End of an Era…

Ok, ok, that’s a little melodramatic, I mean, it wasn’t an entire era before Leo won an Oscar-but for him I bet it sure felt like one at times!

ANYway, moving on. That’s exactly what I did yesterday-moved on. Hammer and Chisel officially ended on Sunday for me. I completed the 8 weeks of exercise, I put my weights in my closet today, and pulled out my yoga mat. I really loved Hammer and Chisel, I’ll be revisiting it again I’m sure, but for now I need a break from weights. I get bored easily (hey, ADHD) and the battle becomes not necessarily to push play on a workout, but to push play on ANOTHER ONE OF THESE WORKOUTS I HAVE ALREADY DONE AT LEAST TWICE, AHHHHHHH!!! I was going a bit crazy at the end, I felt like I mentally drug myself kicking and screaming through this last week. It was such a relief to fold up the calander, and so satisfying to have completed it from start to finish!

I’ve lost quite a bit of fluff, added a nice amount of muscle (especially my legs. Man, I love them, they are totally “beast-y” as Sagi would say) and feel substantially stronger. My body shape has changed, not so much pant size as how the pants fit, lol. I’m quite a bit looser around the waist and hips, but my newly strengthened quads and calves make skinny jeans a bit problematic, haha. I love it! Maybe I should finally look into leggings. 😉 My favorite part about this strength training is the added strength to my joints. You guys, my joints suck. The number of times I’ve sprained an ankle is easily in the 20s. My hips are a mess (pregnancy and childbirth didn’t help). My wrists are weak, my one elbow is wonky from being fractured and dislocated (it still randomly “goes to sleep” on me when I’m laying down at night), my back is pretty much genetically disposed to fall apart vertebrae by vertebrae until a surgeon adds enough hardware to tack it upright again-the only joint I’ve never really struggled with are, oddly enough, my knees. I mean, sure, they’ve hurt a bunch from running, but I’ve never badly injured them.

Weightlifting requires good form to do safely. And for the past two months I have worked hard on perfecting that form. Maybe I could’ve upped the weights sooner for some exercises, but I knew how crappy my joints were and I didn’t want to screw up and get injured for the sake of my ego. Two weekends ago I took a false step while double carrying both boys in wedge shoes. I rolled my ankle. I caught my stumble with a beautiful side lunge and instantly righted myself with neither a boy dropped or barely even jostled. My thought was, “Crap. I just sprained an ankle.” Reality? It was a bit sore to walk on for a day. End story. I have sprained my ankle in combat boots tripping over my own feet, but rolling an ankle while awkwardly carrying an extra 60lbs of weight wearing 4inch high wedges and I barely get a strain? I was (am!) dumbfounded. My back no longer hurts picking up, putting back down, and carrying the boys. In fact, I haven’t had any back pain (lower or upper) for the past month!

The crowning achievement? I can sleep on my side without my hips screaming bloody murder. Even with a support pillow I’ve had to shift position frequently and often wake up sore since being pregnant with Cade (who will be three in a few months). I had resigned myself to this uncomfortableness as just a symptom of “getting older”. But now it’s gone! Now if only I could get the boys to sleep past 6am…

I am so proud of myself for sticking with this program. I struggle with finishing projects I start (just take a look at my “craft closet”….no, on second thought, don’t.) and two months seems like an eternity for me-but I did it! Not just the workouts (which get boring enough with repetition) but the meal plan!

What now? I’m doing a hybrid of some of my favorite workouts-mostly PiYo and p90x3, though after a week or two I’ll pull out some of my favorite Hammer workouts- while really focusing on adding some miles. I’m keeping one rest day on Thursday, but on Sunday I’m going to take it-not easier exactly, but calmer, and do some p90x3 yoga or isometric balance poses. Yesterday was PiYo, today was a 2 mile run pushing the stroller-maybe I’ll do some yoga tonight, too. We’ll see.

Onwards!

“It’s Not Just WHAT You Say…

…It’s how you say it.” I don’t know how many times my mom said this to me as I tried to navigate my mood swings and emotional outbursts as a child. I’d be pulled aside for a scolding for hurtful words and I’d respond hotly, “but it’s the TRUTH!” And it was-sometimes anyway. The point wasn’t in the truth of my statement, however, it was in the delivery. You can say “true” things in sarcasm, bitterness, anger, and spite. Or you can say those same true things gently, in love, with kindness and tact. <—Do I need to point out which one is the correct response?

