Ch-ch-ch-changes

30 Sep

My life is near unrecognizable to the one I led one or two years ago. I live an active life, following a paleo approach to my nutrition. My focuses are on positivity and progression in all aspects of my life, and I’m a better person for it.  The obvious changes are better strength, higher endurance, elevated confidence, and a much smaller body. Then there is all the little, weird stuff that changes that I, oddly, have taken note of…

Twelve Months of Changes:

 

  • Half my wardrobe consists of clothes that are too big and the other half is progressively tighter workout clothes.
  • My Amazon wish list is filled with my dream crossfit shoes, specialized ingredients for gourmet paleo, workout clothes, and clothes that I would never have worn 42 lbs ago (like dresses and shorts, gasp!)
  • Sore feels good. So good.
  • It’s easy to get out of bed super early when I know I get to go workout.
  • I’ve inspired friends to change their lifestyles (workouts and nutrition.)
  • Didn’t get sick for 11 months.
  • I don’t jiggle while brushing my teeth. Seriously, this was a secret new year’s resolution two years ago.
  • Drinking sucks. Even a little bit noticeably dehydrates me and affects my workout performance. Plus big time bloat.
  • Eggs. I could eat eggs for days and still want more.
  • Getting extremely excited when I find a place that uses almond or coconut milk for lattes.
  • Fruit is dessert. It’s a treat that I enjoy 100 times more than I did when it was just food, not fuel. Dried pineapple is like candy.
  • Coconutcoconutcoconutcoconutcoconut obsessed. Can you tell? I use some form of coconut every single day.
  • I flex in the mirror. Oh yes, I do. Not in a vain way, just checking out my growing muscles. Ok, sometimes in a vain way.
  • My entire week can be made by a new accomplishment at JTS. Like going up in weight, or getting my first (insert bad ass movement.)
  • No more ankle problems- the occasional swelling that I barely feel. Other than that, I’d consider my ankle in better shape than it ever was. (I had torn many ligaments, had two surgeries, and permanent hardware.)
  • When I sleep, I sleep. Working out and getting up early translates to great recovery sleep.
  • Goodwill jeans are totally acceptable. They probably won’t fit right in four weeks anyways
  • My bubble got bigger. No, not my butt. My comfort zone. Social functions with strangers? I can totally handle that. Kinda. Talk to my lab partner? No biggie. Ask for help in a store? A breeze. A year ago? Not so much.
  • After many experiences, I find I don’t crave the food that makes me feel like crud: the food that my body isn’t designed to digest easily.
  • New techniques/ingredients/tools in the kitchen are an exciting adventure rather than an anxiety-inducing nightmare. Dates? I’ll give them a go. Coconut flour? A great challenge. Kombucha? Let’s do it!

So there you have it. Now you know 20 random things about me that you didn’t before. So, tell me something random about you. Have you made a change for the good and had other aspects of your life change because of it?

Waffles, Round Two

29 Sep

I’ll be doing the Tough Mudder in one week from today. I’m excited and only apprehensive of one of the obstacles- the Arctic Enema. For those that don’t know much about it, the obstacles of the Tough Mudder are meant to test your abilities to the maximum. I hate cold. I really hate it. When I had a bad ankle injury and was told to ice it all the time, I hated every minute of it. Ice is supposed to numb. Well, for me, it just hurts. So…I’m going to be jumping into a huge dumpster full of ice water and wading through to the middle where I will be forced to submerge my entire body to get through to the other side. Does that sound crazy stupid? Yes. Am I going to do it? You betcha.
Completing the Tough Mudder is more than bad ass bragging rights. I’ve come so far and changed so much about my lifestyle to better myself and live a fuller life. To me, finishing such a mentally and  physically trying challenge will signify “victory” over my fitness. Reaching new heights in my physical capabilities is the ultimate “high” for me. That feeling from getting seventeen double-unders in a row for the first time  or using a heavier weight correctly or squat jumping twice as many times before getting tired is exhilarating! The Tough Mudder will be chock-full of new, difficult challenges all in one eleven mile course. I’m ready for it.

