Super Inspiring Story, Cookbook (First Glance) & Oh Dear, Odile!
Good morning! I just wanted to pop my head in from outer space and say, "Hola. I missed you all!"
One of the most common questions I'm asked is, "Do you have a list of things I should buy?" This was the subject of my last post and was QUITE popular (I was quite surprised, actually!). For those who are new, or who may have missed it, take a look! There's also a print friendly version.
Now, it's been a while since my last blog post. I'm SOO sorry about all of that, but I've got VERY good reasons for the break. I'll get into all the excuses, later in the post. The REAL story behind this particular post is Ashley Dubois, an AMAZING young woman with a truly spectacular story. SHE is the headline here. My behind the scenes shenanigans are secondary... or tertiary, at best.
See, I get countless emails and comments on my blog and various forms of social media. My day is an endless dialogue with someone, somewhere, about something. I hear stories all the time, from the dark and scary, to the medical wonders of the world, and then ... incredibly uplifting and inspirational stories of victory. Every once in a great while, I ask one of these individuals if they'd be willing to tell their story to my readers. I was THRILLED when Ashley agreed. I think you'll love what she has to say.
Ashley ... let 'er rip!
Hi! My name is Ashley.
I am 29 years old, I'm from New Orleans Louisiana, southern girl born and raised. I'm a trained chef and pastry chef/cake designer, but right now I'm a stay at home mom to my two beautiful children. I have a 4 year old little girl and a 2 year old little boy with my boyfriend of 6 years. My children are pretty much my life, but after my family my biggest love is reading. I read A LOT!! I also have a pretty severe obsession with expensive cosmetics and tattoos, but that's another story.
I would have to say my favorite color is pink, but I wasn't always girly. I actually dye my hair some form of pink every summer. Favorite movie would have to be The Twilight Saga, yes I am a dork! Music is harder, I listen to all types of music from Country to Rap. But the song that means the most to me would have to be Lee Ann Womack's, I Hope You Dance. This song came out in the year 2000 when I was 15 and this leads into my story and the events that forever changed my life..
So I was 15 in the year 2000 and miserable. See, I have been overweight my entire life. I remember being teased as early as pre-school about my weight. I can remember crying and not wanting to play PE in the first grade, chest pains while trying to play soft ball in fourth grade. My weight steadily increased each year despite my doctors and my parents efforts to help me lose or or just stabilize my weight. I wasn't ever diagnosed with a reason for my weight gain. I don't remember if I was even ever tested for anything either. It was just said to be over eating. Being heavy runs In my family and I have people on my dad's side who weigh 600-700lbs.
I was a well behaved child and even as a teen I never got into trouble, but in junior high my weight sky rocketed to well over 300lbs. I think this was my form of rebellion, I couldn't do much else, I didn't have many friends either. I was young and my parents brought me to different doctors for my weight all the time. I was watched like a hawk. When I was in the 7th grade I was seeing a doctor every 2 weeks for phentermine. I was 14 and taking weight loss drugs. I wanted to lose the weight, but the more my family pushed and harped on me. The more I started to push back. The more I was teased, the more I comforted myself with food. My already bad habits just got way out of control. By this time I had developed asthma and was plagued by extremely long and heavy menstrual cycles to the point of near hospitalization because I was so anemic.
But my weight still climbed and I was in denial about it all. I think my lowest point came when I was 16 and we went to Disney World. I had to get a scooter because I couldn't handle the walk and people kept looking at me. I knew they were judging me and likely making fun of me. By this point my parents were scared I was going to die. My weight was near or just over 400lbs!! I also quit high school that year. I couldn't bear the bullying and teasing anymore. It was a living hell.
With my doctors insistence, my parents started looking into surgical options for me. That would take is into the year 2002 and at the age of 17 and 450lbs I had gastric bypass surgery. This is where the song "I Hope You Dance" comes in. It was still played on the radio often and my mother would tell me that after I lost all this weight that she hoped I "danced". She wanted me to be able to do whatever I wanted, live in the moment and have a full life without having to doubt myself or be held back because of my size.