Well, as I started this nutrition journey, I sorta reverted back to my six year old self. “but it’s HEALTHY!” as I ate three chicken breasts, an enormous salad drenched in dressing, and later had an apple slathered in peanut butter (the natural “just peanut butter and salt” peanut butter, thank you very much). Yes, bravo, I was technically eating “clean”, my snack choices were “healthy”, I even bought more things organic when I could find them. So how come the ten pounds of baby weight wasn’t budging? How come my energy levels still fluctuated wildly throughout the day? How come I’d go from comatose full to starving in 30 minutes? I was exercising! And gosh darn it, I was eating HEALTHY.

Well. It’s not just WHAT you eat, it’s HOW you eat it. Namely, how much, and how frequently, and how consistently. I’ve got two days left of Hammer and Chisel, we are coming down the home stretch, and the biggest accomplishment for me is that I stuck to the meal plan. First time ever I have taken a hard look at my diet from a nutritional standpoint. You wanna know what it looked like? Carbs. Mostly carbs. And some fruit (which is full of simple sugars-also carbs). LOTS of “healthy fats” (aka cheese and nuts). And maybe two servings of protein a day-usually slathered in oil, ha. I’d eat carb heavy in the morning and be ravenous by lunch where I’d eat a huge meal while the boys napped, then nothing til dinner, and then usually a second dinner after the boys went down. Do you want to know what it looks like now? FOUR servings of protein (I had to DOUBLE my protein intake), three servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit, two servings of carbs, one serving of healthy fat, one serving of seeds/dressing, and two tiny teaspoons of oil/peanut butter. A serving of vegetables is almost double “size wise” a serving of protein. A serving of healthy fats is small, a serving of salad dressing is tiny. I eat around every two hours. I have followed this plant consistently for 8 weeks.

The result? I am eating the same or MORE calories than when I was existing off of mainly carbs and I have lost 8lbs, gained substantial definition and muscle, my energy levels have normalized, I’m sleeping like a rock at night (when the boys let me sleep), and I just overall physically feel fantastic. I’ve discovered that if I eat veggies and protein for breakfast I don’t hit a mid morning crash/snack attack, the best time for me to eat carbs is lunch and bedtime snack, a serving of dressing is actually plenty of dressing for a serving of vegetables-I’ve even stretched it to two servings of vegetables. I actually like kale.

Eating clean definitely helps with being healthy, but at some point you’ll probably have to sit down and examine your diet for not just WHAT you eat-but how you eat it. We sling around “eat a balanced diet” a lot, but truly being balanced doesn’t mean throwing in the occasionally vegetable and patting ourselves on the head. It means daily eating a variety of foods appropriately portioned and evenly spaced. You’re going to have to put some serious effort in at first, but it gets easier. I don’t even have to make meal cards any more, I just keep track on my white board.

When Hammer and Chisel ends on Sunday I’ll probably celebrate a little on Monday (= have as much peanut butter as I want) but I won’t go crazy off my routine because I love how eating to fuel my body (as opposed to just indulging my senses) feels and what it does for me. Following a meal plan, finally balancing my diet-this was a game changer for me. I don’t want to go back. In a few weeks I might even try upping my plan to see if I can’t gain some muscle. 😉 The power of good food!

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. 😉

You’ll NEVER believe the SUPER FABULOUS MINDBLOWING thing that happens NEXT!

Seriously, click bait? Seriously? I get annoyed at the hyperbole that runs rampant across social media. I’m in this team competition thing with some other coaches, and one of the challenges was to post about Shakeology but using the words “daily dose of superfoods”. I’m gonna be honest-it makes me cringe. Now, I LOVE me some Shakeology. It is made from all real, whole foods. The foods are nutrient dense and contain all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, protein, I need for a balanced meal plus extra stuff like pre-and probiotics AND the founders continually look for sources that are eco friendly and benefit the farmers. I think that’s really cool (maybe not your cup of hippy tea, but it’s mine). I really don’t like the word “super food”. I don’t like unnecessary hyperbole. I don’t like labeling food in general, and “super food” just irritates me-even if it fits the criteria from the current nutrition standpoints that do label food super and otherwise. To me, it cheapens Shakeology.

There. I said it. I’m an elitist. I’m a protein drink snob. I don’t want viral clicks on Shakeology from fad following superlative driven yo-hos. You need to be serious. You need to be skeptical. You need to do your own research before you jump on this wagon. And if it is not for you-for whatever reason, then don’t get it.

Do I think Shakeology is beneficial for me? Yes. Do I think almost everybody could benefit from drinking it? Also, yes. It’s food. It’s really well balanced and nutritive but it is legitimately FOOD not chemical additives, supplements, synthesized vitamins, or what have you. It’s food, you guys. Almost everyone could benefit from having one completely balanced meal of real food a day. (I say almost, because I don’t like grandiose absolutes much more than I like excessive superlatives. Someone out there may already be eating exactly perfectly and Shakeo wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Or maybe they’re allergic to every single ingredient. Or something.)

