From the Nutrition Trenches

I had a challenger sum up the struggle a lot of us face in adulthood in a simple sentence, “I finally realized I can’t out exercise my diet.” We like to blame our inability to find time to workout as the reason we struggle with our health. This was totally me! “Sure, I exercise-but I am already pretty thin I don’t really need a meal plan, I just need to exercise more. Ok, so these last few pounds of baby weight are being stubborn, but that is just because I can’t run as much as I’d like. FINE, I’m a little tired and headachy, and prone to sinus infections and strep, but that’s just the weather, or hormones, or you know, life. Whatever. I just need more cardio.”

You know the saying “Abs are made in the kitchen”? Well, it’s true. But a better one is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” You know where prevention happens? In the kitchen. What you eat matters, folks. A LOT.

And I totally get why people fight against this concept. For one, sure balancing food groups has always been imperative for optimal physical health, but a hundred years ago what was available to eat was a LOT different from today-a hundred years ago people were mostly still eating food. Convenience food changed the game, it has so screwed up the typical Western diet that we have to have a label (clean eating) for eating actual food. The problem with convenience food is that quite simply a lot of it ISN’T food. I have nothing against chemicals or modern medicine or technology-but chemicals that aren’t food, well, they AREN’T FOOD.

My youngest son tries to eat everything. For awhile I found mulch that had passed through his system in his diaper on a weekly basis. I continued to try and prevent him from getting into the garden. Why? Because mulch isn’t food, people. Sure, he managed to pass it (THANK GOODNESS) but that doesn’t make it food! Not only is there no nutritive value to mulch, but his body had to work to process it and filter out any toxins that existed in the dye or from simply being outside in the garden. So much of what is in processed food isn’t food anymore (or ever was) and it puts a strain on your body’s systems as it tries to filter out all the foreign crap-just like my son eating mulch-and your body get’s very little for it’s efforts. We’ve tried to cheat the system by stripping foods of all their nutrients so that they can be convenient and quick, pack them full of fat, sugar, and salt so that they don’t taste like the cardboard they’re reduced to, and then we just dump a bunch of chemically synthesized vitamins in at the end to try and make up for it. Never mind that our bodies don’t process synthesized vitamins as well as those found in the natural form-we mark it “Enriched!” and use it as a selling point.

People look at you like you must be some die hard health nut when you talk about “clean eating” but if you think about it, NOT eating “clean” is a fairly recent phenomenon. I’m eating food, guys. That’s all. I season it with spices and herbs, I cook it with oil or steam or dry heat, I chop it, I slice it, sometimes all I do is rinse it off. It’s not weird, it’s food.

You know what? You can still eat unhealthily while eating clean. I can (and sometimes do, haha) make desserts that are “clean” that are just as loaded with sugar and fat and deliciousness. My portions can still be completely out of whack. I could get completely overweight but still be eating clean-it would just take more effort. And THAT is where the rub comes in.

People like to blame gluttony and poor impulse control/lack of willpower for the expanding waistlines and rapidly rising disease rates all around us-but the truth is gluttony is only half the problem, and sometimes I don’t think it’s even that much. The real problem is laziness. We’re completely disconnected from the work it takes to make food, and if we are honest with ourselves-we really don’t want to reconnect.

Case in point-when I decided to stop buying store bought bread and to only eat the stuff I made from scratch-I ate a LOT less bread. Every slice was weighed and considered. And absolutely savored. Making bread is time consuming, and I knew as soon as I ate the last loaf I’d have to make more. I gravitate towards simple recipes because of the time commitment that many recipes take. The end results of complex recipes are often stunningly delicious-but I am more often than not unwilling to spend that much time preparing. I know I’m not the only one who is lazy when it comes to food.

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Bread straight from the oven = Heaven. On. Earth.

Many women seem to take pride in their hatred for the culinary arts-and as a backlash against society I get it, but it’s not healthy. And men seem to have this weird “if it’s not grilling it’s not manly” vibe going on that-not being a man-I totally don’t understand. Regardless, it isn’t healthy. I’m not saying everyone has to “love cooking”, but when we talk about making food as something we can “choose” to do or not based simply on how much we enjoy it, we’re thinking about food completely wrong. You don’t have to love prepping food (I don’t), you don’t have to feel bliss as you season soup, or joy as you roast a chicken, or bubbles of wonderment as you lay the labor of your hands on the dinner table. None of those things are necessary for your life. Food, however, you must eat. And to be kind to your body you should try to eat as little “not food” as you can. This means you will have to prep food, and will probably want to cook it, and season it, and make it taste ok. The place this typically happens is the kitchen. It doesn’t require love or hate, making food should simply be a fact of life.

With that said-I’m still lazy, or well, time conscious. With two adorable ankle biters howling around my knees every time I set foot in the kitchen, I still prefer quick foods. And you can still have that and eat clean and healthily. I eat fruits straight out of the fridge-takes less then 5 seconds to grab a handful of grapes or an apple or strawberries or whatever. I scramble eggs almost daily. Just two eggs with some dill. No milk, no chopped veggies, no anything but eggs and herbs. 10 minutes tops. I eat red peppers without slicing them-like one oddly lumpy vegetable apple. You can’t tell me that the drive through is quicker than half the stuff I eat-because it isn’t. And half the “quick and easy” boxed meals take longer then the dinners I choose plus they taste half as good.

