Author: Brenda Sue

Believe In Yourself

We frequently tell you to create your life. You alone have administrative powers in your life. Regardless of your situation right now, you can create a vision of the life that you want. Once you have your vision, focus every thought and action towards achieving that life. We have never told you that it would be easy, only possible. It’s up to you. However, working through great difficulty is still easier than allowing your health to deteriorate and living as a chronically ill person. If you find yourself chronically ill today, listen to your medical doctor. Listen to everything he tells you. Don’t listen selectively to justify unhealthy habits.  Listen and do your part. Pursue health with everything in you. Envision yourself healthy and develop healthy habits. Your quality of life will be better. If you’re healthy now, your health will be even better when you focus all of your efforts on becoming your best self.

Fill your life with positive input in the form of people who encourage you to excel. Be pro-active in self advocacy. Champion your own cause. Never allow yourself to be manipulated by negative people and circumstances that do not have your best interest at heart. When the office doughnut pusher confronts you with a box of beautifully decorated doughnuts, smile and say, “No way!” That individual might be trying to keep you weaker than them. Rise up and do what’s best for you.

When you get your vision and pursue it with your whole heart, you will see a different life begin to unfold right before your eyes. Take control. You are the Boss.

Reduce Your Allostatic (STRESS) Load

The allostatic load is defined as the cost of chronic exposure to elevated or fluctuating endocrine or neural responses resulting from chronic or repeated challenges that the individual experiences as stressful. There is a difference between being stressed and being stressed out. Stress is a necessary function of survival while repeated negative stress increases the allostatic load to the breaking point. This negative over-loading is a major contributor to fat deposition, changes in brain structure, atherosclerotic plaques, left ventricular hypertrophy of the heart, glycosated hemoglobin, sustained hyperglycemia, high cholesterol with low high-density lipoprotein, increased oxidative stress, elevated proinflammatory markers and chronic pain and fatigue. (1) We need to learn how to adapt to the demands of everyday life in a way that will reduce this killer.

Eat a Healthy Diet

We always tell you to avoid added sugars and other refined carbs. They cause inflammation in your body and insulin fluctuations that increase cortisol production. Cortisol is the “fight or flight” hormone that is so good at turning on your stress levels that it sometimes enables people to perform super-human feats. The little ole’ lady that lifts the car off of the accident victim is pumped full of cortisol. Avoid foods that tend to increase this powerful glucocorticoid. Choose a variety of whole foods that include complex carbohydrates and lean protein. The healthy fats found in olive oil, avocados nuts, seeds and fatty fish will satisfy your hunger and decrease inflammation which is a huge physical stress and the beginning of almost all disease.

Get Some Exercise

The benefits of a good workout, with your doctor’s permission, are almost too many to list. Good aerobic activity can improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels, help increase the good cholesterol in your body, lower your total cholesterol, help you manage your weight and improve your blood pressure. Only you and your doctor can find the type of exercise that is best for you. While we are heavy strength trainers, we are well aware that this type of exercise is not for everyone. Sometimes gentler exercise is better to reduce cortisol levels. You might like yoga, tai chi or qigong that directly improve stress levels through breathing techniques. Walking, low-intensity cycling and swimming are good mid-level aerobic activities that many people can enjoy.

Choose Optimism

Coming from the Deep South, highly religious, super critical background that I do, optimism was actually discouraged in the culture where I lived. There was pressure to “measure up” for appearances. Everything about me was critiqued to a near psychotic level. Almost everyone in that culture is constantly struggling with a negative outlook on life. I never accepted this. I really just want to have fun and enjoy life so I never fit into that culture. The old question about whether the glass is half full or half empty is the eternal test of optimism and the answer is David’s answer, “It doesn’t matter, refill the glass.” which leads right into another method for reducing your allostatic load.

Control Your Life

Feeling in control of your life is one of the greatest stress reduction tools that there is. Even though the glass isn’t full, knowing that you have the ability to refill it is satisfying and soothing. When I set out to remodel my life at 62, people thought that I was crazy. I was living in a situation that would make a saint cuss and probably stroke out. When I tell you to “Create Your Life.” I am not telling you to do anything that I have not done. The stress that I was living in when my home was destroyed by tornadoes was deadly and that night I changed everything. When life hands you lemons, make sugar-free lemonade. When you are in control, you are not at the mercy of every whim of society or an individual. Believing that you can affect the course of your destiny is empowering and calming. Helplessness is a health disaster. While working to effect change in your life can be hard, it’s necessary to reduce your stress. People who live large and in charge are free from the oppression that individuals and societies attempt to hurl at us. At the very least, you can ALWAYS control your reaction to insult, stress and trauma.

