A Dose of Reality

Just when you think you are back on track…

I had another big milestone last month. 110 lbs lost total. I really had kicked it up a notch and was fighting for every ounce lost. My head was in the game and I was feeling so good about my choices. I was going to exercise classes, eating clean, and my energy was high. By the end of June I had slacked a little and gained a couple of lbs back. No big deal. I can still get to my summer time goal before my big road trip in mid July. Some more less than ideal choices and I had gained 5 lbs back. Ouch.

I know. It doesn’t diminish the fact that I’ve lost 105 lbs. I am still a success. I just know how hard every single pound is to lose from this point on. My metabolism is slow as molasses. I injured my shoulder about a month ago and haven’t lifted weights since. I was getting back on track last week and went to the gym five days. Even though the weight wasn’t coming off I was still feeling pretty good.

Flash forward to 2 days ago. I fell down some stairs and fractured my tailbone.

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ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING ME??? I am leaving in 3 days for a 36 hour road trip to Washington. That’s a lot of time in the car on a broken butt. The pain has been pretty bad and it’s just been 2.5 days. The worst part is there is really nothing I can do about it. I’ve rested it, iced it, gotten an inflatable donut pillow, taken meds, and tried to remain positive.

I’m pretty frustrated. We have been planning this trip since February. We didn’t have a honeymoon and now we are celebrating my birthday on this trip, so there is no way I’m not going. People think I’m ignorant, stupid, or stubborn for not canceling, but they don’t understand that I NEED this vacation. I’ve saved, sacrificed, and worked hard to make it a reality. Regardless of the discomfort I’m going to make this trip a memorable one.

So you’re saying I can’t work out for how long? OH SNAP. 8 week minimum recovery time and it may never quite feel normal again. I bruised it once as a kid 25 years ago too, so this is just the cherry on top of the shit sundae. It’s actually less painful when I’m up and walking as long as I’m not bending or twisting or getting up and down from sitting. That doesn’t bode well for any exercises I like to do other than walking…

Did I forget to mention that in 4 weeks I’m also having an unrelated surgery? yeah, AGAIN. I had this same surgery last summer and who knows how many more times over the course of my lifetime I will need it. It’s just a one day type of thing if they don’t find anything more pressing once I’m in there. There is a no exercise for 2 weeks after rule too. And I bloat and gain like a crazy person afterwards because of all the air they inflate into my abdomen to put the scope in. Siiiigh. I’m not looking forward to it. Precedence dictates that it will be fine and I’ll be back to normal in about 5 to 10 days.

The real thing that bothers me about all this is really not the lack of exercise as much as the stress that this all brings. My entire life I have coped with stress using food. As soon as I get bad news or feel the stress of some negativity, I want crap food.

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Before I even got injured I was eating things out of the ordinary for me. As soon as I found out my tailbone was fractured I went and got an ice cream from Sonic. I haven’t done that in 5 years!
I know. It’s ok. But I tend to let one bad decision lead to another and I don’t like the feeling that comes with being out of control. It’s like I got a flat tire and slashed the other 3 just because. I wanted to lose more weight before the trip because I always gain when I travel. As it turns out I’ve gained before the trip has even begun. Feeling sorry for myself will get me no where. I just have to realize that it’s ok to feel these emotions, but feeding my body junk just makes it worse. I feel worse, cause more inflammation, slow healing time, and it emotionally makes me angry at myself. I can do better.

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I’ve slipped on my no dairy, no wheat, and no sugar for the last 2 weeks and I know this trip will lead to more similar choices, but I’m trying to balance my food choices. It’s a 10 day trip. 4 days in the car on the way up, 2.5 days camping there, and then the drive back. On all our other road trips in the past during my weight loss I’ve always brought healthy choices to lessen the likelihood of fast food debacles. If I can’t exercise for 2 months, I need to focus 100% on my eating choices. Of course I’m still going to indulge- it’s VACATION!

I put more effort into packing and prepping food for this trip than I have camping gear and clothes.

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Here’s the game plan:

  • I precooked a large batch of healthy dirty rice. It’s so easy. I used jalapeno chicken sausage instead of pork. I froze it in 2 large containers and will bring one and have one to come home to when the fridge is barren post vacation. Dirty Rice Recipe
  • justin made an amazing pastalaya too. Think jambalaya but made with noodles. I won’t be eating any of it though. It’s more for him and our friends (it has tomatoes, and I’m allergic, and a shit ton of pork)
  • I’m bringing a lentil salad. I know, I know… that’s not really road trip food and neither is dirty rice. These are more for when we are actually camping. It’s a lebanese spiced dish and it’s nutrient dense, filling and delicious. Lentil Salad Recipe
  • I’m making a bottle of green smoothie. My go to green drink x 4 to fill a large juice container. It’s kale, lemon, ginger, pineapple, parsley, chia and hemp seeds, and cucumber. It will only last the first 3 days before it gets “spicy.” I did it last year for our trip and it was a great way to feel refreshed and get my nutrients in when I eat stuff on the road.
  • Tortillas and bread with turkey and cheese (and good ole PB and J for standby)
  • Bacon and eggs for cooking on the camp stove

Snacks:

  • stinky boiled eggs
  • string cheese
  • homemade granola made from steel cut oats, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, honey, raisins, and coconut oil. recipe here
  • celery and carrot sticks, cucumber slices and a big ole tub of hummus
  • homemade cranberry oatmeal muffins sweetened with applesauce and a touch of peanut butter (easy breakfast too)
  • Beef jerky
  • homemade larabars (dates, walnuts, apricots, goji berries, and lemon zest in a food processor and individually wrapped) recipe here
  • Kind bars (with nuts, fruits, and seeds)
  • apples, cuties, grapes, and dried fruit (apricots and a few fruit leathers *healthy fruit roll ups!
  • almonds
  • and as a special treat- teddy grahams!

I always go waaaay overboard on the food for trips, but it’s always worth it in the end! I’m eagerly anticipating this exciting adventure and regardless of how the obstacles are stacking up (thanks ovarian cyst rupture today), I’m certain this trip will be one for the books!

No matter what obstacles come my way this summer, I’m going to keep on this path because I’ve come too damn far to go back now. I may be feeling a little defeated, but it’s temporary and perspective is everything. It’s just a few pounds, and it’s most certainly not the end of the world. What’s life without a little cheese, ice cream, and deep fried deliciousness??

I may not get back to the gym until September, but I know that when I do it’ll be great and it gives me something to look forward to. Until then, I’m going to focus on giving my body what it needs to heal (including rest) and I will be back in the groove in no time!

Now I just need all your butt vibes and prayers as I’m NOT looking forward to the car ride!

It will all be worth it when i see this:

gorge

 

 

 

 

Easy and Healthy Recipes (that are also delicious!)

not a diet

I figured it was about time that I delve into the treasure trove that is my recipe arsenal and share some with you! I have amassed quite a lot of go-to recipes in the last few years as well as many I’ve tried at least once and would recommend. I am allergic to a lot of things, but I will include some recipes with those ingredients as well.

I’ve touched on breakfast ideas in previous posts (baked oatmeal, overnight oats, chia pudding, mini crustless egg quiches, etc), so I will mostly be sticking to healthy salad and dinner ideas in this post.

First of all, some of these will require a spiralizer (turns vegetables into noodles), and I am obsessed with mine. You can get a decent one on amazon for $25!  Some of these recipes will require baking spaghetti squash (again, vegetables in the place of noodles.) These are the types of substitutions that have helped me lose weight. You’ll never know how delicious these can be unless you try. If my husband tolerates it- anyone can!

VEGETARIAN SALADS:

Balsamic fresh green bean, parmesan, and basil salad This one is undeniably one of my favorites! If you like fresh basil (*it has a strong flavor), then you will love this one!

Cauliflower “potato” salad I only made this one once, but it was delicious! It has all the flavor of potato salad without the carbs/calories of potatoes.

Three Bean Wild Rice Salad This one is great as a meal! Protein packed and keeps you full for a long time!

Quinoa Tabouleh All the delicious flavor of tabouleh without the wheat! This one is great.

Spiralized Cucumber Carrot sweet and spicy salad with chickpeas If I had to pick my favorite spiralized salad, this one is either tied for 1st place or takes the gold medal! It does require a lot of chopping, but it is so worth it!! It’s great as a lunch too!

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad You’d never even think “hey- I’m eating vegan” with this one because it’s so satisfying!

Brussel Sprout, Apple and Pine Nut salad  This one ranks right up at the top! I never even knew I liked cooked brussel sprouts until this year let alone raw ones! If you are feeling adventurous and think you might enjoy this deliciously refreshing raw salad, you won’t regret it!

Broccoli Slaw with raisins and a light dressing THIS IS MY JAM! It’s just so damn good. I bet you’d like this and you’d get addicted too!

Asian Zoodle Salad So this is the other contender for favorite spiralizer salad. There’s just something about these flavors and eating raw just gives you the best energy and it’s filling!!

Sweet Potato Brussels Sprouts Quinoa Salad This one really has it all! Complex carbs, protein from the quinoa, cruciferous veggies, a little sweet from the cranberries, and a crunch from the almonds!

Hearty Lebanese Lentil Salad This one is meal worthy, lunch or dinner! It has a wonderful flavor and lentils are so nutrient dense!

Spicy Kale Quinoa Black Bean Mexican salad This one is new to me and I’m trying it this weekend! It should be good as a meal as it has everything you need to stay full for a while!

Peanut Sauce Kale Salad I can’t wait to try this one! Peanut sauce is my weakness!

Goat Cheese Asparagus Quinoa Salad Talk about delicious and indulgent! Creamy goat cheese makes me mellllllt

GRAIN FREE / PALEO DINNERS:

Chicken and Broccoli over Zoodles I don’t know about you, but I love the flavor of Chinese food, so if I can get my fix in a healthy way, I’m all about it!

Turkey and Sweet Potato Meat loaf Made this one this week (husband approved!)

Chicken Sausage with roasted vegetables and sweet potato This one is in the regular rotation (having it this week!) We love it and it makes great leftovers!

Oven Chicken Fajitas This one is also in the top rotation! We use olive oil and add green chiles, cilantro, and green onions! I don’t eat them with tortillas; I just pile it on the plate!

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” If you haven’t delved into the world of cauliflower rice, I recommend starting with this recipe! You can pretty much add whatever veggies you want in addition to these./ I love water chestnuts and a little sriracha!

Chicken Zoodles with Red Peppers and Sugar Snap Peas This is one of those that is so good you wish you didn’t have to share (maybe you don’t!)

Turkey (or beef) Sweet Potato Chili Need that chili flavor, but not the unhealthy calories? THIS!

Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps No explanation needed! Add any toppings you like!

Chicken Or Turkey Sausage Sweet Potato Kale Soup This one is quickly becoming one of my favorites! We used ground chicken sausage (loose not links) and when we ran out of kale, we used spinach and it was still delicious!

Honey Garlic Shrimp and Broccoli Need that flava flavvvv? This one has you covered!

Sriracha Lime Salmon with Brussels Sprouts I haven’t tried this, but it sounds AHMAAAZING

Tuscan Chicken Skillet All I know is I’m damning my tomato allergy straight to hell right now!!

Spaghetti Squash Primavera Again, DAMN YOU ALLERGY!!

Spaghetti Squash with parmesan, spinach, bacon, and pine nuts Think you don’t like spaghetti Squash? This will change your mind!! BAAAACONNNN

Eggroll In A Bowl Want all the flavor of an eggroll but not the deep fried fatty feeling? This is awesome! Any ground meat will do. I’ve used turkey or chicken sausage and both were great. I add water chestnuts diced, a lot of garlic and fresh ginger, and a boat load of sriracha or red pepper flakes because I love spice!

Shredded Buffalo Chicken (crockpot) Lettuce Wraps Hi, I’m Sarah and I’m obsessed with this. I don’t even use blue cheese or any toppings except sliced celery and carrot and I can’t get enough!!

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup This is one of those recipes that you just keep going back to because it’s that good!

Italian Sausage, Kale, White Bean Soup In some circles, (*thanks, Letty) this is called “Sarah Soup.”  I use turkey or chicken sausage (buy ground or in the link and remove from casing) and it is one of our staple soups (especially when it’s cold outside!)

Cauliflower Chowder Another one that is SO easy and good especially in the winter! Filling and nutritious!

Artichoke Mushroom Chicken Breasts I absolutely love these flavors! You could serve this over rice.

Lemon Asparagus Chicken Stir Fry This is one of those flavor packed meals that takes absolutely no time at all! Serve with quinoa or rice if desired. We love this one!

White Bean Chicken Chili We could all use more fiber and protein and this is an excellent and delicious way to get it! Another easy and filling recipe with leftovers for lunch!

Shrimp and Sausage with Veggies Skillet 20 minute one pot meal! This one could get your kids to eat some veggies!

Jerk Shrimp Stew with Cauliflower Rice Those lil jerk shrimps, am I right? Actually, this one will take you to Jamaica, MON!

Turkey (or beef) with Butternut Squash I absolutely love this one! I just tried it a few weeks ago and I will be making it again!

Thai Ground Turkey with peppers and basil I made quinoa  and mixed it in with this and increased the spices to stretch it farther, but you totally don’t need it! Flavor country!

These recipes include a wide variety of things including grains *still most do not include wheat*, dairy, some lean meat and some vegetarian, and complex carbohydrates for a balanced meal

OTHER MEAL IDEAS:

Ground Turkey and Potatoes with Peas The rice is overkill as it already has potatoes as a starch.

Quinoa Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers You could add ground meat to these and add taco seasoning to it to make this recipe stretch further. I also have used rice instead of quinoa. You can add any toppings you want (salsa, avocado, cilantro, sour cream, etc) and you can also kick it up a notch with jalapenos.

One Pan Roasted Chicken Sausage, Green Beans, and Sweet Potatoes This is in the rotation fo sho! The cumin gives it such a nice flavor. I really love this one and it’s so easy!

Savory Black Eyed Peas and Bacon We’ve used this recipe to kind of make our own version of this. This has to be in my husband’s top 10! It’s that good. We use all the same vegetables and beans, but we use italian seasoning and homemade broth. We usually do a double batch and use the ENTIRE package of bacon! mmmmmm

One Pan Honey Garlic Chicken Breasts and Veggies Easy and delicious! The potatoes are just divine with this flavor!

