Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Whole30 Review...

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Guess what day it is?

It's day THIRTY ONE of the Whole30.  Which means I survived thirty days of no sugar (natural or artificial), no dairy, no grains, no alcohol, no soy, and no legumes (beans).  It's a freaking miracle, y'all.

I'm betting you guys have questions, so I've done my best to answer them, but if there's something I missed, feel free to comment or email.  I'll be glad to tell you anything you want to know about this crazy adventure I've embarked on.

Q:  What is the Whole30?
A:  Go here.  It'll tell you everything you need to know.

Q:  If you can't eat sugar, dairy, grains, soy, or legumes, what did you eat?
A:  Lots and lots of protein and vegetables.  And fruit.  Spinach and I became fast friends, and I constantly had slow-cooked chicken in the fridge for nights when I didn't feel like cooking.  I fell in love with roasted vegetables and got downright giddy when I saw Greek salads with shrimp on the menu at restaurants (minus the feta, of course).

Q:  Did you lose weight?
A:  Yes, I definitely lost weight.  I did break one huge rule of the Whole30 by weighing myself daily, but I made a promise not to let any fluctuations on the scale deter me from the course.  And there were definitely days where it was hard to keep that promise.  But my total weight loss over thirty days made up for it.

I lost 15 pounds.

Which puts my total pounds lost since the day I delivered Grace right at 85 pounds.  Insane.

I'm the worst blogger in the world, so I forgot to take before pictures, but here are a few full-body shots from before I started the cleanse.

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And here I am today.

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And lest we forget where I started from, here I was the day after I gave birth to Grace.

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I am absolutely a work in progress, but I'm proud of how far I've already come.

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Q:  Tell the truth.  How hard was it really?
A:  Truthfully, the self-control thing wasn't nearly as hard as I expected.  But that's probably because I'm a rule-follower.  If I was the kind of person who could be okay with moderate amounts of cheating (i.e., BALANCE), I wouldn't even need a program like Whole30.  But I'm not there yet (though I hope to be someday).

That's not to say there weren't days like this one where I literally had to sit on my hands to keep myself from reaching for the biscuits and gravy.  And the banana cake.  But that's because they were staring me in the face.  After the first week or so on the program, the sugar and carb cravings really did disappear, so I didn't even really remember what I was missing unless it was in front of me.  And because I knew that all the bad stuff was off-limits, it just got easier and easier to say no to it.

It was trying to find compliant foods at restaurants that was the true challenge.  You feel like a high-maintenance jerk asking for your food to be prepared in a special way, and it's embarrassing to have to explain to every person you dine with why you're not eating the chips and queso (especially now when our firm is filled with summer intern such that I'm eating out most days).  But I found a few places where I knew I could find something, and I frequented those quite often.  (If you're in the Dallas area, check out HG Sply (a paleo-inspired restaurant that is INCREDIBLE), Kozy, and, of course, Mr. Mesero.)

Q:  Did you ever cheat?
A:  I accidentally had soybean oil at Chipotle and organic coconut nectar without knowing it, and once I literally only had one option for protein at a plated, two-hour luncheon where I was starving.  It was a small scoop of chicken salad (with some sort of mayonnaise I have to assume wasn't homemade), and I ate it.  Technically, I should have started over.  There was no way in heck I was starting over.  Other than that, I made my very best effort to be completely faithful to the plan.

Q:  What were your go-to meals?
A:  For breakfasts, I usually scrambled 2-3 eggs with a few handfuls of spinach and added some hot sauce (like Frank's Red or Chalula) or mango salsa on top.  One week, I made up a huge batch of Nikki's sweet potato hash, but I noticed that my weight loss seemed less consistent that week, so from now on, I will probably only eat it 2-3 days a week, max.  It's still my favorite Whole30 recipe, though.

For lunch, I usually did some version of a salad with chicken or shrimp and an olive oil vinaigrette.  One of my favorite restaurants has an amazing salad with bibb lettuce, hearts of palm, avocado, shrimp, and a lemon vinaigrette.  I ate that quite a bit.  I also made up a chicken salad with homemade olive oil mayo and avocado and herbs which was fantastic on top of spinach with some fruit mixed in.

