nutrition

Whole30 results: 24 of 25 desired “non-scale victories” (pain relief!)

Could you feel better?
If you’re not feeling like your best, healthiest, most energetic self – or, if you are having a lot of joint pain, as I was – you might want to try Whole30. Having recently discovered that I have some new digestive/gut issues and food sensitivities – which my new, naturopathic physician explains is not at all unusual in women of peri-menopausal age (who knew?!) – I embarked on the Whole30 program to see if it could help reset my health. There were 25 things I hoped to see happen out of it…and I realized 24 of them. Plus some other wonderful, unexpected victories.

Food can be sneaky.
Whole30 wisely asserts that the food you eat either makes you MORE healthy…or LESS healthy. There is no food neutral. Food is sneaky, affecting you in subtle ways you would never connect to your diet. TRUE TRUE T-R-U-E. All too often, we forget to even really think about what we’re putting in our bodies and the effects it may be having, silently, without us noticing yet. It’s quite easy, over time, to lose touch with what we are supposed to feel like. To live in a state of denial. Maybe we can get away with this for a while, but eventually it catches up with us and bites us in the ass.

What are you putting in your body? Is it really as good for you as you think? 
For quite a few years, I’ve been a very “healthy” eater by most standards, eating my fruits and veggies, along with plenty of whole grains, some beans, dairy “for calcium,” a little meat, and, like most Americans, way. too. much. SUGAR. 

  • I’m not generally a huge meat fan; in fact, I was a vegan for several years before my son was born a decade ago. Not so much for ethical reasons – though I certainly respect that choice  - but just because I don’t really like it.  Now, however, after this Whole30 experiment, I do find that eating the right, healthy meats and fish (wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, etc.) does improve my health. 
  • Unfortunately, while we’re taught that grains and legumes and dairy are good for us, they can, for some of us, at some point, become major contributors to systemic inflammation, joint pain (HUGE for me for the past year), and a whole host of health issues. I’m not saying that’s the case for everyone. I’m not going to get into or debate the science behind it. I’m no expert, by any stretch. All I can tell you is that in my personal experience it’s very true. Read It Starts With Food. It is so good that I read it on vacation and loved every minute of it. 

What you eat: A variety of healthy, whole foods, in ample quantities, three times a day, with 4-5 hours between meals.
Whole30 is similar to a strict Paleo – but please don’t let that scare you off. I’ve learned that there are a LOT of misconceptions about Paleo as “the caveman diet” being piles and piles of meat and bacon. You do eat animal protein at every meal, but contrary to popular belief your plate typically has more vegetables on it than anything else!

It’s not so bad, really…grass-fed burger with mocha spice rub, Paleo bacon, spinach and asparagus. Needs avocado…

There are many “rules” of Whole30, and the gist of it is you eat ONLY a lot of healthy whole foods – eggs, meats, vegetables and little fruit, and plenty of healthy fats like avocado, olive and coconut (as oils and in their solid forms). Sounds TERRIBLE, huh? Eating MORE healthy fat was one of the most revolutionary changes to me. They say “do not fear the fat” and it’s true. Many of us are still fat-phobic from the 80s/90s low-fat/fat-free BS, and I really believe eating more of these healthy fats is one big reason my joints are super happy, among other things. You avoid all processed sugar, dairy, grains of any kind (including corn), and soy. You read EVERY label, because there are sneaky ingredients and sugars and chemical crap even in places you would not expect them, like bacon. (I had NO idea that most bacon, even the good nitrate-free kind, has added sugar.)

There are myriad “science-y” reasons why this is better (disclaimer redux: I am not an expert. Read the book). Perhaps the simplest, most memorable one is simple opportunity cost. If we’re filling our plates with grains and beans and other things in which the nutrients really aren’t that plentiful or bioavailable, we’re missing out on having room in our bellies for the foods richest in both macronutrients and micronutrients.  Makes total sense, right? Yet it’s not how we usually eat. We fill ourselves up on fluff that puts us in a state of chronic inflammation. 

My results…24 out of 25 NSVs!!! Plus some more that I hadn’t even thought about.
While this Whole30 started as a bit of a roller coaster…my body is now REJOICING, in so many ways. Whole30 is about the “non-scale victory” or “NSV”. When I started, I identified 25 of them from their long list of possibilities that I was hoping to see as a result of this program. And…no joke…24 OF THEM HAVE HAPPENED.

They are: flatter stomach – less joint swelling – less stiff joints – less painful joints (SO MUCH LESS PAINFUL) – less stomach pain – fewer seasonal allergies – reduction in food allergies – less chronic pain (DID I MENTION…SO MUCH LESS PAIN) – less back pain, too – improved body image – less reliance on the scale (more about this later) – higher productivity – higher energy levels – more energy at work – recover from exercise more effectively (HUGE. I’ve had a TON of trouble recovering for the past year and felt like I could NOT build muscle. No longer a problem.) – healthier relationship with food – practicing mindful eating – listening to my body – don’t use food as stress management – no more food guilt or shame – when I do indulge, I savor it – meal prep is organized and efficient (still room for improvement here). Granted, some of those are quite similar to each other, but STILL. It’s pretty remarkable. I feel RADICALLY better than I did just 30 days ago.

