Friday, February 22, 2013

Guest Post: How to Ease Back Into Exercise After Surgery

Hello fellow readers of Foodie4Healing!

My name is Amber Ellison Walker. I'm a personal trainer working in the Minneapolis area. My husband, Jesse, and I run I Think I Can Fitness; a business that specializes in at home personal training. We believe that making peace with our bodies is the necessary starting point for fitness and health. This overarching theme guides our approach to working with clients.

Everyone on this earth is beautiful. This is not to say that we shouldn't work hard to improve our level of health and fitness. We should! But I think you'll find this a much easier task if you are not berating yourself the whole time.

I'm a big fan of Amy's blog. So when Amy reached out to me with questions about how to start exercising again after surgery and calf injury, I was more than happy to respond. This post is based on my response to Amy's questions about her injury. Amy and I thought this information would be useful to others in similar situations. So, away we go!

Amy: How should I ease back into exercise after my surgery?

Do just that! Ease into it! Be good to yourself. Push yourself a little bit more each day, but be very careful. Listen to your body.

In particular, I would start with walking, then walking with short runs interspersed, then slow runs, then shorter runs at your normal speed, then full length runs at your normal speed. Again, listen attentively to your body as you do this.

Amy: How do I know if it's a pain to push through or if it's a pain to pay attention to?

In general I don't recommend pushing through pain. There are a few specific situations (generally during and after a comprehensive rehabilitative physical therapy series) when pushing into pain is a good choice.

For the most part, however, pain means our body is trying to tell us something. When you know the cause and reason for the pain sometimes the only option is to "push" through it. I tell people that a fleeting pain can be ignored as long as it doesn't reoccur consistently. A pain that does not lessen as you continue to workout must be listened to (as in, go seek an expert's opinion). A pain that gets worse as you workout means you need to stop immediately.

Also I think it is important to learn to distinguish between the general discomfort of working out and pain that could mean injury. Working out, running, and all forms of physical exercise carry with them a dull and low-level discomfort. This is fine! It is when pain becomes specific to one area of the body, is recurring, and/or not getting better as you exercise that you should be particularly careful.

Amy: Would working with a heart rate monitor be good idea to keep from overdoing it?

I don't think a heart rate monitor sounds like the right solution for you. It would give information, but that information is about your heart not your calf. You need to listen to the parts of your body that are actually hurting. If you weren't dealing with a calf injury but simply rebuilding your exercise base after a long break, I would consider working with a heart rate monitor.

On a side note, our bodies are designed to be exquisitely informative about muscle injuries. Sometimes we need the help of medical equipment to rule out more serious problems. But I believe that the sensory information we get from our bodies is often much more useful than technological measurements. You can glean all the information a heart rate monitor offers and more by simply paying attention to the sensations of your body.

Amy: How often should I have rest days?

Rest days are important. Rest 1 day in 7 at least. Now a rest day simply means that you are not pushing yourself. Going for walks or playing physical games with the kids is fine. Again, make peace with you body. Give it some time to relax, have fun, and not be goal-oriented. Teach your body that physical activity can feel great and doesn't always need to be regimented.

After a surgery you may want more than one day of rest per week. This is completely ok! At first you may feel like you are taking rest days very often, don't worry it will be temporary.

A final note about exercise after Surgery:

Part of learning not to wage war on our bodies is learning to have patience. Don't be greedy. Don't be vain. Have considered expectations.

Most of us aren't going to look like the twenty-something models that inhabit fitness industry advertising. But this doesn't diminish the beauty of your body one bit. You may not be able to look like the latest fitness poster child who has been tanned and photoshopped to sell fitness products.  But, with good habits, you can be fit, healthy, energetic, and attractive.

This attitude toward exercise and your body is doubly important when you are in that delicate time after a surgery or recovering from an injury.


I love to help people adopt great fitness habits. If you have any fitness questions I'd be happy to talk with you about them. You can reach me on twitter, facebook, my blog, or via e-mail at

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Peanut Butter & Jelly Oatmeal

I love oatmeal.

I could eat it for every single meal. Seriously.

Especially, when I have such a cute little sous chef helping me make it. ;-)

According to The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, "Oats help regulate blood sugar, regulate the thyroid, and sooth the digestive system. Oats also support the nervous system and improve resistance to stress."

Oats also contain fiber, which help to regulate your blood sugar by slowing down food digestion. Fiber also helps you feel fuller longer, so you're more satisfied after you eat it. ~Source

Check out this nutritional value, too! [source]
Note: Values are for 1 cup of cooked oatmeal, or approximately 1/2 cup dried oats. If you're a diabetic, that's 2 starch exchanges.

