic garden. 

Organic gardening is not as easy as one might think, and it really makes me understand why we began using pesticides and artificial fertilizers in the first place.  It is tough to keep the pests away and the nutrients high, but it can be done.  Through trial and error I have found some organic solutions to common garden problems.

Pests:  I would be very careful here when buying “natural” or “safe” pesticides.  I was recently shopping for something to get rid of the pests eating my blackberries and came across a supposed “organic” pesticide.  After reading the label I wondered how a product that is “harmful to fish” and should be “kept away from heat and flame” could be considered organic.  I decided to forgo the commercial pesticide and do some research instead. 

Depending on the plant, there are a few ways to either eliminate pests or keep them away.  A few of the methods I have used are planting herbs around and within the garden.  Different herbs repel different plant pests, so it’s good to mix it up.  I have found that basil, lemon balm, spearmint, peppermint, catnip, thyme, rosemary and sage are all great natural pest repellents.  Spearmint specifically is a wonderful ant repeller.  It’s also nice to have a garden full of fresh, organic herbs!

Garlic and onions planted around the perimeter of the garden are also wonderful at keeping out bugs and larger animals such as deer and moles.  This is yet another natural solution that comes in handy in the kitchen!

Diatomaceous Earth is another natural pesticide.  This can be found at most of your hardware stores.  It is an abrasive powder created from the fossilized remains of diatoms, a hard-shelled form of algae.  The only downside to this as a pest repellent is it can kill off the good bugs too, so use wisely and be sure to buy the organic food-grade.

A few other common household items I have used in my garden are coffee, cinnamon, and eggshells.  Coffee is supposed to be good for keeping out ants, but I have yet to see if it really works.  Cinnamon is also a good pest repellent, and the egg shells I just hate to throw in the garbage so I crush them up and toss them in the garden for nutrition value.  I am sure they do something I haven’t discovered yet.

Fertilizers:  Again I would suggest being careful here as there are a lot of so-called “organic” fertilizers on the market, so be sure to read labels.   

The one fertilizer I swear by is fish emulsion.  Be sure to check the label and make sure it’s certified organic.  Basically, it’s fish poop, so it smells, but my plants sure do love it.  Another good one is worm castings.  Again, this is just a fancy term for worm poop, but it is yet another excellent food for any organic garden.  I like to just mix it in with the soil when planting, or if your garden is already established just sprinkle it around like you would any other fertilizer, the nutrients will work their way into the soil.  I read somewhere that worm castings are one of the best because they are loaded with micro-nutrients which are much more easily absorbed by the plants.

It’s also a great idea to mix in some organic composted manure with all of your plants, but especially your garden.  There is something to be said for animal poop, plants love it!

And of course, compost.  Compost is a wonderful way to keep a large portion of your trash out of landfills, and it makes a wonderful fertilizer.  I have yet to buy myself a nice composting bin for outside, but it’s on my list!  Be careful here and make sure anything you put in your compost heap is organic to start with!

There are many other kinds of organic fertilizers out there, but these are what I’ve found and like so far.

Mulch:   Anyone who has ever had a garden, or even outdoor plants of any kind, knows how important it is to mulch.  It keeps weeds down, moisture up, and saves water.

There are plenty of organic mulches, some of which can be found in your own yard.  One great one is leaves.  I recently discovered this, and it’s a great way to put all those pesky fall leaves to good use.  You can shred them or just use them whole, but they are a wonderful barrier and also provide acid for the soil.  I just lay them down in my garden after I’ve watered it well, leaving some room around the stems of each plant for water and air.  You can also lay newspaper or cardboard down first, but be sure not to use anything with colored ink, and it’s a good idea to call your local newspaper to make sure they use soy-based black ink.  I skip this step because our paper does not, and there are chemicals in the non-soy inks that I don’t want getting into my food.

Other great organic mulches are grass clippings, hay,  and pine straw. 

I also like to take the ashes from our outdoor fire pit (if you have an indoor fireplace those will work too, provided all you’ve burned is wood) and sprinkle them around my plants.  This is a great source of nitrogen, and a great way to recycle!

I think the key to a successful organic garden is good old-fashioned hard work mixed with a little know-how and diligence.  Pay attention to everything you put in your garden because it will end up in your food.  

Happy Gardening!

