meat eating and health

This morning, I read a post over on The Great Fitness Experiment that got me thinking. Charlotte talked about her own vegetarian / carnivore experience in “Are Vegetarians Really Less Healthy than Meat Eaters? New Study Says Yes.”

Like Charlotte, I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism. Also like her, every once in a while I struggle with the decision I’ve made to start eating meat again. I really enjoyed her post, which talked about a new study from Austria that found better health and quality of life amongst meat-eaters than those following a veggie diet. Charlotte made some really important posts when it comes to reading and interpreting these kinds of articles where one diet or eating approach is labelled superior to another, including a reminder of how the health argument is always changing: from lean skinless, boneless chicken breasts to the fattiest but grass-fed, organic beef you can get–the flavour of the day for what’s the “healthiest” meat choice will change and change and change again.

Nowadays, there are (conspiracy) theories about why we eat what we eat–from the corn farmers to the meat industry to the vegans, everyone seems to be out to get us. There are books that tell us that vegetarianism is the way to be–for our health, for our planet, for our pocketbooks, for our appearance. Ditto for the ones calling us to eat more meat–dive into the paleo cookbooks at the store if you want to see these in action! There are plenty of books that make the other way of eating wrong, but I think what’s important here is to decide what really is the “right” way to eat–for you.

It’s really tricky to define “good for you”–especially if we’re talking about something as generalizable as meat eaters vs. vegetarians. I know plenty of people who would identify as veggies who don’t give much thought to their diets and plenty of people who eat meat who are intentional about it. And vice versa. But if you don’t agree with eating meat on an ethical, religious, personal—whatever—basis, should health be used as a way to try to convince you to go against that? As Charlotte says, what’s healthy seems to change along with the diet trends.

It admittedly makes me nervous that the diet trends and the research go hand in hand in the way Charlotte says they do – with paleo/primal/atkins getting more popular and THEN research to back them up seeming to materialize. Diet industry, I’m onto you. Sadly, it’s easy to do the same for ourselves. I know–and have read–the books that take a solid stance for going veg and I know the ones that I turned to when I was feeling guilty about my decision to start eating meat again. It’s easy to cherry pick to support what we’ve already made up our minds to do or to believe.

When it comes to generalizable statements on diet, I think we need to look at why we’re making them. Will those vegetarians be so harmed from not eating meat that we need to make their choice wrong? I don’t think so. So why do that to ’em? More steak for you, and move on. Chances are, whether you choose to add meat into a healthy diet or choose not to, you can make up a pretty darn healthy diet–if you put in the effort. Deciding on purpose to eat or not eat meat, and deciding to hold to that decision in the midst of these narratives about how meat eating is killing you or the planet or how vegetarianism will just ravage your body (we’ve all seen both sides of the extreme argument) might not be easy. I think we are wasting our energy though, and I think that the more time we spend tearing each other’s approaches down, the less time we have to focus on what we’re actually trying to accomplish by eating that way in the first place. Stand for something, not just against something else, ya know?

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-Are you a vegetarian?
-Would you keep eating this way even if it was definitively proven that it’s not as “good for you” as having meat in your diet?

Sleeping in, getting serious, and a shocker

After staying up late last night to plug away at my essay, I slept in til about 7 instead of going to swim.

My pre-library breakfast was oats, yogurt, maple syrup, raisins, and an apple.

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After a bit more progress on the paper, I had an appointment with the dietitian. I’ve been feeling like I’m picking at food a lot and have been a bit over-anxious about my choices, so I was grateful to have someone to talk it out with! To be honest I was feeling a bit overwhelmed this morning and I’m uber sore from yesterday, so my plans to head to the pool for a short swim post-appointment were abandoned in the name of more essay work…and lunch!

Since it’s chilly out, I embraced the opportunity to have some chili. Plus I walked past Tim Horton’s and had a craving for it when I saw someone getting it! Mine’s the PC Blue Menu vegetarian kind, and it was awesome with toasted whole grain sourdough bread.

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My dessert was an apple and more essay.

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Guess what?!

The writing part’s done. Now to cite, cut down four pages (or not, thoughts on going over and handing it in?), and look for people willing to read over it for me.

Actually, now to the shocker part of the title.