I posted about waffles a few weeks ago, using Paleo Parent’s recipe. This morning I woke up nice and early on the only day of the week that I can sleep in (thank you circadian rhythm!) and I wasn’t quite ready to be super productive (like studying or housework) so I decided to make a big breakfast. I had purchased and set aside a banana and apple earlier in the week specifically to make waffles to freeze, but never got around to making them. Since the banana was nearing the end of its usefulness, I figured it was now or never. I grab all my tools needed and put the banana in my ninja to puree. Then I go to grab the apple to peel and core and it is nowhere to be found. Some unknown family member had already eaten it.
I had already peeled the banana. I was committed. Improvisation to the rescue! So I tweaked the recipe here and there, dumped it into my fancy Goodwill waffle iron, closed the lid and crossed my fingers. Thanks to my culinary genius (or sheer luck) the waffles turned out spectacular. I’ll be using this recipe from now on to save me the trouble of peeling and coring an apple.

The cool part is the waffles turned green this time. The last time I made them I used 50/50 sunbutter and almond butter and they were normal “waffle color.” This time it was all sunbutter and vividly my favorite color. Chlorophyll (in sunflower seeds)+ baking soda = green!

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Waffles
Grain-free, dairy-free, nut-free.

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  • 1 cup sunbutter
  • 2 bananas, pureed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 TB arrowroot powder
  • 1 TB real vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Melted coconut oil for waffle iron

Thoroughly mix your sunbutter to distribute oil evenly. I use a whisk on a hand mixer.
Added pureed bananas. Mix.
Add everything else. Mix.
Slather your waffle iron in coconut oil. I use a silicone basting brush.
Fill each waffle space 3/4 full and cook for 3-5 minutes depending on how hot your iron gets.
Watch for the steaming to decrease and check to see if they’re floppy. Of course, you may like floppy waffles. If not, wait for them to stiffen. This is best if you plan to freeze them and later throw them in a toaster.
If you’re not eating right away, cool on a wire rack to prevent sogginess.
Enjoy!

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Have you ever done a mud run or obstacle course? What was your experience like? Have you ever thrown something together and it turned out great?

Banana Cereal

25 Sep

I used to have a serious relationship with Honey Bunches of Oats. We were the best of friends. I was never disappointed in my HBOO. HBOO was always there for me, always crisp and crunchy and honeyed. But then I don’t think HBOO liked me as well. I started spending more time and using bigger bowls with HBOO, but all I got in return was the need for bigger pants. How dare you HBOO! I loved and appreciated your multi-textured, just-sweet-enough loveliness, and that’s how you treat me!? So I said goodbye to HBOO. It was a tearful day. But I don’t regret it, not one bit.

You could call this cereal or granola. We use it both ways. The recipe is rather versatile, as long as the ending quantity isn’t more because this will completely fill a regular cookie sheet. Omit the chocolate and just use more coconut; or use less of either of those and throw in some chopped nuts. Sunbutter could replace the almond butter. Heck, I might even try replacing the banana with pumpkin someday. The size of the chunks depends on how you intend to eat it. I leave mine in bigger chunks so my husband can munch on it at work; and if I want some in a little bowl with almond milk, I just use my spoon to break it up a bit.

About the bananas- dried bananas can be crunchy or soft. I personally can’t find crunchy dried bananas with nothing added to them. I buy my dried bananas in bulk at Marlene’s (big surprise, I know.) I was intrigued the first time I saw them because they’re dried whole. And let me tell show you, they don’t look the most appealing.
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They smell like banana bread and are mushy, chewy, and moist. I throw them into my little Ninja one at a time to chop them up. It does not make them look any more appetizing. In fact, once it’s chopped, it resembles wet dog food…
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But I can look passed this stage of the cereal, because I know in the end it’s delicious and better looking by the time it’s over with.

Hemp seeds (aka hemp hearts, shelled/hulled) were new to me when I first read this particular recipe. They’re a complete protein, which means they contain the proper proportion of amino acids for our bodies to absorb/digest. You can absorb it all on its own without the need to eat it with something else to get the maximum effect; which I think is fantastic. It’s also a great source of fiber and vitamins. Nutrient dense foods have a special place in my heart. I haven’t tried liver yet though… Anyways back to the seeds. Where’s the first place I look for them? In bulk. And they were there, right under my nose the whole time. I’d never given them any close scrutiny because the bin looked to contain some sort of foreign grain.
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I’m glad my family and I are always up for trying new things, because I’m so glad I discovered this recipe. I can dump some almond milk over it and eat it like cereal and not have to wonder what bad side effects I’ll be dealing with. So go try this, you won’t regret it.
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Banana Cereal
Recipe inspired by Our Paleo Life
Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond butter (or other nut/seed butter)
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup hemp seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried banana (about five whole) chopped
  • 1/4 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Instructions
Preheat to 325F.
Line a large baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Anything else will stick!
Combine the almond butter, egg, and honey in a large bowl and stir until incorporated.
Add in the vanilla, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir again.
Add in the rest and stir again.
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It’ll be goopy like cookie dough.
Dump the mixture onto the parchment-lined sheet and break up with a spoon or spatula to the size you’d like.
Bake for 25 minutes, flipping twice to brown it evenly. I like to use my biggest metal spatula to get the job done quickly. Plus some of the melted chocolate sticks to it during the flipping- bonus taste!
Keep an eye on it to prevent burning.
Let it cool completely, it will harden as it cools-depending on the size of your chunks and crunchiness of your bananas.
Store an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.
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Pumpkin Creamer