Amazing Chicken and Cauliflower Casserole I dare you to try this and tell me you still don’t like cauliflower. This one is decadently delicious and it’s so easy to use a rotisserie chicken to make this a little easier or pre bake some chicken. Great way to get vegetables into your picky eater! I seriously would fight for these leftovers.

Spicy Honey Chicken and Bell Peppers We make this one pretty often as it is pretty easy with minimal ingredients but packs a heck of a flavor. Served with rice and it’s an easy week night meal.

Vegetarian Curried Quinoa This one is a winner! I love to make this on the weekend and have it all week for lunches. If you are looking to cut back meat, but not sacrifice flavor or satisfaction after eating- try this! I add all kinds of vegetables in it! spice it up with some cayenne if you want!

Cauliflower, Leek, and Potato Soup This blended creamy soup is so satisfying you won’t realize that there isn’t any heavy cream weighing it down! Roast some red peppers and puree for a topping-it’s a must with this soup. We love this one on a cold day!

Easy One Pan Shrimp, Rice, and Peas Haven’t had this, but it looks easy and delicious! If you try it, let me know!

Easy 30 Minute Salmon and Potato Foil Pack What could be simpler?? But only 2 servings so no leftovers!

Zoodle Spaghetti with Meat Sauce I swear if you try it instead of pasta you will be surprised at how much you like it!

Easy Chicken, Potato, and Carrot One Pan Meal The dijon mustard really makes this recipe a winner! Another easy week night meal!

I’ve dedicated a lot of my free time to cooking. I get a lot done on the weekends which makes the week days a lot easier. It’s a tag team effort at my house. My husband really makes it all come together when I’m working late or busy running around to an exercise class or an errand. Find a way to make it work for you. It’s a game changer.

cooking

So there ya go! Just a small sampling of the many recipes I’ve grown to love over the last few years. I’m so happy to share these with you and hope you will try them. Be adventurous in your kitchen! Make things you’ve never tried before. I amaze myself every week when I try a new recipe (it’s fun to try a new one once a week just to see if it’s worth adding into the arsenal.) Let me know if you tried them and what you think.

Most, if not all, of these recipes follow the guidelines for clean eating. Just a few reminders  of what that entails:

clean eat

clean eat 2

 

As always, if you have any questions or want help you know you can always message me and we can chat! I’m happy to help! I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it- If I can make decisions for a healthier life and lose over 100 lbs, what’s stopping you from making the commitment you and your body deserve?? You are worth it. Make yourself and your family’s health a priority.

healthy

Much Love.

 

 

Creating Healthy Habits

 

When I finally decided to commit to a lifestyle change FOR GOOD I needed to change more than just what I ate and how much I ate. Yes, that was a start, but in the grand scheme of things in my life, more than that needed to change. These changes added up over time and helped contribute to my success so far. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I started out by changing just my food intake (no fast, fried, or junk food) and then I eventually made other changes to aid my progress.

I subscribe to the “too much too soon” rule. If someone told you to stop smoking, stop drinking, start exercising, don’t eat fast food, drink more water, and eat more vegetables ALL STARTING RIGHT NOW, you would probably be like “HELLLL NAAAW, get outta my face!” You can’t expect to make so many drastic changes and stick with them. You have to be realistic when you make changes. If you choose just one of those things and can stick to it long enough to make it a habit, then you can incorporate new ones in and you have a better (in my opinion) chance for success. This is for two reasons- I think that you feel a sense of confidence after maintaining a new change in your lifestyle, whether it be you didn’t smoke for a couple of weeks or you only drank a glass of wine when you went out to dinner and not every night. Second, I think your chance of success is higher because you didn’t do too much too quickly and set yourself up for backlash or feeling too much pressure to quit or give in.

most of the time

When I lost my initial 40 lbs from diet alone (even though I would eventually gain 25 back), I felt a sense of confidence that I could change other things that would help me on my ultimate journey to get healthy. I had become successful at exerting some sort of will power over food for the first time in my life and I was nearly 30 years old. It was more than enough for me to realize that maybe I could start exercising. GASP! I started out in our old apartment gym on an elliptical. I’m not lying when I said I only made it 5 minutes. At 220 lbs with no resistance and no incline I only made it 5 minutes. Well…It was a start. If only I could build on that. So I did. I eventually got up to about 20 minutes within 2 weeks. I hadn’t been introduced to the world of Interval training or HIIT (high intensity interval training), so I did what I could. Unfortunately, at this exact time I started suffering from sciatica and my Dr told me no exercise other than my physical therapy. There was a bonus! I learned some awesome stretches that I still use to this day when my sciatica flares (*which is right now-OWWWW.) Double unfortunately, I had to have unrelated surgery at that time and it caused me to be down for the count for almost 3 months. All at the same time that this was happening, we decided to move an hour back to my home town. Upon moving back and healing, I gained back 25 lbs because of depression, pain, feeling sorry for myself, being out of work, etc. It wasn’t a good time.

Flash forward to Fall 2014 when I had set my wedding date and it lit a fire under my ass. I was up to 235 lbs and wanted to by 175 within a year. (I actually surpassed that goal! YAY) My now husband and I had joined a gym about a year prior so I had been going to water aerobics, and using the elliptical on occasion, but I was not challenging myself. I got my eating under control and started cooking more. I discovered pinterest (for the wedding at first) and it changed the game! I had a plethora of healthy recipes and I wanted to try them all! I realized there really wasn’t a vegetable I didn’t like! I realized I don’t need to eat beef and pork (I miss you sometimes, bacon. Ok, a lot of the time.)

bacon

I was on my way!

Healthy Habits I incorporated:

  1. I started drinking raw apple cider vinegar (2-4 tablespoons) in an 8 oz glass of warm lemon water first thing in the morning to aid digestion. It also has proven weight loss capabilities due to its ability to reduce the rate at which glucose (sugar) enters the blood thereby lowering blood sugar levels. I’ve been doing this every single day for 2 years and it is officially part of my morning routine. The grocery store clerks always ask me if I’m making lemonade because I buy so many lemons a week.
  2. I was (and need to get back) a gym rat. I started going a minimum of 4 days a week, but a lot of the time it was 5 or 6. I stepped outside my comfort zone and took a zumba class and enjoyed it! I started weight lifting.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            kettlebells                                                                                                                          As a woman, I cannot tell you how important this was to my success. Not only does it boost your metabolism, burn more fat, build lean muscle, and help you lose inches, but it makes you a badass at the gym. I got over my fear of lifting in front of the gym jocks. I started on the machines and then read about how free weights (done safely and correctly) are more effective. I began a routine that I made up comprised of moves I’d found and put together on pinterest or through videos. I started with 8 lb hand weights and now use 12s and 15s. I eventually became brave enough to use kettlebells. I do 30 lb kettle swings, squats, and whatever they call those other things where you jerk them up over your shoulder.                                 kettles                                                                                                            In my mind, I’m a badass when I lift weights. I even got some fancy gloves. I’ve kinda fallen off the wagon of being consistent with it, but so it goes… I’ll get back. I also started HIIT training on the ARC trainer which is a stepper elliptical combo. It only takes 20 minutes of HIIT to make a difference. You burn calories long after you are done when you do intervals. So, 60 minutes at an average pace on an average resistance is really not doing you any favors. Well, some favors I suppose.                                                                                            hiit                                                                                                                                                                      I have since added PIYO (think fast cardio yoga) and maaaan, it kicks my butt, but I CAN FREAKIN DO IT! I’m so proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and challenging myself this last month to try something new. I’ve done cardio fusion a bit too. I really haven’t been going to the gym as much, but it’s ok because I know that my success comes from 80% diet. I do the exercise for the mental health, the endorphins, the strength and muscle building, and the heart health. The weight loss comes from the kitchen.
  3. Meal planning. I may sound like a crazy person, but it really helps me when I devote a few hours of my weekend to cooking and prepping. I’ve written at length about it in my previous posts. It is crucial to my success at this point. I’m not so rigid that I don’t allow wiggle room. I aborted the plan last night in favor of a calzone for my hubby and a grilled chicken salad last night at a local Italian place. No worries. I just like having healthy lunch options during the week so it is worth it to me to spend an hour the week before picking recipes for the weekend and then 3 or 4 dinners for the upcoming week. I make the shopping list, buy the stuff, and my awesome husband helps execute when I work late. We make a great team.
  4. No processed foods. It’s not really a healthy habit as much as it is a commitment to not eating fake crap. It’s that simple. I don’t want bullshit. I want real, whole food. If it comes from a bag, box, or drive thru, I don’t eat it. Easy.
  5. I started drinking an insane amount of water. I am now up to 16 cups or 1 gallon a day. I basically drink all day (and go to the bathroom an equal amount.) I have a 32 oz nalgene and drink 4 a day plus my glass in the morning. It helps me to realize I’m not hungry, but rather thirsty throughout the day in between meals. I don’t force myself to drink, but I find that I am that thirsty. Some days I only drink 12 cups.                           pee
  6. No alcohol. This is pretty much a very specific habit for me, but an easy one to maintain. I’ve never been a drinker. When I read about it exacerbating endometriosis, the occasional glass of wine ceased. It turns out a lot of people I know can dramatically lose weight by cutting alcohol consumption. (especially beer.) Don’t remove it completely if it’s your favorite thing, just think about reduction. mmmmm, Wine reduction over a nice steak…
  7. Stretching daily/yoga. There is something about taking time out of your day to be fully present with yourself without labeling it as meditation. About 2 years ago I started a regimen of stretching that I would do every morning for 20-30 minutes. Now I’ve expanded this routine to include a few ab exercises, a plank, and yoga. I’m fortunate at my job that I get some time to myself during the day to take a break and do this. Even if you don’t do it at work, you can find time in the early morning (or if you’re me- HELL NO) or in the evening. When I don’t do it at work, I will do it before weights/cardio at the gym. I even filmed my routine about 2 years ago and put it on YouTube as “stretching with Sarah.” I really hope it’s lost in the black hole of the internet. I find I’m energized, reinvigorated, and in a better mood after I do this routine. Sometimes I’ll do it to music, but other times I just enjoy the silence. Silence is so rare in our lives these days. It’s important to focus on your breathing and be fully present. You can burn calories just stretching! Plus, tai chi and other things I have incorporated are proven to help with flexibility and longevity. I also bought a foam roller! This thing is bad ass. It really helps my sciatica and is great for any kind of muscle pain or soreness. I need to use it more.                                                                        foam roll
  8. Meditation/Mindfulness. I’m working on this one. I don’t try hard enough. I want to make this part of the routine like everything else in this list, but I haven’t quite mastered it yet. I struggle with turning off my mind. I know everyone tells me it takes practice, but I am making every excuse I can think of to give up before I even try. I’m also trying to be more mindful of everything, not just my eating. I’m definitely very in tune with my body and how it feels good or doesn’t feel good so I’m trying to extend that into other aspects of my life. This is the one thing I really want to focus more energy on in the future. I learned about the practice of QiGong recently and it is a way to harness the Chi (life energy) within you and clear energy pathways throughout your body that contribute to both physical and emotional pain. Here are some easy exercises that are a lot like mindfulness/meditation: 15 minute Qi Gong Exercises
  9. Walking/biking. When you can’t get to the gym or you don’t belong to a gym, find something that you can do that will help you be more active. When I started out losing the bulk of my weight, I was the nanny for a wonderful 2 year old and every day we would take a 30 minute walk (even if I knew I was going to work out later.) I made it part of our daily routine. Now at my current job, I have incorporated either a 30 minute walk or a 30 minute bike ride (toting that kid trailer is NO JOKE) every day. Regardless of whether I think I will get to the gym, I still do this. It’s like my stretching; it energizes me and helps clear my head. So if you have time on a lunch break or in the evening with the kids, jump on the bike, roll out the stroller, or go alone-just get moving!                                                                                                                                move it
  10. Loving myself at this exact point in time. This is a big one! Healthy habits include your mental health. I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be perfect. I struggle. I beat myself up for no reason. I obsess. I hold on to feelings that I should let go. I try too hard. I don’t try hard enough. I’m HUMAN. It’s so very important for me to reflect on where I started, what I’ve been through, and where I am at this exact moment. I am grateful and overjoyed to be able to express how happy it makes me that I can inspire just one of my friends or a reader. I’ve been told many times how I’ve helped others make small changes and that really puts it into perspective for me. The abundance that comes from having an open heart and an ever expanding mind for learning new things and stepping out of my comfort zone has shown me that this journey has been worth it not just for the physical aspects alone, but for the person I’ve grown to become.

focus and effort

I’ve come a long way, baby! This journey isn’t over. I’m going to keep challenging myself and loving myself every step of the way. Whether you want to lose 10 lbs or 100 lbs or just build muscle, look within and believe in yourself. YOU ARE WORTH IT. So, what are you waiting for? Message me. Reach out. I can be your accountability buddy, add you to an accountability group, show you some exercises you don’t need a gym or equipment for, or help design a meal plan you can stick to.

You know what they say:

easy

How Sarah Got Her Groove Back

motivation

Finding motivation is tough. Getting started is rough. Sticking with it is hard. Am I right? Whether you want to make a change, are in the thick of it, or stuck on a plateau, it can be really difficult to find motivation. This is one of the main reasons diets fail or why we don’t ever even start. I’m here to tell you that after 6 months of self loathing at this plateau, I’m back, baby! And I’m going to tell you what changed and inspired me and how I will keep this momentum.

groove

In less than two weeks I’ve lost almost 8 lbs. I know that’s a lot. I know that is not a realistic goal to maintain every week. I didn’t starve myself, I didn’t spend hours at the gym, nor did I take any crazy pills or supplements. I made changes to my food intake. (“Diet” sounds so blaaaaaah.)