This article about beetles in starbucks drinks came up on my Facebook news feed today. As the article says, it’s nothing new. I never knew, though, that there were beetles in that food dye that is in so many foods! I guess it’s a bit more reason to eat more real foods, don’t you think?

I read a blog about the issue from a vegan who pointed out that eating bugs is wrong. Then a friend posted a link to an article about how bugs might provide the protein the world needs to deal with hunger, and I thought about how there are a lot of answers and was reminding of Eating Animals and the shocking suggestion that really shook me that eating dogs would be logical. Read an excerpt on it here (but only if you’re ready to seriously consider going vegetarian and probably to cry).

And hopefully that’s enough distraction to keep you occupied for a while since the next few days might be a whirlwind for me. Right now I’m off to physio…wish me luck! On the agenda tonight: I’d like to cook, finish these citations, and get to yoga.

Do you ever have strawberry frappucinos? Will you still?
Did you know about that food dye?
What do you think about the excerpt from Eating Animals?
How do you know it’s time for a day off from the gym?

Great food, awesome company

This is not the good food I am referring to, though snarfing my lunch (bagel with peanut butter and a banana) during class was delicious even if snapping the photo was a bit awkward…

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And my homemade granola bar did taste awesome, though now I’m to the point where they’re not really BARS any more so most of what I ate is unphotographed…

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And a sunshiny walk run where I got to RUN for 10 minutes! Plus 5x 1 minute on, 1 minute off for a total of 15 minutes of running…helps. I can’t lie and say I wasn’t jealous of the people out running, but this is where I’m at! I had a few yucky body moments, but mostly because I have pasty white legs and my shorts felt too short after a winter of wearing tights. I will feel better about myself the more I remember that I’m living healthy and my body is adjusting, figuring out where it needs to be, healing from this injury, etc. exactly as it’s meant to!

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Going to yoga class is always a good idea for me and yesterday was no different! After an hour long power class taught by a girl I know from lulu whose classes are always challenging and fun (and whose adjustments are oh so wonderful) I felt a lot better :).

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Which is good because I had dinner plans to get to!

Ali, Sabrina, Ellen and I went for an early dinner at Veg Out, a really cozy vegan restaurant downtown. I’ve wanted to go there for ages so when they asked, I had to say yes!

What made last night so awesome?

  • The company: these three gals are all easy to talk to and the kind of people you’re glad you met!

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  • The atmosphere: Not just the sunshine spilling in the doorway, but the whole place! The salt shakers on each table, for instance were in different shapes (we had tomatoes, there were artichokes on one table, bunnies on another, sheep on another–so cute!). There was lotion that smelled amazing in the washroom. The place is small but I really liked it and felt comfortable there.
  • The menu: SO MANY OPTIONS–here’s their menu!…I had a hard time deciding, but I settled not the Chickpea Nut Burger, which I’d heard was delicious in a review I read and which our waitress recommended.
    Chick-Pea-Nut BurgerA chickpea, green pea, peanut butter patty topped with caramelized onions, avocado, tomato, pickles, sprouts, and Sriracha mayo. Gluten-free option available. 

Chick-Pea-Nut Burger

A chickpea, green pea, peanut butter patty topped with caramelized onions, avocado, tomato, pickles, sprouts, and Sriracha mayo. Gluten-free option available. 

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  • Dessert options galore: While Ellen and I tried our best to devour a piece of triple chocolate cake, we couldn’t do it! I think it’s going to make an appearance in Ellen’s breakfast today 🙂 so don’t worry, no chocolate cake is going to waste! The other gals had Earl Grey cupcakes with the best lemon frosting ever! The bean brownies with avocado fudge frosting were intriguing, as were other options on the list! Mmmmmm.

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I can’t wait to go back! Happy belly, happy heart!

I spent the evening with Rachel, Nina, Ellen and Mel and then came home and found myself uber spoiled with flowers from Alysha and a note about my decision.  Wow, I’m lucky to have such great friends in my life!

Now it’s time for me to go swim that time trial. Nervous would be in order, and I think I’m there, but it’s supposed to be fun and it will be! It’s too sunny to get too worked up about this, and I have to start somewhere. Also reminding myself that I literally took “Learn to Swim” as my aquatics requirement not too long ago and have only been swimming consistently for a few months. Not excuses for being “slow”, but reasons for being proud!

