Thursday, October 31, 2013


So when your kid can't exactly walk and shouldn't eat candy, you make it work with an easy costume!

Harper, naturally, went as an aerobics instructor, Jazzercise specifically.  Her figure is just right for it.  And her dance/exercise abilities.  ;)

The boombox is a cereal box with clipart taped to it.  Made it the night before! boom.

Gotta show off to the grandparents.

Hated the headband.

We went trick or treating with our friends the Thompsons - which really meant we watched their kids run around while we pushed the littles in strollers.  I'm not that mom who's gonna take her non-walker to a door asking for candy (although, I wish I had some right now...)

Kim made a fox costume for her baby - cutest thing ever.  And very enticing to grabbers.

Hope yours was great - and enjoy that candy you stole from your kids!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Crafts from Halloweens Past

Fall is usually the time of year when I dust off the glue gun and get crafty.  The season sort of cries out for crafting.  Well, this year, I ignored the siren song.  I've made absolutely nothing and I'm ok with it.  

Ever since having Harper, our house has felt a lot smaller (and I know that's a common feeling).  Out of necessity, and out of a desire to purge clutter as blocks and books moved in, I've pared down my decor.  There's just not room and all of it is a baby magnet.  So I kept it simple for fall.  I already have a lot of decorations and making more just doesn't make sense right now.  Luckily, I'm in the midst of planning a friend's baby shower, so my few drops of creative juice left are being funneled in that direction.

Nonetheless, I wanted to resurrrect a project from the archives and share it again. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

This skull print is one of my favorite Halloween projects to date.  I thought it turned out pretty good, and it was one of those right-from-my-brain on the fly sort of projects.  Funny thing is, Tony is totally creeped out by it and won't let me put it up.  Oh well, I don't really decorate for Halloween anyway.  So, it will live on here, in blogworld, even if it doesn't see the light of day in the real world.

I printed an anatomical skull print from the Google onto newsprint.  I glued it to some orange paper.  To rough it up, I spraypainted some black through a piece of burlap.  Done-zo.

I still love these pumpkins I made a few years back.

Basic cheapo foam pumpkins painted with metallic craft paint and doused in glitter.  Boom.

This is about all I have going on this year.  Womp. 

 Oh well.  There's always Christmas (ps - I'm already stressing about a tree - we can't not get one! but our child is a destructive force that I am not prepared to deal with....)  Maybe a tabletop one?  Grrrr babyproofing!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Obligatory Pumpkin Post

We got a pumpkin and I took some pictures.  We like to get them from the local fire department.  Not as fun as a real patch, but easy and supports a good cause.

This kid was obsessed with beating on the pumpkins.  She has also enjoyed trying to eat some of the small ones I got, too.

 Such a big difference from last year, no?

2012 - Harper, the Grumpy Granny.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fourteen Months

I've kept a word document with letters to Harper each month.  Most are ridiculously long and detailed (I wanted to capture every little thing!), but I've condensed them post-one year.  I figured I would share this here today, along with some photos of life these days.  And yes, we sometimes call her Tater Kate.  Here's what she's up to this month:

Tater Kate,

You are on the move, and boy are you wearing me out.  But I love being able to watch you learn and grow and develop each and every day.  The months are flying by now.  Soon you will graduate from high school and I will be devastated.  But until then, here’s what you are up to:
  • You crawl so fast!  You will zero in on what you want, and you are off.
  • Still no walking yet, but you walk really, really well behind your wagon and you pull up on everything.

  • You've started trying to stand on your own.  You will only do it by pulling up on me, and then slowly removing one hand, then the other, to balance.  You fall over almost immediately, but you get such a devious, excited look in your eye when you are about to try and we both clap together afterwards.  I’m excited for you to start standing up without pulling up.

  • You are testing boundaries.  I've seen you crawl towards a no-no object (like the fireplace bumper), look back at me, then touch it anyway.  I get to say No quite often.  You get so upset when I tell you No in a scary voice when you touch things like outlets, but really you are just mad you didn't get your way.  You are so self-determined and opinionated!

  • You still love to dance.  When one of your favorite songs comes on the radio, you make excited noises and pump your one hand to the beat.  And yes, you have favorites that don't quite reflect my favorites (anything JT, Hey Ho, Summertime Sadness, Safe and Sound).

  • We decided your official first word is “dada” – but “mama” was a close second.  You say dadadadada around your dad, and whine mamamama when you want something from me.