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June 15 is fast approaching, and although I am obviously not going to hit the 50-pound mark, I have made significant changes in my eating habits and activity level. I am addicted to exercise once again, and I am finding myself walking a lot more. Not only do I walk more each day, but my brain is catching up to the idea of actually wanting to walk versus automatically going for the wheelchair.

In the process of trying to lose weight, I have changed my entire life.  My daily structure has been modified to center not only around weight-loss, but good health.  I have become fit.  I can’t go a day without doing a physical activity that gets my heart pumping, and I pay very close attention to everything I eat and drink.  All in all, this weight-loss journey of mine has been a success, even if the numbers on the scale didn’t exactly get down where I wanted them to be.  The whole idea to losing weight should be to get healthy anyway, otherwise, you’re setting yourself up to gain it all back after the crash diet ends.

I am once again a health-nut.  After a solid two years of working my way back out of the rabbit hole, I have reached the top and have my feet planted firmly on solid ground.  That, in and of itself, is the greatest feeling in the world.  Knowing that I have come so far – that I have come from a life filled with constant pain and pity, and turned it all around to a life filled with happiness and good health – that’s genuine success.  Afterall, on a solid foundation, anything can be built.

I can see myself thin again.  I visualize it every day.  It’s the same feeling I had when I was younger and had just had a baby.  I didn’t worry about taking the weight off, I just knew I would.  I was active, and I ate right.  I was back to my pre-baby body within weeks of my daughter’s birth, because that was who I was.    If you allow yourself to be fat, you’ll stay fat.  If you visualize yourself at a certain weight, you will stay there.  The thin me is back, and she knows the weight will come off, it’s that simple.

I’m a firm believer in will power and our ability to do anything we set our minds to.  I had a little set back with my illness, and subsequent pity hell, but I knew I wouldn’t stay there forever, and I didn’t.  I made the decision to change, and I did.  It wasn’t easy, I had plenty of demons to fight, but I fought, and fought, and here I am, healthier, happier, and full of drive and determination once again. 

Even though sometimes life can mess with us in ways we never thought possible, we must NEVER GIVE UP!

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Starting Weight:  212
Current Weight: 205
Total Loss: -7 lbs.

So amping up the exercise is paying off. I also haven’t been “watching” what I eat so much as just keeping the portions right and keeping my calories down. This makes for a much happier me. Strict diets are not the way to go anyway. I’m not eating junk food, but I am allowing myself to eat what I want; sort of. I just pay closer attention to how good or bad something is for my body, then I keep the portions and calories in check. It’s a much easier method then trying to do these different diets that never work for the long-term, and they certainly do not make me happy.

Moving around more is key of course, and I have definitely been doing a lot of that. It feels good all around, but it’s also helping with the weight loss as well.

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Starting Weight:  212
Current Weight: 208
Total Loss: – 4 pounds

50 days and 7 weeks in and I’ve lost a whole 4 pounds.  WTF.

UGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I just seem to go up and down, up and down, like the same damn roller coaster I’ve been riding for the last 10 years!  This is really getting annoying to say the least.

I eat great;  no junk, not going over around 1300 calories per day, and I’ve been drinking water by the gallon.   I guess I just haven’t been getting in enough exercise.  I don’t guess, I know.  I also know I’m really getting sick of this bullsh*t.  If it takes my getting blazing mad for something to change, then so be it.

Time to develop an eating disorder… (j/k)

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In my opinion, one of the hardest obstacles to any healthy diet program is outside influences.  They come in all forms;  that snack machine that stares you down each time you enter your office break room, the fast food place that is so conveniently located on your route home from work when you haven’t eaten in hours and you’re starving, or it can simply be the “impulse buy” section at the grocery store that is loaded with nothing but sugar and carbs.  For me, it’s my neighbor.

Bless his heart — he’s a pastor at a local church that runs a food bank — and when they have leftover food he brings it to us – his neighbors.  Some of the food is healthy, but the other half is not.  I am so thankful for this food.  He has saved me so much money in food bills that if I had to count, it would probably knock me out of my chair.  The only downside is the cakes, pies, donuts, and other super delicious, and super-bad-for-me items.    So the key, for me, is to get rid of everything that is not diet-friendly as quickly as possible. 