First bike ride in two months or so…crazy hilly and windy 24 miles…ZERO hip/SI joint pain and INCREDIBLE recovery. WOO-HOO!!!

Additional NSVs I had not even THOUGHT about beforehand: Softer, healthier skin and hair – check. Sleeping better – check. Drinking less coffee – spending way less on coffee drinks – check. Feeling more energetically stable – check. Fitting back into my favorite shorts before the end of summer – check! More knowledge to teach my son about healthy eating and more conviction to do it – check and check. And that *might* just be the best one of all.

The ONE on my starting list that I didn’t see happen? Elimination of under-eye circles. They are lighter, but still there. I’m not sure Whole30 can be held entirely responsible for that at my age of almost-47… ;)

At last, it’s not about the scale.
Whole30 is not ABOUT weight loss, but it is usually a fringe benefit. In my case, I lost a few pounds and my clothes fit much better. More importantly, I feel like I can quickly and effectively build MUSCLE again in a way that I haven’t been able to in over a year. This Winter I felt like I was trying and trying to strengthen, to no avail. Turns out, my body probably wasn’t effectively absorbing the nutrients it was getting, nor was it getting enough of them.

What’s next?
After Whole30 or whenever you’re ready you reintroduce the foods that you miss, one group at a time, and see clearly how they make you feel. But as much as I miss ice cream, I feel that I’ve got more to learn. I just learned some things from my new naturopath this week and on the Whole30 forums that I think will further affect my progress. So, I’m going to stay the course a bit longer.

For example, I’ve started eating fruit at the start of a meal instead of at the end, when I eat it (2-3 servings a day TOPS), because it’s better for digestion, according to the naturopath. And I just started making sure that I eat a meal within an hour of waking up in the morning. Apparently that’s pretty key for fixing screwed up digestive hormones. It’s also quite tricky some days, and different when you train in the morning. There’s a whole extra set of recommendations for training and the Whole30. In short, you eat a little fat and protein before your workout, a mini “bonus” meal immediately afterwards and/or your regular meal shortly thereafter depending on timing.

I have to say, I’ve learned a lot these past couple of weeks on the Whole30 forum. The moderators are incredibly responsive and helpful and it’s an all-around great experience.  I’m looking forward to digging more into the forum on Whole30 for athletes.

Bottom line, I am SO GRATEFUL to Melissa and Dallas Hartwig who started this program, and highly recommend it. Do you feel like Whole30 might be helpful for you? Can I try to answer any questions? 

 

Food sensitivities and the start of the Whole30 ride

Suddenly, I’m allergic to…food.
A week ago, I asked my friends for advice on dealing with food sensitivities. Lately I’ve been having weird and extreme reactions to food, that I’ve never had or realized before. I’m getting tested for allergies in a few weeks but want to do all I can in the mean time to help my body calm down.

Enter Whole30.
My wonderful friend Wendy (who is allergic to Facebook but amazing at private support hehehe) has been dealing with the exact same issues and strongly recommended the Whole30 program, which I’ve considered before, but never done. It’s popular among triathletes and others.

Whole30 is a 30-day health reset in which you eat meat, fish, veggies, healthy fats, nuts (if you aren’t allergic/sensitive) and a little fruit. And black coffee, thank God. NO added sugar, honey, etc., no booze, no dairy, no grains of any kind, no corn, no soy, nothing processed whatsoever, no additives like carageenan etc. It’s similar to a strict Paleo, which I’ve been experimenting with for the past two months with great results but not great consistency.

Why do this? It’s supposed to be great for inflammation and I am strongly suspecting that extreme joint inflammation caused by undetected food sensitivities may be the ultimate root cause of all or most of my pain issues over the past year.

One of the ways they describe Whole30 in the book is: “…the Whole30 is not a diet. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not even a weight loss program. The Whole30 is designed to change your life. It’s a monumental transformation in how you think about food, your body, your life, and what you want out of the time you have left on this earth. It’s so much bigger than just food. It’s a paradigm shift the likes of which you may only experience a few times in your whole life.”

Those are some mighty large claims. I am definitely up for a life-changing experience and we’ll see if this lives up to it. I just finished the first week…it’s been quite the roller coaster ride, with a happy end-of-week status and some pro tips and helpful reading at the end.

Day 1 Excited and Anxious.
Amazing breakfast: sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, eggs and a little bit of fresh pineapple. SERIOUSLY I FEEL BETTER ALREADY. Black coffee? You mean, like, without almond milk and honey? Oh HELL no. I’m highly skeptical. But, actually, it’s not so bad. Later, the anxiety kicked in. Someone said to eliminate nuts, one of my favorite snacks. That feels like it is threatening my very existence. (I know, right? WITH THE DRAMA. It all feels very dramatic at the time. Food is emotional.) Someone else says fruit is the devil. I’m sticking to the letter of the Whole30 law and keeping my fruit, but cutting back to a couple servings a day. I think I might be sensitive to nuts and might need to let those go.

