Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Whole30 Recap

So today is day 30 of my first Whole30 Challenge. As of this morning I have lost 15.6 lbs., my insulin and blood sugar have stabilized (blood work to back that up will be done soon), my seasonal eczema is gone, my skin and nails look fabulous, my hair is growing like a weed, I have a lot fewer aches and pains in my joints, I'm sleeping better, I have sustained energy, and my sugar cravings are few and far between.

To say this experience has been eye opening and life changing would not be far fetched. As a life long counter of calories, daily weigher, and yo-yo dieter, I am amazed to see such widespread results. I have a new found sense of freedom with food. Not counting calories or servings of this or that, and just focusing on whole, nutritious food has allowed me to redefine my relationship with food. I am not a slave to cravings or energy crashes. I eat when I'm hungry, which is far less often than before, I stop when I'm full, and feel completely satisfied with less.

Tomorrow is Easter and I will have a treat (a slice of chocolate torte cake). I purposefully selected this dessert and will savor every bite. My Easter dinner will be Whole30 approved (ham steak, roasted beets, asparagus, and carrots, sweet potato).

My Whole30 wasn't perfect. On day 4 I had a Girl Scout cookie meltdown, a handful of times I had cream in my coffee, I had a few pieces of maple sugar candy, and a piece of cheese on a burger. With the exception of the cookies, each "transgression" was a choice. This isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle change and I will make adjustments to fit my needs. An occasional piece of cheese or creamer in my coffee didn't appear to have negative effects for me. The sugar is an issue (one I have struggled with my entire life). While I don't plan to "never have sugar again", the decision to have some will be made deliberately and on my terms, with full knowledge of how it affects me. I will weigh the "treat" with the negative effects. I will not beat myself up or label my choice as "bad" or "wrong". I take responsibility for everything I choose to eat.

Several people I know (friends, family members, and co-workers included) have decided to do their own Whole30 after hearing about my successes. I can't wait to hear about their experiences!

Have you ever done a Whole30? Please share your experience with me!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

No Sweets for this Hobbit

Last night my friends threw a Hobbit DVD release costume party (yep... you read that correctly, and yes, most people dressed up). That's how my friends roll, it's one of the many things I love about my friends. Aside from the awesome costumes, there was TONS of food! White chocolate tarts, punch (spiked and unspiked), wine, buttered biscuits, stew, cookies, hand pies... so much food, so little time. But this hobbit was strong and resisted all those wonderful temptations. I came prepared. I brought smoked wild Alaskan salmon, prosciutto wrapped melon, plantain chips, and sparkling water. I enjoyed the company and didn't waste time focusing on food I couldn't have.

It was so awesome to see some friends I rarely get to see since moving to the middle of Maine. After a couple hours of mingling and chatting we watched the movie (projected on a curtain screen). We ended the night with a trivia contest (I won!) and announcing the winner for best costume.

Just to prove this REALLY happened.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Smoothie Kind of Morning

I've been a breakfast eater for quite some time now, but I've noticed that since starting Whole30 I'm not always hungry in the morning. Today would be one of those days. I don't want to skip it and have nothing so my go-to breakfast on days like this is to make a smoothie. I also use this recipe if I'm REALLY craving something sweet and the craving just won't go away (I do try to ride them out).

Morning Smoothie (makes 2 small, or 1 ex-large smoothie)

1/2 cup frozen unsweetened blueberries
1/2 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries
1/2 a frozen banana
1.5 cups unsweetened carrot juice

Blend it all up and let the sipping begin! This makes a beautiful deep red smoothie. I'd post a picture but I've already downed half my smoothie :)

Do you have a go-to smoothie recipe? Please share if you do!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fear and Running

Yesterday I did something I haven't done since my last half marathon in July, I ran double digit mileage. There are lots of reasons why it's taken me 8 months to get my mileage back up:
  • I was focusing on trail running in the late summer,
  • I was focusing on speed in the fall,
  • I had major surgery over the winter,
  • I was sick for the last couple weeks.
But the main reason it's taken me this long to get my mileage back up is fear. This is nothing new, I experienced this same issue when I was training for my first half marathon last spring. However, I figured it was a one and done kind of thing and I'd gotten over it. As it turns out, that is incorrect.