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Trying (and failing, haha) to get a boys and me selfie. Notice the red pepper? Mmmm yum!

Give food a chance, people. Give cooking a chance. Don’t set out to make a three course meal, just learn how to make eggs the way you like them. Figure out your favorite fruit. Discover where your aversion to spending time in the kitchen comes from-society pressures, bad experiences, impossible expectations-and take steps to correct it. You might be surprised at how easy it is to eat well when you step back and get out of your own way. 😉

“Fit”ness

One of the things I really like about the accountability teams I am a member of is the emphasis on “Finding YOUR Fit.” I think some people read that and automatically shy away from it because to them that means getting into the best physical shape possible and they KNOW that that implies a lot of work. But that’s exactly what it doesn’t mean. Let me explain…

To find your fit, you need to take a good hard look at your life and figure out areas that need improvement because you WANT them to improve-not because the FDA says so, or your doctor scolds you, or because you feel pressured by current social standards of beauty. No. Guilt driven change doesn’t usually get you very far.

Are you able to do the things that you like to do? Are there things that you secretly would love to do but feel are out of your reach? Are there physical things that hinder your work or your play or your engagement with your family? Those are the things you need to take a look at and evaluate honestly. If you want to lose ten pounds because you think that’ll make you feel better-then the truth is it isn’t the number of pounds you’ve assigned to lose that you want, it’s the  “feeling better”. And what does that mean? Does that mean not getting out of breath climbing the stairs? Does that mean not feeling like the bottom of your energy drops out when you’re only halfway through the day and you miserably have to drag yourself through until bedtime? Does that mean feeling comfortable getting down on the floor with your kids? Or playing tag with them outside? Does that mean wanting the strength to try things like skiing, hiking, white water rafting, etc., without fear of being unable to keep up with your peers? Does it mean managing thyroid issues? Or chronic migraines? Insomnia? Gluten sensitivity? Anemia? Does it mean more energy? A stronger immune system? A happier disposition? What is it that YOU want out of your body? THAT is where you start finding your fit.

Your fit does not necessarily mean six pack abs and swimsuit flaunting. Your fit is not tied to the scale or to your pants size. It isn’t even tied to the weight you can bench. It is tied to the WHOLEY fittest version of you-whatever that looks like.

Being comfortable in your own skin is different from willfully ignoring health issues that interfere with your daily life. I am comfortable in my own skin for the most part. I know I am loved, inside and out, and I’m comfortable with my appearance. I’m not striving to be a fitness competitor, I don’t weigh myself daily, I like where I am physically. But I wasn’t always healthy, even when I was “working out”. I was still fighting fatigue, anemia, chronic sinus issues, frequent headaches… It wasn’t until I started getting my nutrition in line with my exercise that those things started disappearing and I really started feeling “fit”.

I still have goals that push where I am a little farther. I’d like to run an ultra marathon again-this is going to take some serious mileage buildup, I’m going to have to push myself physically. I love how much I’m learning about nutrition and I love what that is doing for my immune system and my energy levels and my feeling of healthiness-so I’m going to keep pushing myself to find new recipes and expand my cooking skills. I love seeing the improvements weight lifting has added to my physique-I’m especially thrilled to see definition in my abs-but it doesn’t define who I am. Abs come and go, but my relationships have a lasting impact.

So, essentially, if what I am doing in the kitchen and in the living room when I push play is interfering with the health of my marriage, my relationships with my children, my connection with my family and the people I love best in this world-then it isn’t MY fit. It’s true, I could insanely restrict my diet (and become a horrible, irritable, cranky mess) and be working out three or four times a day to be super lean, strong, and what a lot of the world views as “sexy”-but that is NOT worth it to me, not even close, not even a little bit tempting. I’ve got goals, room for improvement, ways to push myself-but for the most part, I fit my “fit”.

Do you?

11.10.13 Keefer Family FOR WEB (89)

A Tale of Good Cheer

It’s just that, y’all. A tale. A fairy tale. Right now it’s a moment by moment struggle to engage with my boys and do the necessary things that need to be done. And all those well meaning people who say to relax and let the chores go-both boys had been wearing dirty clothes for two days before I got the laundry done. Yeah. I let things go, but there is a point where you HAVE to do the laundry (and thankfully my husband is pretty good about getting it started when he’s home. Bless him). And unless we don’t eat, dishes have to be washed. And unless I want Zane to break out in horrendous diaper rash as he leaks soggy who knows what all over the house-diapers have to be changed.

And that’s the challenge. It sounds great to just “relax” but the truth is most people can’t. Yeah, I absolutely think an all inclusive free vacation to the beach would do wonders to get my emotions back on track, but that just isn’t going to happen. Life still happens when you’re depressed and you are still expected to be an active participant.

SO, I wake up every morning, I pray, I get out of bed and get oatmeal started for the boys, pray, do some dishes, pray, fix my own breakfast, pray, you get the idea. And I make it through the day. Some days are great, most days are just typical, and a few days are downright bad. Last week was mostly bad.