Day 2 Eff This Shit.
I do not feel better…I feel pissed off and super crabby. Had no time for a real breakfast, and it’s pretty difficult to just grab and go on this deal unless you are far better prepared than I was this week since I just decided to jump into this head first. Cold beets and special “paleo-approved” bacon is not an inspiring start to the day. Egg salad with avocado instead of mayo wrapped in leaf lettuce for lunch is vile. The beef we slow-cookered for dinner looks like a bike tire. Three total meal fails in a row made me frustrated and overwhelmed. (I don’t have time for this! There’s NO WAY I have time for this!) I ended the day hungry and sobbing, cradling Whole30 cookbooks in my arms.

Day 3 OMG I FEEL AMAZING! 
My energy was on the low side during the morning gym workout, but my body felt less achy and my digestion was more functional. I observed a definite connection between my digestion and my pain level. Whole30 breakfasts – when you have time to do them right – are the BEST. Sweet potatoes, kale and eggs again. (Egg fatigue will set in soon, I’m told.) I also realized I need to focus on chewing more slowly; I don’t think I’ve chewed my food in the decade since G was born which has likely been, you know, a bit of a problem. Mid-afternoon hibiscus tea appeased my sweet tooth (or “sugar dragon” as Whole30 people seem to call it). I think almond butter on celery gave me a stomach ache. Please, God, do not take my almond butter. This is the “bargaining” stage of Whole30, apparently.

Day 4 Meh.  

Day 5 I need to let go of the scale. 
I’m supposed to stay off the scale. I haven’t been staying off the scale. It’s not ABOUT the scale. It’s about the NSV (non-scale victory), which for me is less pain and inflammation and more energy. I have less pain. My energy hasn’t rallied yet, but it will. In the end, I didn’t stay off the scale. But I will. I SWEAR. I will from now on, until day 31.

Day 6 WTELF. (What the ever-loving f-bomb.)
I have been all-in on this Whole30 for SIX WHOLE DAYS and I felt like total ass this day, with swollen joints. Oh yeah, I ate some regular, nitrate-free, non-paleo-approved bacon the day before. Yes, there really is special paleo-approved bacon without added sugar (Jesus. They put sugar in every damn thing). Technically, I am supposed to start the program over because I sugar-poisoned myself; however, I don’t plan to quit after 30 days so I’m going to just keep rolling. I baked eggs inside avocados (which is nowhere near as easy at it looks) and ordered special 100% coconut milk sans guar gum. I can’t WAIT for it to arrive; this is what my food life has come to. Almond butter on celery immediately gave me a stomach ache, again. So almond butter is dead to me for now and life isn’t fair. *sobs* Still, I am fascinated by how in touch this has made me with my body and its sensitivities. That’s pretty damn cool.

Day 7 Mind…Blown. 
I woke up feeling super crazy tired, which evidently, according to the Whole30 book, is extremely normal at this stage when your body is used to burning sugar and isn’t getting it. I was also tired of plain black coffee, so I put in some full fat coconut milk and cinnamon and it was a very satisfying change. I found myself getting in the groove and ate amazing today – eggs, avocado, kale, dates wrapped in paleo-approved bacon (SO freaking good), cod, broccoli, zucchini, blueberries, salmon, sweet potatoes and asparagus. I am also trying to make sure to leave at least 3-4 hours in between eating instead of grazing like I normally do, so my digestion works better.

I worked out at home after a long-ish dog walk, and it was rather unbelievably great. My joints were moving in ways that they haven’t in a year…after ONE WEEK. I went right back into plow pose with zero effort. I haven’t even been able to do cat/cow without pain and stiffness in SO long and it felt normal. I tested light sumo squats – NO problem. I even decided to jump on the treadmill and throw down a test of some 6.0 intervals – and felt PERFECT. I can’t even explain the difference in my body. I have no words. I’m still stiff and sore first thing in the morning and have a long way to go, but I believe this is going to help, big time.

Pro Tips and Helpful Reading
Here is the guar-gum-free coconut milk you can order. Technically guar gum is allowed, I’d just rather get it out. Wendy also suggested subbing cashew butter for my dearly departed almond butter, which seems better on my tummy. Be careful, though, I accidentally bought cashew butter at the co-op that has safflower oil in it, which is also technically permitted but not ideal. It drives me crazy when even the organic food co-op adds crap to otherwise healthy whole food. Read. EVERY. Label.

Read about carageenan from the point of view of a cardiologist. It’s one of those ingredients in commercial almond milk that I’ve always wondered about, but didn’t really want to know. Well now I know and I won’t be consuming it any more. If you’re ordering almond latte and thinking you’re being healthy, as I was, sorry, but you’re not. Cut that shit out. It’s crazy inflammatory and possibly carcinogenic.

