Kathy LaBella RDN, CDN, CSSD, ACE-CMES/CPT      860-339-5493

blueberries

Six-Month Journey of Multiple Moves, Food, Activity, Lifestyle, & Renovations!

PART 1 – Pre-Move – Staying Positive in Business, Health & Fitness During Unexpected Times.

The last run before treatment

It was the end of July 2018, what should have been a beautiful summer while living in a waterfront home on a private road with panoramic views of the Niantic River off Long Island Sound in Connecticut. A time not to be forgotten as I was finishing up topical chemotherapy treatment for pre-skin cancer on my face and hands, and one cancer spot on my foot. My face looked like a cooked lobster, only swollen, excoriated, my eyes were half shut, it was painfully excruciating, feeling like poison ivy on top of sunburn with no relief. I was unrecognizable to most people due to the red, raw skin.

Treatment was only twice a day for two weeks, then post-treatment for one week consisting of four treatments per day. During post-treatment, my skin became tight and cracked in areas, and every morning I awoke with blood spots over my entire face, but I had no complaints. I had no time for complaining, and my thoughts were this is temporary, many people have it much worse going through regular chemotherapy with a life-threatening diagnosis. Instead, I was too busy thinking about work to be on top of my game for clients, and I was thinking of food to heal myself. It’s my nature being a registered dietitian nutritionist and exercise specialist, I think about staying nourished, healthy and fit, therefore, I kept a positive attitude as I had to continue my life including not missing one day from work.

The last day outside included many berries, cherries, kefir smoothies, and plain yogurt!

The treatment meant, no make-up, I usually like wearing at least a little lipstick and mascara, and the treatment prevented me from wearing my hair down, therefore, it was tied back for six weeks, while wearing large rim-hats when going outside. I wore long sleeve fleece shirts and gloves during 90-degree weather with a huge sunscreen hat that looked hysterical when I mowed the yard at sunrise or sundown as I was not supposed to be outside during the day because sunscreen could not be worn with treatment, and fleece was the only material that did not hurt my hands. My appearance also made me laugh, though I tried hard not to because laughing made my face hurt!

A beautiful pre-sunrise run!

I had to remind myself what I tell my clients, one is there is always a solution to every problem, two is to look at the positives in your life. For me, it was a summer without kayaking mostly related to risking an infection, but I continued to maintain my lifestyle of health and fitness by managing some beach runs at 4:00 AM before the sun came up while wearing fluorescent green to be seen in the dark. A good walk or run is always uplifting especially along the shore, and four in the morning is not unusual for me, it is my normal time to work-out, and I continued my usual weekday weight training sessions in my home gym, along with daily meditation before work. On the weekends, I was able to relax on the patio overlooking the water and boats after sunset, therefore it was not all that bad. And, it was also a summer without the top down on my convertible until late summer when I would venture out for a night ride! 

Fortunately, I have very high pain tolerance, and toward the end of three weeks, I took a couple of Aleve to ease the pain due to the tightness and wounds. Eating was tough but manageable. As the treatment continued, I had to hold back further from smiling or laughing because the corners of my mouth were cracking open and I feared to open another wound and scarring. My main thought was healing, eating frequently with the necessary nutrients, and this meant days of a liquid diet consisting of smoothies loaded with fruit, veggies, and protein powder because I could no longer open my mouth to bite into anything. At this point I did not care what anything tasted like, my only concern was my caloric and dietary needs for healing to get back to normal eating, cooking, and shopping! Stop & Shop Peapod delivery for groceries came in very handy rather than expose me to sunlight from driving to the store. 

The food part – What to eat when you hurt too much to eat or open your mouth!

My go too food was my favorite unflavored whey protein isolate powder “Now Sports” mixed with fresh blueberries, raspberries, cherries, baby spinach, banana, cacao nibs, lactose-free non-fat milk, flax and chia seeds, or blended plain Greek yogurt and fruit all adding vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals into my diet – the recipe is at the end here. Other times were not so flavorful when I would blend up carrots, celery, peppers, and broccoli for added nutrients and fiber, and spices including turmeric and pepper for an extra little anti-inflammatory then added ice and whey protein. I also drank plain kefir or blended plain yogurt into drinks for the probiotics and protein, and added avocado for fat, and consumed organic unflavored unsweetened soy milk almost daily for additional nutrients including magnesium. It was too hot for soup; therefore, the cold smoothies were more comforting. I also chose tart cherry juice for vitamins A and C, and anti-inflammatory effects, along with beetroot juice that is naturally rich in nitrates improving aerobic capacity making it a great quick fix pre-run carb. And at times I opted for Bolthouse Farms high protein shakes, usually coffee flavor or chocolate on days I was away consulting until I was able to eat normally again.

Blended foods for smoothies

While this temporary way of living due to the topical chemotherapy was going on, little did I know at the time what was about to follow!

The great little waterfront home I was living in was a rental for a few years between home ownership that included an in-law apartment with a separate entrance I used for my office. It was a home I had the option to purchase, only it did not meet my personal needs, nor was the town of Waterford where I intended to settle down. I desired to move back to where I call home, that is either Essex or Old Saybrook, Connecticut where I previously owned houses. While actively looking for a home with my realtor, the house I was renting had a few open houses and multiple showings as soon as I was starting to heal, this meant once again quick food fixes and no messes in the kitchen, but at least I was able to eat solid food again. At his point, I opted for the indoor Cuisinart Griddler that I eventually wore out! What I loved about the grill is I could cook an entire meal of fish, veggies, sweet potato, or grilled sandwich, or any food in five to ten minutes including all the added fresh herbs, pepper, and lemon for flavor and seasoning. The best part was the easy clean-up since the grill plates could be removed to wash or put into the dishwasher. 

Indoor grilling with salmon, farm fresh vegetables, and garden herbs.

As for myself finding a house, I knew time was running out, therefore I soon made an offer on a home in Essex, and the offer was accepted! The same day I gave notice to my landlord he told me he sold the house I was renting, I thought great, a win-win situation. After agreeing on a date for me to move, the house I intended to purchase did not pass inspection, and now nowhere to go! A bit of a difficult situation because I had to move both my home and office, only with no place to go, no place to see clients, no business phone, and no time to find a home to close on a mortgage in time. But the good news was I was feeling well, still a bit red, but healing as it was now mid to late August. Here is where the journey begins! 

Stay tuned for – PART 2 on how to eat well and stay calm, fit, and healthy while packing and putting your life belongings in storage! Fun, food, activity and adventure in the Hamptons, NY and Old Saybrook, CT. 

Meanwhile, here is my recipe to my High Power Smoothie many of my clients know all too well because it can go anywhere you have access to a blender and refrigerator, and it can be reduced or increased in portions to adjust to your caloric and protein needs. For me, I break it up in half for a pre and post-workout. 

Making a smoothie for a 4:00 AM workout.

My Morning High Power Smoothie – Split in half for a for pre-and post-workout 

539 Calories, 46g Protein, 74g Carb

2 Cups (16 ounces)        Fat-free milk (I use lactose free)

1 scoop                           Whey protein isolate powder – unsweetened, unflavored preferred

2 tsp                               Cocoa nibs (unsweetened chocolate)

1-2 tsp                            Flaxseeds or mixed chia seeds

1 medium                      Banana

½ Cup                            Blueberries (or ¼ cup blueberries, ¼ cup cherries or berries)

½ Cup                            Baby Spinach 

Blend all ingredients above together

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