But I don’t intend to make this depression post depressing, because the truth is- I AM making it. I’m getting my workouts in, I’m not nearly as fatigued or brain fogged as is normal for me, and even though deliberately figuring out ways to engage with the boys is at times frustrating-it’s working. Brian is a constant source of help and support, the balanced nutrition seems to have really helped with diminishing the physical symptoms (like headache and lethargy). Bible study on Thursday with PWOC has been awesome. The boys are no longer sick and are back to their silly, sweet, rambunctious selves.

It’s a struggle, sure, but I don’t focus on it too much. I take one day at a time. I don’t look ahead, and a I don’t look back, I just keep moving (this is not how I approach life ALL the time, just in this season). I smile even when it feels strange on my face, I laugh even if it’s a little forced, I focus on the little pleasures and happy moments when they happen-storing them up like a squirrel hording nuts. Truthfully-I have a lot of those nuts.

That’s all I really wanted to post. I guess I could’ve posted a cheerful update about my workout progress (because I’m still making progress through Hammer and Chisel) but this is a more accurate representation of my life right now. Head down, gritting teeth, one step at a time…

A Post on Seasonal Affective Disorder in Which I Throw Kale Under the Proverbial Bus.

I stand huddled in my jacket on the carport, one eye on Zane happily slamming chalk into the concrete, the other at Cade digging rocks out with his plastic pliers. Both keep up a running commentary-Cade articulating how hard he is working and the difficulty of his task, Zane babbling nonsense and playing with his tongue. And I stand, both restless and lethargic. I could check my phone-no, I am not going to keep my phone in front of my face around the boys, I could draw with Zane-but then I’d have to sit down and then Cade would come over and they’d most likely fight and…no…maybe I could bring my book out to read while they played-but if I open the door they’ll come swarming over to see what’s going on and I’m not sure I really feel like reading. I’m not sure I really feel like doing anything. But I’m bored. How much time has passed? I check my phone for just the time-three minutes. I have been standing here for just three minutes.

Cade comes galloping up in his funny knees-together-wiggle run, dirt smeared across his face, hair sticking out all over. “Do you want to play with me, mommy? Come play with me? Dig rocks with me mommy?” With effort I put a smile on my face, feeling distant and detached, “I’ve got to keep an eye on Zane, bud.” Cade’s face falls, “Oh.” the disappointment in his voice is heart breaking, or at least some part of me thinks so. “You want to play, too, Zane bug?” Cade asks his chalk pounding sibling. Zane looks up, forever appearing bemused that the world exists around him, but agreeably gets to his feet and toddles off after his older brother. “Ok, bud, I’ll come play, too.” I muster up a smile and using what feels like all the effort I have pick up a plastic cup and go help my sons collect rocks.

At nap time I look around at the absolute disaster the house has become-toys and clothing scattered everywhere, floors heaped with crumbs and friffles, piles on every available surface, laundry in the dirty hamper, laundry in the dryer, laundry in the clean hamper still waiting to be folded, dishes in the sink, dirty pots left on the stove. The book I am currently reading sits on the  table waiting to be read-and it is only mildly more appealing then the ever increasing list of cleaning I should do. As I sigh and sit at the table-continuing to ignore the serious state of crumbling neglect around me-it hits me. Dang it. I thought I could avoid it this year.

Every year. Every gosh darn year I struggle with this seasonal depression. Some years are worse then others, sometimes the depression manifests in different ways, but it always happens. Every fall I am determined to avoid it, every winter it happens, every spring I gleefully shrug it off. I managed farther into the season than usual this year, but still it has wormed it’s way in. It used to be just annoying, but now it alarms me. I’m a mom. I can’t afford for my depression to effect my kids, they don’t understand like my husband can that it’s temporary and typical. This year it has been the sense of disinterested detachment that is tearing me apart. These are my boys. My beautiful, vibrant, fun loving boys. I used to love to engage and play-now I can’t figure out how. I told my husband last night that I realized how little I had picked them up recently and it bothered me. They need to be held and loved on frequently. I love them-why has this suddenly become such an onerous burden?!

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I can’t believe it took me a full week to pick up on the signs. The increased morbid anxiety over Brian coming home from work. The inability to get excited about things. My frustration with reading-which is usually such a pleasure. And the feeling like I have to try harder and harder every day to engage with my own children. Whoa. Red flags everywhere.

It is the end of January, so thankfully I only have a few more weeks of winter left, but it’s time, again, to confront my seasonal demons. Once I know why I am reacting a certain way, it is much easier for me to replace the negative with the positive. My game plan is simple.