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts about how I lost all my weight, I’m part of an amazing facebook community of Biggest Losers. They are my squad. I started out with them 2 years ago (13 rounds!), but haven’t always competed. I sat out during the fall and winter once I hit my wedding goal weight. Then a few pounds came back. I wasn’t exercising. I was eating everything that made me feel sluggish like sugar and wheat. As you may have read in my previous posts, I tried not to beat myself up too much about my choices, but I was struggling. Even when I started this blog I was not “in it to win it.” So, a new round of Biggest Loser started almost 2 weeks ago and I decided to really make some changes. I decided it was time to really see if I could break out of this plateau and stop with the yo yo scale changes. As I’ve said before, I suffer with endometriosis. I decided to really help my body by eliminating (I have had a tiiiiiiny bit) dairy which contributes to estrogen (bad news bears for endo). WHOA. I LOVE CHEESE AND DON’T YOU TRY TO TAKE IT FROM ME. I already don’t drink milk, but removing yogurt and cheese has been REALLY FREAKIN HARD. The first couple of days I wanted to cave so badly, but I didn’t.

At the same time that I went hard core on no dairy I also went back to no wheat. I don’t have intolerance and I don’t have Celiac disease, but I hate the way it makes me feel. I get bloated and feel gross so I choose to avoid it.  I went for TRIPLE elimination and committed to no refined sugar again. This seems crazy and impossible, right? Totally doable, but you have to be determined, goal oriented, and realize that every single choice adds up. On day 2 I was ready to throat punch people.

throat punch

At work I’m surrounded by temptation. IT’S EVERYWHERE.  On day 3 I was still craving sugar, but it was getting better. On day 7 I was down 5.8 lbs! HOLY CANOLI! (Dammit, now I want a canoli.)

So here I am- day 12 and I went off the rails on Saturday. I totally ate wheat, deep fried pork, and beef. But you know what? I lost weight! (what’s this magic sorcery I speak of?!) Well, It was because I planned around the indulgences I knew I would partake in at this festival. I ate eggs for breakfast and a green drink and brussel sprout salad for lunch so that I would be able to have the delicious food later. It’s OK to have what you want if you take into account the rest of your intake that day and then get right back on track the next day. I sound so hardcore and it seems like something you think you might not be able to do and I understand, but the whole point of this blog is to show you that you CAN do this. I’m down another almost 2 lbs in 4 more days. I’m proof in the pudding. (why do all these expressions make me want fooooood??)

live yo life

Ok. So when you are thinking about making a change what is one thing you think you can eliminate? It probably won’t be dairy or wheat or even alcohol right off the bat. That can come later, or not at all because your journey is not mine. Everyone is unique and what works for me might not work for you. It’s trial and error. You figure out YOU. I’m here to answer questions, be a resource, act as a motivator, and provide you with delicious recipes that will help you get to your goal.

Carbonated drinks/sodas. If you drink them, start here. Reduction and then elimination. My husband and I were both coca cola junkies only 5 years ago. Wean down per day and then per week. Start with a substitute like flavored sparkling water and I guarantee you that you will lose a couple of pounds within the first 2 weeks. Make water your bff.

Processed foods. Let’s be real, our grandparents didn’t eat shit out of a box and we really shouldn’t either. Convenience and time management have consumed our lives to the point we don’t even know what we are eating or giving our kids. If you can cut out a few things from your pantry like pre packaged rice/pasta/potato boxes, that’s a great start.

Fast Food. Think about how often you actually eat it. Once a day? Twice a day? Only a couple of times a week? Whatever that number is try to reduce it. Eventually it will be easy to choose something else.

Alcohol. I know, I know. It really will help you lose weight if you cut back. There are so many calories in beer. Mixed drinks with tonic water are your best bet. The problem is that no one likes tonic water. That’s where the sugar comes in. The Mixer. I’ve never been a big drinker, but I know a lot of people who have cut back or eliminated drinking (only drink in social situations once in a while) and they have lost a lot of weight just by doing that!

alcohol

This is where I would start.

Cutting sugar is a demon to be wrangled with. If you aren’t there yet I wouldn’t worry, but know that ultimately sugar and junk food is sabotaging every attempt you make to lose weight. When I cut sugar I feel more energized, less achy in these old bones, and it actually improves my mood. Even though honey is very high in glucose I will allow myself that in my sweet treats to curb cravings.  If I could afford a vat of maple syrup, I would choose that as the glycemic index is lower. I avoid things like Agave and coconut sugar because it is very processed. I like dat reeeeeal shit.

sugar

When you get started and create a habit within a matter of a week or so it becomes more manageable. It isn’t always easy. Temptation is always there, but if you go into it thinking you are doing yourself a world of good and fueling your body to fight illness you will keep going. Your head has to be in the game and for so long mine wasn’t anywhere close. Dedication. Persistance. Commitment. Start over and over again if you have to, Lord knows I did.

I’m not even back into the swing of regular exercise yet. I don’t have a lot of time, but I need to make time when I can. I will go here and there and still love to challenge myself.

When you decide it is time to make a change, take your measurements around your body and have someone you trust take before pictures from all four sides (in your underoos), and take a picture of the scale. The number on the scale isn’t the end all be all to your success. How you feel and how your clothes fit are good indicators of change. This is how you will see results. Check your measurements every 6-8 weeks after you are really dedicated. When you see the results, it makes you want to keep going. When you keep going, you get more results. See what I’m getting at here? Have an accountability partner or group. Use tools like DietBet and bet against yourself to lose a certain amount in a certain time and win your own money back and more! Join my accountability group if you need support! Join Weight Watchers. Reach out! Track your food on My Fitness Pal and get a fitness tracker and have a goal # of steps per day. Take a walk if the weather is nice in the evening. Plan a weekend activity that involves moving around more. If you have the means, get a personal trainer, join a gym, take classes, and subscribe to meal prep services. I can help you meal plan with my services. WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET YOU TO BE THE HEALTHIEST YOU.

Join me and BREAK ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE! It was farrrr too long that I got complacent with my journey to health. I am now less than 20 lbs to a normal and healthy BMI. I don’t put too much stock in that scale, but it feels good to know it’s attainable.

ingredient swaps

When it gets hard just know that I’m here! I promise to help you in any way I can to remind you that you are worth it. Your family wants you to be here a long time and feel your best. Help them feel that way too. I’m beyond grateful for the support I receive on a daily basis from my clan. Going it alone is never easy. I read books about people with similar journeys as my own, I am always on Pinterest looking up new recipes, and I love that I can go online to my support community when I struggle.

Start thinking about what you can change. Maybe it’s a salad at lunch. Maybe it’s no more coca cola. Maybe it’s laying off the bread at dinner. Find your motivation and you will find success. I know it.

Over Eaters (Not So) Anonymous

Holidays. OOF.

I woke up this morning with the intention of making healthy recipes to get me through the work week. I knew it was Easter Sunday and that I would be tempted by not so healthy options. “I’m strong,” I told myself all day. I will just eat before I go over to the parents’ house and make my healthy dinner after I get home. I knew I wasn’t exercising today (gym closed for the holiday) and it was raining so I didn’t even go for a walk outside. I slept in. I had a healthy breakfast and lunch. I get to their house. IMMEDIATE FAIL. Usually when I go over there I’m not even tempted by the dozens of sweets, but today I went straight to the cookies. I ate at least 4 right away. It was like a time warp and I was 100 lbs heavier and living at home again. No self control and one cookie turns into another…

cookies

I decided I was going to learn a recipe my mom has made my entire life handed down from my dad’s mom: Mexican mac n cheese. I’ve always eaten it at holidays and today I thought I would just learn to make it and not indulge. IMMEDIATE FAIL. I made it and ate a medium sized portion. With a roll. And ham. And potato salad. I ate a small serving of steamed broccoli to convince myself that it all balanced out. I was full. SO FULL. I don’t eat any of those things ever so eating them all at once was overwhelming. So obviously I ate peach pie, a small piece of chocolate cake and 2 more cookies. GET A GRIP ON YOURSELF!!

I know, I know, it’s a holiday and I don’t eat like that every day (not even really once in a while) so it’s no big deal, right? I get it. I used to eat like that every day (how else did I get to almost 275 lbs??) and I should be glad I take better care of myself now. I am glad. Days like this remind me how important it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I feel simply awful. Drag down, knock out awful.

I need Cher in my life to smack me around.

snap out of it

I am not perfect. The struggle is real. Even when I make all the right choices I can be hard on myself.

Where’s Elsa when you need her?

let-it-go-frozen

Striving for perfection is unrealistic and, frankly, exhausting. I just hate how I feel when I eat poorly. Right now I feel bloated, nauseated, and depleted. The real reason why I’m so disappointed is not that I feel gross right now or that I ate so much today. The real reason I feel badly is because one bad day sometimes spirals me into several bad days, or a bad week and so on. It’s ridiculous to think that because I ate poorly today that I predict I will eat poorly tomorrow, but sugar addiction is real. One taste and I want more. So first thing tomorrow morning my body will be saying that I NEEEEEEEED it. It will be a fight for a couple of days and that Easter candy I told my mom I didn’t need will be calling my name. Throw it away, you say? Yeaaaah, the fat kid in me struggles with that idea.

cadbury

I’m a fat person. Maybe I’m not physically obese anymore and I’m just overweight, but all the tendencies I have towards food and the way I think about it are just like that of an obese person. It is a process and maybe even when I’m a healthy weight I will still have those tendencies. It’s a lifelong struggle that I will be dealing with for years, and possibly the rest of my life.

You are probably saying that I’m overreacting and it was no big deal and I’m making a huge deal out of nothing. That’s all very true; I agree. The only “big deal” is that now I have introduced sugar back into my diet and after struggling all last week to get it out, I’m back on day 1. It’s like resetting the sobriety app on your phone when you are an addict. You have a drink and it’s day 1 all over again.

day 1

Another reason I’m being so very hard on myself is I’m desperately trying to save myself from the pain caused by my endometriosis. I know how wheat, sugar, and dairy affects it and the pain I’ve been having is only going to get worse by feeding it with these inflammatory foods. It’s like poisoning myself when all I want to do is feel better. I like being in control of the things I can actually have control over. This is one of those things and I’m not in control. I can regain it and it will be fine, but for today I feel like I spiraled out.

On days like today I have to remind myself that it was just one meal on one day out of an entire week inside a month of an entire year where I was pretty damn healthy. I just never want to misrepresent to anyone that I’m perfect or that I don’t struggle like every one does. It’s been said to live by the 80%/20% rule. If you make healthy decisions most of the time, it is ok to enjoy things every once in a while. I have to tell myself that expecting perfection is putting far too much pressure on myself. In my heart of hearts I know I’m doing great. I just have to reset the metaphoric app tomorrow and start over on day 1 and tell myself that doing the best I can is damn good enough.

Holidays are celebrations and there will always be food as part of these gatherings. I need to realize that when these days come around I can enjoy the food in moderation and get right back on track afterward. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not gaining back the 100 lbs, right????

winning

What Did I Eat To Lose 100 lbs? (and what helps me maintain)

i love food

We’ve all heard the saying that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise, right? Well, maybe you haven’t, but it’s freakin true. In my previous post regarding how I lost the weight I gave basic insight into the choices I made regarding food along my journey. I get asked this by a lot of people: “what do you eat on a daily basis?” Here’s the thing (and I hate when people say “here’s the thing”), no one way of eating is right for every individual. I’ve said it before and I’ll likely say it over and over, but it comes down to trial and error. You shouldn’t completely remove a food group because I said so or because it’s a fad or because it’s a celebrity “get skinny secret.” What works for one person won’t necessarily work for you. I’m just here to tell you what works for me and also how I’ve changed it up to break through plateaus.

Wheat/Gluten: I will address the gluten free lifestyle in a future post, but I wanted to share my experience briefly. I don’t have Celiac’s disease. I don’t have gluten intolerance/sensitivity. I DO have endometriosis. It is one of the foods to avoid when you have this annoying and often overlooked disease. I removed most wheat from my diet long before I was diagnosed simply as a weight loss aid. I just cut back on all simple carbs, but did eat some wheat. Eventually, when I got really serious about the weight loss, I removed it completely. I could tell when I ate it because the next day my face was puffy, my pants were tighter and I generally felt bloated. By eating no wheat I just feel better and if it helps stave off endometriosis (we’ll see…), then I’m all for it! I do occasionally have sprouted bread.It is maybe once or twice a month. If you’ve never heard about it, check this out: Sprouted Bread

Dairy: Here’s a tricky one. I LOVE CHEESE. I LOVE YOGURT. Dammit dammit dammit. Last year when I fully committed to my diet, I dramatically reduced dairy and it helped me get through a weight loss plateau. As with wheat, dairy is a NO NO with endometriosis simply because it raises your estrogen levels and that is part of the issue with people with endo. I never cut out dairy completely during my weight loss (so far.) I did, however, dramatically reduce it and changed the type I consumed. I don’t drink cow’s milk in my coffee. I do eat feta, parmesan, and some other cheese on occasion. I would typically get my dairy in the form of plain Greek yogurt as either breakfast or dessert. I recently watched a documentary, “Forks Over Knives” and it has made me re think all my dairy and animal based choices. I’m not going 100% in right now because it is such a massive undertaking. I did not have any dairy yesterday  (and only 1 serving of meat) and I won’t again today, but that doesn’t mean I’m ALL IN. YET. I think it would benefit me, not only from a weight loss perspective, but from a health perspective because of my endometriosis. Many people will tell you that you need milk to get calcium, but check it out-How to get calcium without dairy

Sugar: I have really struggled with this one. It is ALSO on the endometriosis NO NO list because it causes so many health problems. This is not a surprise to anyone. It causes inflammation and weight gain- DUH. It’s addictive as a MOFO. I seriously have battled it my entire life. I pretty much subsisted on sugar as a kid/young adult. Looking back on how much I used to eat (processed food/fast food/sweets), I am surprised I didn’t have diabetes growing up. Listen, if you are going to make a change, let it be this one. THIS ONE IS IMPORTANT. You probably know why. Sugar makes you FAT. FATTY FAT FAT! Yes, you can eliminate sugar and still be overweight, but it is a HUGE step in getting healthy. Everything has sugar in it. It is disguised by many names. And, NO, artificial sweeteners are not better!! I started small by removing it from coffee, switching to unsweet tea (*unheard of in the South), and stopped eating packaged sweets (I love you, Nutty Bars.) It can be done! I’m here to tell you this one is the hardest. Your body will tell you that you need it. It will do anything to convince you to cave in. After the 3rd day, you honestly won’t crave it nearly as much. I try. I fail. I try again. I succeed. I eat a piece of candy/cake/etc and I fail. The cycle never ends. I’m on week 2 of no sugar and I’m feeling fabulous! (this does not include small pieces of 85% dark chocolate nor does it include fresh or dried fruit, which all have fructose.) EAT THE FRUIT.  When I eliminate sugar I feel like a completely different person. It’s crazy how different it makes me feel. Try just reducing it by making one or two different choices and remind yourself that you are doing yourself a huge favor! If you want a little push, this will educate you a bit and give you an idea of how : Break your sugar addiction

Need help figuring out how to substitute sugar in a recipe? It’s easy!