 

 

(1) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/allostatic-load

Tips to Help Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Catch Some ZZZ’s

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can contribute to other serious health problems including daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, heart problems, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver problems and complications with medications and surgery. If you snore loudly, are ever aware of cessation of respiration while you are trying to sleep, gasp for air, wake with a dry mouth or morning headache, have difficulty staying asleep, have excessive daytime sleepiness or attention problems or are irritable for no apparent reason you may have sleep apnea. It’s very important to see your doctor and discuss these symptoms. You can read about the different types in my article Sleep Apnea . There are some things that you can do that may help with this disorder but always seek medical attention if you suspect that you may have this dangerous disorder. The following tips may help you if you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

1-Shed the Extra Pounds

Everyone with sleep apnea is not overweight but if you are, losing weight may make the condition more manageable. In one study, a large number of people with type 2 diabetes were noted to end the study with no symptoms of sleep apnea at all after having lost an average of nearly 24 pounds. (1)

2-Stop Smoking and Drinking Alcohol

Smoking can cause irritation and swelling in the airway and aggravate snoring and pauses in breathing. Alcohol relaxes the muscle in the back of the throat and that can cause a breathing obstruction.

3-Eat Healthy

There is some research that indicates that sleep apnea causes us to crave carbs due to a lack of sleep. When we don’t sleep well, we have changes in the hormones that control our appetite and feeling of fullness. If you allow these cravings to steer you off course in your nutrition and gain weight, the excess weight can complicate the sleep apnea.

4-Control Your Allergies

Uncontrolled allergic symptoms can cause the throat to swell and stuff up your nose. When you have less space to breath, it becomes harder. This can make sleep apnea worse. Talk to your doctor and see if a saline nasal spray or a nettie pot used before bed might be a good idea.

5-Find Your Best Sleeping Position

Most people with sleep apnea have more trouble breathing when they are laying on their backs. Try putting two tennis balls into a tube sock and pinning it in the back of your pajamas to help you stay off of your back throughout the night.

Central Sleep Apnea

These methods will not help you if you have Central Sleep Apnea. Your doctor can advise you on this entirely. It is caused by problems that are more complex than Obstructive Sleep Apnea and a CPAP machine or other more sophisticated medical interventions may be necessary. The CPAP machine can be used to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea as well. Regardless of the type of sleep apnea that you may have , medical intervention is necessary to avoid dangerous complications of this common medical problem.

(1) https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/sleep-apnea-self-care

 

 

Pregnancy and Diabetes

Sad But True

I will never forget one specific day in nursing school. I was assisting with a woman in labor and the fetal heart rate kept climbing. I went to the Charge Nurse repeatedly to report my findings and she said “Okay.” as she sat quietly and read a magazine. Although I continually prodded her to take action, she did not. After a couple of hours, that baby was stillborn. The nurse was fired and appropriate legal action ensued. I had done the right thing but she had not. She was a nurse with an advanced degree and she did nothing to intervene in this situation. That was a long time ago and even as a student nurse, I knew that the mother and the baby were at risk when I read the chart. The mother was diabetic and as a result of the elevated blood sugar, the baby had grown excessively to 11 pounds. There wasn’t enough room for the baby to move around during labor and the cord had gotten wrapped around his neck which led to suffocation.