For dinner, we did many of the recipes in It Starts with Food, including the curry bowls and stir fry.  I wasn't a huge fan of the ground beef scrambles.  I also tried this coconut chicken recipe that was atrocious, but I think it's because I put the limes in with the peel still on (per the instructions), so the whole thing was bitter.  I want to try it again with squeezed lime juice instead.  We also loved turkey burgers with various things on top.  My favorite was probably my last turkey burger with fresh mango salsa and avocado on top on top of a bed of spinach with cherry tomatoes and plain ole' cherries.  So, so delicious.

You're not really supposed to snack, but sometimes I had to have a little something to get me through to the next meal.  I usually went with fruit, but in a pinch, the Apple Pie/Banana Bread/Coconut Cream Pie Larabars were fantastic.  After the chicken salad fiasco, I always keep an emergency bar in my purse in case I get stuck somewhere with no healthy food options.

Q:  Where will you go from here?
A:  This week, I'm reintroducing all of the foods that I eliminated last month one at a time so that I can evaluate whether they make me feel yucky or not.  Today was dairy, so I added some shredded cheese to my eggs this morning, a creamy masala sauce to my Indian chicken and salad at lunch, and spicy queso to my shrimp and veggies at dinner (and for the record, I'm feeling like crap tonight).  I won't lie and say I didn't enjoy it or that I'm not really looking forward to trying grains in a few days.  But once I finish with that, I plan on continuing to eat clean for as long as I possibly can.  I won't schedule in any cheat meals, but if I stumble across something delicious that feels worth cheating with, I will absolutely indulge every once in awhile.  Because life's just too dang short not to.

And I'm sure I'll venture off the path after some period of time, but the beauty of the Whole30 is that you can always do another one if you feel like you need to hit the reset button.

So there you have it.  Way more than you ever wanted to know about my eating habits for the last thirty days.  But maybe some of you have been sitting on the fence about your health.  Maybe you're like I was and have an unhealthy relationship with food.  Maybe you want to be more intentional about what you put in your body. Or maybe you just want to kick those sugar cravings and afternoon energy crashes to the curb for good.  If so, this post was for you.  If you're ready to make a change, I say give the Whole30 a shot, and I pinky-promise to be a cheerleader for you if you need one.  See if it will change your life the way it changed mine.  You'll never know what you're capable of unless you try.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I am enough...

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Some days I feel a heap of pressure to go and do and experience.  I make to-do lists of activities for my daughter that rarely get accomplished because of work and dinner and baths and bedtime.  And then the working mom guilt wraps me up tight because I don't have sensory bins created from scratch and scheduled play dates.

I constantly wonder if what I am is enough.  If what I have to offer my daughter is enough.

Because try as I may, I know I'll never be the kind of mom who relishes in scheduling our lives out in thirty-minute increments.  I'll never find joy in a full calendar.  I'll always be a fly by the seat of my pants kind of parent.

And sometimes I believe the lie that the things I do with Grace are more important than the simple act of being with her.

But then I take a minute to reflect as I watch her kneeling down in the grass to run her fingers through the earth. And I catch a glimpse at her face as her Daddy scoops her up and spins her around like a princess. 

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And I remind myself that we're doing okay in our own way.

These lazy afternoons that we spend together aren't significant to anyone but us.  No one's going to rush to pin or re-gram or share any of these moments with three hundred of their closest acquaintances.  But these memories are etched in my heart along with the giggles and smiles and kisses that created them.

And these ordinary moments are what make my life extraordinary.  

So I suppose they are enough after all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shine, Jesus, Shine...

I've been typing and backspacing this sentence for the last ten minutes, trying to say it in a way that's different from me just coming out and telling you all that my uncle Clay has cancer.

But there you have it.

He was diagnosed a little over a month ago, and he put week two of chemo in the books yesterday.  

This cancer stuff is heavy, friends, and my heart keeps breaking for my sweet aunt and uncle.  These two have been a huge part of my life since I was a little girl, begging them to let me come stay the night so we could cook stir fry in their wok.  They've both always gone above and beyond to make an impact in my life and in the lives of everyone around them, and watching them have their world flipped upside down this way has been excruciating.  

But God is already working big things in the midst of their struggle.  The cancer is very treatable, and the prognosis is much better today than it was when they first found the mass that is compressing his aorta and doing damage to his kidney.  

They've both been so faithful and steadfast and so quick to give Him whatever glory can be found in this storm.  Uncle Clay has made "shine, Jesus, shine" his mantra, and he is making himself less so that God can be more -- a true feat given that my uncle is a very tall man. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to solicit your prayers for my sweet family once again.  You are always so faithful in your encouragement, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

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Alright, Jesus.  Our eyes are on You.  Come on and shine.

