BEST SELF, HEALTH, NUTRITION, RECIPES

Ten Whole30 Meals to Start the New Year

12/31/2018

With the New Year right around the corner it is a time of reflection. We often take stock of the past year and evaluate what has worked for us and what hasn’t. As a result people often vow to make changes and let the fresh year work as a trigger for these changes, hence we create New Year’s Resolutions.

While I believe there are many positive aspects to these resolutions, we often bite off more than we can chew, or in terms of losing weight and changing habits, perhaps we bite off less than what will actually satisfy us. It is important as we work towards our goals for the new year that we make sure they are SMART goals. Yes, the old acronym we learned in grade school – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound. It is also helpful to create macro and micro goals. The micro goals are smaller goals that work towards your larger goal.  For example, your macro (or larger) goal may be to adopt a healthier more active lifestyle, but your micro goal – or goal of the day may simply be to put gym clothes on first thing in the morning. Conquering smaller goals that establish healthy patterns and habits can be more efficient, achievable, and maintainable. These then build upon future goals. I like to look at what my year end goal is and then reverse engineer my steps. If we are truly resolving to make changes in our lives then we need to make sure we are setting ourselves up for success. Unfortunately, most people have given up their resolutions by Groundhog’s Day, where they revert to doing the same old behaviors again and again.

One of the behaviors I changed within 2018 was my eating habits. I took on the Whole30 Challenge and completed it in three sequential rounds. Doing 30 days at a time was a SMART goal and I was able to achieve it and then follow up with secondary and tertiary rounds. I am now in a maintenance phase and it has simply become my new way of living.

I’ve already had several individuals reach out to me to let me know that they are going to be starting their own Whole30 challenge in the new year, so I figured I’d help out by posting some of my favorite, quick & easy, go-to meals. I’m always here for encouragement  and support – so don’t hesitate to reach out or to comment. The more community you build, the easier it is to follow through. You have people that support you and are rooting for you – just make sure you are looking for them!

Alright, here are some of my top ten favorite Whole30 meals:

1. Coconut Curry Shrimp with Zucchini Ribbons and Peppers

Wash zucchini and bell pepper.  Use spiralizer (with ribbon attachment) to spiralize the zucchini. If you don’t have a spiralizer you can either use a general peeler or just thinly slice with a regular knife. Add one tablespoon of olive oil (or coconut oil) in the frying pan and heat on medium.  Add zucchini to pan once warm. Cut bell pepper in half and removed seeds, stem, and interior flesh. Slice thin strips of bell pepper and add them into the pan with the zucchini. Cook on medium for 6 minutes, then add one cup of coconut milk, 1 tablespoon of curry, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and 2-3 shakes of Adobe Salt (without pepper).  Mix all together and then add a handful of de-veined, de-tailed shrimp. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until shrimp are pink. Put into a bowl and top with shaved coconut and a handful of pepitas. Dig in!

2. Italian Style Potato with Egg

Wash, dry, and place 3 baby potatoes (or a small regular potato) in the microwave for 3 minutes.  I do not pierce the skins – I just put them on a microwavable plate or paper towel. Place a teaspoon of olive oil in the frying pan and crack two eggs into pan once heated. Add salt to taste and cook eggs thoroughly, flipping as needed. I usually leak my egg while cooking that way it incorporates into the white a bit without making them scrambled. Once cooked chop up the egg.  Place cooked potatoes into a bowl and smash. I sometimes use a knife to help out in this process. Add a cup of Whole30 compliant pasta sauce. I use Rao’s or Victoria’s basic marinara. Add in chopped egg, and top with 1/4th a cup of hemp seed (for extra texture and nutrients), and 1/4th cup of sliced natural black olives. Enjoy!

3. Baked Potato with Sunny Side Up Eggs and Roasted Onions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Wash baked potato. Add a little olive oil to the exterior skin and one crank of the Himalayan Pink Salt.  Wrap it in foil and throw it in the oven for 45 minutes. Finely dice an onion. Add a teaspoon of olive oil and throw onion on a baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until edges are browned. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a frying pan and let pan warm. Crack two eggs into pan and let them cook, flipping once.  I like my eggs to be slightly runny so that it gives moisture to the baked potato, but you can fully cook if you prefer. Once the potatoes is finished cut into half. Add the two eggs on top and pierce the yokes. Then add the roasted onions on top and enjoy!

4. Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Onions and Peppers with Guacamole

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Wash sweet potato and bell pepper. Slice sweet potato long ways into thin wedges, first cutting into half or thirds, and then cutting into 4-6 strips (depending on size of potato).  Cut onion in half and then into sixths and leave layers in tact. Cut the bell pepper around the stem, pulling out the stem and seeds. Rinse to make sure all seeds are out. Leave pepper whole and turn on its side and slice in small strips creating rings. Pour about one tablespoon of olive oil on your hands and massage into the potatoes and onions.  Put bell peppers onto one side of the baking sheet and the potatoes and onions on the other. Season the potatoes and onions with either Himalayan Pink Salt or Adobo Salt (without Pepper). Cook for about 35 minutes, checking periodically. While veggies bake, slice avocado in half and remove pit. Scoop out avocado into a bowl and add two shakes of the Adobo Salt (without pepper).  Mash up. Once veggies are done, plate veggies and add a side of the guacamole. Enjoy! Also, really good with a sunny side up egg – or if you eat meat, feel free to add meat to the dish!

5. Roasted Potato Medallions & Baby Carrots with Sunny Side Up Eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Wash baked potato. Slice the potato into thin slices creating small medallion looking slices. Place on baking sheet.  Add about a cup of washed baby carrots to baking sheet. Pour about one tablespoon of olive oil into your hands and massage into the vegetables.  Add two to three crank of the Himalayan Pink Salt. Roast in oven for approximately 30 minutes. While vegetables are cooking, add a teaspoon of olive oil to a frying pan and let pan warm.  Crack two eggs into pan and let them cook, flipping once. Once veggies are done add them to plate and top with the two eggs, piercing the yolk and letting the warm liquid flow over the veggies.

6. Salmon with Roasted Balsamic Green Beans & Brussel Sprouts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Clean Brussel sprouts and green beans.  Slice Brussel sprouts in half. Put in bowl and toss with one tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and one tablespoon of coconut aminos.  Place on baking sheet. Throw washed green beans into bowl with leftover oil, vinegar, and aminos. Toss around and then add to baking sheet. Throw in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Lightly cover the bottom of a baking sheet with olive oil and place salmon on baking sheet skin side down.  Pour about one tablespoon of olive oil into palm of your hands and massage it into the top of the salmon. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Cut one lemon in half.  Slice one half into quarters and the other half into round slices. Squeeze the two quarters onto the salmon and then place the round slices on top of the salmon. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes. Ideally you will put the salmon in once the vegetables have cooked for about 20 minutes so that all the food will come out hot together. Plate and serve!

7. Sautéed Shrimp with Zucchini Ribbons and Mushrooms

Clean one zucchini. Use spiralizer to create thin ribbons of zucchini.  If you don’t have a spiralizer you can simply use a mandolin, a handheld peeler, or just slice up the zucchini thinly with a basic knife. Slice up mushrooms into thin slices. Add half a tablespoon of olive oil on the frying pan and throw veggies on once warm. Sauté veggies for about 5 minutes and then add a cup of de-veined, de-tailed shrimp.  Add two cranks of black pepper and two cranks of Himalayan Pink Salt. Gently stir veggies and shrimp to make sure all get cooked. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Pull of stove and pour into bowl or plate and serve!

8. Shrimp Stuffed Peppers

Clean one large bell pepper. Cut in half and removed seeds, stem, and interior flesh. Cut avocado in half and remove pit. Empty avocado into a bowl and add two shakes of Adobo Salt (without pepper) and mash up.  Fill bell pepper halves with guacamole. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil into the frying pan. Once heated add a handful of de-veined, de-tailed shrimp. Add 1-2 light shakes of the Adobo Salt and cook for 3-4 minutes until shrimp turn pink.  Remove from pan and place on top of the guacamole! Eat up!

9. Roasted Veggies with Fresh Rosemary

Preheat oven to 425. Wash eggplant and cherry tomatoes. Dice up eggplant and onion into very small cubes. Place diced vegetables in a bowl and drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil. Mix together with your hands, massaging it into the vegetables.  Add two cranks of the Himalayan Pink Salt. Spread veggies out onto baking sheet. Throw a handful of cherry tomatoes on top. Roast vegetables for about 30 minutes. Finely chop one sprig of fresh rosemary. When veggies are done, throw them in a bowl and add rosemary.  Mix up and serve. Feel free to add a protein to this by adding egg, meat, fish, or nuts & seeds.

10. Smoked Salmon with Cashew Cream on Sweet Potato Toast

When you purchase smoked salmon, make sure to look at the ingredients – a lot of companies add sugar, so make sure to get one that doesn’t! Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Wash sweet potato. Cut the ends off and then stand it up tall. Cut downward into thin sheets (about 1/4 of an inch thick) to make slices of “toast”. If you are preparing ahead of time, soak a cup of cashews in a cup of water overnight, if you are making this meal in the moment, then you can simply microwave a cup of cashew in a cup of water for three minutes to soften.  Drain cashews and blend in blender with 1 tablespoon of herbs de provence, and two cranks of Himalayan Pink Salt. Blend until creamy. When the sweet potatoes are done cooking let them cool for about 10-15 minutes, or throw them in the fridge to speed up cooling time. Once cool, spread the cashew cream on top and add a slice of the smoked salmon. Enjoy!