I am now training for a marathon and I'll be honest, it's kind of freaking me out. The thought of me completing a marathon is a bit surreal. I'm not a natural runner, I don't have a runner's physique, I'm overweight, I'm 40. But to be honest, I felt very much the same way last spring and I ended up completing 3 half marathons over the spring/summer.

I am not sure where the fear comes from. I suspect part of it has to do with achieving a goal and knowing I must now aim higher. It's that "aim higher" piece that generates the fear. Eventually, I'll fail. And I have a very real fear of failure.

But what would it really mean if I were to fail to meet a goal? Is is finite? Would that mean the end of running for me? It's doubtful. Sure, I'd sit and feel sorry for myself for a bit. My inner-critic would have a field day and punish me for even thinking I could do it in the first place. But I'd eventually tell the critic to back off. I'd pick myself up, review what could have gone wrong, beat myself up a bit for not training enough, or fueling properly, or listening to my body (or whatever it is that caused me to fail).

I think there is such thing as a healthy dose of fear. It helps to keep me on track and take things seriously. But when there is too much fear, it can hinder your progress. Finding a balance is difficult for me. Distance running is very much a mental game and keeping the fear at a healthy level is going to be key for my success.

Do you experience fear about your goals? How do you address it and make sure it doesn't hold you back?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Midway Check-in

So I am at the midway mark of my Whole30 Challenge and I am a believer! I know they suggest that you DON'T weigh yourself for the entire challenge, but being a slave to the scale (I AM working on that), I just had to check my progress. All I can say is WOW! I am 9.5lbs down... in TWO WEEKS! Besides that nice weight loss I have also noticed that my blood sugar has stabilized, I no longer get head spins, dizziness, intense sugar cravings, or sluggishness in the afternoons. I also hardly ever snack anymore, I just don't need to. I find that my breakfast (usually eggs and bacon/chicken sausage, or a veggie omelet) holds me just fine until lunch. Lunch usually consists of a small serving of fruit, a side salad with sunflower seeds and avocado dressed EVOO and red wine vinegar, and leftovers of some sort (this week is was paleo chili with lots of veggies added in). There are a few days a week that I don't get home until 7 pm, and even on those day I find my lunch holds me through until dinner. Sometimes I'm not even very hungry at night, so I just have a fruit smoothie. The reduction in my appetite has been mind-boggling. I'm eating a LOT more fat that I used to in the form of avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed meats, and nuts/seeds. I've also learned that coconut oil is practically a miracle oil. I use it on my hands and my nails and cuticles have never been healthier, I use it on my face and my seasonal eczema is totally under control and my monthly blemish is gone! I also use a little as a leave-in conditioner for my hair and it's nice and soft and shiny. Seriously, if someone told me this stuff cured cancer, I wouldn't doubt it. Other things I've noticed since my Whole30 started is that I have fewer aches and pains in my joints, and more energy. I was a little worried I messed my Whole30 reset up because I got a cold/sinus infection right at the start of it and was drinking OJ (which I never drink) and taking cough syrup and cough drops (both which have added sugar in them) to get over my cold. But I could tell my clothes were fitting better, so I just HAD to check my progress. It's just amazing to me to see and feel the difference so quickly. I'd given up sugar about a month before I started this challenge, but I noticed I was craving other things that negatively affect my insulin (like dairy and grains) so I wasn't feeling or seeing any benefit from just giving up added sugars. I had to address ALL the stuff that creates a strong insulin response. I think that was the key for me.
I'm excited to continue on with my Whole30 Challenge and my new Whole30 nutritional framework for the future. I don't plan on changing much after my 30 days. I will allow myself 1 non-Whole30 meal/treat per week if I want it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Preparation is Everything!

Week 2 of the Whole30 Challenge has begun. My general plan is to do cooking and planning on the weekend for the coming week. This week I made a yummy paleo chili to have for lunches. When that runs out I'll have salad with tuna.

Since my husband and I are worlds apart when it comes to our eating habits I also have to plan for his meals (especially now that daylight savings time is here and I'll be doing my weekday runs after work).

Tomorrow I will make a roasted chicken w/ carrots and potatoes, then on Tuesday I'll do a beef stew in the crock pot while I'm at work. That should give him enough leftovers to get by for the week.