So I had this surgery done and I thought I was cured. I had this cure all to my obesity and I was gonna be skinny and never have to worry about my weight again... I lost about 70lbs in my first 2-3 months after the surgery was done. Then it slowed down once I started eating solids again. I was still losing no matter what I ate, so being the child that I still was, I ate junk and whatever I wanted. Just small amounts. I lost just over 100lbs in a year. Then it just stopped and started to creep back up. I saw my surgeon and they looked down into my stomach and said that my surgery was fine and there wasn't anything they could do about my lack of weight loss. I was basically out eating the surgery! FAIL!! So by age 21 I was up to 478lbs.. More than my pre op weight. I started having more chest pains, heart racing, pain down my arms. After some tests I found out that my heart was starting to enlarge because of the amount of strain that I put on it because of being so heavy. I was also diagnosed with a heart murmur and a leaking heart valve. They never really had a reason for the actual pains I was having other from the stress of being so heavy. The cardiologist basically told me that I was eating myself to death and if I didn't do something now, I likely wouldn't live to see 25. The look on my mother's face was heart breaking and I doubt I will ever be able to forget it. I was her baby, the youngest of 5, I shouldn't be the first to go and especially not over something that I should have control of.
I know weight loss surgeries have the huge draw of being the "cure" you need. The problem solver; a last resort for most. So many people jump into this decision without doing tons of research. It's done out of being desperate and feeling like there isn't another choice. I am still for weight loss surgery even though mine failed. My surgery didn't fail me. I failed me. The surgery did what it could, it's only a tool and I didn't use it properly. But in order for this tool to work, the underlying issues need to be addressed. What are you doing wrong? Why are you over eating? I strongly recommend speaking to a professional about why, not just how to fix it because no amount of surgery can fix a problem that resides inside the brain. You HAVE to change your eating habits, HAVE to think about food differently. Without breaking the cycle you will never have success... Maybe if I was older when I had it done I would have done better. But all I can do is move forward and try to help others by sharing my experiences.
I went back and studied all the information from my nutrition classes from before I had the bypass and used that as a guideline. My surgery was ruined but I could still use the information I received to start my new eating habits. This was basically a low carb diet. From there I researched and found Atkins. I printed multiple copies of the Induction foods and that was like my bible in the beginning. I stuck to this new way of eating and the weight started dropping. I lost my first 100lbs in just a few months with minimal effort. When you see results like this it just gives you the drive to keep going.. Did I mess up? Yes! Did I cheat? Yes! Did I have times where I just gave up? YES!! All these set backs are normal.. But you just have to dig deep and get past them and keep going. I didn't want to die, that was my motivation, fighting for my life. I wanted to go to college, get married, have children.
After losing about 150lbs I started with some exercise, mostly walking and swimming because of my heart issues. I also had to start carb cycling. When I carb cycle I don't go beyond my usual 20 grams of net carbs. For me dropping my carbs to nearly zero for a few days then bringing them back up to 20 net carbs a day for a few days. Back and forth to keep my body guessing. It works well for me. I only carb cycle when I stall for a few weeks. Some find that carb cycling increases cravings. If you only add in higher carb vegetables to bring up your carbs instead of sugar or simple carbohydrates I don't think cravings will arise. I strongly believe that for long term success that never reintroducing sugar and processed foods back into your life is the best way to go.
Over the course of about 2.5 years I lost 250lbs!! 250!! I kept to that same list of foods that whole time.. You really have to just get in there and cook and experiment with food because you will get tired of the same old foods all the time. I found that I really enjoyed doing all this cooking and that is what lead me to culinary school as well.
Eating this way has changed my whole life. I maintained my weight loss for the most part for a few years, I got married, divorced, had 2 children... But I never truly went back to my before eating habits. I can't do it, this lifestyle is so easy to live with long term. It's second nature, I don't even really have to think about it anymore...