16 Sep

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Oh yes, I jumped on the bandwagon. It’s mid-September, so I must consume something flavored with this orange squash that is oh-so popular in the autumn months. But as I sit here with cold feet on this cloudy day, I can’t help but miss the sunshine. This is the first summer I’ve particularly enjoyed the sunshine. I wore shorts that were shorter than my knees (gasp!) and even sported a bikini top instead of a tankini. I wasn’t constantly thinking about how fat my arms looked when I wore a tank top. It was nice being so comfortable with my body without six layers on in the sweltering sun. The swimming, sun tanning, lazy summer days are now behind me and I’m reluctantly accepting the changing of the seasons. Autumn means back to a routine, each week hurtling towards the cold winter that will get here too fast and linger too long. Autumn- when I’ll have just a fraction of the family time I’ve enjoyed these past months. So onward I I trudge into September with nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger for comfort.

A lot of pumpkin creamers out there (especially the store bought ones) are just pumpkin spice creamers. Which means just the traditional spices paired with pumpkin. I wanted actual pumpkin in my creamer- for both flavor and the goodness of the squash. Pumpkin is a great source of Vitamin A, C, and fiber (among others.)

I tried researching a creamer that looked yummy, but most of them didn’t use very much pumpkin and the dairy-free versions used almond milk. I enjoy the creamy-ness of coconut milk in my coffee, so I thought I’d just make up a recipe and taste as I go. Turns out I’m a pumpkin creamer genius, because after my first attempt and taste I couldn’t think of a single thing to add to it. I liked it so much I immediately proceeded to make a second batch.

Pumpkin Creamer

1 cup coconut milk

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup raw honey (can sub. maple syrup)

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

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Throw everything into a food processor, blender, or bowl and mix until well incorporated. Refrigerate. You’re done. That was so fast, now you can go rake some leaves, make an apple pie, or whatever Autumnal festivities you prefer.
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My Journey

13 Sep

I did and didn’t want to write this post. I don’t like a lot of “look at me! I want attention” stuff. That’s because of who I used to be. I’m only able to spout out my story here because I’m typing. I don’t have to directly confront anyone who doesn’t want to listen. I know if I tried to relay my journey to health and fitness in person, I’d stutter. I’d blush crimson and forget half of what I was going to say because all I can think about is how red my face must be. That’s because I’m still overcoming the person I used to be. See the first pic below. Always an introvert, I have struggled with my body image and self confidence for a decade. I’ve kept to myself, and kept very few close friends. I have a hard time coming up with the self-assurance to make new friends. That’s because of who I used to be.  I struggle with starting conversations among those that I am not already close to. I don’t expect everyone to understand how much of an affect one’s body image can have on certainty, courage, and determination; but I know some of you will. Even now, after my body image has dramatically changed, I have many days where I have to look in the mirror and remind myself of my capabilities. I have to remind myself that every little imperfection doesn’t change the fact that I have the potential and aptitude for great things. 

In August of 2012, I was married to my wonderful, loving husband. I weighed 177 pounds- the heaviest I’ve ever weighed. The summer before my wedding, I had gained weight and was a size 16.

On my honeymoon. 177 lbs.

On my honeymoon. 177 lbs.

For many years before that, I was a somewhat stable size twelve. I exercised, sometimes. I didn’t eat junk food, often. I wasn’t happy with my body; that’s for sure.