I hope these recipes are helpful! I’m always here for tips, tricks, advice, and encouragement!

Wishing you and yours the happiest New Year full of love, laughter, and lots of adventure. I’d love to hear what your goals are for 2019, so feel free to leave them in the comments. You’ve got this – just make sure you are set up for success – preparation is key!  

BREAST IMPLANT ILLNESS, GRATITUDE, HEALTH, MY TRUTH

Breast Implant Removal Surgery // Two Years Later

12/19/2018

As I sit here getting ready to write an update about my breast implant removal surgery, I am in such a state of gratitude.

Two years ago I was lying in bed struggling with the decisions I had made in regards to my life choices and overall health. The surgery proved to be complicated and the recovery process even more so. They had a challenging time bringing me out of the anesthesia, I had secondary issues with draining, and got an infection which resulted in a need for a follow up procedure.

I was in a dark place, wondering what I had done to myself and wondering whether I would ever be able to function normally again. I questioned my reasons for getting implants in the first place, berading myself about the selfishness of the decision. I could not get out of bed easily and was relying on others to help me with everything. This included friends of only a few months. The pain was just barely tolerable and my body looked botched. My motion was limited and I feared that I would never regain full use of my arms and shoulders again. I felt broken.

I truly questioned whether this was the solution. Would my symptoms go away? Or were they unrelated and there was some deeper underlying issue that I was dealing with?  Did I have an autoimmune disorder that had not been identified. Was all this pain and suffering for nothing?

For years I had been dealing with symptoms including chronic fatigue, with bouts of extreme fatigue, dizziness, lethargy, chest pain, hair loss, mood swings, depressions, weight gain, and inflammation. I followed a group of women online who were going through similar journeys, and before my surgery I found the group to be immensely helpful.

But after the surgery, the group became painful to engage in.  Everyone seemed to be healing much quicker than I was. Some were even up and about days after the surgery, where for me it took about 8 weeks. There were some that looked better after surgery than I had even looked with my implants – and here I was with one tiny breast adhered to my chest wall in a puckered position and the other, slightly larger, but droopy with extra scarring due to the infection. What had I done to myself?

Lucky I learned that those who seemed to be healing well tended to have the energy and excitement to post more readily their success stories, where as the rest of us who had alternate paths of recovery were a bit more reluctant to share.  After I posted about my own struggles, I got the love and support I needed – with a lot of mirrored stories. This was indeed helpful, but the journey of recovery was long and mine to walk.

Fast forward two years and I sit here in the peak of my physical health.

What a dichotomy.

For the first time in my life, I am treating my body with love and compassion. I am fueling it with clean foods and focusing on strengthening it through moderate exercise. I am no longer using and abusing it, or taking it for granted. I even completed the Marine Corp Marathon this past fall, without any injuries or excessive soreness after the race. I’m constantly amazed at the healing process of the body and am positively pushing the limits of what I thought it could do, daily.

But it was not an overnight process.

It took time, it took patience, and it took change.  

I have cut out processed foods, sugars, and alcohol. I use my body and challenge it in new ways – staying active. I stretched and worked with my body increasing the demands I put on it, slowly and mindfully.

Yes, my body has pretty much healed itself.  And yes, the symptoms of Breast Implant Illness have all seemed to go away as a result of having my implants removed, but it took time and it wasn’t without work, and I think that is a very important point to understand.

Just as getting implants did not solve my poor self esteem overnight, it didn’t take removing them to heal my broken body. It took love and nurturing.  It took compassion. And it took time.

In my case, I am talking about a surgery to remove implants – both elective surgeries – but for others struggling with recovery, it may be an injury, a health related surgery, a weightloss journey, or a chronic illness you are dealing with. Regardless, of what your journey specifically entails or where you are in the process, I have three pieces of advice that will help you immensely in your process:  

You must be patient with yourself in your healing process. It takes time for the mind, body, and heart to heal. If you move forward a little bit each day, you will eventually get to where you are going. If you try to rush the process, you will only frustrate yourself. I try to look a year out at all times. Where will I be a year from now gives me a lot more of a realistic timeline of the healing process and gives me adequate time to make gains. Take things in small steps so they don’t feel overwhelming, and before you know it, you too will be discussing your story two years later.