Another super-smart food friend, Rachel, wrote about Leaky Gut and the Allergic to Everything Phenomenon. It’s a really great read and her blog is a great resource.

Week Two…I’m All In.
I will most *definitely* be continuing this Whole30. I can’t WAIT to see what week two brings. I’ll be much better prepared this week, and I need to massively thank my husband, Karl, who does a ton of food prep for me.

Have you ever done Whole30? Did it help? Would you ever try it?

Weight gain is *not* actually the end of the world? Weird.

Me and my bestie Erica after rocking our St. Patrick’s Day races.
She ran the Lucky Leprechaun with ease and I finished 2nd AG at the Luck O’ The Irish.

Well, Spring is here, in spirit if not in temperature. We’ve survived quite an *interesting* winter…and interesting is a euphemism for a bunch of words that I would only use if I swore like a sailor (which, let’s face it, I do, but not here). It’s been interesting from a fitness training standpoint, too. I’ve learned a LOT working with my new triathlon coach, Jenny. It hasn’t always been pretty; in fact, it mostly hasn’t been pretty (she’s a strong, tolerant woman). But now that I’ve gone through it and had my little “a-ha moment” it seems worth passing on.

If you know me, you know that I think about my weight occasionally (*cough. cough*). I struggled with being overweight for most of my life. Over the course of the past almost-two-years during which I’ve lost 35-ish pounds and gotten in rather good shape, I’ve generally counted every. little. calorie. And…it worked for me. Until it didn’t.

When I started working with Jenny in December, she pointed out that I was always putting in my daily workout logs how tired I was, how I didn’t feel energetic during my workouts. It’s so obvious in hindsight, but it hadn’t occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t fueling adequately. She questioned whether I was eating enough (how could this be possible?! I am not the kind of girl to undereat) and strongly recommended that I stop obsessing about calories and just…eat.

*incredulous pause*

Talk about having your safety net pulled away…that loss of tight control was a scary, scary place to go. But I went. My workouts IMMEDIATELY felt better. Go figure.

Very gradually, I started gaining weight, and FREAKING. THE HELL. OUT.

I can laugh about it now. At the time I was not amused…I was a mess. Even though I’ve read repeatedly in my Racing Weight “bible” that it is perfectly normal, even HEALTHY, for athletes to gain up to 8% over their “ideal” racing weight during the off season…”healthy weight gain” was such a foreign concept to me personally that I just could NOT get my head around it. But I was determined to give this crazy concept a chance.

I did solid, consistent base training all winter – mostly biking and running (and rehabbing a pulled tricep, so no swimming). I added new leg/core strength workouts and weekly Pilates. I feel more “solid” in my “powerhouse” (a Pilates term for basically everything between your mid-thighs and your midsection) by far than I ever have before.

I ate before workouts and drank protein shakes after workouts. I ate good food, and, yes, a *few* too many baked goods (a weakness of mine…I do love me a good ginger cookie.) I was very far from perfect. As of March, I’ve gained – *GASP* – FIVE WHOLE POUNDS. Maybe even seven, if I go by the low end of my “normal” range.

Shameful, right? Mortifying. Hideous. I’m Jabba the Hutt over here.

Except yesterday, I ran my first race of the year, a hilly 5K. I had NO idea what to expect. It seemed possible that, since I’ve been doing base training, not speedwork, and since I’ve gained FIVE WHOLE POUNDS that my performance would be…abysmal. Yet, somehow, it seemed equally possible that, since I’ve been training very consistently, and have thighs like freaking tree trunks and a firmer core, that my performance would be fine. Maybe even better than fine.

Well guess what? I ran my my ass off and finished SECOND in my age group (out of 33) whereas in my 5Ks before this uncomfortable experiment I was sixth and seventh.

So, I gained five pounds. AND IT IS FINE. *mind completely blown* I’d still like to see them go, and they will over the course of Spring training. But right now, today, I am completely 100% OK with them. They DON’T MATTER. Not a whit.

Thank you, Jenny. You were right. All that time I spent being pissed because you told me to stop counting calories was wasted. :)

I frequently see people recommend ‘throwing away the scale.’ I don’t necessarily agree with that, at least not for everyone; research does support that ongoing tracking creates accountability that helps those who lose weight to regain less than those who don’t weigh themselves regularly. Not all of us are skilled at holding ourselves accountable without the numbers. Instead, I think it should be about learning to create a healthier relationship with the scale. And sometimes it takes trying something wild and crazy like this to learn.

What do you think?

