Archive of ‘health & wellness’ category

6 Lessons from the Whole30 Challenge

Welp, I’m done with the Whole30 challenge. (Or rather Whole25, since I didn’t make it to the bitter end due to a trip I really wanted to enjoy. If you’re a strict Whole30 follower, give me grace. 25 days > 0 days.)

For those who aren’t familiar with Whole30, the basic gist is to eat real, whole foods. Nothing packaged or processed, which excludes all dairy, alcohol, grains and legumes. You can eat meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, oils and herbs. It’s basically a paleo diet, except without any paleo-like treats or snacks (so no honey or syrup). The point of the diet is to eat food that makes you healthy. Eat for fuel, not for fun. Read more about the challenge on the Whole30 site.

I had four objectives for starting this challenge. Let’s see where we are today:

  • Prove to myself that I can. I did it!!!!!!!! (Well, again, just 25 days. I knew going into it I would be cutting it short.) I honestly didn’t think I would be able to do it, especially in the early days when my body was weening off my serious sugar addiction. At one point J compared this to my marathon training — something miserable I willingly put upon myself. Looking back I don’t think it was that bad, but I say that now as a girl who can eat cheese again, so maybe my mind has blocked out the memory of those hard days.
  • Heal my stomach from digestive problems. I am disappointed because unfortunately this hasn’t been completely healed. I feel good, but not 100% perfect. It must take more than 25 days to completely heal of digestive issues.
  • Improve my sleep. YES!!! I kept a journal the whole time on what I ate and how I felt, and of the 25 days, I slept great 20 nights. Which for me is amazing.
  • Weight loss. The folks at Whole30 discourage you from weighing yourself, but I did anyways (I’m such a rebel). But I understand why they discourage it: your body fluctuates in weight so much throughout the day, and this really isn’t about weight loss but more of a lifestyle. That said, I did lose four pounds in three in three and a half weeks. Not too shabby!

Lessons from the Whole30 Challenge

Lessons from the Whole30 Challenge:

Lesson #1: Your body may be willing, but your mind is CRAZY.

Literally crazy, my friends. I have never given up sugar before and had no idea the mental energy and stamina it requires to say no to something so near and dear. People compare the physical process giving up the addiction to sugar as painful as giving up cigarettes or alcohol. I was so tired and haggard the first few days, and I think most of the exhaustion was the mental energy it takes to say no to something you love. It was a test in the first few days to see whether I was really committed, and I literally had to take away the option of cheating out of my mind. I was in it for the duration, no cheating and no exceptions.

Lesson #2: Black coffee is an acquired taste. 

You can have coffee on this diet… but that’s about it. No cream, sugar, artificial sugar/cream, or packaged almond milk. They discourage a lot of caffeine, so I decided to make my morning cup of joe with half decaf, half caffeine. The first day — YUCK! GROSS! NO. I finished about a fourth of it and pour the rest out. The second day, same thing. Third day, I finished about half. By day ten I finished my cup of coffee and had an epiphany that I finished the whole thing and didn’t wince during any of it. Breakthrough! And today, I can proudly take my coffee black. Boom.

Lesson #3: Our life does not fit around standard one-week meal plans. 

Maybe your household is different, but I have learned we can’t follow one-week meal plans exactly. It’s way too much food for the two of us, and cooking an entirely new recipe every single night after I get home from working a full day is exhausting. We gotta have leftovers some week nights.

I used the book Practically Paleo as my guide for the diet, since all of the recipes except for the desserts were Whole30-approved. The book has really nice 30-day meal plans, so I decided I would follow the meal plans and make whatever it assigned for each meal. I downloaded the first week grocery list, brought it with me to Trader Joe’s and bought everything I didn’t have on the list. $100 later, I brought home an entire week of breakfast, lunch and dinner items. We used half of all I bought in that week. Maybe less. (FYI: I highly recommend reading Practically Paleo if you’re curious about this eating plan or if you suffer from gastrointestinal issues. I also read the book Whole30 was based on, It Starts With Food, which was good, but not nearly as helpful as PP.) 

Lesson #4: If you don’t like something off a diet, you sure won’t like it on a diet.

Similar to lesson #3, if you are following a meal plan and you see a recipe that includes an ingredient you don’t like, omit it from the recipe, or skip it. I made the mistake and bought foods that I don’t really like thinking maybe my taste buds will change on this diet. Hahahahah NOPE. Cauliflower is still as gross on the diet as it is off. I think it’s good to experiment with different flavors and tastes, but if you know you don’t like something, omit that from the meal plan. There are only a few things you can eat, so make sure to fill your meals with things you enjoy.