Now that's the past, speaking in the now I am down a total loss of 288lbs from 478lbs. I bounce around between 185lbs and 190lbs. Since losing all this weight I have never had another problem with my heart. I can actually run a few miles and have no problems. I really buckled backdown and restricted my carbs again in January of this year and lost 38lbs so far. My personal goal is about 140lbs, I'm a shorty at 5ft tall too. I will admit that it's slow going this time around, I'm older, I have more going on in my life now, but I am still as determined. I didn't gain all that weight over night and I can't expect to lose it all over night...
It's a long road, I always had the mind set that I would lose this weight and be thin and sexy.. The biggest challenge was the skin after such a large weight loss... Oh the skin.. Nothing like jogging and having your belly and thighs clapping for you... Compression garments are your best friend at that point. But I was very fortunate to have parents that had the means to pay for me to have all the skin removed. Sometimes it's like I'm a totally different person on the outside. But there are still struggles within myself. I admit that sometimes I still see that overweight person in the mirror, I still feel like I will never be thin enough. But I also know that even if I never lost another pound I would be happy with myself and how far I have come.
If you have over 100lbs to lose, don't think it's impossible, just get in there and try it. Start now! Why wait to start living? Just keep trying. I'm Not saying that you won't get frustrated and give up because likely you will at times, but don't quit. You haven't truly failed until you stop trying and give up. It won't be easy but it is so worth it.
Feel free to contact me by email. Ashleyluvsmac ~at~ gmail.com
Thank you so much, Ashley! You amaze me. I have to imagine you've just given hope and helped countless thousands others who are facing similar demons. Thank you. Thank you!
Missing in Action (with a purpose!)
II've received so many emails ... "Where did you go?" "What happened to the recipes?" "Is everything ok?!"
I'm good. Totally ok. All is well! ... mostly.
Since my last post, I've completed the final final edits on my second book with the Low Carbing Among Friends team. My first entrance into that popular team was a contribution of 35 recipes in Volume 5. I'm not certain, but it's my belief that my new batch of 70 recipes in Volume 6 will be out, sometime later this year. It should be a fantastic book. I know I put my best foot forward!
I've also finished the final final round of edits for my own personal first full-fledged book. About 230 recipes strong (50% "best of" and 50% new, never-before-seen), plus a further 100 pages of my standard long-winded drivel, menu plans, shopping lists, rules, inspiration, philosophy, bacon and my usual silliness. Not a small project, but... it's almost done. FINALLY!
I'm now deep in the design phase. I want to make this thing look fun and inviting ... and PRETTY! I'm working regularly, with my designer and ... I'm LOVING the work he's producing. Here's the first glance. This is all subject to change as twerks and refinements occur, but these (somewhat intentionally blurred) images showcase the level of quality being sought, as well as the look and feel for the book. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
So ... what do you think? Think it'll be good, when it's done? I certainly hope so!
The book is slated to be a big full color affair, in addition to a lovely eBook (PDF format, to start). Each recipe will have at least one photo. Knowing that and seeing the general scope and tone of the book ... I'd love to hear some input on what you seek in a cookbook? What kinds of things make you nuts? It's not too late for me to get in there and bake some finesse into this thing. I can't make any dramatic changes, but I can certainly inject some of your suggestions. What would you like to see ... or not see?
And ... now ... onto the flip side of this particular coin ...
Oh Dear, Odile!
When I first started this blog, it started out as largely a hobby. I'd take trips and discuss my various life moments (Examples: Scuba Diving in Cabo Pulmo and Visiting Mexico City). It was much more relaxed and personal. Now that my little blog is all growdz up, my last 10 or so posts have all been very research heavy. While those always receive a lot of praise (and they're fun to do), I do get people wishing I'd just ... you know ... be a little lighter ... and ... just be me for a change. So, for those of you that enjoy me (being me), just as much as the tasty recipes ... here's some insight ... a wee little glimpse into my world (the good, the bad and the ugly) ...
As most of you know, I have one foot in Seattle and the other foot in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico (the tip of Baja California Sur). The Los Cabos area was recently smacked with a historic level category 3 (4 in some isolated spots) hurricane, completely hobbling the area. Some gusts of wind were clocked at near 150 MPH. A seriously dangerous gust of wind!