Have a great St. Patty’s day! I wish there was Bailey’s in my coffee…

How are you celebrating today? 

I should be sleeping

This whole springing forward an hour stuff is making going to bed early in anticipation of an early swim tomorrow hard. But what’s harder than that is not sharing how awesome my dinner was today!

Warning, things are about to get yummy!

First, a recap…Nina and I went grocery shopping and hung out a bit at Starbucks (the weather called for cold drinks–an iced passion tea (unsweetened) for me!).

LOOK WHAT I FOUND!


But, without further ado…the best dinner I’ve thrown together in a while, and it’s vegan! It was inspired by a dish Nina made last week at Sunday Funday! And carb-y! And I used up lots of veggies that were ready to be eaten…

Clean Out the Kitchen Quinoa 

Ingredients:
quinoa, rinsed
olive oil
onion, chopped
sweet potato, chopped
brussel sprouts, cleaned and split
kale, cleaned and deveined
dried cranberries
roasted almonds

Directions:
Cook quinoa.
In the meantime, heat olive oil. Add onions, sweet potato, brussel sprouts*, and kale and cook til soft and slightly browned.

Combine quinoa and veggie mixture.
Top with cranberries and crushed almonds.
Enjoy!

I used SparkPeople.com to make up the recipe and to get the nutrition info for a “serving” for my food log on fitday! I’m going to be eating the leftovers for a few days and I wanted to find a way to make up recipes with nutrition info for a while…resource found! You have to be a member (but I am) but it’s free to join so if you’ve wanted to analyze a recipe just for kicks, do it!

I also made granola bars today! They were based on the amazing ones that Jennifer made at the seminar yesterday—her Crispy, chewy chocolate peanut butter bars.

I took liberty with them and made my own and they came out a) just as crumbly (she said she didn’t add enough honey to hers) and b) really chocolatey. Not necessarily bad things, but when I plugged in the nutrition analysis I realized they were pretty fatty. I did cut down on the honey and kept the nut butter the same,  but I also left out most of the extra nuts too… I get why they might have been skewed and crumbly. This is a work in progress, but a kind of delicious topping for overnight oats I’m thinking…yumm! The nutrition facts kind of scared me, because they’re pretty caloric, but it’s at least healthy stuff. Compared to a store bought bar, they’re not that different AND I know what’s in them….so that makes me happy. I’m not sharing the recipe just yet (because I want to perfect them)!  — but they look good. For now, stick to Jen’s recipe anyways! I’m going to use them kamut flakes in the near future, though!

the finished bars 🙂

crumbly can be good!

Anywho, it’s time for me to find my pyjamas and set my alarm for 5am. This week is going to be a bit ridiculous, but I’ll try to keep on posting because to be honest, I’d go crazy if I couldn’t talk about my day somewhere and blogging lets me pretend that people give a poop whether or not I’ve perfected a granola bar recipe or not…

Are you up later than normal cuz of the time change?
Do you have a perfect bar recipe?

Are you a Spark People member?

TGIF: March 9, 2012

5 new foods the vegetarian in me tried or can’t wait to try

Reading “Becoming Vegetarian” (thanks Rach) has reminded me of something: eating less meat doesn’t mean restriction. It helps to take a positive view on things and to think about all the possibilities opening up when you decide to go meatless every once in a while (or just on Mondays, or for good!).

  1. TAHINI! My friends have been raving about the stuff but I finally got some for me this week! I tried it in a carrot/tahini sandwich spread and loved it. Feel free to send me recipe ideas using it!
  2. tempeh…Sadly, the kind I tried was a bit too smoky for my liking, but I found my TLT sandwich yummy (tempeh, lettuce, tomato and light mayo) sandwich yesterday pretty yummy (the fact that it was fresh bread helped). Here in London, I can only find bacon type ones. Frustrating, cuz I know it’s out there!
  3. almond milk–It’s creamy enough that I don’t see the point in buying half and half any more. Yum. I also tried the chocolate flavour (it was on sale) and LOVED it warmed up in the microwave. No sugar added and fortified…treat! Now that I’m not so preoccupied with protein, I know it’s okay to use this stuff sometimes!
  4. cashew butter…or any alternative nut butter I’ve tried…even though it’s pricey, I loved the jar I picked up last week, slathered on toast. Again, feel free to send me recipes! Rach said it tastes good as a cookie dough kind of thing…I am all for investigating this claim!