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So, yeah. Those are the things I have chosen to reduce/remove from my lifestyle that have helped me lose the weight. I will probably eat this way for the rest of my life because I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I don’t eat “rabbit food,” my food isn’t gross, and it does make me feel amazing! My energy is higher than ever. I ALMOST, ALMOST don’t need coffee (another endo NO NO- BOOOO.)

food-is-love

What does a typical Weekday of eating look like for me?

7:30 AM: Breakfast- Every morning before I even start the coffee I drink warm lemon water with raw apple cider vinegar. Sound great, eh? Well, once you get past the bitterness, it will become part of your routine. I squeeze half a lemon with about ¼ cup ACV in an 8 oz glass of warm water.

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I wait to eat or drink anything after for as long as I can. (I’m not a morning person so I only have so long between alarm and walking out the door.) I have been trying to reduce animal products so I’ve cut back on eggs. However, when I was losing the majority of my weight I would start my day with 2 eggs (EAT THE FREAKIN YOLK, it has all the nutrients) cooked in coconut oil. Sometimes I would have 2 Applegate brand Chicken sausage links, but that was a BIG rarity. My favorite weekend breakfast was a scramble of the 2 eggs, the 2 sausages, diced sautéed sweet potatoes, and spinach all in coconut oil. It is so delicious and it is high in protein, has beneficial fats in the oil, a leafy green, and a complex carbohydrate. It is an excellent choice for breakfast. In addition, these are easy to heat up on a busy morning (if made in advance) egg muffins. You can use bacon/sausage or any combination of veggies and cheese. Kid friendly, adult approved!

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Now that I’m not eating as much animal product, I’ve been eating oatmeal or Chia seed pudding. The oatmeal is NOT instant and did not come out of a little pouch (SUUUUUGGGAAARRR). Oatmeal is so versatile and can be made with an endless amount of flavors. Try this: prep these (I use non dairy milk) the night before for an easy and nutritious breakfast that will keep you full all morning:

Overnight Oats  Check out the flavor combinations! There are an endless amount of ideas for flavoring these! Pinterest has tons.

Or try baked oatmeal: Here are a few ideas, but again, there are so many options!

Baked Peanut Butter and Banana Oatmeal     Blueberry Baked Oatmeal  Crockpot Peach and Blueberry Oatmeal

Make a batch on the weekend and have a small square every morning. I made apple oatmeal this weekend and last weekend I made blueberry coconut. Just remember that when they have added sugar, the recipe is no good. I use honey or maple syrup or even a tiny bit of coconut sugar (even though that is still sugar.)

Want a kid friendly easy and already portioned out oatmeal idea? These are awesome and you can use any flavors you want! Oatmeal cups/muffins

Chia seed pudding may put you off because it is a textural thing. 36 Chia Seed Pudding Recipe How I do it: Using a high speed blender or food processor, I blend about 1 2/3rd cups of unsweetened coconut milk (or other non dairy milk) with a handful of fruit (frozen or fresh), a drizzle of honey, and a ½ teaspoon of real vanilla extract. Once it is all blended I pour it in a jar, add ½ cup of chia seeds and shake. I put it in the fridge and if I’m not going straight to bed I will go back and shake it to see if the consistency is right and so it doesn’t clump. The next morning it is a pudding like consistency. This portion will make enough to share. If you haven’t delved into the world of chia, I highly recommend it.  I know it is expensive, but if you have access to a bulk bin, use those stores.

chia-seeds

10:30AM: Morning snack- I eat every few hours throughout the day. I just find it makes me eat less at major meals, and plus, I get hungry! In the middle of the morning I eat either a handful of olives with some fermented carrot sticks (SO GOOD and easy to make) and a cheese stick or a boiled egg (used to…) Lately I have been having a green juice that I make ahead of time and bring to work with me. It has spinach or kale, 1/3 cucumber, a lemon, a piece of fresh ginger, a ½ cup of mango or pineapple and some fresh herbs for flavor, such as parsley, basil, or mint. It’s freakin fantastic. I will add chia seeds (if I didn’t have any at breakfast) and hemp seeds (which really have no taste, but are so beneficial.) On other days I will have fruit such as a grapefruit or an apple. I also typically drink a cup of plain unsweetened green tea at this time.

Noon/1PM: Lunch- This is where it varies. I always, always, always come to work prepared. I meal prep on the weekends so that I always have a healthy salad side and a portion of a leftover dinner to eat. I don’t have the temptation to go out to lunch with coworkers because I work at a private residence. However, I do have the temptations of all the food in their house. If I come prepared with healthy choices, I’m really giving myself a fighting chance! This weekend I made a raw cucumber and carrot salad with chickpeas, bell pepper and sesame seeds in a light dressing. Here’s the recipe. I actually crave it, that’s how good it is. It probably sounds awful to most people, but it is one of my favorites. I also have a broccoli and apple slaw as an alternate choice this week. If by Friday they are both gone, I will default to a spinach salad with cucumber slices and my homemade Basil salad dressing (Making your own dressing takes less than 5 minutes and is so good and you know every single ingredient!) In addition to my salad, I will have some leftovers from the weekend. I always make a batch of soup, stew, or vegetarian dish that makes many portions. Sometimes it is curry, vegetable soup, chicken and rice soup, or an enchilada casserole with black beans, corn, quinoa and taco meat.  This week I made a quinoa dish with Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, dried cranberries (apple juice sweetened), and sunflower seeds. I can’t wait for lunch today!! I also made garlic spaghetti squash with broccoli and parmesan for other days so I don’t burn out on the same lunch.

3/4PM: Snack- Around this time I may not be hungry depending on how late I ate my lunch. If I am hungry I will eat an apple or some dried fruit, celery with nut butter, a couple handfuls of a trail mix I make consisting of unsweetened coconut, raisins, raw cashews or walnuts, and raw sunflower seeds. I usually make a paleo friendly treat on the weekends as well to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Try these recipes for sweet energy ball ideas!

This may not be the best thing to aid in weight loss, but I know that if my husband and I don’t have access to something mildy resembling a cookie or dessert, we will likely both seek out processed and junky foods (or kill each other.) Some of my favorites are muffins made with oat or coconut flour. There are many variations such as cinnamon apple, pumpkin, and even one with chocolate chips that I will splurge on.

Cinnamon Muffins made with Coconut Flour  Pumpkin muffins made with oat flour  Apple Cinnamon muffins made with coconut flour

They keep well in the freezer and are defrosted and ready to eat by mid afternoon. If I don’t have a muffin, it is likely a no bake treat made up of the trail mix combined with oats and nut butter rolled into little balls (and stored in an old egg carton for convenience!) There’s always something mildly sweet around so that I don’t drive to the store and eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s. It’s ok to have a little. In all likelihood if you don’t allow it, you will go big and regret it. Some people are the opposite. Some people have to completely remove all things that could be a trigger food or a temptation. I get it. I’m not one of  those people. I’m pretty strict in all other aspects so I’m not going to beat myself up over having some oatmeal and peanut butter cookies sweetened with honey-I could be doing SO much worse. Check out my Dessert Pinterest Board for MOSTLY (ya gotta have some indulgences) healthy ideas.

At this time of day I will also drink 8 oz of my homemade kombucha. You might not even know what that is. It’s ok. I didn’t know either a few years ago. It is a fermented tea. I make it every 2 weeks. I use frozen fruit, lemon juice, and ginger to flavor mine. Here’s some info if you are curious: 7 reasons to drink Kombucha every day!  Winter15_Kombucha Page

6:30PM: Dinner- My husband is a superstar. I meal plan a week in advance, buy all the groceries, write out the plan on the fridge notepad and he 99% of the time has it ready for when I walk in the door. I know how unrealistic that sounds to many of you. I am truly a freakin lucky lady. When I switched jobs last summer it meant longer days and not getting home in time to have dinner ready. I am a stickler for eating by a certain time. With kids, I would never be able to set that time limit though. I don’t like to eat after 7/7:30. I like to give myself time to digest all my food at least 3 hours before bed. It is a luxury not many have. When life is so crazy and hectic and the laundry is piling up, the kids have projects and homework, your husband has the flu, and the car broke down, of course nothing will ever be perfect. At that point you are just lucky to eat and feed the kids at all! My situation is unique and I am grateful every single day for our silly little predictable routine and the level of awesome that he brings to my life.

We usually eat a meat 4-5 times a week (we’ll see how this starts to change), a vegetable, and sometimes a complex carb. I Like to have leftovers so that we have enough for the week’s lunches if we run out of stuff I made on the weekend. This week’s plan looks *something* like this:

M: Chinese green beans and turkey in a hoison sauce (which is so easy to make) over rice. If I had a lot of carbs throughout the day, I’ll skip the rice.

T: Usually turkey tacos. I skip the tortilla and eat my meat (with green chiles and onions) over a bed of spinach or lettuce wraps with cilantro and green onions! *sometimes I splurge and use plain Greek yogurt as sour cream. YUM.

W: I’ll sometimes bring a rotisserie chicken home (or we have baked chicken) and have it with a veggie side like broccoli, roasted cauliflower or balsamic glazed carrots. *no leftovers on these nights

T: Balsamic marinated chicken tenders over spinach with fresh strawberries, bacon, feta cheese and sunflower seeds (or almonds, but I’m allergic. DRAT.) This is a very delicious dinner. I mean, lick the plate good.

F: Sometimes we go out to eat. That’s like 1 out of every 8 Fridays though. This week we aren’t planning anything so we are having sweet potato noodles (cut with a spiralizer) with sautéed kale and chicken sausage. I’m excited to try this one; it’s new!

If I’m hungry-like starving- a couple of hours after dinner, I’ll allow myself to eat. It’s usually small, like fruit (if I haven’t already had a lot during the day) or a paleo dessert treat (again, if I haven’t already had one) or a small square of really dark chocolate. It’s not good to eat sugar right before bed as it can disrupt sleep and the ability to fall asleep.

That’s it! The realllllly long answer to the question of what the hell do I eat every day! I know you must be thinking that sounds so radically different that the lifestyle you may know, but let me tell you- I never in a million years would believe that I could live off of such nutrient dense, yet delicious whole foods. I ate fast/fried food 3 times a day just a few years ago. I ate junk, sodas, and all that crap not that long ago. Over the years I’ve found a way of doing things that has led me to where I am right now. I’m not done either. I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how my diet may fluctuate. I only know that I don’t live to eat anymore, I eat to live. I STILL LOVE FOOD. I  think about food most of the day. I look at a menu in advance before I go out to eat. It’s just the way I feel most prepared to tackle the temptations we all encounter.

Whether you can identify with my meal plan or it seems like a way of torturing yourself, I can say that you have to start somewhere. You have to make small decisions that will change the way you look at food. Every choice is either helping you get to your goal or keeping you stuck where you are. Eliminate or reduce something. Add in something you’ve never tried before.

Just DO it. (brought to you by NIKE. Not really, I’m just a child of the 80s/90s and can’t help myself.)

Feel free to check out my Pinterest page for tons of healthy recipes!

 

 

Why My Failures This Week Don’t Make Me A Failure

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I’m going off the rails a little bit here. I had a grand plan for a blog topic this week and I’ve completely abandoned it. I needed to. I need to keep it real. If I’m going to be truly honest with myself I need to be honest 100%.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, and it’s not necessarily a new thing either. When you lose a bunch of weight and every one knows about it you want to come across as the  rockstar that they all think you are.

NEWSFLASH: I’m human. I make mistakes. Huge ones. I don’t follow my own advice all the time and I make bad decisions for my health regularly.  Why is this such a big deal? It’s because of the pressure. I want to live up to the idealized version of myself that I broadcast and project. I want to be that person who is a role model for others and I want to be proud of myself. Honestly, at the end of the day I AM proud of myself, but I am far too critical.

This week the struggle has been real. I don’t have a reason or an excuse. I did more physical activity than I have in 12 weeks prior, but my eating has been kinda all over the place. After the wedding 4 months ago, the inevitable happened: I stopped caring as much. 3 weeks after the wedding I had an unexpected surgery and I could not work out for a month. No big deal. Except I didn’t really start working out for 2 months. I mean, I went to the gym a handful of times after the Dr cleared me, but I wasn’t diligent. February rolled around and I decided it was time to get back into a routine. I was able to start going to the gym at least 3 times a week which was better than I had done since November. My eating was on track(ish) and after a few indulgent meals out I gained and lost the same 4 lbs. 2 weeks ago I decided to take the bull by the horns and really commit. I was going to stay under my calorie goal (I track calories when I really have been off track to help me figure out about how much I’m eating every day),  I was going to cut out refined sugars, be strict on my no wheat (I hate the way it makes me bloat), and I was going to be consistent with exercise. After all, these are the keys to my success in losing 100 lbs. I stayed strong for about a week. I was feeling freakin great! My energy was up, my routine was great, my clothes were fitting better, and the scale was kind of stagnating. Then last week I decided to eat some cake. The next day I decided to eat cake again. 4 days later and I had eaten a small piece of cake every single day. I don’t even keep things like that in my house because of this problem, but if it is near me at any point I totally lose will power and justify that it’s ok. On friday I ate an oreo, a mini reece’s peanut butter cup, and some cake and I almost burst into tears.

I know what you are thinking. That’s ridiculous. To me, it was such a disappointment. I was a disappointment. Here I was, kicking ass and feeling great and I let myself be defeated by sugar. I had been so strong for months and months in 2015 and now I just can’t get on board. The cravings are almost unbearable. After the 3rd day it usually gets so much easier to not even be tempted. Here’s the thing: I have become way, way too hard on myself. I am beating myself up over ONE oreo and a small piece of cake. (well, after 4 days it was a big piece total.)