Risks

  • Women with uncontrolled diabetes have a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Managing your blood sugar reduces this risk but when blood sugar is uncontrolled, there is a greater risk of both.
  • Premature birth- Women with diabetes are more likely to go into preterm labor.
  • Birth defects are more common in diabetic mothers. Close regulation of the blood sugar before and during early pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of birth defects, especially those of the brain, spine and heart.
  • Excess fetal growth-Persistently high blood sugar levels allows extra glucose to cross the placenta and that can cause the baby to be much larger than usual. When the baby is too big it makes a vaginal delivery difficult, increasing the likelihood of a cesarean delivery and increases the risk of the baby being injured during birth.
  • Urinary Tract Infections and yeast infections are more common in diabetic mothers. Achieving a stable blood sugar can help you to avoid these conditions and help to protect you from kidney disease.
  • Hypoglycemia can develop in the newborn baby of a diabetic mother because the baby may be producing too much insulin in utero. Good blood sugar management can help prevent this and also help ensure that the baby has healthy calcium and magnesium levels. (1)

Resolution

If you are diabetic, work with your doctor to develop a plan for a healthy pregnancy. If you are not diabetic, take action to avoid becoming diabetic, especially if you are planning on having a baby. Adult-onset diabetes, or Type 2, is considered preventable. Lose excess weight, get active and eat a healthy diet that consists of whole foods. Avoid added sugars, other simple carbs and processed foods that supply low quality nutrition. Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Go to our Home Page to get started on the road to being healthy. Being overweight or obese is also linked to gestational diabetes that can occur during pregnancy because your body can’t make enough insulin to accommodate the changes of the pregnancy. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can also contribute to the formation of this dangerous disease. While there may be a genetic tendency to develop gestational diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight before and after conception, eating well and exercising regularly can all reduce the risk.

(1) https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-diabetes/art-20044621#:~:text=Keeping%20your%20blood%20sugar%20in%20range%20reduces%20your%20risk%20of,Prevent%20complications%20for%20baby.

Sugar-Free Maple Walnut Muffins

Nutritional Info

Serving Size 1 muffin

Servings 12

Calories 260

Net carbs 2 grams

Fat 23 grams

Protein 8 grams

Ingredients

Muffins

2 cups almond flour

1/2 cup Swerve Granulated

1/3 cup unflavored whey protein powder

1/4 cup coconut flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1/2 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon maple extract

3/4 cup chopped walnuts, divided

Glaze

1/4 cup Swerve Confectioner’s

2 Tablespoons heavy cream

1-2 Tablespoons water to thin glaze

Instructions

Muffins

Preheat oven to 325F and grease 12 muffin tins well or line with paper liners.

Combine almond flour, Swerve Granulated, protein powder, coconut flour, baking powder and salt and stir in eggs, melted butter, almond milk and maple extract til well mixed and stir in 1/2 cup of walnuts.

Put batter in muffin tin and sprinkle with remaining nuts, pressing lightly to adhere. Bake 25-30 minutes til set and golden brown.

Cool completely,

Glaze

Combine Swerve Confectioner’s, cream and maple extract and just enough water to thin to drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cooled muffins.

Mindset and Your Health

Half Full or Half Empty?

Have you ever known anyone who is constantly looking at the down side of everything? If someone walked up to them and handed them $1,000,000.00, they would bemoan the way that the gift might change their taxes and turn that windfall into a negative event. In some ways we’re all geared that way a little. It’s called the negativity bias. We are all hardwired to focus on the negative as a way to survive. In times past, the ability to focus on the negative was a way to stay safe in a dangerous environment. It’s the part of our brain that is aware of the lone predator under the bush when everything else around us looks just fine. Unfortunately, this pessimistic trait has been passed down to us because our ancestors who were a bit paranoid are the ones who survived to pass on their genes. We have a lot to overcome where perception is concerned, and the winning mindset is illustrated by something that David says, “It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full, refill the glass.” In other words, take control of the situation.

“What Gets Fired, Gets Wired”

There is potential for this negative mindset to profoundly change our lives in a devastating way. Whatever we dwell on increases. This is called Hebb’s Rule in neurobiology. It’s explained as “What gets fired, get’s wired.” (2)Whenever we continually fire the same neurons in our brains, our brains begin to hardwire it in as our reality. This can be a disaster if we continually tell ourselves that we have bad health genetics or that we are unable to control our habits concerning food choices and exercise. If we tell ourselves over and over that we cannot positively impact our health, we will begin to believe just that. It will become our reality. We will not even attempt to make healthy choices and we will suffer the consequences. If we get anxious about our health and feel helpless to change, it will increase our cortisol levels which will drive our blood sugar up, cause an insulin dump into our bloodstream and a corresponding hunger. Anxiety and a negative mindset will almost always make most people overeat.