  1. I will continue to workout-endorphins are such a blessing and would explain why I feel more “kid friendly” after I exercise-but I may also add in some running when I have the time. Running specifically relaxes my brain in sort of a numbing, mindless, rambling way that counting reps and following a routine just can’t do-plus it is outside, which is a MUST for me when fighting off depression.
  2. Conscious prioritizing-now that I know what’s going on, it’s time to prioritize. Lowest on the list is the house. I’ll clean when I can, but I’m letting the stress go. Just as predictable as this depression is the weird burst of frenetic cleaning energy I get come spring. The house will survive. Highest on the list is Brian and the boys. Me time is up there, too, but with depression, the best way to get myself out of it is to focus on others. Depression traps me in my own head, the last thing I need is more time to focus on it.
  3. Reading to the boys individually is back on my to do list-it is one of the best ways for me to connect and interact, although it takes some creativity to get each one by himself.
  4. Once I’m done with my current book-no more books. It seems counter intuitive, but when I’m depressed often reading makes me MORE depressed because I struggle to engage with the book and it makes me angry to struggle with something that usually brings me so much joy. So I abstain from reading until I’m in a better mood and can enjoy it.
  5. Double check my meal plans and make some swaps to make sure I’m getting quite a bit of Vitamin D, B6 and B12, and folate (hello mushrooms, red meat, and spinach/kale). Maybe it’s because of my current nutrition plan which has me eating truly balanced for the first time in my life-but I’m not experiencing the extreme fatigue that usually accompanies depression for me. Mindlessness, boredom, anxiety, detachment-got those in spades-but fatigue and headache (my typical depression wingmen) are strangely absent.
  6. Lastly, but actually first, is prayer. I am so glad I’m doing a prayer study group through PWOC, because I’ve always struggled in this area (I’m good with theory but lousy with application). Depression is always where I rely on prayer more and conversely desire more consistency in my prayer life when I’m NOT depressed. I want a deeper, richer connection with my Savior all the time-not just when I’m unhappy.

For me, acknowledging the depression is always half the battle. Once I realize what is going on, it’s like its hold on me is weakened. The negative thoughts creep in and I shake my head, banishing them because I know they stem from untruth. It’s easier to push through the apathy, it’s easier to be stern with the groundless irritation, by giving depression its name I take away the mystery and its power over me.

But it is still a struggle. I have good days, not so good days, and really, really bad days. That’s the way it goes. I’m posting this here because I know sometimes “healthy living” people can seem relentlessly cheerful. “OMG endorphins are the best! And I look fab, too! *all the heart emojis*” “Don’t you just LOVE kale?!” “Killer workout, totally worth it #healthiswealth” etc., etc., etc.. Couple that with the motivational memes, “You can do anything!” “Pick your hard” “Be your best self” blabbity blah, and us health advocates can come across pretty maniacally.

This is a lifestyle choice. It isn’t the only lifestyle out there. It does have a host of positive benefits that I believe are well worth it (and yes, better than other lifestyles) -but it is a lifeSTYLE, not a “life”. Life happens to all of us, regardless of our style, it’s how we choose to deal with life that shapes our experiences.

So yes, I’m a health nut, yes, I struggle with depression, yes I use exercise and nutrition to combat said struggles. No, I am not maniacally cheerful all the time (just don’t ask anyone who heard me make radio calls while I worked as a medic, they have a biased opinion. 😉 ). No, kale does not cure mental illness (it’s ok, kale, I still like you). I have used fitness to help beat the winter blues before and that’s my goal again this year. Just because you can’t prevent depression with salad doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still eat salad.

I guess what I kind of want to say with this post is, wherever you are in your life, whatever imbalances you are struggling to right-be they mental, emotional, physical-, whatever personal demons you continue to fight, however healthy or unhealthy your choices may be-you are not a failure because you have room for improvement, you’re simply a work in progress dealing with life.

This is my current struggle. It, too, shall pass. 🙂

Go Big or Go…Home?

Um, I AM home.

Let me tell you something-I never dreamed I’d be a stay at home workout video kind of girl. I did competitive gymnastics starting at 6, then swim team (briefly, I kept getting kicked out of the water for turning blue, sigh #skinnygirlproblems), then track and field (high jump and hurdles), marching band (colorguard), and simultaneously martial arts. I kept up with the martial arts through college as well as adding trail running to the list. And I added weights, too. My then-friend-now-husband spent one semester doing weights three-four times a week with me and running almost daily. I was probably close to the best shape I have ever been in my life. I was lean, toned, and strong. My last year of college I did competitive ballroom dance (hands down my favorite form of exercise). The common theme though? None of those things were done at home. One of the strong appeals of exercise for me was that it got me OUT of my living space. I’m not naturally inclined to be social (woohoo for introverts!) but I get fusty stuck at home all day. Exercise is great because it invites little small talk (seriously, you gym chatterboxes need to go bug someone else, I have ten more reps) and yet I am around people so I don’t turn into a complete hermit. The various martial arts I did (American Freestyle, Kenpo, Aikido, Judo…) had more interaction, but even then it was hard to do more than cheerfully insult each other. And you are generally concentrating too hard on looking like you aren’t concentrating during ballroom to chat at all.

The exception to the “social but not really” rule is running with my “then-friend-now-husband”. But he is an exception that proves the rule, so we’ll leave it at that.

In any case, I scoffed at home workouts. Then I started working as a medic. Dude, that was ENOUGH out of the house. When I wasn’t working, I didn’t want to go ANYWHERE. But the fluff started creeping on ounce by ounce, and the mental/emotional benefits that exercise brings was sorely needed- so I ran with my dog at the local State Park, and Brian bought me a treadmill, and, at last, I bought a home workout DVD.

If any of you have been in a similar boat you KNOW how hard it is to stay consistent with that crap. Long story short-I wasn’t. The DVD quickly collected dust on the TV stand because I was bored to pieces with the same routine and ready to throttle the woman for her stupid cheerful cliche encouragements. Don’t even talk to me about the treadmill. I doggedly kept trying to run, and even managed to run several races while pregnant with my first son. 4 months after his birth I did a half marathon, 2 months later I did a Tough Mudder. 2 months later I found out I was pregnant again and all thoughts of training for an ultra marathon flew out the window. Now I’ve got two small boys under three years old, neither of whom will sit in a stroller for longer then ten minutes-and then ONLY if I ply them continuously with food, toys, and conversation.