Monday, July 21, 2014

New York: Day Three

Remember that time I went to New York with my mom and blogged about the first two days but completely forgot to post about the last one?  Yeah, me either. ;)

In case you've forgotten where we've been so far, go here to read about Day One (Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and the High Line) and here to read about Day Two (9/11 memorial, the financial district, Little Italy/Chinatown, tea at the Plaza, WICKED!).

{Day Three: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, and Rockefeller Center} 

The only thing my mom felt really strongly about doing in New York was going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Art is her thing (though it is definitely not mine), and I wanted to be sure we'd have plenty of time to see everything she wanted to see.  So on our last full day in New York, we got up and had more bagels, and then headed straight to the museum.  I adored the stroll through the upper east side -- the buildings were beautiful (as to be expected), and everything was bright and cheery.

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When we got to the steps at the entrance to the Met, I had to stop and snap a touristy picture of Mom.

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... and then I did the same thing once we got to the Monet water lily paintings, which were her favorite.

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Since I'm not super artsy, most of what we saw was completely lost on me. But I did really love the Van Goghs...

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... and the Faberge...

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... and the Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass.

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For lunch, Mom grabbed a hot dog and I got a gyro from the street vendors at the Met entrance, and we ate on the steps like true tourists.  There was a live band playing for tips, and we had such a great time soaking up the sunshine and listening to the music.

After lunch, it was time to head to Central Park.  If you're new around here, you probably wouldn't know that strolling through Central Park (again) is the very first item on my 30 Before 30 list.

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Crossing it off was so wonderful, as Central Park is one of my favorite places on the planet.  I can't explain why, but it just feels magical to me.  So we spent a lot of time there and covered a lot of ground.

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(Belvedere Castle)

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Our next stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral, which I had been dreaming of seeing again since my first trip to NYC.  Unfortunately, the entire thing, outside and in, was covered in scaffolding for restoration.  It was such a letdown, especially I had been telling my mom how beautiful it was.  But we saw it, scaffolding and all, and it worked out perfectly because our roundabout trek there ended up taking us through some fun, little, quiet places.

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(Grand Central Station)

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(Taking a much needed Starbucks break)

Plus, as we were headed back down 5th Avenue, we spotted the signs directing tourists to the Observation Deck at the top of Rockefeller Center.  This was something I had put on our "hope we can do while we're in NY" list, and we had the time, so we decided to go up.

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I'm not sure why I envisioned that we'd just hop on an elevator at our leisure and head straight to the top of one of the tallest buildings in New York without a hitch, but I highly underestimated what a tourist trap the whole thing was.  First, we waited in line to buy tickets (for a certain time, which meant we had to sit around and kill time for 20 minutes).  Then, we waited in line to go up a couple of floors to the real line, where we sat for about 45 minutes, zigzagging through various videos about NBC and Rockefeller Center.  Then, just as we got to the front of the line to head up the elevator to the top, two guides came out and told us that they'd be issuing refunds for everyone because the visibility from the top was down to nothing because of the rain but that we could still go up anyway if we wanted to.


Since we were leaving the next morning, I told my mom that I wanted to go ahead and go up.  Because why not?

So we did.

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And it was totally worth it.

Granted, we had to elbow our way to a window so we could get a peek (the majority of the "deck" was enclosed, and the rain made going outside unpleasant (although I did it!).  But whatever.  It was amazing to see the city from this perspective.  (My mom probably doesn't agree since she's afraid of heights, but she was such a good sport about it anyway.)

After the Rockefeller Center debacle, we were seriously spent.  We headed back to the hotel for a final afternoon nap (glorious, by the way).  For dinner, I had hoped we could score a last-minute reservation somewhere delicious, so I surveyed my Facebook friends for a recommendation.  Unfortunately, everything that was suggested was booked, so we ended up at a casual (but LOUD) Thai place by our hotel.  It was good, but not great.  But the fabulous company made up for the mediocre food. :)

After the utter failure at Times Square the night before, we had planned on going back so that my Mom could see it all a little better.  But she looked at me during dinner and just said, "I wouldn't be sad if we just went back to the hotel and had a quiet night in, but I'll go back if you want to!"  I had never heard more beautiful words in my life, so we packed it up, hightailed it back to the hotel, and fell asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

As we were getting all of our stuff gathered to head to the airport the next morning, I started feeling all sappy about what a blessing it was to have been able to spend so much uninterrupted time with my sweet mom.  It had been a long time since we had traveled together, and I had forgotten how much fun we have.