Secondly, you must be intentional about what you do. Be an active player in your healing process, don’t just let it happen to you. Do any exercises or stretches you are supposed to do. Push yourself a little each day. Fuel your body and mind with positivity – consuming healthy foods and optimistic outlooks is vital. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and in your healing – and if you don’t have those people currently in the physical sense, find communities online and engage there. Be the captain of the ship and steer the boat where you want to be. There are always elements of the recovery you cannot change (for me the aesthetics of my body), but there are plenty of areas to focus on that you can control (i.e. strength and outlook).

And lastly – but perhaps most importantly – BE COMPASSIONATE. Treat yourself as if you were caring after your young child. Forgive yourself for the mistakes that may have gotten you into the position you are in today. You can’t change the past, you can only focus on the present. A very wise aunt of mine once told me that focusing on regret is a wasted emotion – and she is so right! You can’t change it, so forgive yourself and move forward. If you treat yourself with the compassion you’d treat others with you’ll be able to move past a lot of the mental roadblocks that hold us back or arrest us in our development. So make sure you are coming from a place of love with all you do – especially in regards to how you treat yourself.

I hope the takeaways from my experience can help you with your own personal journey. If you have your own advice or stories to share – please join in on the comments – I love to hear from you.

Interested in learning more about my surgery or healing process  – here are the links to my previous articles, discussing my journey:

Thanks again for taking the time to read my words. Wishing you all the best.

BEST SELF, HEALTH, TIME FOR CHANGE

Cutting Out Alcohol

12/11/2018

 

Imagine this scene.

A woman wakes up in the morning hustles to the kitchen after nudging her kids awake and makes breakfast and lunches for the entire family.  She argues with the kids to hurry and dress, despite the fact that the morning routine hasn’t changed in years. She finally rushes the kids off to school just in time to make it as the tardy bell rings.  When she comes home she switches her focus to cleaning the kitchen, which is a disaster after the meals she just knocked out in a frenzy for her family. She then walks around her home picking up dirty clothes that were left lying around, despite her nagging reminders to her children to put them in the laundry bin.  With arms full of dirty clothes, she treks down to the laundry room to start a few loads, trying desperately to stay on top of the mess. She comes back and throws on some mindless Netflix show for ambiance in the background as she cleans up the house and knocks out the remainder of the laundry. In between loads, she proceeds to check emails and work on a few volunteer projects that need to be completed, scattering in a few dog walks in between. She completes all the laundry just in time to look down at the clock and realize that school is being let out, so she literally runs to the school to pick up the kids, albeit a few minutes late.

Rather than greeting her with hugs and kisses, the kids complain that she has forgotten a snack for them and on the walk home they bicker with each other.  They drop their bags at the front door and proceed to drop garments of clothes all over the freshly cleaned home as they start to unwind after school. She lays out snacks and reminds the kids to get their homework done and pick up their clothes.  

The kids beg for television and she continually says no, encouraging them to get their homework done.  The table is left full of dirty dishes from the snacks and she finds the kids in their room playing with toys, no homework complete.  The nagging begins.

She finally gets the kids to complete their homework and after some considerable arguing, they clean up their mess.  She gives in and allows them to watch some television.

She looks at the clock. It’s a few minutes before 5 pm.  She decides to get dinner going.

She feels frazzled, under appreciated and exhausted.

She opens a bottle of red wine and pours a glass for herself.

The smell of the wine lets her know that soon she can unwind. She feels the first sip warm her insides as she swallows.  A few more sips in and she notices herself letting go of the tension.

It is going to be alright, the day is almost over.

Can you relate?

This was my 2017.

And for me, it was not okay.  

It had become apparent that I was using wine as a crutch to help me unwind at the end of the day.  The only problem was that the end of the day, had become dinner prep, and one glass became two or three over the course of the entire evening.  Now, it was not nightly, but it was enough to add some unwanted padding to my body and to throw off my desire to get up early in the morning and be productive.

I knew that coming into the new year I had a lot of goals I wanted to achieve, but that it was unlikely I was going to be able to reach those goals unless something changed.

I had given up alcohol for a year once before a few years ago and found that my productivity went up significantly. So, I set the challenge for myself.  One year without drinking.

Three hundred and sixty five days of pure sobriety.

I am now almost complete with my year and I am so grateful that I made the decision.  2018 brought on a lot of personal challenges with loss being a common theme. I know that had I not made this personal commitment to myself that I would have drowned my sorrows in wine, but instead I was able to focus my grief in positive ways such as advocacy.

That said, I’m always intrigued by people’s reactions to my choice not to drink. I think it makes people uncomfortable. Perhaps they don’t want to look silly as they let loose and worry about judgement, but there seems to be a large desire for you to drink with them.  

I typically try to hide the fact that I am not drinking as to help other people with their discomfort around it. I’ll order a sparkling water with lime and sometimes a splash of cranberry. I don’t lie when asked what I’m drinking, but people just generally assume it’s alcohol.