So here I am. I’ve done a month long PiYo regime, 6 weeks of p90x3, and now almost 4 weeks of Hammer and Chisel. I own weights from 3-25lbs. I have a stability ball. Brian just bought me a sweet yoga mat. We’ve got a home gym. I regularly do workouts on my TV. The difference for me has been 1)necessity-none of my other workout methods were available and/or working, 2) community-I enjoy the online community I’m a part of, it helps keep me encouraged and motivated and not feeling like I’m all alone in this process, and 3) accountability-that same community holds me accountable. We’re all in it together. They keep me from skipping workouts because I’m bored/annoyed/tired/slept weird/socks don’t match/etc.

I’m a home gym TV workout girl now-and I surprisingly love it. That isn’t to say I’ll be a workout from home mom forever. I will run an ultra again-which means back to the running shoes-and I will one day drag my husband to a ballroom dance class. But a gym? Eh. Maybe when the boys are grown and gone and I need an outing? Seems like a waste of time. For this season of my life, this is where I am. And I have changed the fitness level of my body so much quicker than all those miles and pounds I pushed through in my early 20’s. I am rapidly approaching my “fit as I’ve ever been” after three years of insidious, creeping, health lethargy. Home gym for the win!

Although, to be honest, the cheerfully encouraging “you can do it-push harder!” cliches DO eventually make me want to throttle the instructors. That’s what the “mute” button is for. 😉

Sunday Dinner

I had hotdogs for my “protein” dinner allotment. I had hotdogs and cheesy orzo (a pasta) for my carb and healthy fat containers as well. Dinner tonight took me back to when I was five and liked my hotdogs “naked” and I lived off of macaroni and cheese. I was SUPPOSED to have made a chicken, asparagus, sweet potato dish that I love-but it was not to be.

An hour before dinner I was holding my 1 year old on the glider in the living room while he squirmed and hollered and tears rolled down his cheeks. I had banished my husband and eldest son outside while there was still light, and I sat in that chair and sang, “How Great Thou Art” over the wailing. Sometimes I was able to massage his belly. He farted quite a bit. And I finally gave up on the idea that I’d be able to get the sweet potatoes in the oven in time for dinner. But I remembered we had hotdogs.

An hour before that I had to wake up my still sleeping sick boy (after thoroughly checking his crib for vomit) because if I let him sleep any later he wouldn’t go down for bedtime-I was already pushing that line. He was sprawled out with his butt in the air, face plastered into his stuffed brontosaurus, one leg sticking out beneath the blanket burrito rolled around his midsection.

Rewind to last night, putting the boys down, Zane having thrown up a total of 6 times since the afternoon. He was exhausted and limp and I was paranoid (as all mothers are paranoid) and slept with one eye open.

You guys, I still have one purple container to eat (grapes-which I’ll eat before bed) and a red and a green (protein and veggie) and it just isn’t going to happen. Tonight I’m not going to make my nutrition plan. It has been a stinky 24+ hours with poop explosions, projectile vomit, and a very fussy little guy. I got my workout in. I didn’t have any “extra” containers. But I’m not going to make that perfect meal plan tonight. You know what? That is perfectly fine.

Life happens. And I could spend time beating myself up about not magically producing dinner even though I was battling a sick munchkin, or I could’ve tried harder to make dinner despite the sick munchkin-and most likely made us all even more upset. But that is foolishness. There is no point to this fitness crap if it takes away from my life. Yes, it hurts to workout. Yes, some days I reeeeeeallly want that extra slice of cheese. Yes, living a healthy lifestyle requires some sacrifice and a lot of struggle-but it isn’t healthy if it is making me and my family miserable. My family is my motivation to be healthy, but that health goes deeper than food and exercise. There is a balance, and tonight that balance was struck on the other side of my meal plan-and that is where it should be.

But conversely, how many suffer from physical ailments that sap you from living your life? Being healthy is more than “weight loss”, it’s also about figuring out and eating the foods that work best for your body. It’s about building strength in your muscles, boosting your metabolism, righting hormone imbalances, maintaining bone density. It’s about setting a strong foundation for your immune system. I am not suggesting that diet and exercise can cure all the physical ills in the world but it is almost guaranteed to help at least a tiny bit-and usually so much more. We look to pills to solve a lot of our illnesses-and boy am I not adverse to modern medicine, I find it fascinating and incredible the advancements made in this field!-but the thing is, a lot of those pills are tasked to solve problems that a balanced diet and exercise WOULD help solve (like high blood pressure, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoporosis). In fact, most doctors recommend diet and exercise to their patients-most patients just ignore them. Again, I am not saying you just need to walk enough miles and you can cure cancer, I am saying, however, that you are partially responsible for your health. You cannot change the genes you have been given, but it is silly to just stop holding up your end of the bargain and expect a miracle pill to do all the work. If you are not taking care of your body, do not be surprised when it starts to fail you. And if you are plagued with fatigue and headaches and chronically sick-your body is not in a healthy place.