Last week I was asked a very interesting question: Do you think you will ever get to a point where you eat something (off your “diet”) and not feel guilt?

Hmph. I was honest. I said “I really don’t know because I’m so far from that moment that I can’t even imagine it.” HOLY SHIT. It’s like a form of an eating disorder. It’s an emotionally traumatic experience to eat a freakin piece of cake or a cookie? WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUUUUUDGE? When did I let this happen and more importantly, how am I going to stop this way of thinking??

026THIS.

Often people don’t realize that the emotional aspects of losing a bunch of weight and keeping it off is as difficult as the physical part of the journey. I have become a version of myself that I don’t recognize from the outside and sometimes from the inside. It’s the most bizarre feeling to look in the mirror and still see a morbidly obese person, yet that’s not you anymore. It’s even more bizarre when you feel such an insane level of guilt over eating something that was once a regular part of your life. It’s just a cookie. IT’S JUST A COOKIE. But it represents something. It means I’m not doing the best I can. It means my will power isn’t where it should be. It means all these tiny failures add up to over all failure. BUT IT DOESN’T MEAN I’M A FAILURE.

I’m a freakin badass. I lost 100 lbs. I’ve kept it off for 6 months. I work out and watch what I eat 90% of the time. Do I have a long way to go before I want to start maintaining? Yes. Do I have a lot to learn about being gentle with myself? Definitely. Am I going to give up? HELL NO.

It is days like these where it is critical that I stop and think about how far I’ve come. I’ve likely saved myself from many obesity related diseases and hopefully have added years to my life. All I know for sure is that I’m never going back. I’m going to eat cake at my best friend’s birthday party (or in last night’s case, a couple of pieces) and it’s going to be ok. I’m going to learn that it’s totally acceptable to not be the idealized version of myself and that no one is judging me. I am my own worst critic.

 

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Every day is a step towards my goal. Whatever that may be. Whether it is eliminating sugar (day 1 was today…again) or trying a new exercise that forces me out of my comfort zone (Cardio Fusion class today was a blast), I am going to move forward. I can’t sit around and regret decisions or wonder if I hadn’t eaten that cake how many pounds I would have lost. That’s a waste of energy . It’s doing a disservice to myself and AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR DAT. I want to be an example to others who are struggling to get started or who are struggling to find motivation, but I have to keep it real. Every day is a struggle. It’s never going to be easy. That’s the part you have to accept- when you challenge yourself, you grow as a person. If you work really hard and stay focused, you see the results you want. One oreo is not going to change that. 143

Loving yourself despite making bad decisions is essential to self care. When you treat yourself the way I have been treating myself you are being counterproductive. You end up placing all your energy on guilt and blame rather than focusing on what you are doing right and what you can do in the future. It isn’t about the number on the scale. It isn’t about crazy obsession over what you did/didn’t eat. It’s about making the decision to at least give a shit. Care deeply and passionately about yourself. Love yourself enough to decide that being the best version of yourself is worth all the challenges and bullshit to get there. When you feel like giving up, just be gentle on yourself. If a friend came to you and told you the things you tell yourself would you tell them that they suck and that they are a failure? I sure as hell hope not because you are not the kind of person I would want to be around.

 

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It’s like starting all over again every once in a while. I feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel like all my bad decisions are adding up. I feel like I’m a disappointment to myself and more importantly to the people who look up to me. I decided today that I don’t deserve the kind of treatment I’ve been giving myself. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to be perfect this week, nor does it mean that if I slip up I won’t be kind of disappointed in myself. It means that I’m human and I can’t live the rest of my life being afraid to eat the damn cake. It’s going to happen. I’m going to eat it and I will enjoy it. I want to get to the point where every single day I’m making decisions that lead me to the best and most healthy version of myself that I can be. I don’t just mean skinny. I mean emotionally healthy. I will get there. This isn’t the end of the line for me. I won’t just stop here and accept this as where my journey ends. Hell, my journey has just begun.

I’m a freakin badass and no piece of cake is going to make me think otherwise.

Setting Up Your Kitchen For Success

It’s a pretty well known fact that eating out at a restaurant is costly, the portions are too big, and you don’t exactly know what you are eating. Don’t get me wrong- I LOVE to eat out, but on occasion. I still splurge and get dessert (ahem, Carrot Cake last weekend), but it is a rarity. Flashback to 10 years ago and I spent my weekends grabbing fast food, hanging out with friends, going to concerts, drinking, etc. Maybe I just got old ( I still go to concerts and hang out with friends), but these days my weekend time is spent in the kitchen. It is my happy place. I value the time I spend because I know that it is well worth the effort to prep my meals and snacks for the week in order to eat well, avoid temptation of eating out or eating junk. Yes, it takes a few hours of dedication and if I didn’t have help from my husband with cleaning, shopping, running to the farmer’s market, and executing these dishes when I work late it would be nearly impossible. I also realize that having children really puts a kink into devoting as much time as I do in the kitchen. I get that, but while I do have the time I sure as hell am going to use it to my advantage. It’s almost a second job in a sense, but while I’m not getting paid I am still reaping the rewards.

The biggest perk to setting up your kitchen for success is that you have all the tools to help you stay on track. I know many people who have a crockpot that forget it exists and never even use it. I was one of those people, but now I use it all the time. We all own gadgets and gizmos that just take up space in drawers and cabinets. I want to remind you that those tools can be really great if you make them part of your cooking again.

Benefits of cooking at home:

  • Keeps costs down. I meal plan for a month for a family of 2 and spend roughly $600 a month on groceries. That seems like a lot. I do eat a lot of organic produce and sometimes go waaaaay over board at Whole Paycheck, but I’d rather eat well than have to pay for medicine and Dr visits because my blood pressure is high or my cholesterol is through the roof. (Although I can’t control other factors which may lead me to the Dr, I like to control what I can.) The math looks like this for 2 people: 6 meals a day for 31 days is 186 meals. 600 divided by 186= $3.23 a meal. That’s without snacks! I can tell you for a fact that you cannot go to a restaurant and order nutrient dense, delicious, healthy food for that price!
  • You know exactly what you are eating. Even if you go to a restaurant and order a salad (let’s be honest, most restaurant salads have more calories than a dessert), you don’t know what ingredients went into the dressing or how much sugar is in it or what kind of oil they used to cook the meat in, etc. I like knowing what is in my food. I like knowing where my meat and produce came from. No, I don’t KNOW the chicken I ate, but I like to know that it was raised antibiotic free at the VERY least. Even ordering something “on the light side” of the menu can be misleading. Fat Free and Sugar Free are just code words for chemical shit storm. Newsflash: a lot of fats are actually GOOD for you! Artificial sweeteners are not! So, yeah, call me extreme, call me picky, but I don’t want something covered in canola oil, drowned in heavy cream, nor do I want boat loads of hidden sugars when I just ordered a salad.
  • Leftovers!! I cannot stress this enough. If you are trying to lose weight and are eating out at lunch with the peeps from the office every day, the struggle will be worse. I’m not saying you can’t go once a week, just be reasonable about it. Pass on the chips and queso, order soup and salad, no fries and substitute steamed veggies. It can be done, but it also goes back to my point about keeping costs down. I always make a large batch of soup, stew, or a healthy casserole on Sunday so I have a couple of days (for both of us) of leftovers for lunch. It is seriously just as delicious the next day plus I hate wasting food- if it’s in my fridge it’s going to get eaten!
  • Portion Control. We have all seen the pictures online about the size of restaurant portions compared side by side with what we should be consuming. It’s usually three times what you should be having! I know I’m guilty of wanting to eat all of the deliciousness they bring me as I’m distracted by conversation and continually shoveling food into my mouth long after I’m full. They say it’s a good idea to box up half your food before you even begin eating… I’m working on that. 😉 Also, just being mindful of how full you are while you are eating will help you slow down and stop. Again, I’m working on that. In addition, it is a good idea to eat (at home) on a smaller plate. When you serve on a big plate, the portion looks tiny so you tend to pile it on.

What Are My Must Have Tools In The Kitchen?

  1. A good set of knives. I can speak from experience that using old, dull knives is just going to lead to frustration. Invest in some quality knives because if you are committing to time in the kitchen you’re going to be cutting a lot of vegetables. It’s worth it.
  2. Crockpot. A lot of people have them, but don’t utilize them nearly enough. I actually want two. We make homemade bone broth around the clock. In a future post I will talk about the health benefits of ingesting it, but for now I will simply say it is a gamechanger. Plus, the pups really like some hot broth on their foodies at night. 🙂 There are so many easy and healthy recipes for the crockpot. If you have the veggies chopped and the meat defrosted the night before, you can literally throw it in there in five minutes before leaving for work and set it for 8 hours on low. Even if you won’t be home for 9 hours, most crockpots have a setting that switches to keep warm after the timer is done. I have run into some issues with chicken breasts drying out, so I recommend thighs or bone in breasts when cooking chicken.
  3. Big Stock Pot. If you are like me, you are going to make a lot of soups in the winter and a 6 QT pot is key. We recently got a fabulous dutch oven (thank you wedding registry!), and it is totally awesome. In addition, we have a stainless steel one that is great as well.
  4. Metal strainers of different sizes. I bring home a lot of vegetables and I need to wash them and plastic is ok for that. Unfortunately, plastic, when heated, leaches chemicals into your food, so when straining pasta or anything coming out of boiling or hot water you should really use metal. I recommend the mesh ones with the tiny holes because tiny pieces don’t end up falling out. They are also great for rinsing brown rice and quinoa before you cook (which they require.)
  5. Wooden Spoons. These are taking over my home! It’s like they are multiplying! As I mentioned, using plastic in a high heat scenario is not a good idea. Metal utensils can scratch and damage certain cookware as well. Wooden utensils of all varieties are a much better option.
  6. Cutting Boards. I use these so often and it’s really important to keep your meat and vegetable/fruit cutting boards separate for obvious contamination reasons. If you have wooden cutting boards it is a good idea to sanitize/deoderize them and oil them to keep them in good shape.

Here’s a how to from ApartmentTherapy.com

Materials:

  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Coarse Sea Salt
  • One lemon
  • Mineral oil

Clean:

1: Use a damp cloth or paper towel to wipe the board with a small amount of vinegar and water to loosen any leftover food residue and disinfect the board.

2: Wipe the board with Hydrogen Peroxide. This will remove any remaining bacteria.

Deodorize:

1: Sprinkle coarse sea salt all over the board. I will often let the salt sit overnight so it can draw out any lingering bacteria.

2: Cut a lemon in half and use each piece to work the salt around the board. Be sure to juice the lemon as you are scrubbing. Let the lemon juice/salt mixture sit on your board for 5-10 minutes before wiping away with a damp cloth.

Condition:

The amount of usage your board sees and the climate where you live will determine how often your board needs conditioned. I use mine daily and live in a more humid environment, so I’m only conditioning 3-4 times a year, while our friends in Colorado should probably be conditioning their wood boards once a month. This conditioning method is simple, inexpensive and will keep your boards looking gorgeous!

1: Apply the mineral oil to your board with a soft cloth (Walnut oil, and almond oil are good alternatives, but stay away from olive or vegetable oils, as they turn rancid quickly). Wipe down the board, going with the grain, making sure to condition all areas including the sides and the back of the board.

2: Buff the oil into the board with a dry cloth. I used a rag from an old cotton t-shirt and it worked great!

clean wood cutting boardThis is without the mineral oil

7. Cast Iron Skillet and Stainless Steel Cookware

cast iron careTaking care of them is a MUST.

Benefits of Cooking with Cast Iron from LAHealthyLiving.com

1. It supplies you with Iron. Cast iron cookware is the only cookware that provides you with nutritional benefits. It releases a small amount of iron into food every time you cook. Cooking food with cast iron will help boost your iron levels especially when you are cooking with highly acid foods like tomatoes.

2. It is toxic free. Cast iron cookware is absolutely safe, unlike most non stick pans that release toxins into food once scratched (and they always get scratched).

3. Food comes out tastier. Not only does pre-seasoned cast iron cookware require less oil to cook with, but the food comes out flavored. You can get the best crust on your food and it simply tastes much better.

4. It is very durable. With proper care, cast iron cookware can last a lifetime. You can re-season and recondition it as many times as you want.

5. It’s inexpensive.  You can buy a new, pre-seasoned cast iron skillet for as low as $20.00.  That’s pretty cheap for a life time investment that even your grandchildren can inherit one day.

6. Easy to clean. Unlike other cookware, you don’t need to use soap when washing cast iron.  All you need is a non-abrasive sponge and hot water.

7. It’s been used for thousands of years. Cast iron pans have been used for more than 2,500 years. Cast iron was first made during the 4th century B.C. in China and later spread to England in the 12th century. Cast iron pans became popular in the United States during the 18th century.

8. It’s non stick. A properly seasoned cast iron skillet is naturally non-stick. This is because the oils from previous cooking have been built up which makes a natural non-stick coating on the pans.

9. Heating benefits. Cast iron cookware distributes heat very evenly. Most other non stick pants can not be used on high heat as their thin metal is not able to distribute heat quickly

10. Can be used on your stove top, oven, or charcoal grill. Cast iron cookware can be used inside the oven and even on top of a charcoal grill as it can withstand various heating levels without causing damage to the shape of the cookware.

Find out how to recondition your cast iron here: IBelieveICanFry.com

Another reason to use cast iron (and stainless steel) is due to the toxicity of cooking with Nonstick cookware. Yes, I know, it’s easy to clean and seems to do such a darn good job of cooking your eggs just perfectly, but it’s bad news bears. 

Let one of my favorite health experts, Dr. Mercola break it down for you:

When heated, non-stick cookware becomes a source of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a long-chain perfluorinated chemical linked to a range of health problems, including thyroid disease, infertility in women, and organ damage and developmental and reproductive problems in lab animals.

Non-Stick Cookware Release Toxic Fumes

In studies of heated non-stick pans on conventional stovetops, commissioned by the consumer watchdog organization Environmental Working Group (EWG),it only took two to five minutes of heating to reach temperatures at which dangerous toxins were produced.