Although I have plenty of friends who could also care less if I’m drinking or not, I do often have to explain my decision not to drink.

I think people fear that I will judge them. This is not the case.

My feeling is – You do you, I’ll do me, and at the end of the night, I’ll be your DD!

I’m worried about the effect of drinking on me, not on you.

And I have for far too long used it as my crutch and my reward at the end of a stressful day.

My kids and I would joke about how I liked my wine to help me slow down and relax, but I realize that I did not want my children to think this is how it is done. That they need alcohol to destress.

What I do not like about alcohol is that for me it is consuming. I rarely have only one drink, which means that hours are spent clouded by the judgement of alcohol. It may be minimally, but it is still an impairment and unfortunately alcohol is a depressant – so I can easily get into a woe is me mentality, which does me no favors.

I struggle with depression and am easily led into that path, but know that I am also a person who thrives on light and positivity. The problem is that I know I need to intentionally flood myself in the light in order to combat the pervasive darkness and I can’t do that if I am drinking. It just doesn’t work for me right now. This may change as I get older and as my self care habits evolve, but for right now, I am a better person without alcohol.

I know several of my friends have been looking forward to the year ending so that we could enjoy some libations together again, but I don’t think that days going to happen just yet.  I am still working on becoming the best personal version of myself, and at this point, I just can’t do that with alcohol. And to be totally honest, I really don’t miss it. I’ve crowded it out with other good things and I just don’t have room in my life for it at the moment.

There is a lot I have learned about myself through engaging in this personal challenge, and I’d like to share Five Quick Tips and Tricks to Not Drinking I’ve learned this past year:

 

 

 

1. Make a commitment to yourself!

Whether it is one month, one year, or a lifetime, be clear with your commitment to you. This decision is for you and only you. We need to be able to follow through with the promises we make to ourselves about anything else. 

2. Be accountable

Announce to your friends, family, coworkers, etc. that you are taking on this challenge. Putting it on social media can be a good way to publicize your efforts, create accountability, and also gain support.  Using hashtags such as #notdrinking #hipsobriety #focusingonme #mocktailsonly can help you tie into a group of likeminded people who can offer you extra support.

3. Take it one day at a time!

I found that the first month was the most challenging because I still craved a glass of wine. So I focused on one day at a time and before I knew it I was 11 months into my challenge. It can be challenging thinking about a timeline in it’s entirety. If you have a greater struggle with alcohol, you may need to take it hour by hour, but I promise you – it gets easier with time.-

4. Have a game plan

Know what you are getting into and create a game plan. If you are okay going to events with alcohol, then just be wise for how you will order your own drink. There are tons of great mocktails for you to enjoy, or do as I do and grab a soda water with lime! Also, be prepared on how you will handle questions from others about your decision not to drink – especially if not drinking is atypical for you. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing all the details, you could just simply say “I’m on a cleanse”. Don’t let other people’s insecurities about you not drinking derail your efforts.

5. Ask for support

Reach out and gain support from friends, family, loved ones, or a dedicated support group such as AA if you need.  You do not have to do this alone. The more you struggle with alcohol dependence, the more support you may need. That is okay! There is a lot of strength in knowing when to ask for help.

 

Have you ever thought about or successfully completed a time period where you cut out alcohol?  I’d love to hear your story! Thanks for listening to mine!

 

GRATITUDE, LIFE CHANGES, MY TRUTH

Bye Bye Santa

12/03/2018

I always knew the day would come that the childhood myth of Santa would have to be revealed to my children, and this weekend that day arrived.  

While sitting down at the dining table our eight year old daughter posed the question “Is Santa real?”. This was an easy question to answer as we’ve been asked this before and always relied on the good old “If you believe” style answer – but that day the questions continued and the skepticism grew. She and her nine year old brother continued to ask more direct questions and would not accept the half answers we were providing. Of course, we were using full on deflection techniques as we did not want to outwardly lie to our children, so we continued our attempts to deflect, distract, and change the subject, but weren’t able to do so.  We ended the conversation without any real answers, but no one felt satisfied either.

That evening my husband and I sat down and discussed the matter.  We googled the appropriate age to tell your children about Santa and ways to go about it. We agreed that it was more important to focus on trust and honesty as a family value rather than outwardly lie in order to possibly eek out one more year of the childhood myth.

 

I will not lie. I was sad – and I’m still sad in this moment.  

The idea of Santa has brought so much joy to the holiday season, and I think I enjoy being Santa even more so than I even enjoyed his arrival during the Christmas season during my own childhood. I was really good at being Santa. I would keep notes all year long regarding wishes and thoughts about what they would like so that come Christmas morning, they had their hearts desire and not just the hot new toy that they learned about via holiday commercial on television a few weeks prior. Even when I get them spot on birthday gifts, it did not bring the same level of joy and amazement as it did when a jolly old man in a big red suit brought them the perfect Christmas toy.