  • 4 grams of fiber (14% of the DRI)
  • 6 grams of protein (that 1 whole serving!)
  • small amounts of 18 different amino acids
  • NO cholesterol
  • Over 10% of the DRI for the vitamin Thiamin
  • 25% of the DRI for the mineral Phospherous
  • Over 15% of the DRI for the mineral Magnesium
  • 12% DRI Iron for women and 25% for men
With all of that goodness inside a bowl of oatmeal, what's not to love?!

I also love that's it a completely blank canvas. It's so easy to add additional protein, fruit and healthy fat!

Tip: Adding whole fruit to your oatmeal, like blueberries, eliminates the need for adding sugar!

So, that brings me today's recipe. 

Peanut Butter & Jelly Oatmeal
As you know, I'm still recovering from surgery. Today was my first day with my kids by myself for lunch, so I wanted something nutritious, but simple. I've been craving a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich, but since I don't eat bread that wasn't an option. So, I satisfied my craving with this recipe and managed to stay away from all the junk that's found in bread.

1/2 cup dry gluten-free oats
3/4 cup filtered water
1T (heaping) organic, low-sugar fruit spread*
1T (heaping) natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter

Make oatmeal with water. Mix in the peanut butter & jelly and enjoy!


*As you know, normally I try to avoid eating foods with sugar added to it. But, my in-laws would be taking care of my kids for 5 days while we traveled for my surgery, so we bought this as something easy to make for the kids. 

If I were going to eat jelly, which I typically don't, I would recommend making your own and either using no sweetener (since fruit is naturally sweet) or adding stevia or raw honey as your sweetener. 

However, for store bought, this isn't too terrible. There are only 4 ingredients and they are all organic. The sweetener of choice is organic sugar, which is one of the better ones in terms of effects on blood sugar. Fruit Pectin has some awesome health benefits. And the last ingredient, citric acid (as an additive) is controversial about the effects on your health. Many say it's not harmful and others say it's derived from yeast and can affect candida or cause asthmatic allergic reactions. All in all, the Kirkland Organic Strawberry Spread is not a bad choice, if you're looking for jam. With that said, eating 1 cup of strawberries chopped up in your oatmeal or sliced on a sandwich, would be a better choice and more fulfilling.

And my absolute favorite peanut butter is Parker Farms, located right here in MN, and less than 1-hour from where I live. I love supporting local farmers!

Especially ones with awesome products! Check out this ingredient list...

Can't beat just peanuts and salt!

Now, I dare you to go in your fridge, pull out your jelly and your peanut butter, look at the ingredients list and google whatever ingredient you don't know. My guess is, you'll likely want to throw it in the garbage! 

Comment below and let me know what you find!!!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why I'm Grateful for Endometriosis

Yes, you read that title right. I sit here today, recovering from my 4th surgery for endometriosis, grateful. 

I was in this very place, just 2 years ago, but with a very different mindset. I was angry with God. I didn’t understand why He allowed me to endure this disease. I didn’t understand why He wouldn’t take it away. But, now it doesn’t matter.

This disease is straight from the pit of hell. I don’t want you to miss that. This disease is NOT from the God that I serve. I just want to make sure that we’re clear on that. But, my Lord is so amazing, that He can take the worst of circumstances, and turn them into good.

See, having endometriosis has given me so much. Without this disease, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And, I like me. 

I am strong. Because of endometriosis.
I am courageous. Because of endometriosis.
I am a fighter. Because of endometriosis.
I will never take my children for granted. Because of endometriosis.
I will never take my friends, family and husband for granted. Because of endometriosis.
I will always have a heart for those suffering with infertility. Because of endometriosis.
I will never take my physical health for granted again. Because of endometriosis.
I lead a healthy lifestyle. Because of endometriosis.

But, probably the most important thing that endometriosis has given me, is my relationship with God. See, 2 years ago, I was ready to walk away from Him because of this disease. But, He showed up for me, in a very big way. And He has continued to.

His Word says that He is the I AM. That means that He is the great Healer. That He is the great Physician. And I believe Him, with everything inside of me. If He wanted to heal me, He could. And if He chooses not to, He is STILL the great Physician and the great Healer. 

Sharing my story and my endometriosis journey, has led to this blog and to meeting so many amazing women.  And occasionally, I get to hear from one of my readers and how my story, my journey and/or my relationship with God through it all, has touched their life. I will never know the full ripple effect that my willingness to be authentic and raw has had on others. But, every single time I hear from a reader that it impacted them, it makes it all worth it. And I will continue to endure the physical pain with gratitude, as long as it brings glory to Jesus and others closer to knowing the God that I serve. 


Because that’s what Jesus did for me.

And I am forever grateful.