Positive Aspects of Hebb’s Rule

Just as the brain begins to accept negative programming as fact when it is programmed with it continually, it will also begin to accept positive programming when we make a conscious effort to fill our minds with positive thoughts. As we change our thinking, our thinking changes everything about us. In a study by Crum in 2007, (3) mindset was shown to cause positive changes in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio and BMI. This is believed to have happened as a result of the placebo effect and showed the profound impact that mindset has on our health. Sometimes if we believe that we are making healthier choices, and begin to see positive changes, we will develop momentum to continue with more positive decisions.

Change Your Brain

You may say that you’ve been trying to do that for years with no success but there are ways to sway a negative mindset.

  • Have a positivity stockpile. Fill a jar with written memories of instant mood boosters such as a favorite vacation, pictures of you at your best weight or encouraging quotes to spur you on in your journey to health.
  • Question and reframe your negative thoughts. This is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If you have a thought that says that you will never lose the weight ask yourself why? Ask if that’s an opinion or a fact. Ask if you would tell someone else that same thing and then come up with a better response to the negative thought. You may be able to reprogram your brain with this method alone.
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Dump the negative people who are constantly trying to pull you down. You might read my article Osmosis to read about a phenomenon called “social contagion” that can be deadly.
  • Focus on what you CAN control and do just that. We are more powerful than we know. If we exercise control where we can, we will become more confident and adept at correcting even our most negative thoughts and habits.
  • Use “Failure” as a stepping stone. In weightlifting. I face a lot of “fails”. There are many times that I just can’t get one more. David reminds me that although I may fail at some point, I have still gotten a great workout in the attempt. Everything is that way. We grow from the attempt as much as the mastery of anything. It is the sincere, grinding attempt that makes us strong and teaches us where we are missing the mark. Whenever you fall back into negative thinking, remember where you went wrong and avoid that pitfall the next time.
  • Seek calm. Whenever the urge to panic or become distressed sets in, remember that you have to remain calm to be in control. When you are calm, you can make rational decisions about food choices and exercise. Anxiety and panic cause emotional eating. Avoid drama at all costs.
  • Seek clarity. State your goals clearly and execute your plan to move towards them. If we don’t clarify our goals we will be confused and discouraged. Always move in the right direction. Every bite of food that you eat should benefit your body. Live with purpose.
  • Concentrate. Focus on your health and to Hell with everything else.
  • Stand Your Ground. Be your own best advocate. The World will tell you that you are self-centered. That’s okay. You will be healthy when they’re all dead. Remember, it’s up to you.

CREATE YOUR LIFE

(1) (2) https://www.psycom.net/positive-thinking

(3) https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3196007/Langer_ExcersisePlaceboEffect.pdf?sequence=1#:~:text=These%20results%20support%20the%20hypothesis,(mindless%20beliefs%20and%20expectations).

Low Carb Crack Slaw

 

Nutritional Info

Servings 4

Calories 272

Net Carbs 4.1 grams

Fat 17 grams

Protein 24 grams

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef

4 cloves garlic minced

2 Tablespoons sesame seed  oil

6 cups coleslaw mix

1-2 Tablespoons sriracha

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 pack Splenda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

2-3 Tablespoons green onion chopped

Instructions

Brown the beef and drain.

Push beef to side and add sesame oil and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes and mix into beef.

Add coleslaw mix and drizzle with sriracha,vinegar, soy sauce and sprinkle with Splenda, salt and pepper and fry another 5 minutes til cabbage is to your liking.

Lose Weight During the Winter

Worldwide Phenomenon

You know how it goes, you put your summer clothes away and pull out your sweats and eat your way through the Winter. The holidays come and go, filled with rich food that you only eat during this time. You go to special events and gatherings, all of which are centered around that festive, fattening food. The excuses to overeat are as rampant as the buttercream frosting. Well, summer is over, I don’t have to worry about that damn swimsuit, this holiday only comes once a year, she made this just for me, I don’t want to hurt her feelings and it’s my FAVORITE thing! There’s always an excuse for bad behavior but that’s what they are, excuses. There is not a good reason to pile on the pounds. The average person gains about 5-7 pounds during this season but that’s only an average. A lot of people gain a lot more.