I love you so much, Mom, and this trip meant the world to me.  Thanks so much for coming along and for making such incredible memories with me.  I can't wait to go back in ten years with Gracie and show her the magic of our New York.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things one, two, and three...

DUDE.  I feel like there are so many things to tell you.

It turns out there really aren't that many things to tell you (because my life is not at all exciting), but how about we walk through them anyway?

Thing One:  a new dog.

So my brother and sister-in-law sold their house, and they close in a few weeks.  They're not sure yet where they'll end up, and their dog is used to having plenty of space to run and roam.  So when she told me they were thinking of getting rid of him, I immediately called Micah and asked him if we could take him because I have adored this dog since my brother and Faith got him.  He is ridiculously sweet, low-maintenance, fairly lazy (a plus in our house), and great with kids.  So it didn't take a whole lot of convincing before Micah agreed that he could come live with us.

So, without further ado.  Meet Rambo!

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His fur was pretty matted from being an outside dog, so we ended up taking him to get his fur shaved.  And now he's nearly unrecognizable.

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Ha - poor kid looks so sheepish about the whole thing.

Lilly has adjusted surprisingly well to her new puppy brother, and we are already very much in love with him. And very thankful this all worked out so smoothly.

Thing two: Gracie's still cute.

You're not surprised, are you? :)

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Lately, we've been spending more and more time outside, either playing in the backyard or at the neighborhood pool swimming.  We also took a trip to the Dallas World Aquarium last weekend, and I think Micah and I enjoyed it more than she did. (Apart from the ridiculous crowds. When did I become an agoraphobe?)

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She is saying so many things.  She says "hi," "bye bye," "mama," "da-da," "all done," "more," "Grace" (while pointing to herself - it's the cutest thing), "thank you," and my personal favorite, "love you."  She's also climbing on everything, blowing kisses, throwing impromptu dance parties, and snuggling to get out of doing things she doesn't want to do.  (Every time we go to change her diaper, she pulls in for a big hug so we won't put her down.  Little stinker...) The temper tantrums are becoming more frequent, which is super fun. Ha.

She's just becoming so independent, which is very bittersweet.  I know I'm going to blink and open my eyes to see a little teenager looking back at me.  Help me, Rhonda.

Thing three: Whole30 is still going great!

I have unintentionally consumed soybean oil twice and organic coconut nectar once, but other than that, I've been really faithful to the plan.  And it's working.  I've got one week left and have no plans to let up once the 30 days are over.  I do think I will try to reintroduce some foods that I've eliminated (one at a time, per the plan instructions), just to see if they have any effect once I add them back in.  But then I'm going to go back to eating clean and will attempt to do that for as long as I possibly can. Because I really do function better with boundaries.  

At the end, I'll give you guys a true and thorough rundown of the results with pounds lost, favorite recipes, and biggest struggles.

... and I think that about does it.  I told you there weren't very many things.  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Some kind of wonderful...

I've got a plate of buffalo chicken (Whole30 compliant!), baby spinach, and cherries on my lap as I catch up on last week's episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians (I know... I hate me too). 
The baby is asleep, and Micah is at the neighborhood pond fishing.  There are a million other things I should be doing... work, cleaning my messy kitchen, painting my pitifully bare nails.  But I just needed to come here and rest a minute.
We had a wonderful Fourth of July.  We spent some quiet time at home, visited with my family, and then spent the afternoon with some of our favorite friends, swimming and playing games and eating delicious food (or, in my case, using every drop of willpower I had so that I would NOT eat the delicious food).  I was miraculously able to resist and just had a small serving of the sweet potato hash that I brought .  Hence the chicken and spinach at nearly 9:00 p.m. 
This season of life is such a beautiful one, and I know that days like today will rise to the top of the pile of memories I will reach for when Grace is a teenager and out with her friends and way too cool for her dorky mom.   
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And while I do miss the freedom of a hot summer night under a sky full of fireworks, I have to say that the view of my sweet girl snoozing away on the monitor is pretty hard to beat. :)

Happy Fourth, y'all!
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