Stronger body, Stronger life

How Taking Great Care of Your Body Can Strengthen Your Mind, Your Spirit and Your Purpose

Recently, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking on this topic at a women’s retreat. I really enjoyed having the chance to meet these wonderful women and share my story. My hope was (is) that it might inspire even one woman to make positive changes. So here ’tis…

 

This is my mother, Eunice. When she died in 1995, she was morbidly obese, chain smoked, had drinking and gambling problems (at least I considered them problems…she considered them hobbies), and hadn’t been to a doctor until her cancer was too advanced for her to stand a chance. She was also a terrific mother, with a huge heart, who went to church religiously, delivered meals to the elderly and was greatly loved by many for her outgoing spirit and absurd sense of humor. Who knows, perhaps if she had taken better care of her body, my son Griffin would have had the chance to know her spirit. Or perhaps not. Regardless, I’m certain that witnessing her terrible physical decline has been a powerful influence on where I am today, at 45, in by far the best physical shape of my life, talking to you about the power of a strong body in building a strong life.

GROWING UP WITH THE MAGIC PANTRY OF CRAP

If genetics and environment are responsible for one’s bodily strength as an adult, I was in serious trouble on both counts. My brothers and I grew up with a kitchen pantry that magically replenished itself with Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms, Cheetos, Doritos and all the other -itos. Fried ring bologna and liver sausage were permanently on the menu, along with a German delicacy of bacon wrapped in beef slathered in gravy. I had learned to swallow carrots whole, but didn’t know green vegetables existed until I was 20. It’s not shocking, then, that by third grade or so, I was wearing a combination of clothes from the “chubby” section at JC Penney, and clothing made *specially* for me.

HELLOOOOOOOOO “200″

As an adult, although I learned better nutrition in college (thank you, God) and always liked exercise, I hit the big “200″ on the scale in the year 2000, shortly after I moved to Milwaukee with a Moroccan who liked to feed me and throw things. Fortunately that chapter was short. And all photographic evidence has been systematically destroyed.

I hired a nutritionist and a personal trainer. I love the nutritionist to this day for helping me fit in my dress…that I wore when I married the personal trainer.

I found the lost weight again when I was pregnant with our son, two weeks later. I went from a full on vegan diet to summer sausage and pickle sandwiches, and gained 60 pounds. I don’t know what the statute of limitations is on calling weight “baby weight,” but I’m fairly certain it’s less than 8 years. Yet as recently as 18 months ago, I remained 40 pounds overweight, mostly sedentary, and not a happy camper. (Oddly enough, there are also few remaining photos from this time period…)

Seeking a healthful weight and a strong body has been a life-long roller coaster ride. And then..a light bulb went on.

HOLY CRAP. MY BODY IS A GIFT WITH WHICH I CAN DO AMAZING THINGS.

Everyone’s bodily gifts are different. And everyone’s journey to find the light will be different. In my case, I was asked to run a half marathon on a charity team in honor of a beautiful baby boy named Paxton Andrews, who was battling cancer. I wasn’t a runner, and hadn’t attempted it in over a decade. But, the right inspiration can overcome almost anything, and four months later, I crossed my first half marathon finish line.

My run raised over $2,000 for MACC Fund, to fight childhood cancer. Sadly, however, Paxton ended his battle with cancer that July, at just four months old. And pediatric cancer research remains woefully underfunded. NOT. ACCEPTABLE. I encourage you to learn more about the Paxton Andrews Foundation and support their amazing work.

Last year, I joined the Racers Against Childhood Cancer running and triathlon team, to continue doing what I can to help raise funds. (My page is here and your support in any amount is appreciated from the bottom of my heart.) In the past six months, I’ve done my second half marathon, ridden a century (100 miles) on my bike, and learned to swim. I’m in training for the Door County Half Iron Distance triathlon this July…a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56-mile bike ride followed by a half marathon…and for a fall marathon. With every intention of doing a full IronMan triathlon one day. Maybe soon…maybe when I am 70.

I AM BLESSED. SO, SO BLESSED.

The ability to do all of this is a HUGE GIFT. For many people, including some of my friends, it is sadly not a possibility. Which makes it that much MORE of a gift. I am trying to keep that top of mind. And I am trying to make the most of it while it lasts.

DO WHAT MOVES YOU.

If running is your thing, when you start, your body might only want to run a block or two. If you persist, it can run like you never thought possible. It can run three, five, ten, 13.1, twenty or more miles. And, in doing so, completely change your view of WHAT IS POSSIBLE. Which is the real magic. If running is not your thing, try biking or swimming or roller derby or anything that intrigues YOU. Just try something, and then try something else, until you find some things you love.

DO SOME GOOD STRENGTH TRAINING.

My happy place…the weight room

I cannot recommend it highly enough. For anyone of any age. But particularly as we age, it is VITAL to help us maintain muscle mass and metabolism and bone density. You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym and pump iron, if you aren’t comfortable doing that, though I recommend it. Use your body and do pushups and squats and other body weight exercises, at a minimum.

EAT REAL FOOD!!!

You can exercise all day long, and if you’re pumping junk into your body, you’re still going to feel like junk. Eat real, unprocessed food. And do what you need to do to hold yourself accountable for the quality and the amount of what you’re eating. There’s an app for that…it’s called MyFitnessPal. Answer to question asked in retreat: NO, LEAN CUISINE IS NOT REAL FOOD.