Year of Debauchery

Because I was always on a “diet” before I came to David’s Way, I conducted experiments on myself through the years trying to figure out how to navigate the landmines of gluttony. I lived through one year of making no changes to offset the seasonal weight gain. I ate whatever I wanted during all of the holidays and other special occasions throughout a year. I gained about 40 pounds that year. What I discovered is that when I let my guard down for special occasions, my habits got progressively worse all year long. As a result, by the end of that year, I was in a terrible mess! Not only was I 40 pounds heavier, my habits were horrendous. I had become accustomed to instant gratification and giving that up was very similar to drug withdrawal. I thought that when I began that experiment that I would just switch over to “good habits” for the next year of the experiment. I did switch over to good habits but with intense agony. I was so depressed that I went to the doctor for medication. Then the medication caused more weight gain. That year of re-establishing good habits was possibly the most difficult year of my life. I finally restructured my life but it was unpleasant to say the least. One of the most important things that I discovered as a result of that year was actually rather obvious. Don’t develop bad habits. If you already have them, do everything in your power to change them. Otherwise, they will destroy you. I was already fighting weight gain before I threw caution to the wind and after a year of indulgence, the fight was a struggle to survive because during that year I had developed high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and back problems. The road back to health was a hard one but I learned a few things. The next year during the Winter holidays, I got to the weight goal that I had set for myself at that time. Here’s how I managed to do that.

  • As previously stated, don’t let your habits deteriorate during the Winter. Spring is coming and you won’t lose that Winter fat quickly. Your habits will insure that it’s still there on the 4th of July!
  • Don’t buy those seasonal treats in the grocery store. They start showing up in August and they’re abundant til January. In that period of time you can gain a lot of weight and become profoundly sugar-addicted.
  • Don’t resign yourself to sweatpants all season. They are too slouchy and allow for huge weight gains. They make you feel that the fat is hidden, but it’s not. When you work out, wear form-fitting work-out clothes. Get rid of those sweats!
  • Don’t let the shorter, darker days make you less active. Sometimes when the light levels are low, we tend to be lethargic. We may sleep more and skip workouts. Actively fight against that. If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder you might want to get a special light that’s made to keep your circadian rhythms more normal.
  • Be pro-active at special meals. Carry healthy food that you can eat without packing on the pounds. We have a healthy recipe for almost anything that you might like. If you want something that you don’t find, just tell us what recipe that you would like to have and we’ll either create a healthy version or find one. You might want to try https://davidsway.blog/2019/10/16/sugar-free-red-velvet-cake/ for a healthy version of the seasonal favorite, Red Velvet Cake.
  • Wear snug-fitting clothes to dinners and other events involving food. You won’t eat nearly as  much.
  • Stay well-hydrated. When you’re full of water, you will eat less and have fewer cravings. You won’t bloat as much from fluid retention or constipation. The only exception to this is if you are fluid-restricted by your medical doctor.
  • Eat breakfast. Your blood sugar will be more stable all day long and that means less binge eating. Pack in some protein and a good dose of complex carbs like eggs and oats and you will be less likely to overeat later in the day. 
  • Have a small healthy snack just before the event. Include protein and fiber from complex carbs. An apple with a couple of Tablespoons of peanut butter or an apple with cheese sticks are good to curb cravings and stabilize your blood sugar to avoid being overly hungry.
  • When you get to the meal, avoid the heavy appetizers. Hydrate with a 0-calorie drink and get involved in socializing.
  • If you are in a room where you can walk away from the food, do so. I know you have seen the people who hover right next to the dessert table. Don’t be one of them. Stay away from the food if you can until it’s time to eat and then move in and fix a healthy plate and move to the other side of the room.
  • Avoid alcohol. It will pack in the calories and lower your inhibitions and cause you to overeat.
  • Avoid the sugary concoctions that people are calling coffee. If it has a boatload of sugar in it, it’s dessert.
  • Go outside if at all possible. A walk in the fresh air will clear your head and allow you to refocus on your goals.
  • Avoid sugar. Again, carry a healthy alternative. If you are determined to have a particular dessert, have one serving and be done. We strongly encourage you to avoid sugar. It is hard to stop that habit and it fills your body with empty calories. Nothing good can come of it. 
  • BUY GOOD, HEALTHY FOOD. You may say that you can’t afford it. While you might be able to find cheap, processed, unhealthy ‘food” that will stave off hunger for a little while, it won’t satisfy you for very long. Your body will make you hungry over and over until you have eaten way too many calories when you try to live on low-quality food. As your health deteriorates, the doctor’s visits and medications will get more expensive than any food that you might buy.
  • Whenever possible, eat at home. You might be able to eat at home and then join the group for an outing. We will almost always eat better if we eat at home. 
  • Make sure to keep up a good workout schedule all Winter. Try upping your effort and if you keep your nutrition good, you may drop a few pounds! Visit the https://davidsway.blog/calorie-counter-pro-free-calorie-calculator/ to get a free individualized calorie count just for you. Always consult your physician before beginning any weight loss program. We advise you to try to lose only 1 pound per week. The Calorie Counter Pro will also give you the calorie count to gain or maintain.