The next morning we sat down for breakfast and approached the subject. We told them that we were willing to unveil the complexity of Santa, but that they needed to make the decision whether or not they truly wanted to know how it all works because once they decided to know the secrets, they could never go back. We tried to word it in such a way that left believing for one more year on the table.

My eight year old daughter decided she wanted to stick to believing, but my nine year old son asked to be let in on the inner works of the North Pole.

We took him into the bedroom, sat him down, and dished it out.

For me, it was still important to understand the Spirit of Santa was real even though the idea of a jolly old fat man in a big red suit, with flying reindeer, elves, and a workshop in the North Pole was all a myth. Yes, parents played out the role of the gift giver, and yes, we ate the cookies left out on Christmas Eve, but I truly believe that the Spirit of Santa helps guide us to the perfect holiday gifts.  It allows parents to tune into the wishes and intentions that their child has placed out into the universe and follow through with the manifestation of their dreams. I believe in the law of attraction and I think that the Spirit of Santa is just this – kid style.

Let me explain.

We have always had a pretty strict – Santa does not do electronics – policy in our home and so the kids knew that this was not something on the table come Christmas time.  The kids also understood that Santa does not perform miracles – creating siblings, bringing dogs, or resurrecting the deceased – but rather that the gifts Santa brings would need to be created at his workshop.

As parents, we created the constructs of Santa to fit within our gift giving parameters.  At the beginning I tried to give gifts that looked hand constructed (i.e. a stone handle magnifying glass, a hand carved jewelry box, etc.) but this proved to become more challenging as the years passed, so we simply stuck to the no electronics rule with an attempt at more basic toys (i.e. dolls, toy cars, dinosaurs, etc.).

Most years, I have done well on the Santa gifts, but one year, the year we were preparing to sell our home in Florida and move to DC, I really failed.  The stores just did not seem to sell the items that the kids dreamed of. I did my best, but Christmas morning ended in some major disappointment. The following year, the kids did not seem to have any true longings for their holiday gifts, but I was terrified that I’d let them down two years in a row.  In true Santa Spirit though, the universe aligned and provided me with exactly what they had wanted the year before in perfect form. I had never seen either product before in my life – one being an American Girl style Elsa doll and the other being a Super Mario Brother’s Remote Control Car. The crazier piece is that there was only one of each (different stores, different shopping dates) and I have still not seen these toys for sale again to this day!

So while explaining that we as parents indeed are the ones who purchase, wrap, and give the gifts under the guise of Santa – I also shared with them these little stories that seem to highlight the realness of the Spirit of Santa and how the gifts manifest in the universe – something I truly believe in. This gave them something more to hold onto. I also explained that as long as they believed and put the energy out into the world, that they’d still receive their Santa gifts.

My two children reacted completely opposite. My daughter seemed relieved to know the truth and really held onto the way I explained it with belief still in her heart, while my son seemed completely deflated and could not shake his sadness even through the next morning.  He also asked about the Easter Bunny this morning (palm to forehead).

I know this is a right of passage as a parent, but there doesn’t feel like any right way to do this.  Only time will tell how Christmas plays out this year, but Santa will be delivering their special gifts regardless.  I’d be curious to hear your stories of unleashing the truth behind Santa and how it played out in your own lives. As always, thanks for reading!

 

 

ACTIVE LIVING, BEST SELF, HEALTH, NUTRITION

Whole 30 // My Journey to Food Freedom

11/27/2018

As of today, I have completed three (almost sequential) rounds of Whole30. If you aren’t familiar with the program, it is a self guided food program (or diet if you will) that focuses on eliminating negative inflammation prone foods in order for you to reset your body. During the 30 days, you are guided to focus on whole foods – this means unprocessed foods with no added sugars or preservatives. The program also has you eliminate other types of foods that are known to cause inflammation in the body or trigger hormonal reactions such as dairy, grains, legumes, and corn. Oh, and alcohol too. The basis of the program is to get you on a clean diet for 30 days allowing you to slay the “sugar dragon” and reset your hormones breaking any unhealthy psychological and physiological relationships with food therefore providing “food freedom”. After the 30 days you are able to slowly re-incorporate foods into your diet, while observing how they impact your body.

When I first heard of the Whole30 I was very skeptical. My sister had done it several times and had positive results in regards to weight loss and overall health, but to me, the diet seemed too limiting. I am already a gluten free vegetarian and I rely on food sources such as beans and rice, tofu, and legumes to hit my daily protein needs – so how would I survive if I cut those out? I basically told myself that I would never do Whole30, which pretty much guaranteed me that at some point in my life it would be done – because as soon as I say never, the universe laughs and says “we’ll see about that”.