I have a small network of families who I share this food with, so I email them and they come pick it up.  On the days they can’t pick up right away, this junk food calls my name like a foghorn, “SHAAAAANNNNNOOOONNNNN, I’M IN HEEERREEEEEE…. YOU KNOW YOU WANT ME!”  It takes every last bit of self-restraint not to go dive into each and every one of the awful treats and gorge myself until my eyes pop out, especially when it’s PMS time!  UGH.

I haven’t found a tried and true method of avoiding the “cave”, but I try different things each time.  Sometimes I will picture myself when I was thin, and that will be enough to keep me away.  Other times I will think about how hard it is to walk now with the added weight, and that will be enough to piss me off and make me hate the naughty food.  Then there are those few times, like when I have PMS and a major case of the “fu*k-its”, that I say hell with it and have no will power to control myself.  It’s those times I am trying so hard to work on, and find a button to press that will keep me away.  Those buttons are hard to find when you’re craving sugar and salt and you’re cranky and just don’t care.  “I’ll stay fat, I’ve been fat this long, who gives a crap if I stay fat another day!  I don’t have a boyfriend anyway so who’s going to notice besides me?”  — And it’s that kind of thinking that is why I am still overweight.

Even though I might be the only one who notices when I eat the wrong foods, I am not the only one who notices I am overweight.  Besides, I am the one who counts anyway, and even if I truly was the only one who cared or noticed, that is enough.  If I know, that’s what matters, and aren’t I doing this for myself anyway?  Yes, I am.

Still, it is so hard to hold back at that crucial moment when I’m full-blown PMS, and I’m craving chocolate cake, and my kind-hearted neighbor shows up with a box full of it.  I just have to keep repeating things like “mind over matter” and “nothing tastes as good as thin feels”.

I guess there is no miracle cure, or one way to avoid the cravings and hold back, but I sure wish there was.

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I decided this past Sunday that I was going to cut out sugar, artificial sweeteners, and salt from my diet.  I was noticing major swelling in my left ankle by about 4PM each day and it was starting to concern me.  I did some research about artificial sweeteners and ended up sick to my stomach at the thought of putting that crap in my body.  I’ve had enough health issues, I don’t need any more.  I’m also fully aware of what refined and added sugars can do to a person’s body so quitting that is a no-brainer, as is quitting added salt and high-sodium foods.  I switched to eating whole foods; fresh fruit, vegetables and lean meats.  No more processed junk.

Since making the switch, I have dropped 4 pounds.  I’m sure this is water-weight I had gained from eating too much sodium and added salt, but it’s a loss, and that’s good.  My ankle swells less, and I feel better in general.  I’ve been drinking a LOT of water each day, and my energy level has increased also.  So, all in all, the change to a more natural diet certainly does make a difference in how we feel on a day-to-day basis.  Honestly, this should be common sense, but we don’t always practice that now do we?  No, we don’t.  Especially not me.

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I’ve  been reading all about artificial sweeteners and how terrible they are for you.  One article actually said that artificial sweeteners still cause a spike in your blood sugar, with a crash afterward, and can trigger our bodies to store fat!  And that’s mild in comparison to the laundry list of other side effects, one of which includes cancer!   Sheesh!  So, no more diet sodas and artificial sweeteners for me.  I have found some sweet substitutes for sugar, and yesterday tried one that I really love;  Agave Nectar.

Agave Nectar absorbs very slowly into the blood stream, causing a minimal increase in blood sugar.  It comes from the Agave plant, the same plant used to make tequila (my favorite)!   It has the same consistency as honey, and actually tastes similar with a flavor closer to actual sugar.   The only drawback to Agave nectar is there are 60 calories in a tablespoon, but on the flip side, you only need a small amount to achieve a very sweet taste.  I use it in my coffee and tea,  and could probably find many more uses later on.  I had thought I would need to go to a health food store to find it, but I was very pleased to find it at my local grocery store, and it’s 100% organic. 

The other sweetener I’ve been researching, and have yet to try, is Stevia.  This comes from the Stevia herb, and is supposed to be very sweet in very small amounts.  It is non-caloric so that makes it desirable for those who are watching their weight!  I am going to give this a try next and will let you know what I find.  Like anything, I have found some negative things about Stevia, but so far none that are any worse or even come close to the bad side effects of artificial sweeteners!

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