You need to find your balance for you. If you are just fine with where you are health wise then great! Keep it up! But if you aren’t-you might need to consider your health a priority, because if you don’t invest in it now statistically speaking it will fail you sooner rather than later. Do you want to be able to push yourself up the corporate ladder to the very top? Do you want to be active with your kids as they grow? Do you want to be able to play with your grand kids? Do you want to travel the world? Build your own business? Start your own charity/campaign/service? Whatever your dreams are, you need to be ALIVE to do them, and to do them well you need to be in a place of physical strength.

I know this all sounds so cliche-but it is true regardless. So I challenge you to take a hard look at where you are health wise, and if you just want to talk to someone about your options (Beachbody related or not) and where to start feel free to send me an email or connect with me on Facebook.

Seven Weeks Until Spring!

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Ok guys, February is my least favorite time of year. Last year I dyed my hair purple, this year I’m beginning a challenge! Seven weeks until springtime, let’s focus on our health so that we can power through the gloomy months instead of staying cocooned under our blankets wishing for the sunshine.

-If you want to get in better shape
-If you want to learn about nutrition and eating “clean”
-If you want to increase your endurance, your strength, your speed
-If you want to improve your health so you can do activities with the ones you love.
-If you’re just curious about the “Beachbody” thing

Come join me! This is a challenge for everyone, from ANY starting point on your fitness journey. Bring me your old knee injuries, your tired of cyclical dieting, your frustrated with gym creepers, your fatigue, your pain, your “just plain sick of it all” and lets see if we can get you started on something that works for YOU. (Beachbody offers money back guarantees on almost everything, too, so do it for a lark and return it if it doesn’t work). OR bring me your wanting “a bit more”, your “need to be faster”, your “stuck in a plateau” and let’s see if we can’t push your limits.

The rule is you have to commit to either drinking Shakeology for seven weeks, or commit to one of the workout programs (some of them are only 30 minutes a day. 30 minutes! With modified exercises! You can do that!). How much you want to do is up to you, but I’ll be right there with you head down, barreling through, praying for warmer, sunshine filled days. Follow the link to pick your poison! I mean, uh, find a healthier you!

**You can choose how you want to do your thing-through the accountability groups on facebook or through me just harassing-um-supporting you through emails, texts, what have you-or any combination! Start small, go big, just do SOMETHING. One step at a time, folks, slow is a completely acceptable pace (and faster then the guy sitting on the couch).

***Shakeology came out with a new Cafe Latte flavor, too, for all you coffee drinkers! OR you can add cold coffee DIRECTLY TO YOUR SHAKE. You can still have coffee, is what I’m saying. 😉

 

Just Keep Lifting…

Right around the middle of any program I usually experience a slump. I know it is coming, so I usually prepare myself for it, and when it happens there is a lot of stubborn, grit your teeth, just get it done mentality. Well, it hit me hard a few days ago with Hammer and Chisel. It just seemed impossible to be bothered with it all, I mean, really, what’s the harm of skipping a week of working out and adding three extra carb containers to my meal plan? Couple this with a few funky meals where I had to get creative with getting all my containers in and I started in with the, “I’m probably not doing it right, anyway.” “What’s the point when I can’t even do two weeks of this.” “I’ll never get to where I want to be, this isn’t working.”

Now, all evidence points to the contrary. I had been stuck on a fitness plateau despite  running, working out, and eating clean. I had gained strength-but seen no real physical changes. The fluff I had gained since college remained fluffy, just with stronger muscles beneath it. I started this program and my body is reshaping. I’ve lost 5 pounds, my upper abs are becoming visible, my shoulders and back are gaining definition, my legs are growing in places and shrinking in others-all the evidence points to this program very much working and yet I hit the mental/emotional slump anyway.

I’m saying this as encouragement, y’all. Because wherever you are in your fitness journey-you’re going to hit slumps, too. No matter WHAT is going on, no matter how healthy you feel, how much more energy you have, how much muscle you’ve gained-you’re going to wake up one day and question the point of doing all this annoying healthy crap.

It’d be so much easier just to order pizza every night for dinner. It’d be so much nicer to take a break during the kids nap and just read for a bit. It’d be so much more relaxing to skip workout and binge watch a tv show instead. And all of that is true. What ISN’T true, is that just because it is easier, nicer, or more relaxing it is necessarily better.

This flies in the face of cultural norms and the human predisposition, but the fact remains that discipline is better for us. And discipline is often harder, tougher, and more exhausting than other options. Now, my perfectionistic friends, slow your self righteous roll, because discipline applies to you, too. If you are beating yourself up for forgetting to bring your boiled eggs for your work snack, if you are ready to just stop the whole thing and try and start over fresh next month just because you missed a workout or two, if a few things not going as planned makes you quit because it just isn’t perfect- that mentality is actually undisciplined.

Discipline means understanding you are going to make mistakes-and trying again. Discipline means rejoicing at what you get right-and working on what you get wrong. Discipline means accepting and pushing through the inevitable failures. 

You are never going to get any healthier until you make an effort. You are never going to be perfect at living healthily, so relax. There is never a “right” time. There is very rarely a “better” time. There is almost always a “something” that you can do a little bit better. Accept that. Accept that you’re going to fail. Accept that failure is a part of success. And when you hit a slump, sing the Dory song from “Finding Nemo” with whichever verb you need.