My mother, who has struggled with weight as far back as I can remember, tried out the program about two years ago. The amazing thing is that she started it and just never stopped. She took the knowledge of how to eat and made a lifestyle change that, in my opinion, has given her life and her relationship with food a complete makeover. She looks fantastic and has such a different level of energy and positivity. I have been so proud to watch her through this journey. Her energy is contagious and she truly glows. I have been inspired witnessing her personal transformation.

Although it may not seem like it from an outside perspective, I have battled my weight since I was in late elementary school. I became a very chubby kid and did not look like most of my peers. Since then I’ve had a relatively unhealthy relationship with food and my body. I battled Bulimia in college and early adulthood, tried to lose weight through diet pills and restrictive eating, and have tried numerous fad diets – none of which helped me achieve a body I was proud of nor did it help me gain a positive relationship with food.  In fact, it did quite the opposite, which is part of why I didn’t want to go down the Whole30 rabbit hole. I did not trust it.

That said, my mom’s success with the program intrigued me. I honestly started researching Whole30 not because I had any intention to follow through with the program, but more so that I was worried about my mom. I was concerned that she was being too restrictive. I needed to understand the reasoning and the science behind it all.  So I started reading. I borrowed several Whole30 books from the library – starting with “It Starts with Food”, which was the first book written by the developers of the program Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. I highly recommend reading the book if you are interested in the program. It gave me a better understanding of the why. A lot of the food that was being cut, was going to be introduced back later and is only being cut for the first 30 days to help give each individual a baseline or blank slate in order to figure out what foods work for them and which do not.

Another huge focus was breaking the dysfunctional relationship with food. Again, I was skeptical that this could happen. I have always had a bad relationship with food.  And I mean always. I remember being in elementary school and licking slices of pizza so that I could guarantee myself a second (or third) slice before my siblings got to it, or finding mom’s hidden stash of sweet treats and going nuts eating all I could. I even remember finding a sour punch rope candy on the ground walking home from the school bus one day and eating it – and if my memory serves me correctly, it was already open! Ugh, that memory makes my heart and stomach hurt. Those particular memories aren’t even inclusive of the later years which involve heartbreaking stories of binging and purging.  

As I read, I started wondering if it was worth giving the program a try. At the time I was a vegetarian and I knew I would have to do something about the protein aspect of the diet. I decided that instead of making concessions to the program to fit around a vegetarian lifestyle (which they do allow), that I would choose to include fish and eggs in lieu of the tofu and legumes over the 30 days. The more I read, the more I felt up to the time limited challenge of the program.

I also deeply believe that psychologically I gave myself permission to succeed since my mom has succeeded.

I have always been concerned that I would end up battling my weight my entire life, just like my mother. I had dated someone who was very into fitness that had commented that they didn’t think they could marry me because my mother was a predictor of my future body shape. When I looked in the mirror, I saw her, not me – so there was no winning the battle. I honestly feel shame and guilt for carrying this fear around and extremely vulnerable expressing it on a public forum because it involves my mother and not just myself, but it is a big piece of my journey.  As I work through my feelings, I recognize that it has affected me far deeper than I ever perceived. Seeing my mom succeed and reshape her life has, in a way, given me the permission I needed to let go of this fear. Holding onto the belief that I was destined to struggle and never achieve my goals only held me back from achieving them.

After some prep work, a major food shopping spree, and an announcement to my family, I decided to start my Whole30 journey the day the kids went back to school. I filled the house with fresh fruits and veggies and created a general food plan for the first week to get me going.

Unfortunately, two days into the program I realized that the pickles I was munching on had added sugar! I could have let this be an excuse to stop the program altogether, but instead I just reset and went back to day one. I was not giving up.

The first week was exciting, but by week two I was already feeling challenged. We had visitors in town which meant eating out at restaurants and grabbing take out. This also meant having to forego my favorite foods in order to stay compliant with the program. I had to give myself several pep talks and force myself to just get through the moment. I realized that the desire for the foods dissipated very quickly, especially when I ate something that was Whole30 approved that I enjoyed. I just had to make sure that I was prepared and had food on hand that not only fit into the program, but that I liked and looked forward to eating.

I found that roasted veggies were my favorite by far. I would switch up the various veggies and seasonings and often throw a leaky egg on top and some fresh homemade guacamole on the side. I started to crave these meals and the other previously enticing foods did not seem as appealing. By week three I was getting bored though. I had not switched things up enough and I was ready for the program to be over. I was not seeing much change to my body and I was feeling grumpy and hungry. I was also PMSing, which caused me to crave sugar. On week three I overindulged on nuts and dried mango – which albeit Whole30 approved food, is not really Whole30 approved behavior, but it is part of the learning process. I forgave myself and moved past it, completing the program the following week.