May 2012. 160 lbs

May 2012. 160 lbs

My entire outlook on life turned around when I walked into Jowers Training Systems a year ago. I wasn’t too sure anything would help me lose weight. But I had a yearning for confidence. I wanted to feel good about myself. What I have learned about my body, my mental and physical capabilities, and nutrition since then is enough to fill books. I figured out fairly quickly that before I had been exposed to this wonderful place, I had never really pushed myself. I didn’t know what it was to test my limitations.

Sometime around October, Jeff, the owner, asked me to keep a food log. After reviewing my week’s worth of food and drink, he’d ask me to change one thing. He’d say, “have less wine next week,” or “have less greek yogurt.” Slowly, I came to realize he was leading me toward the Paleo nutrition I had heard about and absolutely resisted. No pasta? No greek yogurt?? No sandwiches?? Cheese too? That sounds terrible. Honestly, I thought the whole Paleo thing was ridiculous. After several weeks of cutting out one thing, I decided to just try it. Something in a “Monday Motivation” newsletter from Jeff had me really thinking. He said something along the lines of I’ve been eating the way I eat my whole life, so trying something for one month isn’t that big of a deal. If I don’t like it, I can just go back to the way I want to eat. Through November and December of ’12, I eased my way into Paleo. I put my toes in the water to see if I liked it. By February, I was fully submerged and I haven’t looked back since. I had more energy and mental clarity. I slept 4,000 times better (that might be an exaggeration.) I could eat all I want and be full, and I was losing not only pounds, but inches. And inches. And inches. All I was doing was eating real food and showing up to JTS three times a week. I will be writing another post on how much paleo has affected my life.

Learning how to deadlift. January '13. 160 lbs.

Learning how to deadlift. January ’13. 160 lbs.

Then I thought, why don’t I try running? I’ve never, ever been good at running. It always felt like I couldn’t breathe and I was going to die. I’d noticed that after so long at JTS I wasn’t gasping for air…so maybe running wouldn’t be so bad. So I started slowly and kept going.

Then I thought, why don’t I try yoga? It’d be so beneficial and complement my movements in running and working out. After one sweaty session, I fell in love. Even after being unable to continue at the studio, I still roll my mat out onto my living room floor and turn on yoga videos on my laptop.

The picture below is a 35 pound loss between September and June.

35lbs side progress

142 lbs. June ’13..

From September of 2012 to August 30 2013, here are my numbers:

  • 41 pounds gone
  • Body fat from 33.4% to 22.5%. 10.9% gone.
  • From my chest, stomach, hips, (one)thigh, and (one)upper arm, 25.5 inches gone
  • Size 16 to 6

That’s results. That’s tenacity. Hard work. A lot of sweat and accomplishments. My confidence in my abilities has skyrocketed.

Here I am today, 135 pounds and still going strong.

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Why I did write this post- what I like hearing the most is “you’re so inspiring,” or “you’ve motivated me.” It’s a much better thing to hear than “you look amazing,” because I know what the struggle is like. No matter how corny it sounds, helping someone else on their journey is the biggest reward of my journey to fitness.

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Arachnids & Waffles

12 Sep

I’m pretty sure spiders are taking over the world. And by the world, I mean the acre around my house. It’s become a serious problem because I’m constantly walking into their stupid webs. They’re everywhere! Even in a big, wide open space that doesn’t seem like a feasible spot for a web to be, all the sudden there’s one across my face, right at eyeball height. What. The. Heck. The even-more-weird part about it is that it’s all the same kind of spider.  I’ve lived in my house house for two years and this has never happened before. At my place, we always have plenty of frogs and biting ants.

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Never before has there been a spider problem like this. In the dark mornings, as I walk to my car to go workout at JTS, I hold my arm out in front of me to keep the worst of it from hitting my face. One of my besties said that’s a good indicator for differing between country and city folk- understanding the gesture of holding your arm in front of your face while walking.

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This little sucker dive bombed into my open window while I was driving! I'm lucky to be alive.

On a somewhat related note- there were birds in Costco today.

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Anyways, on to the food. That’s why you’re here right?
I hate rushing. I despise being late. Therfore, I always get up with plenty of time to get ready in the morning. I always ensure I have enough time to cook and eat breakfast, as well as drink a cup of coffee at a reasonable pace. Breakfast is high on my priority list. I’m teaching my daughter to value morning time as much as I do, because I know she dislikes being rushed too.
That being said, it’s better to be safe than sorry. A suitable breakfast back-up plan is something that can be prepared quickly and store for a long time. Can you think of anything that fits that? Frozen waffles. Yes, like Eggos. But do you know what’s in those?

Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, vitamin B1 [thiamin mononitrate], vitamin B2 [riboflavin], folic acid), water, vegetable oil (soybean, palm, and/or canola oil), sugar, eggs, dextrose, contains 2% or less of leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), modified corn starch, salt, dried blueberries, apple fiber, natural and artificial flavors, maltodextrin, cellulose gum, citric acid, whey, soy lecithin, blue 2 lake, red 40 lake.
Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium carbonate, vitamin A palmitate, reduced iron, niacinamide, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin).

Holy ingredients. That’s quite a long list just for waffles. Am I the only one disturbed by the word “OR” in an ingredients list? Mmm modified, colored, and artificial. So great for me. Or not. Those are the ingredients of the blueberry waffles, which were my favorite as a kid. Now that my knowledge of real nutrition has grown, I would not serve them to my child (no offense mom!)

Guess what? You can make your own waffles. You can freeze them. You can toast them. JUST like Eggos but without that crap that your body does not need. And your kids will love them just as much. Seriously, mine is crazy excited for them.

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CRAZY excited!

I didn’t take any prep pictures of them because I wasn’t sure if my Goodwill waffle iron would destroy them or not. Luckily it all worked out; best $10 spent.

The recipe can be found in the much admired Paleo Parent’s book-  Eat Like Dinosaur. But they were also extremely kind enough to put the recipe on their blog for folks like me.

Creamsicle Gummies

9 Sep

Oh goodness gracious. Today is the day my daughter started kindergarten. I’m sitting in my quiet house, all awkward. By myself. She will be gone most of the day and I don’t know what to do with myself. Before he left, my husband asked me what my plans were for the day. I told him I’d probably work on developing a nervous tick by 2 pm.

I, at least, started my morning off right with a great 6 am tabata. It felt fantastic.
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And because there was a birthday, we had this finisher that left me shaky. I haven’t done that many burpees in a row in I don’t know how long. With as much as I was sweating throughout, it was a cleansing experience; especially after a sugary dessert last night.
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I read about the benefits of gelatin from many different paleo/health bloggers and knew I wanted to give their recommended brand a try sooner or later. Well I finally took the $19 plunge and I’m ever so glad I did.  I’ve been putting a teaspoon in my coffee in the morning and tea in the evening; and whether by mere coincidence or the gelatin actually had a noticeable effect so quickly– my nails stopped breaking and have actually grown passed the ends of my fingers for the first time in two months. Plus, I’ve been munching on these gummies ever since I made them less than two days ago.

Squishy

Squishy

What I like about these:

  • Taste. Yum, creamsicle!
  • Balance- fat, protein, and carbs.
  • Collagen! Read about that in the link above.
  • Super simple.
  • Filling.
  • No artificial coloring, flavoring, or preservatives like the store-bought counterparts.

The little squares I cut the gummies into are so filling that I’m hoping this batch lasts a little longer than most of the snack foods I make. I’m not going to go into the science of absorption of protein, carbs, and fat together (I’m too busy drumming my fingers waiting for it to be 3 so I can go sit in the parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for my daughter to get out of her first day of kindergarten) but just know that having a great balance in one bite is an extra bonus on top of great flavor.

The pre-set flavor of the gummies is not a good indicator of the finished flavor. It might seem like a lot of honey or vanilla, but all the flavors mellow after it has set and is solid. My advice is to make the recipe as is first, and then tweek it to your liking after you taste a finished batch.

Creamsicle Gummies

Recipe tweeked from Tiffany of The Coconut Mama

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream (separated cream on top of a refrigerated can of coconut milk)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup gelatin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Directions

  • Heat juice and cream over medium heat in a saucepan.
  • Pour gelatin over liquid. Whisk gelatin into mixture.
  • Add honey and salt and continue to stir until the gelatin dissolves.
  • Bring the mixture to a light boil, stirring constantly. This could take several minutes, depending on your burner and pan.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Let cool 5-8ish minutes, stirring a few times.
  • Pour mixture into a 8×8 square pan. Cover pan and refrigerate until gummy snacks are set, about 4 hours or overnight.
  • Cut into small squares and store in air tight container in the fridge.

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As successful as these were, I’ve added some fun shaped, silicone molds to my wishlist. They would be so cute in star, heart, or bear shapes, don’t you think?

Are there any snacks that you buy that you wish you knew how to make at home? Tell me in the comments below and I might give it a try!