Lesson #5: It’s expensive, but it doesn’t have to be that expensive. 

Eating healthy is more expensive than eating crappy. That’s just a fact. Mainly because fresh foods expire quickly and unhealthy foods can be filled with preservatives and chemicals that are cheap to produce, taste good and make foods last longer. Ever wonder why Cheetos expire 18 months from now?

You know me, I’m always trying to save a buck. For a long time spending money on food felt like a waste, especially when I got out of college and was forced to create my own budget. Why am I spending hundreds of dollars on food when I could buy clothes!

But what you put in your body is so important, that I think it’s worth spending more on quality food. It makes you feel good, and will save you lots of money down the road in health bills. So it’s expensive, but I don’t think eating right has to be that expensive. I bought a LOT of meat the first week, but realized that I could spread out the meat more with salads and vegetables dishes that just required a little meat. Also, I discovered some really delicious meals with canned meat that were super cheap. I plan to post a little more on what I eat each meal and share some of my favorite recipes.

Lesson #6: You always have a choice. 

Food is so social, and I love enjoying good food with friends. The hardest part of the challenge by far were social events. I strategically planned to do the challenge when we had little plans, but there were a few parties and events that I had to mentally prepare for. I thought that if I was on a diet, people I was with wouldn’t enjoy themselves as much, and I really hate being high maintenance and picky about what people serve. But really, it was just hard for me. No one else was seriously inconvenienced by my diet (except maybe J, since he had to eat what I cooked, had way more dishes to clean, and listened to be talk about this diet for 25 days). I made sure to bring my own food, or tell people ahead of time. It never was a big deal if I didn’t drink alcohol, and it goes back to the principle that people don’t think about you as much as you do. I learned that I always have a choice on what I eat and drink, and I never need to let people choose that for me.

So what’s next?

I want to keep going.

This is the very first diet I have ever done where I didn’t exhale a sigh of relief and then immediately inhale ALL OF THE FOOD. I had a lot of anxiety approaching the diet — nervous about what I was giving up, etc. — and I actually had the same anxiety as I approached the end of it, uncertain about what I was going to include back in, because I felt so good and liberated.

I love that food doesn’t have (as much) power over me. I think that’s the point of this diet — it shouldn’t be a diet but a lifestyle. Food certainly still has a strong hold, but not nearly as much as before.

So does that mean I am joining the ranks of those who ban all dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, alcohol and fun? Heck no, life is way too short to give it all up (unless you have a serious medical condition and need to). But I do want to maintain a 85/15 ratio between paleo and non-paleo foods. My goal is to eat paleo for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and as much as possible for dinner and at parties and events. I loved the way this diet made me feel about my body and my mental victory over food, so I want to continue along that path.

We will see. It is a journey. :)

Have you completed the Whole30 diet before?
What were your main takeaways?
Did you get the “tiger blood” they talk about in the Whole30 timeline?

PS – Read more on why I started. Coming soon: meal plans and my favorite recipes I ate this past month. :)

Mid-Summer Update on our Weight Loss Competition

Seven weeks ago J and I agreed to participate in a summer weight loss challenge — a friendly competition to see who can lose the most weight by September 2nd. And y’all the stakes are high. We are halfway through the competition, so I thought I’d give a little mid-summer update on how we’re faring. Here goes….

IMG_1480This is the only active photo I have of J and me. I know, you just saw it from our Boston trip. I gotta work on taking more photos.


J, of course. Who is surprised in a weight loss competition between a man and a woman, the man is winning?! I had a feeling this would happen over the course of the 15 weeks, but had no idea how fast he would lose and take the lead! On our first weigh-in, he lost five pounds! Gulp.

So far he has lost 13.8 pounds, leading with a 7% weight loss, and I’ve lost 5 pounds, 4% weight loss. We are measuring by percentage weight loss, but does it even matter at this point? There is no question who is in lead, and I’ve got some serious work to do to catch up.

Even though I am sorely lagging behind, I am still pretty pleased at how it’s going.

Food is my favorite. And eating is one of my favorite things to do with J (or anyone, really). We plan our trips and weekends around where and what we are going to eat. Our way of celebrating or commiserating with each other is through food:

You had a bad day? Let’s go get some ice cream.

You had a great day? Let’s go get some ice cream!

On top of this great love for food, losing weight is really hard for me. I don’t have the smooth metabolism some other people are blessed with, and it’s only gotten harder as I’ve gotten older. So I am pretty stinking proud I’ve been able to lose five pounds in seven weeks. That’s a big deal to me.