  5. lentils — described as a “food of the gods” because they are highly nutritious, you can get them locally, and they’re affordable according to a dietitian I interviewed for an article last week, I think I need to incorporate more beans/legumes/etc. into my diet! They’re filled with fibre (bonus), are a source of carbs (yay), and deliver protein too.

4 quotes worth repeating

  1. “When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?'” – Sydney Harris
  2. “You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don’t. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.” –Mevlana Jelalu’ddin Rumi
  3. “What counts is not the number of hours you put in but how much you put in those hours.”
3 posts I stumbled upon and loved this week
  1. Tina’s very useful post on stretching. I was in need of a few to complete mine, and I think I found em! She even includes pictures of each–as a side note, I want mu future workout posts to look more like this!
  2. Marion Nestle’s post on “unhealthy food obsessions” which I may or may not have shared before, in which she answers the question “is it possible to take a concern for healthy eating to an unhealthy extreme?” and ends with a good conclusion:

    “…eating healthfully seems like a good thing to do and I have a hard time thinking of it as obsessive. What if eating healthfully were considered normal? As it should be, no?”
  3. Tara’s post about making her own version of a McDonald’s shamrock shake (not a fav order of mine…but how cool is it to take something and remake it yourself with a dose of nutrition?). Props, girl!

2 things I’m proud of this week

  1. I registered for summer school–and it was a pain. I had to get special permission and call the help line to get enrolled, but I literally called at 9:31am (things opened at 9:30) yesterday and I’m in. The course I’m taking is Principles of Food Science (FN 2232 if you’re a Brescia student!) and the course description is:“This course is a study of the physical structure, chemical composition and nutritive value of foods with emphasis on the effect of the physical and chemical environment on a finished product. An experimental approach will demonstrate the principles and method of food preparation.The topics for discussion include carbohydrate foods (fruits, vegetables, cereals, starch, sugar), protein foods (milk, cheese, eggs, meat, fish, poultry), beverages (coffee, tea), flour mixtures (flour, leavening agents, quick breads, bread, cakes, pastry) and menu planning.”I’ve taken the course before–that’s the funny part–back in 2010 but I dropped it. I sold the textbook (oops) but kept the cookbook, so at least I’ve got part of the stuff ready! I know I just got rid of my lab coat and white shoes, which means I’ll need to be replacing those before May! I think in the summer, the three hours of lecture followed by three hours of cooking (instead of spreading this out over days and weeks) will be enjoyable. Now that I’m not scared of food, I am excited. That’s huge! When I was in depth with my eating issues, the course would have been torturous. Now it’s going to be awesome!
  2. Giving myself credit for being awesome. It’s okay to be happy about things that happen to you, it’s okay to give yourself some credit….so this week I got into another Journalism program. No, I’m not doubting myself. But I am giving myself credit for getting in — that’s an accomplishment. I’ll keep my acceptance letters to give myself a pump up when I have a low day, maybe? I also received a compliment from one of my profs asking if I’d ever considered doing masters work. Tires pumped. And an email from a counsellor suggesting I apply for a certain reward further went to my head. I’m not bragging, but I am recognizing that I had a good week. 🙂

1 thing I’m ecstatic about

  1. I’m going to be able to train soon, I think! And spring is in the air. Good timing hip, keep up the progress, and let’s see what happens. My physio said next week we could discussssss when I’ll be able to run. Yoga feels good. I taught some spins and felt good. And reflected on my injury with a feeling of gratitude. 🙂

Do you feel bad giving yourself credit for what you’ve achieved?
What’s a new food you’re loving or hating?
Read any good posts this week?

I think I have a hollow leg

…and I’m filling it with carbs.

Delicious and nutritious, ones, mostly!