The coating begins to break down and release toxins into the air at 464 degrees Fahrenheit. When the pot or pan reaches 680 degrees F, they release at least six toxic gasses, including two carcinogens (PFOA and TFE), and monofluoroacetic acid (MFA), a chemical warfare agent that is deadly to humans even at low doses.

say no to nonstick

Stainless steel is my most used cookware. It heats quickly and evenly, but it can be a pain in the booty to clean.

Pullingcurls.com  explains it best:

One of my VERY favorite things is how well meat browns.  I remember watching a cooking show where they talked about how fond doesn’t develop well in a non-stick pan and I thought that was ludicrous because my meat browned just fine.  I was wrong.  These pans do it SO much better, and I can see — when I’m up to making  fancy sauce like that, it will taste better. {fyi, fond is the brown bits at the bottom of the pan that you often de-glaze and whisk into your sauce}. I can use whatever utensil I want.  I am sick of plastic spatulas just not being up to the sturdy tasks I wish they were.  Darn you bendy-plastic-spatulas, be gone with you! 

It really isn’t that hard to clean, and the MAIN benefit is you feel like you can REALLY clean it.  I get out the ol’ copper scrubby if I need to.  You could never do that with non-stick when food stuck — you were just trying and trying with the ol’ blue sponge.  Of course, before I was sometimes wondering if it was stuck food or peeling non-stick.  No issue with that now.  I just also make sure that I clean it while it’s hot. I had read to get it HOT before you put a protein in it, and I agree.  If you stick a protein in with a cold pan it will be harder to clean then if you get it hot.  I tend to heat mine on high for a couple of minutes, add some oil (either with a spray bottle or just a bit of butter.)

8. Glass Containers. After reading a lot about plastic (especially heating it), I’ve switched over to storing almost all of my food in glass. I still have those confounded mismatched plastic storage containers, but rarely use them. I store my sunflower seeds, rice, quinoa, lentils, and chia seeds in glass now. BONUS: I re purpose honey jars (we eat a lot of honey!)

glass jars

My Blessed life gives some great reasons why you should make the switch to glass:

  1. For Health’s Sake

With all the information available on the dangers of BPA {Bisphenol A} in plastics, I’m more than happy to avoid storing my food in plastic containers to avoid any hormone disruptors or any other such crazy stuff.

2. Easy To Clean 

I love that my glass pieces come out of the dishwasher feeling clean, smelling clean and looking sparkling clean. Plastic doesn’t do good things when heated up and washing plastic by hand has never worked well for me. The plastic always felt like it had a residue on it.

3. Cost Effective

While the initial investment of glass food storage is more than plastic, the longevity of glass exponentially pays for itself in the long haul. To offset the cost, I asked for Pyrex sets for Christmas and birthdays. My collection grew quickly but without hurting my pocketbook!

4. No Exploding Plastics Cabinet

Oh my word! When we were using plastic, I would open the cabinet and containers and lids jumped out at me almost every time. I love using glass because they stack nicely, they are heavier and there is no explosion when I open the cabinet door. Ha!

5. Multi-Purpose ContainersOne of my favorite reasons to love glass so much is because I can bake, serve, store, re-heat and/or freeze all in the same container. Ah! Do you GET what I’m saying??? LESS dishes to wash! Yes!

6. Safe To Re-Heat in the Oven {or microwave if you have one}

When we used plastic containers, we had to transfer food to glass containers to re-heat in the oven and we should have always transferred food before  microwaving too, but that didn’t always happen. We don’t own a microwave now {Yes, I’m serious. Yes, we do survive and thrive.}, but glass is an excellent, safe option for re-heating food if you do.

Here’s a great choice to get started: 10 piece Pyrex set or if you need more, 14 piece Pyrex set

As I mentioned before, it is dangerous to heat plastic and here is a great breakdown of why microwave + plastic is no bueno: (via LA Healthy Living)

What’s Lurking in Your Plastic Containers?

Depending on what product you’re using, your plastic might contain phthalates, for starters. Phthalates are a group of “gender-bending” chemicals causing males of many species to become more female.

These chemicals have disrupted the endocrine systems of wildlife, causing testicular cancer, genital deformations, low sperm counts, and infertility in a number of species, including polar bears, deer, whales, and otters, just to name a few. In humans, phthalates have been linked to preterm birth and neurobehavioral problems in infants after in-utero exposure. They’ve also been found to increase blood pressure levels, and high urinary levels are associated with insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetesPlastic containers may also contain bisphenol-A (BPA) or any one of its similar “replacement” chemicals, including BPS (there’s also Bisphenol B, C, E, F, G, M. P, PH, TMC, and Z).

While the replacement chemicals haven’t been widely studied, BPA is a known endocrine disruptor that’s been linked to a number of health concerns, particularly in pregnant women, fetuses, and young children, but also in adults, including:

Structural damage to your brain Changes in gender-specific behavior and abnormal sexual behavior
Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, ovarian dysfunction, and infertility
Increased fat formation and risk of obesity Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
Altered immune function Increased prostate size and decreased sperm production

Heating Accelerates the Transfer of Chemicals to Your Food

In a study of common plastic products, 70 percent tested positive for estrogenic activity, which means they’re capable of disrupting your hormone levels.Under real-world conditions like running the plastics through a dishwasher or heating them in a microwave, 95 percent tested positive for estrogenic, hormone-disrupting activity. While regular use, such as washing in a dishwasher and scratches, has been found to increase the rate of chemical leaching, heat appears to be the worst offender of all, increasing the rate of chemical transfer by up to 55-fold.In the US, the National Institute of Environmental Health Science recommends consumers avoid microwaving food in plastic containers because heat increases the likelihood of chemical leaching.

I would expand this to say that there is really no such thing as “microwave-safe” plastic. There are many chemicals that could potentially leach into your food, and it’s unclear which are tested for and what levels are deemed “safe” for consumption.

For instance, the Nutrition Action Newsletter reported the leakage of numerous toxic chemicals from the packaging of common microwavable foods, including pizzas and popcorn. Chemicals included polyethylene terephthalate (PET), benzene, toluene, and xylene.

Microwaving fatty foods in plastic containers also leads to the release of dioxins and other toxins into your food.You’re far better off heating your food in glass or ceramic containers – and not in a microwave at all.

Sorry to drop all that science on you, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed and spread to all. plus… SCIENCE!

Ok. whew. So those are the things I think are pretty much essential to getting your kitchen ready for cooking at home on a regular basis. Now I will share with you some of the tools that have changed my life, but are optional.

OPTIONAL COOKING TOOLS, BUT WORTH IT!

  1. Sil Pat (silicone cooking sheet)

silpat This bad boy changed my life.

This thing is freakin awesome. It’s so worth the $20 bucks. It’s easy to clean, easy to store (roll it up and tuck it away), and it is so versatile. We use it almost every night. Roasting vegetables, baking treats (for the dogs, too), and if I ever wanted to I could totally make some melted chocolate indulgences and freeze them on here.

My favorite uses for a silicone baking mat: (Via Fabulessly Frugal

  • Replaces parchment paper in almost every recipe (less waste and less money)
  • Perfect for even baking
  • Great for caramel apples 
  • Makes homemade pie crust a breeze (roll it out and think no sticking)
  • Great for dipping chocolates

In addition to the silicone baking sheet, silicone muffin tin liners are a great investment as well. No sticking, no wasting paper/foil, and no running out when you need them!

silicone cups

2. High Speed Blender. Ok, y’all, this one is not even remotely optional to me anymore. It is my favorite thing in the kitchen, hands down. I know how freakin expensive they are and if I wasn’t fortunate enough to have been gifted one, I probably wouldn’t own it. I’m going to say it loud and proud- I LOVE MY VITAMIX. It rocks my friggin socks! I make salad dressings, nut butters, soups, smoothies, sauces, flour, grind coffee beans, and even frozen sorbets! This thing gets shit done.

Here is a link to purchasing refurbised to keep costs down: Blender Babes

There is much debate over which high speed blender is best and there may be more than one option when you research an investment such as this. Here is a comparison between the Vitamix and the Blendtec: Vitamix Vs BlendTec There are a lot of videos out there to help you decide which one is right for you, but I gotta say that it is something that has changed a lot for me in my kitchen.

3. Spiralizer. What’s that you say? What the hell is a spiralizer? Well, it just so happens it is a super awesome tool to help you replace noodles with vegetables! Crazy, I know. Why would you want to do that? Well, if you can’t control yourself when it comes to eating carbs or you want a yummy salad, this is a great substitute.

zoodle saladMy beautiful raw zucchini salad

Check out a demonstration here: Spiralizer in Action

I own the Vegetti Pro, and for $25 it is totally reasonable, easy to clean, and easy to use. I spiralize ALL THE THINGS: zucchini, squash, cucumber, sweet potato, carrot, and more! Check out my Spiralized Pinterest Board for recipe ideas! This thing is a close 2nd to my favorite thing in the kitchen and has helped me cut back on those pound packing carbs that I would love to eat piles of. (Don’t forget that complex carbs are good for you in moderation, of course!)

3. Metal Vegetable Steamer. This thing is new in my life and I don’t know how I lived without it. It’s such a cheap tool, but makes it so much easier to boil, steam, and strain vegetables (and boiled eggs.) We had a silicone one, but it wore out over time and this new one is awesome. (Again, wedding registry FOR THE WIN.) Just place it in the bottom of the pot, fill with a little water, add veggies, cover and steam. When they are done, simply pull it out (careful, it’s hot) and it drains on it’s own!

steamer basketSilicone version

veggie steamerMy new love.

Buy one here or at most kitchen supply retailers.

4. Toaster Oven. I’m sure you’ve heard things about microwaves being unsafe before or even that it causes your food to lose nutritional value. I still own one. I don’t really use it much; however, it is pretty much impossible to avoid it if you plan on taking leftovers with you to work for lunch. I am lucky enough that I work in a private residence so I have access to an oven and a stove top. That being said, I’m usually rushed for lunch and pop it in the microwave. DOH. I shake my head at myself.  We recently received a toaster oven as a wedding present (no, seriously, get married for the STUFFFFF. I kid, I kid…) I love having a 2nd oven for baking things small enough to fit in there. I love reheating my egg cups and they don’t get all soggy. I love having the option to not use my giant, old, and unreliable oven (if it says bake at 350 for 30 minutes I seriously bake at 325 for 10 and it’s almost burnt.) My toaster oven is my new friend.

Here is a link about dangers of microwaves from Dr. Mercola.

There is no widely accepted consensus regarding the real detriments of using a microwave, so it’s basically a judgment call.

5. Mandolin. MAN- those things are sharp! I recently started using one to shred and julienne some fruits and veggies since I’m trying to eat more raw foods. I purchased a mandolin slicer at TJ MAXX for less than 20 bucks. It sat in the cabinet for a while until I realized how efficient those bad boys are! I have been using it more lately for a consistent thickness in my slicing. BE CAREFUL! You have to really pay attention when using these as they can be very dangerous. If you are looking to save time when chopping, this is a great affordable investment.

mandolin

6. Immersion Blender. I confess, I don’t have one. BOY do I want one! I have been on a soup kick this winter (yes, even in 70 degree Louisiana winter) and it sure would have been handy to have one for all the blending mess I’ve been making. I just transfer to my vitamix and then have to dirty another pot to move the blended soup into afterwards. This will be my next gadget purchase. (now I just need to knock out a wall for more storage space.)

7. Grill Pan/ George Foreman Grill.  Who doesn’t love to grill? Seriously. It’s delicious. It smells like heaven. It gives food such a wonderful taste. Unfortunately, not everyone has a nice grill or has nice enough weather year round *couch, Louisiana 100 degree summers, cough* to be able to enjoy grilled foods all the time. We recently got a cast iron grill pan and we love it. We also have a George Foreman which is handy because it is easy to clean and helps remove a lot of the fat from meat *when I actually splurge and eat beef.*

But did you know the dangerous side of grilling? Up until a few years ago I never knew most of this information.

Check out these tips from The Examiner:

The cancer risk from grilling is real, but there are ways to lower that risk.

The combination of meat with intense heat and a high flame is the culprit. Whether you are using red meat, poultry or seafood, substances in the muscle proteins of these foods react under high heat to form carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs can damage the DNA of our genes, beginning the process of cancer development.

Cook at Lower Temperatures
This is the easiest way to decrease the formation of carcinogenic HCAs. You do not need to cook that steak over a blazing fire – use a lower temperature and you’ll get the same great taste and less risk. Turn the gas down or wait for charcoal to become low-burning embers.

Raise the Grilling Surface
When you raise the grilling surface from the heat source, you can also reduce black char that can form on meat. This char has a high carcinogen content. That is not a healthy side dish that you want to serve.

Use a Meat Thermometer
Buy an instant-read thermometer to be sure meat is thoroughly cooked but don’t cook it past that point. If you like your 
food well-well done, you might want to change that. The further you cook meat past that point, the more HCAs will form. A higher consumption of well-done meat is linked with two to five times more colon cancer and two to three times more breast cancer.

Use Rosemary
That’s right, rosemary. A recent study indicates that mixing some rosemary extract into your burgers before grilling them reduces the production of high-heat compounds by up to 90 percent. Great taste and an added benefit of lowering your cancer risk.

Grill Fruit and Vegetables
Yes, that grilled meat is delicious, but did you know that if you grill fruit and vegetables, they don’t form dangerous HCA’s? Plus they supply a bunch of cancer-fighting nutrients. Try peaches, pineapples, mangoes, zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant and you’ll be on your way to grilling healthy.

Also, Mind Body Green has some useful information:

If you grill any meat at all at very high temperatures, it will naturally produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs, also found in cigarette smoke). This results from the combination of creatine (an amino acid) and sugars, which are both found naturally in meats.

We’ve known about these cancer-causing agents since 2002, and since then three more HCAs caused by grilling meat have been added to the list.
In fact, the total HCA content will depend on how well-done you take your meat, and also what kind you’re eating.

Some facts to keep in mind:

  • Well-done meat has 3.5 times more HCA than medium-rare meat.
  • When you compare different types of meats, sadly and tragically the highest concentration comes from bacon. (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!)
  • The second highest is from fried pork, followed by beef, and then chicken. (This particular study didn’t look at fish.)