BUT. Enough playing around. I gotta step it up in this second half in order to even think about winning!

Since weight loss is so hard for so many, and I’m always curious to see exactly what changes people make in order to lose weight, here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been doing the last few weeks:


We both decided not to go on any fad diets or restrict anything major, since the real purpose is to establish healthy lifestyle, not primarily to lose weight. So we have adjusted our diets slightly, both making decisions on our own.

Breakfast: No alterations.
What I eat varies between scrambled eggs, granola with yogurt and fruit, or a protein-packed smoothie. I have a cup of coffee every morning with cream, but stopped adding sugar. J doesn’t eat breakfast, which makes me feel faint just thinking about. I would literally pass out at 10am if I didn’t have breakfast.

Lunch: No alterations.
I normally fix a smoothie and keep it in the freezer at work (if I didn’t have it for breakfast), eat a green salad with some type of protein, or eat leftovers from last night’s dinners. J eats tuna salad on Arnold bread, with crackers, apple and a Coke zero. He’s a man of routine, that one.

Snacks: Major alterations for me.
We have so.much.candy in our office, and before this challenge I would grab a piece or two every mid-morning and every afternoon. And it isn’t even good candy, just low-quality sugar. Instead, I bought a bag of good dark chocolate to keep in the fridge (at my desk is too dangerous) and limit it to one piece in the afternoon. Other snacks include: carrots with hummus, apple, and Kind bars. J doesn’t snack during the day much, so not much has changed for him.

DinnerSlight alterations.
We have been grilling a lot and paying attention to our portions. We have a green salad almost every night at home. When we do eat out, we usually check nutrition facts and order something a little healthier. At potlucks and dinners, J has been really disciplined not to snack… I could probably use some more self-discipline. Appetizers are the best!

Desserts: Major alterations.
We started this competition with a half-eaten pie in our fridge and both of us were too stubborn to finish it. I nearly cried when I threw it away, that’s how attached I am to my desserts. But in the evenings, sometimes you just need a little something sweet, you know? So we’ve been stocking up on popsicles. Not nearly as satisfying as ice cream, but they are growing on me.

Alcohol: Slight alterations for me.
I really enjoy a glass of wine after work while I cook dinner, but have cut out all alcohol unless I’m with someone else. And since J hardly ever drinks, it’s been reduced to parties and get togethers. And when I do drink (before or during the diet), two drinks is normally my max.


We both have been working out more, although neither of us have a set schedule. We take more walks with Leia, and longer routes. I try to run two to three miles at least twice a week and go to one class at the gym a week. Some weeks that doesn’t happen, and other weeks I get more exercise in. Exercise really varies on how busy the week is!


Our whole goal for this competition was to spur healthy living, and so in that regard, this competition has already been a success. But we’ve still got seven more weeks to go, and I really want to lose a little more before the end.

Diet Changes:
Originally I really didn’t want to do any fad diets or take anything out of my life, but my other friends decided to do the Whole30 Diet Challenge, so I figured it would be a good time to join and hopefully lose the last few pounds.

What is the Whole30 Diet?
Basically for 30 days you just eat real food. Nothing that has been processed or added to. This is limited to meat, vegetables, fruits and fats, and you give up all dairy, alcohol, grains and sugar for 30 days.

I started it yesterday, and am actually only doing it for 25 days because we’re going to a family reunion in August and I really don’t want to be that high maintenance in-law that is making absurd food and beverage requests. The folks at Whole30 are really strict on doing the diet for 30 days straight, but 25 days is better than zero so I’m trying not to make it a big deal.

I am reeeeeally nervous about this diet. Food is such a social thing, and I hate eliminating foods. My philosophy is everything in moderation. So the thought of giving up such a LARGE chunk of foods is really intimidating.

But I decided to do the diet for a few reasons:

  1. Prove to myself that I can. I have never given up sugar before. I’ve done the FODMAPs diet and did the Paleo for a few weeks in January, but always had access to dark chocolate. So this is going to be hard. I love sugar.
  2. Heal my stomach from digestive problems. I continue to have inconsistent stomach aches and pains. It improved being on the FODMAPs diet, but I never really could pinpoint what was causing it and hoping this will help.
  3. Improve my sleep. I do not sleep well at all. I don’t have a problem going to sleep, but it’s staying asleep. I’ll wake up between 2-4 am, sometimes going back to sleep and waiting up feeling exhausted, or never going back to sleep. It’s exhausting and I am tired of taking sleeping aids once a week to catch up.
  4. Weight loss. Obviously. :)

Exercise Changes:
I am running a half marathon in November, so I want to start training this month. Nothing too intense, but at least get into a schedule of running three to four times a week and doing yoga at least once. I also would really like to start lifting weights, but I’m a little intimidated and really don’t want to get too bulky. Anyone know of a good weight-lifting routine? I know there are thousands on Pinterest but I like personal recommendations. :)

Phew, this post has gone on for way too long.