  • You’ve started pointing a lot, especially when you want something.  You point and grunt, sometimes saying “a-Da” over and over
  • You can point out Roxy and Dad, but have no clue who Mom is when asked
  • You can point out noses and mouths - just not your own.
  • You love to clap, always when we ask you to, but sometimes when you are just proud of yourself.

  • You were sick again this month (stupid school!), waking up with eyes crusted so badly you couldn't open them.  Turns out, you had a double ear infection.  You never pulled at your ears, so I had no idea.  You were pretty sick for a few days, but got better shortly.  However, we are still dealing with the fussiness and off-schedule-ness of post sickness.  You are quite the whiner!

  • You’re teething too (top eye teeth, making #13 and #14 in there), which doesn't help.  Our happy baby has become a fussy, cranky, screaming mess.  You hate to be put down or have your diaper changed or be put in your car seat (you name it).  I know it’s just a phase, but I want my happy girl back!
  • My amazing eater has turned into a somewhat picky eater.  You love strawberries one day, then the next you won’t touch them.  You used to eat mostly veggies, now I have to convince you to do so.  You do eat a lot of what we eat too, though. 

  • You have definitely thinned out, but you are still a thick girl at 26 pounds!  I can’t find any jeans that actually fit over your thighs and aren't a foot too long.  Leggings, it is!  (or no pants, usually)

  • You seem to love school.  The teachers say you have a great time and you only get fussy if you get a little sleepy.  I’m glad you get to interact with other kids!
  • We are bottle-free!!  I found a transitional sippy that you would actually drink milk out of, and within just a day or so, we were done with bottles with little effort.  Hooray!

  • Your morning nap is waning.  It only lasts about an hour now.  I miss that two hour nap!!!  So now you sleep about 7:30 pm– 7 am, with a one hour nap from 9-10 am and a two hour nap from 1-3 pm.  

  • One of my favorite things about the stage you are currently in is your curiosity.  You find the tiniest things on the floor and examine them.  You will push a door closed and open over and over again to watch how it works.  You bang things together to hear the loud noise.  You love to rip up paper or magazines.  You will even pick up many things now and just study them instead of eating them.  You still love to chew on shoes though, which I think you picked up from Roxy...

  • You love to stand at the storm door and watch the world go by.
  • You will clap to “If You’re Harper and You Know It” and you attempt some hand movement when I sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider"
  • You are my perfect little girl, even in these rough patches!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Whole30: Part II

As promised in my last post, here's Part II about our Whole30 experience.  If you are interested in my long-winded recap of our great experience, read it here.

Fair warning, all of these food pictures were taken on my phone, initially just to send to my mom to show her what types of stuff we were eating, since she eats this way often too.  Then I realized I could use them on ze blog.  Either way, they are terrible and not completely representative of what we ate.  But I'm sharing them anyway.

(Also, apparently, as I write this, it's become a how-to type of thing... sorry for the presumption... it's just coming out that way)

As I said before, the Whole30 takes a lot of planning in order for you to be successful.  You must have healthy foods ready to go ahead of time, always prepped, if not cooked, since convenience is sometimes required.  We always cooked our sweet potatoes for breakfast the night before, as well as our protein for lunch, as Tony needed to be able to pack it in the morning.  Planning is key

I used these templates for meal planning.  I got really excited about it the first week, then I slacked to doing it only a day or two at a time.  Longer term is always better, but it just didn't always happen.  A few times, we really struggled to come up with food in a timely fashion or with limited groceries.  But we never deviated, even in those pinches.

I also found that we were really creative at the beginning, trying new recipes and mixing up our veggie selection.  As we got into it, we started to rely on the same staples.  This wasn't bad, but I'm looking forward to continuing to try out new recipes now that there's not so much pressure.

What I loved about the Whole30 is you eat as much as it takes to fill you up.  There are guidelines, but if you are hungry, you eat.  You don't watch calories or fat or anything like that.  Ingredients are truly the only thing we care about now.  Fat makes food taste good, and when the right kinds of fat are used, it leads to a healthier you!  (mmm ghee)

Here's my rundown.

What You Eat
- Protein, Veggies, Fruit, Healthy Fats.  There's actually a shopping list online that helped us navigate the best choices.  We bought a ton of meat.  We bought a ton of veggies.  We ate our weight in coconut-based foods and avocados.  We went to the grocery store probably 3-4 times a week, since certain things, like romaine lettuce, are things you only want to buy every few days.  Plus, we would fill our fridge and then eat it all!  We used to see veggies die a slow death in our fridge.  Now, we can't keep it stocked!
- It's not allll unprocessed. There are some things that you can eat that are processed minimally.  Some condiments and sauces are approved (just check the ingredients and beware of soy, sugar, and anything you can't pronounce (carrageenan, i'm looking at you!)).  I designated an approved shelf in our fridge for such things (the Dijon mustard is lurking - he's not approved because of the wine...).  