Even briefly marinating foods is effective in reducing the amount of carcinogens — in some cases by as much as 92 to 99%. As a rule, use about one-half cup of marinade for every pound of food, although large pieces may need more to cover the food’s surface adequately.

So, marinate, cook at a lower temperature, avoid cooking well done, use rosemary, reduce char, and grill vegetables!

And there you have it! These are my favorite tools to help you set up your kitchen for success as you embark or continue your journey to better health. Remember, I’m not a medical professional and I can’t guarantee that you will see the same results I’ve seen just because you bought a cast iron skillet, but if you give yourself the right tools you have a better chance of building a better you! So, what are you waiting for? ORDER ALL THE THINGS!!!!

NEXT BLOG: Kitchen Staple Ingredients and Their Benefits

How In The Heck Did I Lose 100 lbs??

Well, I can tell you I didn’t lose it on the first try. Or the Second. Or the third… You get the idea. It was a long road of trial and error. It was failure after failure until I finally found something that worked for me.

I’m not going to tell you that what worked for me works for everyone. We are all unique in so many ways and there are so many things that factor into your success when trying to lose weight. I can only share with you my personal experience so that you can either be inspired to try some of the things that helped me or at lease be motivated enough to attempt to find your own path. All I know is that if I can do it, anyone can. BELIEVE ME.

sarah 200928 years old, 2009, 265 lbs

As I talked about in my previous post regarding my journey growing up as an obese child/young adult, I reached my peak weight by the fall of 2009. I was depressed, living at home, and downright miserable.

December 11, 2009. I got a call at work as I was leaving for the day that my dad had lost consciousness and fallen over at a restaurant with my mom after his dialysis. *Backstory- My dad has been diabetic since the mid 90s and was insulin dependent until his kidneys lost all function in 2008. He was now relying on dialysis to stay alive.* After hanging up the phone, in shock, I drove like a crazy person in rush hour traffic to the hospital. His heart had been restarted several times, he was unconscious, and in the ICU. He had a large hematoma bump on his head from falling over and hitting the ground. As I sat there in disbelief with my mom and my sister, I realized I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. He was only 64 years old. Over the course of the next 3 days we were unsure if he would ever wake up again or if he would know who we were since his brain had been deprived of oxygen for so long. To say it was emotional and terrifying is the biggest understatement. Eventually he woke up and he knew who we all were! He said he remembered everything up until the day of the actual incident. Now, I don’t claim to be a very religious person, spiritual yes, but this made me believe in some form of miracle. He came off the respirator and was moved out of the ICU. We later found out that this episode was happening to many other dialysis patients due to a bad batch of a drug used during his dialysis treatment.

To say that this course of events startled me doesn’t fully do it justice. I was scared. I kept hearing my doctor’s words “300 lb 30 year old” and I was 28. One of my friends from high school had recently begun a weight loss journey herself and I looked to her for inspiration. I decided that I didn’t want to be on dialysis. I decided I was going to fight my genetics tooth and nail so that I could stave off diabetes. I wasn’t going down like that!

By the beginning of 2010 I was readying myself for a real change. I wasn’t quite mentally prepared for it, but the thoughts were brewing. I will say that if your head isn’t in it, you will find every excuse in the book to not start or not stick to it. It’s like drug addiction- you have to WANT it. I thought I did in the beginning. So I made some changes. I went from fast, fried, and processed food to grilled chicken, steamed veggies, and allowing myself a tortilla now and again. Within a few months of a drastic diet change I lost 30 lbs.

sarah 29233 lbs, 2010

I lost all that weight by simply eliminating carbonated beverages, fried food, fast food, and most processed food. I didn’t go cold turkey on processed food. I still ate some junk-actually, it was a lot now that I look back on it. It was a start. And that’s all it takes- a starting place. Small, sustainable choices lead to success. So when making the decision to create a better lifestyle just start small. Ask yourself if you can eliminate one bad thing or make a substitute for it at least.

After the first 30 lbs lost I was feeling pretty good. I kept it off, but I just plateaued. I never even thought about incorporating exercise (that sounds awful!) I was still living at home with my parents and was still surrounded by the temptation just like during my childhood. As my dad was fully recovered at the end of 2010, I received a job offer that led me to move to move to another city. It was a retail management position and it required a lot of my time. A LOT OF MY TIME. I was working 70-80 hours per week on salary *BULL$HIT!* So naturally I fell into the pattern of eating what I could when I could in the mall. It was all fast food and sometimes fried. I couldn’t keep track anymore; I just didn’t have time. I was exhausted all the time. I had no time to cook or think about packing a lunch. It was really bad for me on so many levels.

sarah 20102011

I stayed at that soul sucking job for 6 months. It wasn’t completely for nothing because when I moved there I needed a roommate and I had been chatting with a friendly fellow online for months and (this is crazy) asked him to move in since I didn’t know anyone in town. If it weren’t for that awful job, I would never have had that roommate who is now my husband. I’d say it was worth it. 😉

After I quit that job I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands. As in, I was unemployed. Depression set in a little bit, but I had Justin and that helped a lot. We were eating poorly and living in Southern Louisiana that is easy and delicious. The struggle was real. Then something pretty life changing happened. I began working for a family as a nanny and their lifestyle was so foreign to me that it really took a while for me to comprehend their eating habits. They ate nothing processed, nothing fried, and basically a boat load of vegetables. One of their children had serious food allergies and that was easy to relate to because I do too. I learned so much from them. I had never really thought to eat chia, flax, hemp, or any type of seeds. I didn’t know what healthy fats were like coconut oil and that butter was actually good for you! I learned a lot about cooking and even about fermented food. I learned about green smoothies! GAME CHANGER. So you’re thinking “gross- blended vegetables.” I get it. It wasn’t super yummy to me at first, but your palate changes and there are ways to make the smoothies taste good, I swear. I started implementing some of the things I learned there at my own home. I started shopping at the local farmer’s market. I became more adventurous with vegetables. I started phasing out bread again and started cooking with quinoa and other things I had never heard of! One of the best parts was that there was nothing to tempt me to eat poorly while I was at their house. It was really meant to be for me to find that family. They taught me so much and I am forever grateful.

sarah 2012 22012

By the end of 2012 I had decided that my diet was pretty stable and I had my eating more or less under control. I thought “I’m gonna give this exercise thing a try.” I started out slowly because I was such a NOOB and didn’t even know how to use the elliptical in the gym at my apartment complex. We were fortunate that we didn’t have to commit to a gym to get started. I would go 5 or 10 minutes and be completely and utterly DONE. And this was with no resistance or incline. I was sorely out of shape and it was apparent. I didn’t give up; I tried to make it a regular part of my routine. I lost another 20 lbs. I was 212 lbs! The lowest weight I had been in 10 years!

Then my routine changed. I decided to take a job offer for a company and leave my nanny position. It was a very emotional decision and I still don’t know if it was the right call. I began cooking enough food at night and on the weekends so that I had healthy lunch leftovers. That is a crucial part of my life now. On occasion I would go out to eat for lunch, but not often. Within a month of starting that new position I was hospitalized for a week with an intestinal problem. And when it rains it pours. I then found out my dad was not doing very well. I was living an hour away, but I decided it was time to move back to be close to my parents. And the pouring kept coming. 2 weeks before moving I had surgery. They removed a large part of my intestine due to endometriosis. I had no idea how debilitating the recovery would be. I was down for the count for a little over 30 days and wasn’t myself for at least 60 days. Dad was in the hospital. We had a new place to live. I was out of work (because I could barely walk!). Justin quickly found a job *whew*.  It was not easy. I ate my feelings. I was back to eating 2 lunches. I wasn’t even hungry and I would eat a grilled cheese while sitting around doing nothing but feeling sorry for myself. I sunk into another depressive state. Even after everything I had learned and begun to enjoy about living a healthy lifestyle, I just couldn’t bring myself out of my funk. This lasted for months. I found a part time job and I was back up to 240 lbs by the summer.

sarah 2013 22013

This was really heart breaking. I was angry at myself for letting all that weight come back. I was angry at myself for, despite having the knowledge, letting myself make poor decisions. I was recently engaged and frustrated. Justin had lost 50 lbs and kept it off, but I was almost back up to where I was at my highest weight. What happened to the motivation from my dad’s incident? What happened to the motivation I felt from knowing my friend had lost 80 lbs? What happened to utilizing all the knowledge I learned from that nanny family? What happened to the desire to exercise and eat well?

sarah 2013fall 2013

We went on a trip to Colorado and when I came home I looked at the pictures and was really upset. I had a great time, but I wasn’t happy with myself. How did I let it get so out of control again? 2014 rolled around and I started to think about the wedding. We hadn’t set a date, but I was already hatching my grand plan. And that plan did not include me being a 240 lb bride.

I am fortunate enough to belong to a wonderful online community of like minded friends who all share the same love of a band, Phish. This is the same band that brought me my love, my husband. A  wonderful soul sister started a Facebook group inspired by The Biggest Loser. There was a small buy in fee and, more importantly, there was a weekly weigh in for accountability. I decided to give it a try. I’m not a very competitive person, but I liked the idea of sharing my experience with others who could identify with my struggles. I lost 10 lbs in a few months. SWEET. But that was it. I joined a gym, but never really pushed myself. It has an indoor pool and all the exercise classes are included in the price. I was terrified of group exercise. I thought everyone would judge me. Regardless of the fact that they were older, more out of shape, or whatever, I was afraid. I decided to try water aerobics. I started going every Monday night for an hour. I liked it and it was fun, but not too strenuous. I made friends in my class and liked the accountability of “where were you last week” if I skipped a class. I started using the elliptical for longer than just 10 minutes.

The scale didn’t budge. Hmph. This is where it would have been helpful to know that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise and not the other way around.  By the summer of 2014 we had set a wedding date. I gave myself a year and a half because that seemed like a reasonable amount of time to lose weight, save money, and start planning.

Dad wasn’t doing so well. We had a full time nurse taking care of him after he slipped and fell on some ice and broke his hip and arm. It was hard on every one while he was in the hospital and then the nursing home. I remembered how I was inspired by his poor health and it reignited something inside me to really try again. I continued to work out, go to my water aerobics class, and participate in the Biggest Loser online. This was the turning point.

I started eliminating food groups. I had no idea what I was doing. I stopped eating wheat completely. I replaced whole wheat noodles with brown rice noodles and it was a once in a while splurge. I sparingly ate oats, sweet potatoes, and brown rice. I only drank unsweetened cashew milk in my coffee (which I had done for a while at that point.) I started making sorta kinda healthy “treats” with coconut oil and raw local honey to keep my sugar cravings from leading me down the ice cream aisle at the store. I knew how bad white carbs were for you for the last few years, but I finally started reading about food as fuel. I learned about the dangers of sugar. I learned about reading labels. I went on what I like to call “the whole food diet.” It’s really a form of clean eating. I ate dairy, meat, fruit, nuts, seeds, veggies, and some complex carbs. I just found what balance worked for me. Most importantly, I got Justin on board too. I dropped 20 lbs in the fall of 2014. Justin lost 40. We were on track!!

sarah 2014Fall 2014, 210 lbs

With the wedding only a year away, I was working 2 jobs 7 days a week and staying extremely busy. I was working out, cooking, working 2 jobs, and planning a wedding. I actually enjoyed the rush of it all. I stuck to my eating habits and was working out 4-5 days a week. My weight loss kind of stalled and I desperately wanted to hit ONEDERLAND by the new year. So I did something crazy and unthinkable. I started lifting weights. 😀

I had read that building muscle helps burn more fat and boosts metabolism. I knew that I didn’t want to bulk up, but I also knew the misconception that comes when women think of weight lifting. I wanted to tone a lot of the extra skin I was starting to have. I started a small routine and built onto it as I went. I would only do the machines at first because I was intimidated by the free weights. I totally thought the weight jocks at the gym would judge me. I had a lot of insecurities at the gym even though I had been going for a year.  I would do 3 reps at a reasonable weight on about 8 different machines. After a few weeks I would increase the weight. Eventually when I got comfortable- too comfortable- with the machines I made the switch to free weights. I looked up different exercises to do with them and started a new routine. I increased the weights and worked my way up from 5 lb hand weights to 15 lbs in each hand. I started HIIT training during cardio. It’s high interval training. Basically you go 2 minutes as fast and hard as you can regardless of if you are on an elliptical or running or biking and then you return your maxed out heart rate to the low end of the training rate based on your age group for another 1 to 2 minutes. Just doing 20 minutes of this burns more fat than an hour of straight cardio at a consistent level. It also burns fat long after you are done working out. I swear by it now. I started an ab routine 3 times a week and started doing a 1 minute plank every day. I stretched every day for 15-20 minutes. I became so flexible and strong. It was empowering.

sarah 200 lbs202 lbs

Then I went to Miami for New Years and I ate alllll the bread. ALL THE BREAD AND PORK IN MIAMI. I was 202 when we left and 210 when we came back. FUUUUUUUUUDGE. No onederland for me for New Years. When you disrupt your entire routine it can be very difficult to get back into it. It was hard to even motivate to get my butt to the gym even though I loved the feeling I got from working out. I always say “I don’t want to go to the gym, but I’m always glad I did afterwards.”

It was 2015. HOLY CRAP. I’m getting married this year. I hate to say that vanity is a motivator, but it totally is. We were going to take engagement photos in April and I didn’t want to be 200 lbs!!! I checkity checked myself real quick in January and hit onederland by the second week of 2015! I was full blown motivated. I was still participating in the online group and weighing in every week for accountability. You have no idea how good it felt to post my first picture with the scale saying One hundred and something. I was proud. I was getting complemented all the time. Positive feedback really helped me stay on track. I was losing inches more than I was losing pounds. I was doing body measurements every 8 weeks and it was crazy to see the difference! I had lost 75 lbs overall!