IT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING.

I promise you, as your body gets stronger, your life will be stronger in sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many ways.

Foremost among them: even when you think you CAN’T do something…there’s NO WAY…you will come to learn that you CAN. I can remember thinking “there is no way I will ever be able to run 5 miles.” Then, eventually, I ran 20. This new knowledge that you CAN will replace the conversation in your head about why you can’t, and create all sorts of new possibility.

As my friend Lynn, who just added a strength training program to her world, said, “Staying fit and strong means there are less “no”s in your life.” I LOVE that thought.

As Heidi, who just lost 100 pounds, said, “I just can feel my strength…when I work out, I feel strong. It’s a feeling of confidence that I can accomplish big things because I have gotten myself to be really healthy.”

Then there’s Deb, who ran her first marathon in 2012: “The biggest benefit was increased confidence and the knowledge that I’m strong enough to take on just about anything. At one point I could not run a mile, but then I ran 26.2. Slowly yes, but it took a lot of physical and more mental strength to do it. You gain confidence that the next step will be a steady one. You gain confidence that the next step will bring amazing people into your life. You gain confidence that what you’re doing isn’t selfish or self-serving but that you’re actually influencing others.”

And Tracey: “I feel like it has given me confidence more than anything. I went from being a shy, introverted stay-at-home mom to not only running ultramarathons, but organizing races, teaching bootcamps, coaching, and actually getting excited about meeting new people. I think it translates to so many more things in life outside of just being physically strong.”

So, yes, a stronger body CAN bring NEW CONFIDENCE and POWER and PURPOSE and MEANING to your entire life.

If you’re a parent, it can help make you the kind of positive, energetic parent that you want to be. And you will pass the knowledge that you CAN do big things on to your children. If you’re a professional, it can help make you the kind of positive, energetic, confident professional that you want to be. Whatever you are, whatever you do, I promise you that discovering the power and strength of your body will make you a better one.

I don’t know about you, but I want to see just how strong and beautiful my body can get before I die. And what more I can do with it.So, regardless of what your bodily gift is and what your journey of choice is – I encourage you to not waste it.

Remember: YOUR BODY IS A GIFT WITH WHICH YOU CAN DO AMAZING THINGS. 

Time for a good Fall detox: day one

Photo credit: John Pozadzides, Flickr Creative Commons

SIGNS THAT IT’S TIME

Since finishing my fall races/events a month ago, I’ve been getting lazy about my eating habits. And over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed my energy levels and mood both tanking big time … and my stress level and weight starting to creep up. Clear signs that it’s time to hit the nutritional reset button with a good Fall cleanse. If you want to feel AMAZING you might want to think about doing it with me (as some others are…Lisa and Amanda, this blog’s for you!) or doing a cleanse that best suits you.

FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

I’m still training moderately hard so am not taking on the full-blown Clean program that I’ve done a couple of times before. And I considered the Whole 30 program that’s popular right now; however, for me personally, eliminating whole grains and legumes makes no sense. I don’t like meat enough to go “Paleo” and I don’t think it’s necessary. But – different strokes. Do what works for YOU. It may take some exploration.

Personally, for the next two weeks (until it’s time for my 45th birthday cupcake!) I’m eliminating ALL PROCESSED FOOD, including but not limited to processed sugar. I need to eat WAY more vegetables than I have been. And I’m reducing my dairy, but keeping some milk and yogurt in, to ensure I get enough calcium and vitamin D and keep my bones strong, especially heading into Vitamin-D-deficiency-season here in the great white North. I use a little bit of honey, agave or maple syrup when I need a little bit of sweet. And I still get my morning coffee or a chai tea – NOT the hyper-sweetened coffee shop variety – if I want it.

“WHAT DO YOU EAT?”

So what do I eat/recommend, as some of you have asked?

Much of what turns me on about clean eating right now is inspired by having recently read the book Eat and Run, by vegan ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek. I’m not a vegan (though I once was, for a few years). At times in my training I want MEAT. And at times, it grosses me out. Last night I ate a cheeseburger (which rarely happens) and today the thought of that makes me want to vomit so I’m having veggie chili. In general my way of eating is very in line with Scott’s, and the recipes in his book alone are worth the cover price. Here are a couple of sample recipes, from his website. The lentil mushroom burgers are outstanding.

I also just finished reading Born to Run by Chris McDougall, finally, and I love to eat the way he describes: salads (even for breakfast), greens, pinto beans, corn tortillas, squash, chia seeds…mmmm. Maybe it’s the time I’ve spent in “out there” parts of Mexico in the past but this diet is very appealing to me. But it’s not all I eat. Here are just a few of my “tried and true”, go-to food choices. Please share YOURS in the comments!

SMOOTHIES AND JUICES

This Just Peachy Green Smoothie from the Skinny Taste blog (one of my favorites) became a staple for me this summer and I started my day with it today on detox day one. It’s incredibly refreshing and restorative. I like it with the hemp seeds and also make it with chia seeds. We always have these ingredients on hand so it’s easy to throw together.