So there’s my really long-winded update. Bravo if you made it to the end, I’ll keep you guys posted on the final results. If J didn’t lose any more weight (unlikely), I’d have to lose 5 more pounds to beat him. So if I win this competition it will be a miracle.

Have you ever done the Whole30 challenge? Any tips or recommendations?
Do you have a good weight training routine that works for you, specifically for arms? 
Who wants to come and sneak calories into J’s meals? :)

Summer Weight Loss Competition

J and I have been in a healthy-living rut as of late.

I blame the busyness. One or both of us have been out of town five of the past six weekends, and our weeknights are oftentimes filled with activities. And when life gets busy like that, the first thing to go out the window is time to exercise and well-planned meals. It’s so much easier to grab take out or throw together quick and easy (read: processed) foods.

We are the opposite of normal people and actually travel less during the summer, so we are planning to kick into high gear and lose some weight this season. With the abundance of time, fresh foods and daylight, how could we not, right?

In the past, general “let’s try to eat better and workout more” statements haven’t really helped. So this summer, we decided to up the anty and make it a competition, biggest loser style.

Biggest Loser – J vs G

The Rules:
Whoever loses the most percentage of weight by September 2nd (15 weeks from yesterday) wins. We are going to track our weight every Tuesday in a shared google document.

The Prize & Consequence:
The hardest part was coming up with the prize. Naturally, we thought about buying something, but we kind of buy whatever we want now (within reason), so it wouldn’t be a huge motivator. Then we thought about consequences for losing. That’s how we narrowed down the prize:

  • If J wins, I have to watch the first season of Battlestar Galactica with him.
  • If I win, he has to watch the six-hour BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with me.
  • The loser has to wash all of the dishes in the month of October. And maybe some other chores we decide to throw in there just for fun. ;)

BSG_Season_1_DVD vs. pride-and-prejudice-1995-restored-2010-x-250

So that’s what we will be up to this summer. Neither of us have a ton to lose, but let’s just say we look a little rounder than we did in our newlywed photos. And both of us love a good friendly competition, so I am curious to see how we fare in the upcoming weeks.

Have you ever tried to do a weight loss competition with your spouse or friends? Any tips for how to beat him? ;) 

Mile A Day December

I have learned something about myself this year: I do not exercise on my own unless I have a race I paid for, a gym membership I am paying for, or a tangible goal that I have told a lot of people about. Basically, if my money or my pride are involved, I workout.

After I ran a marathon in January, I decided to give myself a two-week hiatus and then continue running to maintain my mileage up to at least five to six miles. Nothing too intense, but still a solid hour of running. Well it was cold in February and I got lazy in March and since I didn’t have to, I maxed out to three miles at a time and lost the long-distance endurance I had built.

And that’s ok — I gave myself grace. Afterall, I did run a marathon.

But slowly I’ve gotten out of the habit. I still exercise some, taking Leia for walks and running two miles or so, but it’s inconsistent and I am tired of making excuses, especially now that it’s darker and colder.

So here’s a specific tangible goal I’m sharing on here for December, in hopes that if I publicly announce it, I will do it. :) I will keep it small and manageable, because December has a way of getting really intense really fast, and leave the big goals for where they belong (the new year!).

Mile a day

The Rules:
Walk/run for one mile every day in the month of December. Whether it’s walking one mile on your lunch break, or a record-mile run, the point is to get out and move for a mile.

Why December?
Why not December?
– It’s the darkest month of the year, so all of us are Vitamin-D deficient. Getting outside for 10-20 minutes will give much-needed Vitamin D to your body.
– It’s the busiest month of the year, so taking a short time of your day to walk will relieve stress and help collect your thoughts.
– You eat the most unhealthy in December, and studies show that those who exercise even a short period of time each day are more conscious about what they eat than those who don’t. (I’m too lazy to look up the studies, but I think I’ve read at least one once a season in Shape magazine for the last ten years.)

Want to join me?
Yay! Use the hashtag #mileaday if you want to participate via social media. (Update: I just saw that Elise had the same goal! So we’ll all be doing it together.:)

What motivates you to work out? 

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