I doubt there is anything terribly special about this chili recipe, but I'll share it none the less. It's quite tasty.

Paleo Chili (serves 6)

1lb grass-fed ground beef (or ground meat of your choice)
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
4 oz sliced mushrooms, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds and ribs removed)
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes (no salt or sugar added)
1 15oz can tomato sauce (no sugar or salt added)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
chili powder to taste
your favorite Mexican seasoning to taste
cayenne powder to taste
salt/pepper to taste

In a large pot, add enough oil to coat the bottom and add all the chopped veggies and the garlic. Cook for approx. 4 minutes over medium heat until just past raw. Remove the veggies and set aside. Add ground meat (and more oil if needed), brown the meat, add the spices, tomatoes, and sauce. I like my chili pretty spicy so I used about 2 Tbsp of a local Mexican spice mix from Common Folk Farm, as well as about 1 Tbsp chili powder, and 1/2 Tbsp cayenne pepper. Mix the meat and tomato sauce mixture, add the veggies back in and simmer for 20 minutes.

It gets better with time, so the next day it'll be even more fabulous!

If you try this recipe let me know how you like it!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Revamping Old Favorites: Spaghetti & Meatballs

It's Friday night, I've been sick (with a cold, not Whole30 related), my car is in the shop, I haven't been able to run, so it's been a long week. I'm feeling better, but the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is make a big fuss for dinner.

I saw a really cool thing on Pinterest about how to cook spaghetti squash in the slow cooker... whole! This site says to add water, but I omitted that. Seriously, you just turn that bad boy on and plop the squash in stem and all. So this morning I did exactly that. My plan was to have spaghetti squash and meatballs for dinner.

One thing I've noticed so far on Whole30 is that it is very hard to find "convenience" foods that are compliant. While this didn't exactly come as a surprise, there are certain things, like pasta sauce, that I just haven't had time (or local tomatoes) to make my own and freeze it yet. We'll be purchasing a small chest freezer very soon and I'll be freezing goodies left and right in no time. Anyway, I was really fortunate to find a bottled pasta sauce that is completely compliant! Seriously, Bove's Marinara has exactly what I would put in sauce, nothing more, nothing less: crushed tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, onions, fresh garlic, salt, and spices. I'm in LOVE!

So now that I had the spaghetti squash cooking itself while I was at work, a Whole30 compliant bottled sauce, the next step was to create a paleo meatball. I made the meatballs with a pound of local, grass-fed ground beef from Little Alaska Farm. I kind of made the meatballs recipe up as I went along (see recipe below). I rarely make meatballs but I'm really happy with the way these came out! Even my very picky husband liked them!

It took 35 minutes from the time I came home from work until I sat down to enjoy my spaghetti squash and meatball dinner. It was VERY good!! It's nice to know I can still enjoy the flavors of some of my favorite meals and still stay paleo! If you try this recipe out please let me know what you think!

Paleo Meatballs (makes approx 22 meatballs)

preheat oven to 350F

1lb grass-fed ground beef
1 pastured chicken egg
1/2-1 cup almond meal (enough to bind the mixture)
3-4 cloves garlic minced (I like garlic)
1Tbsp dried basil
salt/pepper to taste

Beat the egg with a fork, add the ground beef and spices, mix well (I just use my hands). Once mixture is thoroughly mixed (it will be kind of loose at this point), add almond meal until mixture will hold a ball shape. Use a tablespoon measuring spoon to make evenly sized meatballs. Place in a single layer in a shallow casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Whole30 Challenge Week 1 Recap

OK, so technically week 1 isn't over until tomorrow, but I have a 12 hour day with school and work tomorrow so I'm doing my recap today.

I started Whole30 on Friday, March 1st, and all was swell. Saturday is usually my running group day, but I was heading down to New Hampshire to visit my goddaughter and her parents so I had to run some errands before leaving and didn't join the group for my run. The weather was not great (light snow and the roads were a bit slushy) so I decided I'd do my run on Sunday afternoon when I returned home. Besides, I noticed my joints were a bit achy when I woke up, so the rest would likely do me some good. I packed my little personal cooler with some Whole30 approved snacks and necessities (celery w/ almond butter and raisins, fresh fruit, water, and some homemade coconut coffee creamer). I had my breakfast of eggs and stewed tomatoes (homemade) before I headed out.