I was proud of myself for following through with the program, but I was not in the right mindset for the slow reintegration of foods, but rather for a feast of Thai food and gluten free pizza.

I knew I had lost a bit of weight – 6 pounds that month – but I didn’t see enough of a change to feel like it was life changing and to be honest, I wanted the foods I wanted.

Funny enough though, without thinking about it I made myself a Whole30 compliant breakfast before having our Thai lunch, and then again the next day I stayed within the program’s guidelines for both breakfast and lunch before having my pizza for dinner.

By the end of my second non-compliant meal I was feeling satisfied, but ready to get back onto Whole30. The feeling actually surprised me as I had never anticipated wanting to do it ever again. Despite my desire to go for round 2, I knew my parents were coming into town and I did not want to be on the program during their visit and my all or nothing personality doesn’t really allow “cheating” on the program. I pulled out the calendar, and wouldn’t you know it – they flew into town late the evening of the 30th day! The universe was encouraging me to keep going – so I did. Round two was much easier. I also recognized that I had neglected various seasoning, such as curry, which opened up a whole world of flavors. I got a little more creative in my cooking – spiralizing squash and zucchini, using cauliflower rice, and incorporating Whole30 approved marinara sauce – while also falling into a routine of my favorite roasted vegetable plates.

I still struggled a bit around the time of my period, but never fell outside of the parameters and was able to use better self control in regards to the nuts (salty) and the dried mango (sweet) that I was craving. I also made sure to always have frozen grapes on hand so that I a handful here or there could satisfy my craving for sweet without spiking my blood sugar or breaking the caloric bank.

The end of round 2 arrived before I knew it and I never had the feeling that I was ready for it to be over. Although I thoroughly enjoyed eating out at my favorite Thai and Indian restaurants while my parents were in town, I continued to crave the structure of the program and contemplated a third round. I knew I had a friend’s wedding coming up at the end of November and there was no way I would want to be on the program at her wedding, so once again I pulled out the calendar to see what the completion date would be if I went for round 3. I couldn’t believe it – day 30 was the day before her wedding! Again the universe had aligned with my plans and encouraged me to succeed. I was all in once again for a third round.

This time, it was easy. Clean eating was now becoming a lifestyle. As long as I stayed prepared and one step ahead of the hurdles I was golden.  This meant traveling with Whole30 compliant foods and looking up menu options before arriving at restaurants so I knew and was excited about what I was going to order. The month flew by faster than I ever expected and I feel better than ever. I don’t crave sugars. I don’t feel controlled by food. And I never feel guilty for what I eat. Even if I eat larger portions than I feel like I need (like 2 full potatoes instead of one) because I’m hungry, there is no guilt. Zero. I know that I am giving my body what it needs.  

Now, I could still over do it on nuts if I allowed myself to, or dried fruit, or Lara bars, but I keep in mind that those are to be used sparingly and that the focus of the program is indeed food freedom.  So when I am craving one of the aforementioned items, I count to 5, drink some water, distract myself, and if that doesn’t work, then I just eat it, because that’s what I want and I am not about deprivation.

The program has worked tremendously for me and I am happier than ever when it comes to food.  Overall, I dropped about 10 pounds and now fit back into all my pants. I feel in control of the food I eat, but I still love and enjoy everything that I am eating – probably more so than before the program. Foods taste more alive – the fruit is sweeter and the vegetables more satisfying.

I also feel like I am a good role model for those around me, including my children. I am intentional and grateful for the food I eat. My confidence is higher and I feel no guilt or shame.

I highly recommend the program for anyone looking for food freedom, but know that if I would have quit after the first 30 days, that it would not have been as transformational for me.  Continuing on for an additional two rounds was important for the lifestyle shift to click – but I also believe giving myself the weekend off in between rounds was important. Additionally, I got lucky that the universe aligned with upcoming event dates, but the reality is that if I had wanted to use it as an excuse not to do the program I would have. I was ready for change and I embraced it – and I am so thankful that I did.

For me, it is not about the weight lost – although that is the organic coconut cream, date sweetened icing on top – it is about the true change in my relationship with food. That is the game changer. So now, the next phase of my personal transformation is incorporating the right level of fitness. I have found a program that seems to be working for me and I’m excited to see how it transpires, but more on that later! If you have any questions or comments about the Whole30, or my personal journey – feel free to comment or reach out. Want to learn more about what I eat or keep up with my journey, follow me on instagram (@thehourglassproject) for daily updates.