I have been asked whether it’s something I see myself maintaining “for the long term” and when I first bought it I would’ve said, “No, maybe just for a year or two.” But now? I don’t see any reason why I won’t be drinking this into my dotage. People daily drink coffee their entire lives. People daily drink sweet tea their entire lives. People daily drink soda their entire (shorter) lives (ha! ha! Sorry, couldn’t resist the soda jab). Why is it so weird that I daily drink Shakeology? Can the only reason to daily consume something be pleasure? Can I not drink something that is pleasurable AND balanced? There are 220 calories in a McDonald’s large sweet tea. I used to drink that daily. There are 160-170 calories in Shakeo made with just water. I mix it with fruit and water, so I’m in the 200-240 calorie range (depending on which fruit and how much). But instead of refined sugar, I’m drinking protein, vitamins, minerals, complex carbs, prebiotics, probiotics… Seriously, what is the problem here?

And I like it. I don’t like all the flavors, I don’t like all the recipes, but I’ve found the way that I DO like it, and I, well, LIKE it. I ENJOY THIS STUFF. So. Yes, I think you should drink Shakeology. No, I will not try to trick/woo/browbeat you into buying it. You should be a little skeptical. You should do your own research. But I’ve done mine, and “super food” or not, it’s a staple part of my fitness.

Progress!

“BOOM Baby!”

Sorry, the boys have been sick so a few days ago I let them watch “The Emperor’s New Groove” before bedtime. I’m no Kronk-but I’m no Yzma either. I’ve got MUSCLES! Whoop whoop!

We (the Hammer and Chisel Challenge Group) completed the first month on Sunday and everyone posted the progress they had made since starting and OH MY GOODNESS. So cool. I love this community! I love being surrounded by people who are making living healthy a priority! Not “THE” priority in their life,  but “A” priority-so they can enjoy all the rest of their priorities, duh! Health is such a blessing, and a healthy foundation in your life opens up so many more opportunities and can enrich everything you undertake. It was awesome to see the toning up, the strength, the change in body shapes-muscles were popping up on everybody!

Personally, I have slimmed in some areas (thighs, hams, glutes, abs) and added in others (shoulders, triceps, back, calves). My measurements balanced to a net loss of 4.75 inches-I am beyond pleased. And the POWER! I am chaffing at the bit for some higher weight on some exercises-itty bitty arms that I have, I’m gunning for some guns! My squats are in total beast mode, no fudging, I get those hamstrings parallel to the ground. Par-all-flippin-el! I can do 4 chinups, so many more push ups, THREE consecutive pull ups (what what!) it feels so good! I’m still sore a lot, especially as I keep pushing the weight, and I love to see the crazy changes in my body shape.

You guys, I thought I was stuck. Despite running and exercise, I’ve been pretty much the same shape-just incrementally fluffier-for three years. And I was honestly not that bothered by it-sure I wished I could be a little fitter, but I assumed it would take hours at the gym or some extreme calorie restriction and I just ain’t about that. I started this beachbody thing with PiYo and I dropped a pound or two and started seeing some changes in my upper body, then I rolled into p90x3 and continued to see small, but steady improvements -but life happened and interrupted for about two months. When Hammer and Chisel started in January I actually started paying attention to the nutrition side of things and BAM now in a single month the changes are startling!

It is fantastic. I am so motivated to push through this next month. STICK TO THE PLAN. I’m loving this!

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. 🙂

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!

Day 3

Tonight wraps up Day 3 of Hammer and Chisel so I’m going to give a brief “first impression” of the program. The workouts are killer. They are weight workouts, so some moves I am not used to doing although I can-and have-successfully navigated the machines of the traditional gym in the past. Most of it is just really hard. Which is awesome. It is pushing limits for me, and I am relishing that top to bottom achy soreness that comes with changing up an exercise routine.

The guy, Sagi, is everything I have ever wanted from a traditional gym trainer. He even has an accent. So between the crazy body builder physique, the sometimes mixed up metaphors, the angry partially frightening encouragement in the form of yelling-it’s great. He gives me the impression that he really knows his stuff, but leading a class is not entirely inside his comfort zone. I loved it. If that isn’t for you, the workout more than makes up for whatever issue you have with his teaching style. It’s really tough, but not “if you attempt this you will be injured” tough. I’ve had to modify a bunch in both his and Autumn’s workouts, and I am still toast by the end of them.