Today Rachel was kind enough to give me a few of her fav books about vegetarianism. She is lucky to have a mom who is a dietitian (yay for RDs!) and thus a wealth of knowledge at her disposal. Rach is one of those people who knows her stuff–she doesn’t take being veggie lightly and she is really smart about her nutrition. It pays off because in case you haven’t heard, she is FAST. 🙂

I think after reading through them a bit when I was waiting at physio and while I had my acupuncture today I would like to buy “Becoming Vegetarian”…this one’s by an RD and I like how it’s written. After reading it (I ate it up, pardon the pun), I felt smarter and EXCITED about things. Sometimes I think when you consider becoming a vegetarian or making some changes to your diet, it can be scary and signal restriction. The truth is, deciding to go vegetarian or just in my case to eat less meat (I still say if I knew where it came from and felt okay with it, I’d be okay with eating some meat here or there) is a reason to EXPAND your options! I never thought of it that way…but when I wrote the article for Canadian Cycling Magazine about just this topic (I sent it off today so hopefully it comes out in June/July’s issue!), I got that from one of the guys I interviewed–you actually end up LOOKING for variety and things get delicious.

I also noted something: I really really really depend on nut butter and nuts to get me through. My LARA bars are made up of nuts and dates, mostly. So that means usually 2 meals and at least one of my snacks involves nuts and nut butters. I think I’m worrying too much about getting enough protein, which is kind of a waste of time (deficiencies are rare). The vegan cyclist I interviewed said total calories and especially carbs are the nutrients to focus on getting enough of. So I started to think and I really realized that I am for some reason not eating as many carbs as I could, should, might need to.

So naturally, that translated into a hungrier me. Or maybe it was just the really good swim I had this morning? I dare say I felt fast! I think I found my rhythm with the set and I haven’t swam in a few days since the pool was closed so it just felt good to be in the water from the second I dove in.

Speaking of diving in, here we go with the eats I tried to fill that hollow leg with:

Before swim, I snarfed a bowl of yogurt (and had coffee, obvs):

After the super duper awesome swim, I was hungry for my overnight oats (which were a mix of porridge oats, cocoa, almond milk, a banana, and almond butter).

My lunch was good—a cheese and spinach sandwich spread with light mayo plus some carrot sticks on the side– but didn’t fill me up for long, so I ate an apple as dessert.

I had an afternoon snack attack and dug out a Clif bar I’ve been saving for just such an occasion. It’s been a while since I’ve had one of these bad boys, and I used to reserve them for when I was about to train/when I was on my bike/etc. but I realize that’s a food rule and it’s based on…nothing?

I ran errands this afternoon (bank, returns, retail therapy where I forgot to buy the things on my list but got a new lulu tank and a few headbands instead – but it’s justifiable because I just picked up the money I’ve made working at the Gazette over the last few months that I FORGOT I was getting paid for) and another snack attack struck. I was planning on making a new recipe tonight and needed millet (I’ll keep you in suspense til I make it) so I went in Bulk Barn. Going in there ravenous is a bad idea. I bought a bunch of goodies – tahini (a new food for me), the millet I needed, oat bran, spelt flour (I want to make muffins), kamut cereal, rice cakes, and some chocolate – and I downed about half the pack of rice cakes. Maybe a third. It happens—they’re mostly air.

pantry, consider yourself stocked!

When I got home I was too hungry to cook the recipe I had in mind so I went with an old faithful instead: my squash mix with almond butter/almond milk and spinach, raisins, and maple syrup. And yes I do eat it all together, and it is DELICIOUS.

Three chocolate nibbles and I’m set—the leg is finally full. Assume homework-ing blogging position on my futon, with a second cup of tea.

That’s the excitement of my Monday munchies. I went ahead and put them in my FitDay account to see how I did on the carb/energy front. Turns out I was pretty spot on for my activity level…even though I felt like I ate non stop! It was a little high on the fat % but that’s like I said–so much nut butter–and I am not willing to worry about it! Note to self: listen to your body cuz it’s working.

In other news, I got into Ryerson today. Acceptance letter folded and put with the other ones.

I am going to go and decline the offers all at once. It’s a big step! Thanks for the support. It’s still tough to hear people congratulate me and then say I’m not going, but it’s not so bad now that I’ve decided to be proud of my decision. Owning it! 🙂 The more I talk about it and think about it, the more I’m getting excited for it, actually! Even the summer school part will be good. 🙂

There’s not enough coffee in the world

…but it’s not even 5 o clock yet in Texas!