75 lbs lost

I kept at it and really kicked it into high gear in early spring 2015. I reduced the amount of dairy and meat in my diet. I stopped eating after 7 pm. I was drinking almost a gallon of water a day. I started brewing homemade fermented tea (kombucha), I was drinking a green smoothie every day, I was drinking green tea and eating grapefruits to boost metabolism, I was starting my day with hot lemon water and raw apple cider vinegar to aid my digestion, I was eating cauliflower rice and spaghetti squash instead of complex carbohydrates, I was treating myself by allowing one small square of 85% dark chocolate a couple of times a week, and my sugar cravings were pretty much gone.

green juice

I was experimenting in the kitchen on the weekends and started meal planning a week in advance to help stay on track. Meal planning has changed my life. I spend a little while each week and pick out a  week’s worth of dinners (I LOVE YOU, PINTEREST), a salad or two, a breakfast idea that will spread over a couple of days, a healthy “treat,” and shop for all the things I will need over the weekend. I must say that having a wonderful husband who will help execute these meals is an added bonus! Yes, it’s time consuming. Yes, it’s hard to keep it fresh and not get bored. Yes, it’s annoying sometimes when I spend a few hours on a sunday prepping a boat load of food. But, it is so worth it to me. (I know, I know, I don’t have kids so I’m able to do all this.)

Basically, I was a machine. By the time engagement pictures rolled around I was 185 and pretty gosh darn happy about it.

bridge

I had phenomenal energy and my confidence was at an all time high. There was one problem. I lived and breathed by the number on the scale. If it was up even just a little, my emotions took a dive. I was obsessed. It was unhealthy. I started beating myself up over that silly little number. I knew how hard I had worked and was working. I knew how far I had come. So why did I let that number dictate my self worth? I’m still trying to figure that out. It’s a never ending battle. Weight loss is as much of an emotional journey as it is a physical one. Not any one journey will be like any other. All we can do is try. and keep trying. Seek comfort from others in similar situations. Reach out for support. Stay accountable and above all else, love yourself. You are trying to better yourself and that is the biggest reason to smile everyday.

So yeah. Back to the realllllly long journey. It was summer 2015 and I was getting married in a few months. I was still sticking to my strict game plan. I changed jobs and had a month off work before starting a new position. I started going to the gym pretty much every day for 2 hours. It was awesome. I had so much time to work out, cook, and meal plan (AND shop for new smaller clothes) It was a bummer I had to, ya’know- go back to work and all. ;P  I dropped off my wedding dress in late July to be altered. It had to be taken in 10 sizes. TEN. I bought it at 235 lbs not realizing I would be so successful along my journey. The tailor said he could fit 2 of me in my dress! He promised he would work some magic and not lose too much of the detail on the dress that I so loved. I would pick it up in October in order for it to be ready for me to take some photos.

With the wedding being right around the corner, I was motivated to really tone my upper body. I wanted my arms and shoulders to look good. I really let the idea of how I would look in my dress push me harder. I hate to say how big of a motivator it was, but if I’m being honest, it really was. I never lost sight of the fact that I didn’t want to end up sick and on dialysis though. My dad’s health dwindled and over the summer he had both legs amputated from vascular/circulation problems due to his diabetes. It was heartbreaking. We didn’t know if he would make it out of the surgery. He did. He began the long and awful recovery in the hospital. He then moved to several different rehab hospitals and nursing homes. It was the most stressful time in my life. We had a lot of issues while he was in these facilities and with me working 2 jobs again, and planning the wedding, it was one of the most difficult times in my life. I could have turned to food. I could have made excuses to stop exercising. I didn’t. I let the stress push me in the right direction this time.

Until it happened. 2 months before the wedding and 100 lbs lost.

sarah lost 100 165 lbs

I still can’t believe it. Who is that person? There is a total disconnect when you look in the mirror. I still see that same morbidly obese person that I knew for over 30 years. It has taken almost a year of being 165 lbs to try to accept that I am that person now. When I went to pick up my dress the month before the wedding the tailor made me promise I wouldn’t lose any more weight because he physically could not take the dress in any more. It was a good problem to have.

sarah wedding

I won’t lie. Maintaining hasn’t been easy. After the wedding I stagnated. I often work late and don’t have as much time for the gym during the week anymore. I ate poorly during the holidays and had an unexpected surgery in December which did not allow for any exercise for a month. On the plus side, I have not gained any of the weight back after 5 months! I still meal plan, exercise when I can, and eat well with the occasional splurges here and there. Ya gotta live a little, eh?

sarah muscleStrong is the new skinny!

It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I can definitely say it was worth it. I’m not stopping either! I have ambitious goals to lose another 20 lbs. I’m comfortable at my current weight, but I would like to lose more around my midsection as that is the most dangerous area to carry extra fat. I don’t know if I’ll live a long and healthy life because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I do know I’m sure as hell gonna try! I want to be around a long time to enjoy this wonderfully beautiful life with my family and friends. Life is worth living so go out and be your healthiest you!

sarah 34I

NEXT BLOG: Getting Your Kitchen Set Up for Success!

My Journey- A Lifetime of Struggling With My Weight

Where do I even begin? THIS IS ALL SO EXCITING!

First of all, I want to welcome you all to this project that has been brewing within me for years. I have so much to share regarding my personal experience with weight loss and nutrition. (See my disclaimer, as I am not a doctor or a licensed nutritionist.) I hope you will all join me on this journey as I begin posting weekly (that’s the plan at least) topics that will not only give you information, but will hopefully inspire you to make better choices and decisions regarding your own personal journey to a better lifestyle.

sarah babyI was a bit of a chunky monkey from the get go. Ok, so obviously as a newborn no one is overweight. Let’s be real- babies aren’t usually that cute either. Exhibit A: the day I was born photo. Wow. Alright, so I just really wanted to share that photo because it’s hilarious and I’m starting this post about my journey from the VERY beginning.

sarah 33 years old

I grew up in southeast Texas until the age of 8 and my childhood was pretty typical of someone growing up upper middle class in the early 80s. I woke up on Saturday morning, grabbed a sleeve of Chips Ahoy and settled in front of the TV with my sister for our weekly dose of the Muppet Babies before our parents were even awake. A SLEEVE of cookies. You know what I mean. There was also the ritual sharing of the Oreos. I ate the cream middle and my sister ate the cookie part. Seems like a good deal. Like most kids, I was a picky eater; I didn’t really like vegetables other than corn. I didn’t even eat a salad until I was 10 years old. I ate a lot of fast food. There was little to no regulation on portions/servings or control of my sugary demands for Cookie Crisp, Count Chocula, or Apple Jacks. I don’t blame my family for my weight problem. My dad traveled for work a lot and my mom tried as best as she could, but honestly, I was not an easy child to live with. My mom worked as well and my sister stayed with me after school where we would eat a lot of cheese sandwiches and drink a lot of kool aid. So, yeah, there was a ton of enabling by all the terrible processed foods available in the house. I started to notice I was different and bigger than all the other kids in early elementary school.

sarah 45 years old

I was definitely either the biggest kid in class or tied for 1st. I always had a very outgoing personality and I never had trouble making friends. I never let my weight or my thoughts about it keep me from doing normal childhood activities. My life was suddenly changed in the summer of 89 when I was about to turn 8. We moved from Texas to Louisiana. Luckily, I was young enough to assimilate well into a new school and I made friends quickly.

sarah 8Summer of 89

Already feeling like the odd new kid in class, I had a little bit of anxiety about being over weight. I thought no one would want to be friends with the “new fat girl.” I’m really glad I wasn’t older as that may have been more of a factor (Middle school kids are MEAN.) By the time I reached 4th grade I was 130 lbs. ONE HUNDRED THIRTY. That’s as much as a full grown adult. I remember stepping on the scale and thinking “that seems like a lot.” I kept up my steady diet of sugary cereal, frozen dinners (Can I get a KID CUISINE-Holla!), white bread, lunchables, doritos, a million cans of soda in every flavor, and fast food. My mom cooked some of the week days, but I usually just ate the meat (shake n bake pork chops, beef burgers, ham steak) and the non vegetable side. I often ate a 2nd portion or finished off a family member’s plate. I had no idea what I was doing or that it was negatively affecting me. I remember my dad poking my belly and asking me “when is that baby going to come out?” Yes, it was all in jest, but if I remember it 25 years later, it must have affected me.

sarah nkotb10 years old

I blew up like a balloon! Ok- so those are pillows. One of my favorite things to do back in the day was stuff pillows in my clothes. I really needed to include that photo.

But seriously… I rapidly gained weight from 4th grade to 8th grade. I was easily the heaviest kid in Jr. High weighing in at 209 lbs at almost 14 years old. I was obese. I was morbidly obese. I stopped growing in Jr. High and topped out at 5’4″. These proportions are not your typical kid entering high school. All my friends had boyfriends the summer before high school. I never really felt like a 3rd, 5th, or 7th wheel. I was fortunate (and still am) to have a wonderful group of people who embraced me for me and all my weirdness. I am blessed to still call them all my friends. Who else can say they are friends with a large group of people they went to elementary school with?? Anyway, in high school I was very outgoing, in the drama club, and overall was pretty much a weirdo. I often thought about how my weight affected my chances at a relationship. I often wondered if people would want to be my friend. I had a lot of insecurities, but I could hide behind the fact that I was funny and friendly. My shield was definitely up. Looking back on it I was definitely depressed, but didn’t understand it completely. I actively tried to lose weight my sophomore year, but really only lost about 20 lbs. Good, right? Well, I didn’t exactly do it the right way. I just over restricted my calories and put myself into starvation mode. AND GUESS WHAT? It ALL CAME BACK! And then some.

sarah 1616 and looking like a Calico cat

The summer that I turned 16 I was 220 lbs and working my first part-time job. I kept busy. I had both my old friends, but new ones as well. Yet again, they all had boyfriends/girlfriends. It was just what I had come to know- everyone had someone, but me. Well, almost everyone. There were a few friends who didn’t really date either and we bonded over that. I kept eating, except it got worse; I had a car. I could go out to eat, go through drive thrus, and worse- I ate candy and all kinds of junk at work (thanks a lot, Walgreens!) This was a huge turning point for me. I was guzzling Mountain Dew, eating 2-3 candy bars, fast food, and I never once gave exercise a thought. I mean, that sounds awful!

sarah graduation

sarah 1818 years old

So I graduated high school at an astounding 240 lbs. Thinking about that and even typing it sounds absolutely insane. I just ate and ate and then ate my feelings about eating too much. It is a vicious cycle. I recall many a night before I moved out of my parents’ house where I would serve about 3 scoops of chocolate ice cream, drizzle Hershey syrup all over it, cover it with a cup of Cool Whip, slice a banana (hey! that’s healthy, eh?), and dump about 5 cherries on top. Then I’d settle in front of the TV and that was that. It was not a rare occurrence, it happened all the time.

So yeah- starting college at that size can be a bit daunting. You have so many thoughts about what it will be like- Living out of the house with your best friend, having the freedom to do whatever you want, staying up late and eating so much pizza and drinking so much soda (and more ;P). It was something I had looked forward to for a long time. I had a meal plan card while living in the dorm. Man, that food was not so good. Luckily, there was a tiny grocery store (and a pizza place!) across the parking lot from my dorm. I loaded up on cookies, cake, chips, and whatever else was absolutely sugar filled and gluttonous. I would often eat lunch at the student union in between classes and then eat a fried chicken sandwich as 2nd lunch on the way home. I was out of control. I was depressed. I had insomnia. I felt so alone. I cried in the dorm shower. I slept all day and skipped class. I honestly don’t know how I managed a 3.4 GPA that first semester.

LONG POST EVEN LONGER…

My weight became an issue to me. My 2nd year in college I decided to do something about it.  I had my ovary removed and they told me it was a malignant tumor. Cancer. HOLY SHIT. It hit me hard. I questioned my own mortality for the first time in my life. I wanted to live! I only had to have the one surgery, never had chemo, and have been cancer free ever since. I’m one of the fortunate ones. It changed me. I was very depressed. I basically stopped eating. I was subsisting on probably 300 calories a day. I did this for about 3-4 months. But, hey! there was a positive side to it: I quickly dropped about 40-50 lbs. The praise and recognition I got was so motivating that I kept it up. I remember a friend saying, “every time I see you it’s like your face is just melting away!” It was great to feel like people were noticing me. I finally attracted attention from the opposite sex. Now, looking back, it wasn’t the right guy for me, but it was all so new and exciting that of course I was willing to give anything a shot! I stopped at around 185 lbs and felt ok about it. I got into a relationship at 21 and over the course of a year I gained it all back. I was 240 lbs again. Apparently you get comfortable in a relationship and you eat and you get fat while you are happy. (NOT ANYMORE!)

So flash forward a few years. That relationship ended and another began at the age of 25. In between the two relationships I gained an additional 25 lbs. from depression and that same ole feeling of inadequacy and depression.

sarah 2525 years old

This was it. This was the biggest I had ever been. 265 lbs. I saw my doctor who I had known since I was 9 and he looked me dead in the eyes and said, “you are going to be a 300 lb 30 year old.” I was not ready to hear that. Even though I did nothing to change my eating or worry about how I could, I never forgot his words. That relationship ended when I was 27. I hit an all time low. I was suicidal and depressed beyond anything I had ever thought of as depression. I changed anti depressants, I tried mood stabilizers, and I was in therapy *AGAIN*! I was in a bad way for a few years. I moved back in with my parents, and continued to eat my feelings.

I was recently the guest on a podcast about weight loss and they asked me what was my typical meal plan on any given work day when I was at my heaviest weight. I started the day with a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich (McGriddle so GROSSSS), and a large sweet as all holy hell iced coffee. By lunch (working at the mall), I would eat either Chik Fil A, Raising Canes Fried Chicken, MSG and grease laden chinese, or worse. I would often eat a giant soft pretzel or ice cream during the day. When I worked at Starbucks I would eat 2-3 pastries/bagels a day on top of 1000 calories worth of Frappuchinos. Dinner was usually more fast food depending on how late it was or I would scrounge up something equally awful at home. Followed by ice cream of course!

My brain can’t even comprehend how many calories/grams of fat I was consuming per day. I was miserable. I was alone.

March of 2010 and I finally decided that enough was enough. I was going to make a change (for once in my liiiiiife. A little MJ for ya). That was it. I wasn’t going to be 300 lbs at 30. NO WAY. I was about to be 29 and this was it; I was going to do something about it.

Next Blog: How did I Lose 100 lbs?