My designer, Horacio, is a good friend down in Cabo. I catered his wedding, in fact! The hurricane shattered all his windows and ripped off all his doors, while additionally tossing a 6 foot branch through the windshield of his car.
Here is a photo of his computer ... containing all the designs for my book! ARGH!!!
The other interesting thing about this photo is ... this is someone's living room floor AFTER most of the mud and water has been swept up. Imagine what the rest of his home must look like!
In any event, thankfully, he'd backed most of my book up on iCloud, but ... right now ... today ... his focus is currently on finding windows and doors, in a town without windows or doors. This is presenting a fairly substantial setback, sad to say ...
All of this chaos has also forced me to pick myself up from Seattle ... and head back down south, myself. My last day in the States will be November 3rd. Time to head back and reclaim my damaged beachside digs!
A little history ... I moved down to Cabo in 2003, I believe. About 3 years ago, I moved into a small condo on the beach (a move I highly recommend, to anyone that can pull it off). The location was amazing, but the condo had fallen into some disrepair. I made a deal with the owner to fix it all up and improve his property value in exchange for a NICE big break in the rent. A good deal! Here's a video I made for the owner, when the work was about half complete. This shows my little home, including the very kitchen where the first half of all these recipes were actually cooked. It's TINY! DEENKY! (interestingly, the small size also makes it super efficient!)
Riveting stuff, huh?! Were you glued to your screen? I know I was! Remember, this was filmed for the owner of the unit ... Never was it intended for blog fodder, but ... I know I like to peek into other worlds. I can't be the only one with a restless curiosity. Spy anything interesting? Oh, how I love hooks and pot racks!
(Note to Self: Finish that Ice Cream Cookbook. It'll rock salt!)
Now, imagine that little condo on the beach, in the midst of a Category 3 hurricane. Oh ... I shudder to even think about it! I know that the front glass door shattered, letting all kinds of mud and wind into my little place (being watched by a friend ... who has now evacuated the area with her daughter). I'm told that my place fared surprisingly well considering, but ... I've yet to see photos.
Here's a photo of my building, from the outside ... taken by a helicopter in El Presidente Peña Nieto's military entourage. BOOM!
That's my building today. My building fared MUCH better than many nearby ... thankfully.
So ... yeah ... a big bomb went off in my world a few weeks ago. As much as its thrown a curveball at my world, I can't even imagine what this must have been like for people who had actually lived through it. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the devastation was spectacular. Anyone curious about the area, can take a look at these photos. Not a pretty picture!
As a result of "Hurricane Odile", I've purchased tickets to head back down south in about 2 1/2 weeks, leaving me little time to shut down my life in Seattle.
The next post you see from me, may actually be written in Mexico ... assuming I've got power! ;)
Looking ahead ...
Now, to finish this all up on a positive note! I've got big plans coming for the future, in addition to, and beyond my upcoming book. High on my list is more regularly blog updates, but ... also a sincere attempt at "raising my game". I've got a new complicated camera with lenses, lights and all kinds of bells and whistles. I also recently took a food photography workshop, so that I can head down to Mexico ... ARMED with the skills to pull of some stunning and mouthwatering photos. I want this next year to be my best yet!
Here are some fun photos forecasting a bit of my future ... The idea was to create a theme and then stage it and shoot it.
Little more than some quick and fun practice shots, but imagine a stack of Vietnamese Pumpkin Pancakes with Toasted Coconut. Imagine a nice big slice of Grandma's Apple Pie. Imagine a fun Sunday Brunch Tea Party ...
I'm REALLY looking forward to adding the food and recipes to these new ideas. Great things ahead. I can't wait to get back down to Mexico, patch things up and then quickly GET COOKING!
Finally ... 2 new recipes.
Baked Spiced Granola
Ok ... Finally ... back by popular demand another chance to download the shortened, tightened and consolodated print-friendly PDF again! (In case you missed it, earlier)
Click, or right-click and select "Save as ..." to download.
Until next time! Thanks, all!