“Just keep lifting…just keep lifting…what do we do? We lift, lift, liiiiift!”

Thoughts on Body Image from a Skinny Christian Woman

After my workout on Tuesday I went to take a shower-boy did I need it-and did the customary “look over” in the mirror before hopping in. You know the one I’m talking about. You kinda just take quick check on your appearance while the water heats up, maybe pluck a few stray chin hairs (don’t judge! You know it happens…) suck in your stomach and turn sideways, and then shrug and jump in to get clean. I’ve been feeling convicted a lot recently about body image. As I dive deeper into the Beachbody coach thing, I know I need to find places to draw my boundaries, and I know I want to promote a HEALTHY lifestyle-not necessarily a skinny one. But a lot of times I feel like a hypocrite, because I AM skinny. And that led me to dig even deeper and here are some things that surfaced.

I am ashamed of being thin. It’s not just the feeling like my boniness is ugly, or the wondering whether I’d be more attractive heavier (both things I thought a lot during high school and college). It’s this feeling that my size is a problem. My appearance is hurtful to others. Somehow, my being thin makes it harder on others who aren’t thin. My pant’s size is responsible for other people’s lust, envy, bitterness, and disgust. My tall, lean frame pretty much causes people to have eating disorders. Being skinny is my fault. And being skinny is wrong. If I were a super-villain, my power would be driving by and zapping people into anorexia.

Some of these points were driven home in college where appearance was everything and yet my body was apparently “up for grabs”. I often felt isolated from people I wanted to connect with because of how I looked. I managed to worm my way into a great group of friends-most of whom would be considered geeks or nerds to the rest of the world-but in the early stages one of them (bless him for his honesty) flat out asked me why I was hanging out with them, to not take it the wrong way, but I looked more like the sorority type. I despised my body during college. I was constantly slammed with the mentality that to be pretty was everything, and if I measured up to the mark I was a slut, but if I didn’t measure up I was worthless. This was all hateful, hurtful nonsense.

Through much prayer, and growth, and the confidence that comes from being in a supportive, loving marriage the hurt and disgust faded away. BUT, I’ve realized that there is still lingering shame I’ve been masking. I don’t like working out with people because I am very body conscious. I’m conscious that in many athletic settings I am usually one of the thinnest people in the room. I feel like that means I should be fitter than I am. I feel like this also means woman hate me for being thin and working out (both MY perceptions, coming from me, not grounded in reality). I make excuses for my size-good genetics, I love working out, don’t really have much of a sweet tooth to fight, etc, etc, etc. I focus on my weaknesses to try and put people at their ease-for example, I really am a SLOW runner. Like, sure, I finished two ultras, but I was second or third to LAST. I focus so much on the health benefits of eating well and exercising to try and write off my appearance as inconsequential. In fact, I may sabotage my own efforts at becoming fit because I am worried about the impact on others. None of that is emotionally or psychologically healthy-in fact, it is all rather self centered. Seriously, my body type is causing all these problems in others? Well aren’t I a celebrity. PUH-lease!

Downplaying my appearance gets frustrating, and eventually it boils over into almost furious diatribes of how I AM healthy and people SHOULD lose weight and they can just STICK MY PANT’S SIZE IN THEIR PIPE AND SMOKE IT. Which results in me then feeling guilty for being angry and bitter, and I’m back to being ashamed. Because secretly, guilty, oh so secretly- I like what I look like. I’m proud of my body and how it works. I like my appearance. There are parts I don’t like as much, sure, but overall, I feel like a good looking woman. But I shouldn’t, right? Because me LIKING being thin and fit means I’m giving other people body image issues.

Bottom line: body image isn’t easy, it’s a mess in my head, and I don’t have it all straight. But here is where I am in this journey-

First and foremost, we are made in the image of God. Our physical appearance matters, because it reflects our creator. He did not make our bodies for us to despise. Our physical bodies are the conduit for Christ on earth. The local church is made up of believers physically present together. I should not downplay my body, I should not despise it. I should NOT abuse it. I should love it, and care for it, and use it on this earth for the glory of God. Learning how-and implementing-a healthy lifestyle so that I can care for my body in all ways includes physically. This is not the same as worshiping my body. It does not mean I should put my physical needs over others. It does not mean I should be enamored with my own appearance or judgmental of others’. It means it’s ok to like how I look, it’s ok to appreciate how my body works, it’s ok to work at being healthy. It is ok to find joy-and pleasure- in this earthly form.

It’s true, my genetics mean my skeletal frame is taller and narrower than others-but that is how I’m made. It’s also true that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and if people look at my shape and become embittered or envious-that is their struggle, not mine. It is also true that I have my own issues-like anemia-so eating balanced and maintaining muscle are things I need to constantly do. Spiritual health takes continual, committed development. Emotional health takes continual, committed development. The health of your mind takes continual, committed development. The health of your body requires no more and no less.