I made it to New Hampshire and had my snack when I arrived. I have a LONG history of being on "some kind of weird diet". My friend, Liz, did a little research about my latest "crazy diet" to make sure Sunday breakfast would fit into my new plan (she's so good to me)! So after chit chatting and catching up we headed out to the Common Man restaurant for dinner. I did very well. I had unsweetened iced tea at the bar while we waited to be seated. They have cheese and crackers available for free while you wait, which of course I did not have. I looked over the menu and saw that my work was cut out for me. Almost all the items had either butter, cream, cheese, or grains... or a combination of them all.

We ordered 2 apps; bacon wrapped shrimp with a spicy garlic oil and a flat bread. Obviously, I didn't eat any flat bread that was a no brainer. I did end up eating 3 shrimp even though the bacon was probably cured/smoked with a little sugar in the mix. But I figured is was minimal.

For dinner I had narrowed it down to pork chops or the mixed grill (steak tips and shrimp). Both entrees had issues that I'd need to special order around. The pork chops had a BBQ rub and BBQ sauce on them (I'd ask about the rub and ask for no sauce as it's highly likely it would have sugar in it). The mixed grill had grilled tips (straight up, no sauce) but the shrimp was done in butter with a cream and garlic sauce topped with croutons. I ended up ordering the mixed grill, but with the shrimp in olive oil and garlic and no croutons. I let the waitress believe I had a dairy allergy... she assumed... I didn't correct, it's not the same as lying! I had a plain baked potato (they didn't have sweet potato... I asked) and steamed broccoli dressed with lemon juice as sides.

Having managed cocktail time, apps, and dinner without much trouble, I was not at all concerned when dessert rolled around. My dinner companions split a Toll House cookie pie dessert and coffee with Bailey's. I opted for a soothing cup of chamomile lemon tea. It was actually a very nice way to end the meal. I don't believe I've ever had herbal tea after dinner, it may be a new tradition.

While not on any "Oh My GOD that was DELICIOUS" list, my meal was satisfying and allowed me to enjoy a much needed night out with my friends.

Sunday morning I had a lovely egg and veggie scramble and french press coffee with my coconut creamer. Sadly, I also came down with a horrid cold. The next 2 days I barely ate anything. I ended up having added sugars in my zinc cold lozenges, cough syrup, and Emergen-C packets, but I'm not really concerned as that is not "food" and there was no way I was surviving this cold with out it.

I made a chicken cacciatore-ish crockpot dish to take to work for lunches. I've had 3 servings and today was the first time I could taste anything, it was quite good. I also made a big tossed salad tonight to get me through the rest of the week and into the weekend. Tonight's dinner was  a chicken and shrimp stir fry with carrots and snow peas, the sauce was chicken broth, herbs, and coconut aminos. It was actually really good, much better than the bottled sauce I use for my husbands stir fry.

So that is pretty much it. I am feeling better each day even though my sinuses are still super congested and my cough is still there. I may try mayo again next week, as well as the jerky!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Paleo Coffee Creamer!

One thing I have discovered over the years is that I DON'T like coffee black (unless it's iced coffee). As my Whole30 Challenge was approaching I tried to switch to black coffee knowing I couldn't have any dairy or processed foods (which leaves out store-bought coconut creamer). It just wasn't working for me. At first I thought I'd have to just drink tea instead, until I found a recipe for paleo coffee creamer!

I just made a batch which took all of 5 minutes to whip up! I made some minor adjustments and skipped the stevia/honey since Whole30 is a bit more strict about sweeteners. This actually works out great because I don't normally use sweetener in my coffee and just want a basic creamer.

It's very good! It does have a mild coconut flavor to it which is fine because I love coconut. I also LOVE the fact that I know exactly what is in my creamer (read your labels, you'd be SHOCKED at the "extras" they put in coffee creamer... or any store-bought processed food for that matter). This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Now I am fully aware that there are paleo 'purists' would would argue that our paleolithic ancestors would not have had the means to create something like coffee creamer (nor the necessity for it) therefore it's not truly paleo. I can appreciate that viewpoint, however, I have a need for coffee creamer that will fit into my paleo framework.

If you try this recipe out, let me know what you think. Did you try one of the flavored options?