I am putting my insomnia to good use…catching you guys up to speed!

Yesterday, I had a spin (which felt good at the time, but later…well, I’ll get to that) and then we headed to the spa!

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post-spin love grown granola/cranberries with plain greek yogurt

My day was filled with unphotographed eats: leftovers, fruit, etc. in the afternoon because the day was so relaxing–the spa was a treat!

I finished “Eating Animals” yesterday. I think it’s one of those books that’s gonna stick with me. If you haven’t checked it out yet (this might be the 120102910th time I’ve referenced it), you should. Seriously. It’s not going to force you into vegetarianism, but it is going to raise some questions for you. Regardless of whether you change your eating habits as a result, I think reading it would be wise. Not only does the author write in a way that’s engaging, but it also really makes you question why you might be so ignorant to some of your dietary choices–and it ends with a pretty powerful example of how individual action, which can seem so minuscule, can actually change things. A favourite example from the book–when discussing how you might say you’ll eat “sustainable” meat or non-factory farmed stuff when it’s available but then continue to eat factory farmed meat at other times–was likening that to workers going on strike til striking gets hard. To be honest, I don’t think going vegetarian is that hard in and of itself. We eat more protein than ever — so if anyone warns me to make sure I get enough I might smack em — and by giving up meat I think I am creating more room for healthy foods. Focusing on the things I want to eat more of — plants: whole grains, fruits and veggies, and beans/nuts/seeds — is a way better approach than lamenting over the fact that I’ll be skipping out on things I used to miss. I’m not going to stop eating dairy just yet, and I’m going to take it slow with moving away from seafood (though after this trip, I’m feeling like it might be easy ;)!), but I know I am going to end up eating a more varied, healthier diet as a result of making all these shifts–not to mention that they’re coming from a place of wanting to change for the better on a broader scale–ethical, environmental, etc.–with health benefits as a bonus (versus giving me an excuse for restriction, wanting to lose weight, or trying to eat healthier). Bring on the veggies!

Sorry for that slight rant…back to the recap.

A walk in the afternoon that ended up turning into a big ol’ breakthrough for me: my hip is NOT getting better. It’s not getting worse, but walking made it hurt just like the first weekend. I had a good cry, realized I need to get another opinion on this, and resolved to do that. Then I tried to shut up the itty bitty sh*tty committee in my head and move the heck on.

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To dinner, vacation style.

There were appetizers, bloody marys, good entrees, and dessert.

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tuna sampler...not my thing

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salmon, mashed potatoes, asparagus

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"chocolate rivera" -- I've never met a molten chocolate cake i didn't like

Yessss I overdid it a bit (even though the goodies were shared), which might explain why I felt sick and maybe why I couldn’t sleep last night.

What ended up happening was a whole lot of googling: hip pain and now I’m thinking I’m going to head to the clinic on Sunday (we get back Saturday night) to see if I can get an X-ray over with (they don’t show much but usually ya need one before you can get a referral for any other tests) so I can get moving on this. I’d rather know what’s up. If I have a stress fracture, it’s 7 weeks minimum it seems (I read a lot of articles and discussion boards) and that would blow but it’s been about that long without knowing what is really wrong. Aggravated hip flexor just doesn’t cut it for my diagnosis anymore…and the worst that can happen is that I get the same answer from the doc! Of course, adding in trips home to go to the doctor is one more thing on my plate, but if your health doesn’t take priority, what does? Maybe my sanity? I think I can rearrange my schedule.

Anyways, after tossing and turning all night my stomach decided to growl so I’m up and at em and fuelled up! I’m heading for a swim in 2 hours (can hardly wait ;)!) and then we are going SHOPPING! The drive’s about an hour each way so I should have ample nap time (and we have the roomiest SUV ever). It’s really hard to believe we’re going home tomorrow! 😦 I’m not ready for the reality of assignments, work, and cold weather…

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Now it’s time for some more coffee. Think I can finish a whole pot before my swim? 😉

Would you ever go veg?
What do you do when you can’t sleep? Toss and turn? Get up? Blog?
Have you ever had a stress fracture?