Autumn’s workouts leave me equally sore, but they are slightly different from Sagi’s. They’ve broken up the workout so that she is “The Chisel” and Sagi is “The Hammer” and its as good a description as I can come up with on how their workouts differ. Her’s seem to focus on that extended stamina build up in muscles and the toning, whereas Sagi’s is more power/strength oriented. Her teaching style isn’t bad, and she doesn’t sling around TOO many cliches and platitudes so I don’t end up wanting to throttle her by the end of the workout.

The nutrition is basically 21 Day Fix (Autumn’s nutritional program) complete with the color coded containers. I have been intrigued by this program for almost a year now and was SO excited when I found out it was part of H&C. The other programs I’ve done (p90x3, CIZE, PiYo) have nutrition guides, too, but nothing as easy for me to follow as Autumn’s. It is somewhat reinventing the wheel, because she essentially takes the recommended calories for your gender and size (taking into account whether you are looking at losing weight, maintaining, or building muscle) and then providing a simple guide to how many portions of which food group you should be eating. What makes it so cool, though, is those containers. They’re color coded and different sizes and show you what a “serving size” looks like. To make sure I’m getting enough veggies in my afternoon salad, I just stuff the kale and spinach into my green container until it is full and then dump it into my bowl. Voila! A serving of vegetables. It’s easy to say, “You should get x amount of servings of fruit a day” but it is really hard to know what that actually LOOKS like in real life. How big is a serving of carbs compared to a serving of protein? How much does a serving of “healthy fats” really mean? I have been amazed that the seemingly minuscule “seeds and salad dressings” container easily holds enough to provide flavor to every leaf of my 2 veggie servings of salad. It also makes it really easy to track, which means for the first time in my adult life I am probably actually getting enough protein in my diet.

This meal planning has completely taken away the stress of mealtime. I decided the boys were just going to live off of their favorites for the next 60 days so I make food I know they’ll eat with every meal. They are always welcome to try what I am eating, but I don’t stress about finding a dinner that “everyone will like”. I’m cooking for me. Zane will try almost anything, Cade has tried more then I thought he would, but everyone ends up with a full belly by the end of the meal.

Getting healthy doesn’t happen by accident, there has to be intention behind it. It can be little changes, it can be a complete lifestyle overhaul, but it won’t happen by itself. ….so yeah, you should try it sometime. 😉

Second Christmas

So this week gearing up for Hammer and Chisel has been busy and nervewracking. You know, that antsy, fidgety, anticipatory energy like right before giving a speech on something you’re passionate about or running a race or anything you are kindof dreading and excited about all at the same time? That’s how I feel. It’s almost like being a kid at Christmas and being so excited your stomach starts hurting and you begin to imagine all sorts of disasters that might happen to ruin Christmas and by the time Christmas morning arrives- screw presents, you’re utterly exhausted with relief that the cat didn’t become demon possesed and eat Santa Claus.

Tomorrow is my second Christmas morning.

In preparation this week I have created an instagram account to track my progress on here. Come follow me! I have pinterest recipe scoured, meal planned, grocery shopped, food prepped, ToDo list checked, and weekly scheduled in anticipation of the next 60 days.

One thing I thought was important was having some way of tracking progress. Before and After photos are typical- and I took them.

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Personally, I’m looking for a little more toe gap. How ever will I fit into sandals come summer?!

On top of that, I did a mini “strength test” because for me, honestly, the joy of exercise is not in my appearance but in my capability. So I did a plank, and just barely managed to hold it for 2 minutes. And a wall sit-also struggled to hit that 2 minute mark. And then I attempted pullups (you can see the video on my instagram account… *hint hint* FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM). I managed two and a quarter pull ups. All together, guys, that’s pretty lame. I mean, much better than a few months ago where I couldn’t even do ONE pull up, but still a far cry from where I want to be.

I’m gonna be a beast at the end of this, able to “fly” my 2.5 year old like an airplane for hours, muscle my squirming 15mo old down for a diaper change (a complete body workout) without fail, and double carry the boys 60lbs combined wiggly weight the quarter mile to and from the park without breaking a sweat. I’ll be able to pry them off of the playground one handed, play “ribbet frog” down the hallway until THEY call it quits, and still have enough energy to run and catch them when I say it’s nap time.

It’s going to be epic.

It isn’t to late (it is never too late) to join in the fun! Whether it’s a weight program like H&C, a nutrition plan, yoga, just trying to quit soda-everybody has to start somewhere with living healthier. And now is a GREAT time to start-New Year and all that. Don’t struggle by yourself, come over to the health nut dark side! We have communities of likeminded weirdos in various stages of learning to live healthy, it’s totally cool! Seriously though, let me know what I can do to help you meet your goals, I can’t emphasize enough how important support is for success. 🙂

I’VE GOT TO GO TO BED IT’S H&C EVE! 😀