So, I’m working on it. I am working on resolving the shame and being proud of the beautiful, strong body I have been given. I am learning to embrace my size as healthy for ME, and let go of the idea that my appearance is personally responsible for the issues of others. I do not advocate that everyone has to be thin to be healthy, but for my frame thin IS healthy and I am praying for help to remove the unwarranted guilt. I don’t have aspirations to be a competitor in any fitness arena-that just isn’t me-but I am going to keep building and strengthening and taking pleasure in the physical changes that occur as a result. I believe balance in all areas of life can be attained within a healthy lifestyle, and fear of something becoming an obsession is already an unhealthy way of filtering the world. I want to be fit. I want to have muscle definition. I want to look good-for myself and for my husband. But what I want most is to enjoy this earthly body; to take care of it and to take pride in it because it is a much appreciated gift.
The hard boundary, the line I will strive to never cross, is to turn the intentional habits of eating well and exercise into something I worship. It will be a vital part of my life, but it will not be the most important thing in it. Balance is key.

**I am aware that this topic goes much deeper than I have chosen to, and I have done just that-chosen-to not take it farther. Partially because I am not a theologian, partially because this is already a long post, and mostly because I’m still plunging the depths myself. This is a tiny segment of a continuous mental dialogue.**

I’ll leave you with these photos: the first taken my last year before graduating from Penn State. The second taken 6 months after the birth of my oldest. The first one makes me cringe- I am cynical, bitter, and sarcastic, wanting to some how take control of the body image mess by tossing it in people’s faces. I am silly, joyful, and free in the second. I would not go back to that point in college for all the money in the world. You are so much more than your appearance-but it’s fine to like what you look like. Balance.

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*credit for the second photo goes to Georgina who took some amazing photos of me, my husband, and Cade that day.

A Recipe! And an update…

I don’t like scrolling through posts to find the recipe, so, if you just want the recipe-here it is.

Quinoa Chicken Parmesan with Spiralized Zucchini Noodles

Rating: 5

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 4

Quinoa Chicken Parmesan with Spiralized Zucchini Noodles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 large boneless, skinless Chicken breasts, cut in half, so they are thin (or use 4 small breasts, and pound them, thin & evenly sized)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup almond flour or whole wheat flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup all natural
  • shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup low-sugar organic marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees f.
  2. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray. (I used avocado oil or olive oil spray)
  3. In a large saucepan, cook quinoa according to package instructions.
  4. Stir Italian seasoning into cooked quinoa, set aside.
  5. Season chicken with garlic powder, sea salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Working in small batches, dredge chicken first in flour, dip into eggs, then dredge in quinoa mixture, pressing slightly to coat each breast.
  7. Place chicken onto the prepared baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown, and cooked through.
  8. Top with cheeses and marinara.
  9. Place into oven and bake until cheeses have melted, about 3-4 additional minutes.
  10. Serve immediately over spiralized zucchini noodles (I tossed my zucchini in a hot skillet with a touch of olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, for 3 minutes before serving)
  11. ?CleanFoodCrush.com/Spiralizer
  12. Garnish with fresh basil.

All Credit goes to Clean Food Crush blog. I found it on Facebook and pinned it to my Pinterest account.

The only tips I have are -don’t be afraid to season, season, season. I’ve thrown out “measuring” my spices a long time ago, I know which ones I like more of and which ones I like less and I dump it all in accordingly. BUT in order to make this SOOOOO TASTY don’t be afraid to season your quinoa-quinoa needs a lot of help in the flavor department in my opinion, haha. Also, I used spelt flour instead of whole wheat (and she mentions almond flour as another option). Spelt is not only a sprouted grain, but it also has a light, sweeter flavor instead of the cardboard taste of whole wheat. Lastly, I flipped the breasts over before adding the marinara and cheese for the last four minutes, so that the crunchier quinoa got covered in cheese. OH so good.

Now, the update. I have been sore for a full week and a day. It’s been awesome. I did three chin ups today. YEAH BABY! Then I pretty much collapsed in a heap and whimpered and it currently hurts my biceps to type, somehow, but hey, that’s unimportant. We got some more weights to fill in our weight gaps (I needed an 8 and a 12lb) so I’m ready to really start upping the weight in the coming workouts. I admit, I don’t like the stop start nature to weight workouts, I prefer the constant flow of things like PiYo or even some p90x stuff (though he does stop start some, too), but I can’t argue with the results. I’m getting stronger even as I feel weaker, haha. And I’ve lost a few pounds of fluff that I’m hoping now to convert to muscle.

I’m really enjoying this meal planning stuff. The annoyance of meal planning is put in the balance of absolutely not stressing about food during the day. It is WORTH IT. I am adding a container or two tomorrow-a veggie and/or a fruit-because I’m still hungry throughout the day. My metabolism is already fairly fast (thanks, genetics!) so even though my target plan is on point no matter how I measure it out, I’m burning through it. The point of this is NOT to be hungry all day-Autumn talks about how detrimental it is for your body to go into starvation mode-so I’m upping the food. This is triply important since I want to GAIN muscle.

Also, the food is so good. Remember that series I did on picky eating? Remember how essentially the advice, “Don’t force your kids to eat anything, make sure there is always something they like on the table” was repeated throughout? That’s what I’m doing. The boys always get something I know they like on the table (and usually that is what they eat) whereas I get to cook MY food (and offer it to them if they want it, of course). This means I get to cook food I like without caring one wit on whether or not my finicky 2.5 year old will have a single bite… Pure. Bliss.

OH! And I’m helping out in a 21 Day Fix accountability group and am really enjoying it. 🙂 If anyone is interested shoot me an email at slowisapace@gmail.com it’s a pretty cool program.

The end!