With mindfulness and minimal effort, you can avoid weight gain this Winter and drop a few pounds to greet the Spring.

 

 

 

Lost in “The Spectrum”: Autism and Mental Health

Our Experience

This is the hardest article yet to write about the story of raising an autistic child. Again, this is ONLY my experience. I’m sure that some autistic individuals may read this and I particularly want you to know, if this does not apply to you, then it doesn’t. This information is about mine and my son’s journey. I never mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. I write to hopefully help others navigate the sometimes daunting world of autism by reading about our triumphs and trials. You know, hind sight is better than foresight.

“Doctors”

As early as the age of 3 years, “well-meaning” church folks were following me outside the church to give me medical advice about how to raise my son. Although they did not work in the medical field, I was “strongly advised” to take Lucas to the doctor and “get him on Ritalin”. He had outbursts that were disruptive in Sunday School and other church activities. I simply was not going to drug my child to make other people more comfortable. When I was not trying to make him conform to the rituals of church activities, he was not nearly as difficult. I decided that I was going to give him time to grow up before making the decision about medication, so as best as I could, I tried to provide him with a safe space to grow into who he was going to be without drugs.

And Other “Professionals”

When the nurse brought Lucas to me in the hospital, after I had held him in the delivery room, I began reading to him. I think that I would have started reading to him in the delivery room but he was born by Cesarean section and I had to just lay there and wait for my incision to be mended, so I couldn’t sit up and hold him. We read to him every day and night and before long, he was reading to us. I am not talking about memorization. By the age of two, he was reading books and newspapers that he had never seen. This is called “hyperlexia” and many autistic individuals have it. As he approached the age for kindergarten, although it was against my better judgement, I put him in a day care facility where he was SOON discriminated against. That didn’t last long. I took him home. Again, I was advised to drug him by non-medical people. I always found it interesting that if I had advised people to medicate their child, as a nurse, I would be in trouble, but non-medical daycare workers could do just that. It made no sense. Although I believe that there is a place for almost all medications, there was no way that I would allow my child to be put on psychotropics at that young of an age. A lot of those drugs have negative side-effects after being on them for a while. If he had to be medicated at some point in his life, I wanted to wait until it was a quality-of-life issue, HIS quality-of-life, not mine or anybody else’s.

As Lucas grew up he began piano lessons at the age of six years. Although he is not a savant, he does have a very special gift in music. He has chromesthesia and perfect pitch. He took to the piano easily but he never really loved it. We had a family member, who is no longer a part of his life, that was adamant about him practicing and drilled him daily to measure his progress. If Lucas ever had any affection for the piano, being pressured to perform changed that. Now, with a beautiful, bright toned, black lacquered Yamaha U3 piano sitting in the living room, and a degree in music, he does not play. Music comes easily, but holds no charm, for him.

Apathy

While he was growing up we went everywhere. We bowled and swam, a lot. He was home-schooled and had to have some physical education so we joined the Y.M.C.A. He had swimming lessons and a bowling tutor. Life was good when we were active. Later I found out that he didn’t actually enjoy any of these things. He just did them because he thought that he had to. He found no joy in the things that most children enjoy.