And here’s a Green Machine Smoothie recommended by Erin Ulicki that I’ll be making this week. It’s got pineapple which another food that’s great for inflammation/runners, and ginger. Good stuff!

I am also trying to drink at least one fresh-squeezed juice per day, usually green juice or ginger beet juice . The green juice – “cancer’s kryptonite!” – just helped cure my day one detox headache. And the beet juice is supposed to increase stamina by boosting blood flow, when you drink it before a workout. Excited to try that out.

FRUITS

I like a banana before a workout, or during a long workout…high in sugar, yes, but personally I am not concerned about naturally-occuring fruit sugar. I eat an apple almost every day…especially helpful during processed-food detox. I eat berries often…blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, either fresh or frozen in a smoothie. And I drink tart cherry juice almost every day because it’s great for inflammation and has been proven to enhance recovery in runners. Also, it’s YUMMY.

VEGETABLES

Eating enough veggies is KEY to any good detox and to making sure your body is working well…put them in anything and everything. I try to get leafy greens in my body at LEAST twice a day if not three times.

One of the green breakfast smoothies is a great way to start the day right. In a time pinch, I’ll often lightly sautee a huge pile of spinach and scramble in a couple of eggs/egg whites…VERY filling and satisfying. At least once or twice a week, I’ll eat a pile of chard sauteed with some garlic, with a nice piece of fish like five-spice tilapia or wild salmon on top, for dinner. I’m also planning to keep kale chips on hand for snacks (just as good with only salt and pepper as with fresh parm and chili powder, as in the recipe).

Heidi Ketroser Massey suggested “I roast tons of veggies (with whole garlic cloves-lots of ‘em!) With olive oil and perhaps salt and pepper. But you gotta eat a lot to get full. I might do 4 bell pepers, 2 onions, maybe some mushrooms, or asparagus, and a whole head of garlic. When I fill up on that, I’m really satisfied…” I plan to do this (minus the onions, for me) and throw them on top of a salad. Roasted BEETS are delicious too!

I also bought a couple of acorn squash today and am looking forward to baking those bad boys up with a *touch* of maple syrup. Also, a baked sweet potato is a great standby, very filling, meal or snack.

SOUPS

Soups are a huge part of my diet, especially soups with legumes and lots of veggies. It’s easy to make up a pot of soup and eat if for lunch for a few days…it’s a great convenience food. Very Green Lentil Soup is a great go-to detox food. When I need something a little spicier we make Wheatberry Black Bean Chili. The wheat berries have a nice nutty flavor but you could also substitute quinoa.

WHOLE GRAINS AND LEGUMES

If I need more for breakfast than a smoothie, I’ll often eat Jillian Michaels’ Steel Cut Oats with Apples and Pecans.

I eat a LOT of beans and lentils, whether or not I’m detoxing. Scott Jurek’s Smoky Chipotle Refried Beans will be a HUGE staple for me during this detox. Here’s his recipe, though I highly recommend you get your hands on his book.

3 cups dried pinto beans
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
Half inch piece dried Kombu seaweed (optional…definitely recommend)
1-2 dried whole chipotle peppers or canned chipotles in adobo to taste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons dried epazote (we did not use this, but added cilantro instead)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 and a half teaspoons sea salt

Soak the beans in water to cover by 2 inches, 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans in a colander a few times, then transfer to a large pot. Add the onion, garlic, seaweed, chipotles, and spices. Add water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat for about 1 hour, or until the beans are soft and cooked through.

Drain the beans, reserving 4 cups of the liquid, remove the seaweed. Remove the chiles, or leave one in if spicier beans are desired. Cool the beans for 15 minutes, then place in a food processor along with half cup of the liquid and process until smooth. If desired, you may thin the beans with additional cooking liquid.

Return the pureed beans to the pot with the olive oil and salt. Simmer over low to medium-low heat for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve warm.

Makes 7 cups, 8-10 servings.

NOTE: I do not puree the beans. I like them better partly intact so I just smush them up a little bit. And I like them a littler spicier, too, so am adding more chipotles.

Once you’ve got the killer beans, eat them a) on natural corn tortillas b) with some quinoa, preferably with lots of veggies chopped up and thrown in.

I’ve got more great whole grain recipes I’ll share another time…curried quinoa with veggies…and my absolute favorite, millet cakes.

WHAT I ATE TODAY ON DAY ONE

Here’s a sample day…this is about 1,800 calories, since I ran 5 miles this morning. On a “normal” day I’m targeting about 1,400-1,600 calories right now.

Pre run: Just Peachy Green Smoothie
Post run: Tart cherry juice and two dates each stuffed with 1 t. almond butter
Lunch: Lentil soup with greens
Snack: 1 ounce cashews, half a LaraBar and an apple
Dinner: Veggie chili, two corn tortillas, and green veggie juice

HOW ABOUT YOU?