He did like zoos and as I mentioned before, museums, so we frequented those. In the museums, he pretty much just ran through them over and over, for what seemed endlessly, for hours. He would stop to look at the displays but he was more interested in the pathway through the buildings. Only the animals at the zoos really gave him cause to pause. He has always loved animals. Day trips to these places were the best because then it was just the two of us going. If anyone else went, the day was sure to dissolve into mayhem. I always knew that he had to have space to just be. Other family members always wanted him to conform and I always knew that was not possible. You can’t change an apple into an orange. They’re different. Lucas was noticeably different and I supported him. Although I so wished that he could enjoy some things that other kids loved, I did not expect him to be like anyone else. When I was growing up, I was pressured to conform and it was horrible. Although I am not autistic, I never could just do, or not do, anything just because other people reacted that way. I didn’t expect him to either.

Alone In A Room Full Of People

Something that was noticeable about Lucas was the obvious detachment that he had with his surroundings. He seemed to move through them but never be in them. It had a dissociated appearance. He seemed to be absent from his own body at times. The truth is, I believe, based on things that he has told me, everything in the environment bothered him so much that he just went inside his own mind. He has always been sound and light sensitive and when he looks up, especially at the sky, it scares him. The fear of looking up is called anablephobia. I suppose he has that to deal with also. It infuriates me to think that when he was suffering with all of these issues, all anyone wanted was a pill to make him easier to tolerate. Some might say that maybe those magic pills would “cure” all these unusual tendencies, gifts and phobias. No, they won’t. So much of this is his version of autism and so far, that’s not something that can be changed. He doesn’t want to be autistic, so if I could fix it for him, I would. He completely understands what autism is and he hates it. His place on “The Spectrum” is filled with anxiety.

Progression

After Lucas graduated from college with his Bachelor’s Degree, he went on to the graduate program. In March before he was to finish in May, our house was hit by a flurry of violent tornadoes within about 30 minutes. We had three direct hits and a fourth was coming straight at us but bounced to a nearby town instead of hitting us that night. Our home was destroyed with us in it and Lucas and I separated from his dad that night. There was a lot of tension between them. I went on to be a full-time nurse and Lucas was happier than he had ever been. The constant tension in the household of a couple who could not get along was turning into something that he could no longer bear. I have since found out that those years took a terrible  toll on his mental health. You know, again, hindsight is better than foresight but if I had those years to live over, I would have made that change at birth. I home schooled Lucas because he would have been bullied mercilessly in the local school by students and teachers alike, so I couldn’t have changed that unless I had moved to a major city where better schools were available, but looking back, that might be what I should have done. The point here is this, I did what I thought that I should do at the time. I did my best. That’s all that anyone can ever do. I thought that staying in that relationship where I could stay with him and school him and protect him was the best thing for him. Now, I’m not so sure, because when he was diagnosed recently, the therapist told me that all those years in a difficult living arrangement followed by the destruction of the tornadoes had devastated his mind. Now, at the age of 26, he has a therapist and a psychiatrist. I had tried to get him into therapy for years but he refused. Finally, one day, he looked at me and said, “Mom, I need help.” and he got it. Lucas does take some medicine now, by choice, HIS choice. A decision that he made as a mature adult with autism, a decision that he made to feel better. Slowly, but surely, my sweet boy of long ago is making an occasional appearance. Although I know that we have a long road ahead, it does lead to a better place. He has some peace. When he was little and  people would ask, “What do you want him to be when he grows up?” I would answer one word, “Happy.”

I think we just might be getting there.

 

 

Low Carb Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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Nutritional Info

Serves 12

Calories 318

Net Carbs 7 grams

Fat 28 grams

Protein 9 grams

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons butter

1/4  cup Swerve Granular

2 teaspoons sugar-free syrup

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup diced pineapple

Cake

3 cups almond flour

1/3 cup unsweetened whey protein powder

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup Swerve Granular

2 large eggs at room temperature

3/4 teaspoon pineapple extract

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 325F and grease a 9-inch springform pan well.

Bring butter, Swerve and syrup to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add cream and vanilla. Pour this topping into pan and sprinkle with diced pineapple.

For the cake, mix flour, whey, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and mix butter and sweetener until well combined.

Beat eggs and pineapple extract into butter mixture and add half the dry mixture and beat and add half the almond milk and beat and repeat.

Spread batter over the topping and bake 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown and just set to the touch. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.

Run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan to loosen and remove pan sides. Top cake with a serving platter and flip. Run a sharp knife between the bottom of the springform pan and the cake topping to loosen and gently lift pan bottom.