So this has been a very long post but I hope useful for some of you! If you’re doing this or another detox, let me know how it’s going and if I can help in any way. And I’d LOVE to hear what YOU eat in the comments…link to your favorite detox-appropriate recipes if you got ‘em!

Review: Jillian Michaels Maximize Your Life tour

Yesterday was FITNESS SPONTANEITY DAY at our house. Woke up feeling restless; an hour later we were off on a family hike in the woods in Kettle Moraine State Park about an hour from our house…SO refreshing. Then we made the random last-minute decision to go to the Jillian Michaels show at the Pabst Theater; no regrets there, either. Jillian was GREAT.

GETTING GREAT SEATS AT THE LAST MINUTE

Protip: I spent most of my teenage/college years working in various theater ticket offices…if you aren’t aware, many times there are great seats released the day of show that the box office had been holding back for possible VIPs. And this is why we decided to go yesterday; I had looked for tickets twice before and come up with crappy, overpriced seats, which I will. not. do. Two hours before the show, we landed in the center of the floor in row P, at a great price. BAM. Done.

INFORMATIVE, INSPIRING, VERY FUNNY…NOT SO FAMILY FRIENDLY

Nutrition, Exercise, Motivation and…Tequila

The other reason we went is that my son – who is 7 years old – REALLY wanted to see Jillian. When your kid comes to you and says he finds someone inspiring and wants to see them – especially when you’ve spent the past 7 years trying to get that kid to eat a fruit or a vegetable – you pretty much say YES.

We’ve watched more than enough Biggest Loser at our house to know that Jillian swears like a sailor. I had hoped she would tone it down for the show knowing that there would be kids in the audience but mmmmmmyeah not so much. Not at all. Goddamn it, Bastards, the F bomb and all…she was ALL IN. I have some proclivity for swearing myself, so I understand, and am OK with it. But it’s not for everyone.

Also (sorry for the sucky I-phone picture) yes that IS a bottle of Patron by Jillian’s feet. I found it interesting that she was offering tequila shots while talking about how to prolong your life…definitely a show meant more for women out with their girls than for fitness-obsessed Moms and their fitness-obsessed little boys.

Still, my son was laughing during this show HARDER THAN I HAVE EVER HEARD HIM LAUGH IN HIS LIFE. Like to the point that women around us were getting annoyed (which I don’t get, BTW. WTF, aren’t we all here to have fun?). Totally. Cracked. Him. Up. Between the kid hearing about nutrition from a master and the laughter – worth every penny.

“I’VE MADE A LOT OF MONEY SHARING THIS SECRET…WAIT FOR IT…EAT LESS AND MOVE MORE

Bwahaha! So freaking true. Jillian encouraged everyone to stop spending money learning this lesson…and then we all went out to the lobby and trampled each other to buy our $40 t-shirts and videos and hats and mugs and…yeah. We’re never going to stop spending money learning this lesson are we. We know it. We just need constant reminders to DO IT.

EAT CLEAN OR DIE

We buy mostly organics at our house, and have read enough to understand how crucial it is to avoid antibiotics and hormones and nitrites/nitrates in our meat. And even my son is already aware of reading labels and avoiding hugh-fructose corn syrup, trans fats etcetera. But lest anyone waver, Jillian drove these points home brilliantly with photos of appallingly obese corn-fed cattle – and the steaks that came from them – and bloated farmed salmon.

She shared her lists of the Dirty Dozen – produce to ALWAYS buy organic – the Clean 15 – OK to eat conventional – and things to ALWAYS avoid in your food. (This, of course, is extremely effective bait to get us to her website and encourage us to join her paid online community. Not a bad thing to consider if you need more external motivation. I used to subscribe and there are a wealth of useful exercise circuits and recipes in addition to the community features.)

MOVE YOUR ASS AND MOVE IT FAST

Jillian is, of course, a huge advocate for HIIT – high intensity interval training. And I tell you, when I used to actually do the super high intensity circuits in her Making the Cut book, I was in better shape than I ever have been in my life. Even better than when I was running before the ankle injury (*sigh*). As soon as I am healed I am getting back on the HIIT (and of course running) wagon. Right now I am just going to move my ass as fast as I can without hurting myself. Still, I was glad she acknowledged that HIIT isn’t for everyone, and that people should do what they enjoy…just FASTER, maintaining a heart rate of 85% of your max as much as possible during your workouts.

THE MENTAL PART: HOW TO STOP GETTING IN YOUR OWN WAY

Sadly, at this point in the show there was an intermission and I had to get my son home. So the holy grail I was looking for was not to be found this night.

For me, the holy grail is self esteem…how to get some and KEEP IT even when I can’t run. Oddly, running seemed to be a remedy in this area. And now that I can run for the time being I’m struggling with the old self-directed negativity again…putting myself down and, exactly as Jillian puts it, getting in my own way.

Anyone see the end of the show, or have any words of wisdom to share in this area?

Peace.

Spaight

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