Tips for Food
- Stock up on staples.  
     ---Oils:  We went to Atlanta to the big farmer's market there to stock up on a lot of things we knew we would need, before the month began.  We got coconut oil, evoo, and ghee as our oils to cook with.  We had actually never used coco or ghee for cooking,  but we really like both and plan to use them exclusively (with evoo), moving forward.  This is actually a really easy way to incorporate this way of eating into a regular diet.  I learned a lot of nasty stuff about soy and veg oil and fake butter.  These oils aren't cheap, but if you find them in bulk, it helps.  Vitacost also has an amazing deal on coco oil (thanks Janna for the tip!)
     ---Nuts:  These make a great snack, salad topping, recipe addition.  We got a variety at the farmer's market for cheap, and they lasted us the whole month.
     ---Meat:  We watched sales and stocked up then, getting grassfed/natural when we could.  Tony always portioned out the meat into servings for two before freezing so it was always ready to go.  He would cut tenderloins into chunks or strips for easy meals, and froze some ground meat into ready-to-go burgers or meatballs.  This helped a ton!
     ---Veggies & Fruits:  We quickly learned what things we would need to grab a bunch of (sweet potatoes  apples, bananas, squashes, bell peppers) and what we would need to keep coming back for (lettuce, kale, berries, avocados).
- You can probably make a lot of things you used to buy pre-made.  Dressings were big for us.  We ate a salad most days for lunch.  Since there are nearly zero dressings that don't have sugar or soy in them, we had to make our own.  There are lots of recipes out there, but I usually found myself just using what we had, usually a vinegar and oil base with green onions or garlic or mustard or orange.  Food processing or just whisking usually did the trick.  We also made guacamole all of the time - it's so very easy to do (I don't follow a recipe, I just use avocado, lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic and mash with a fork).  Salsas, marinades, etc!
- SPICE IT UP!  Tony and I have always used a lot of seasonings on our food (ok, well, he taught me about that.  I never did til I met him).  We love garlic and pepper and fun stuff like smoked paprika.  When you're eating meat that isn't hiding nicely inside a pasta jungle, it's important that it tastes really, really good.  Don't be afraid of seasonings and try new, exciting ones.
- Find approved shortcuts.  For instance, it helped so much to have many of those condiments seen in our fridge up there.  The lime juice was used in marinades and dressings and guac and all kinds of fun stuff.  It saved time (and it's pure lime).  The Red Boat fish sauce smells like death, but adds an Asian flavor we were so missing without soy sauce.  Nearly all vinegar types are approved (we love rice vinegar).
- Little things add a big punch.  Things like ginger or green onion can really take a dish up a notch.
- DIY the veggies (almost all of the time).  Since we were already spending a small fortune, it was so much better for us to buy the head of lettuce, the full-sized veggies, the whole carrots, the dirt-crusted bagged potatoes, and the like, and chop from scratch.  Sure, in a busy world, this isn't always practical, but it's more cost efficient.  The only thing I deviated from with this was broccoli slaw.  It was a great salad topper, easy and cheap.  The end.

Ok, so what did we eat, exactly???  I kept the meal plans, so I know exactly, but here are some samples.  Anything that was recipe-based, I've linked it (and most are pinned on my Whole30 board).  All others were imagined by us.  Unimaginatively.  


  • Eggs & Sweet Potatoes - this was my staple.  We did the potatoes all kinds of ways - diced, hash (with little luck), wedges, strips.  We always coated them in coconut oil, seasoned (usually nutmeg/cinnamon/pepper) them, and baked (400, 10 minutes each side)
  • Sausage & Sweet Potatoes - Tony can't eat eggs without gagging.  This posed a breakfast problem. So we decided to buy natural, preservative-free sausages.  Technically, they weren't Whole30 approved because they have less than 2% of sugar (none shows up in the nutrition table - the sugar is used for the curing process).  This was one of those things where you weigh your options and make the best choice you can.  I don't think that sugar hurt him.  It was either we made this one exception, or we didn't do the Whole30... the pros outweighed the cons.
  • Blueberry Breakfast Clafouti - my mom discovered this one.  Weird, but so good and a nice sweet change.  This saved me when I was so sick and would never have been able to stomach scrambled eggs.

  • *We weren't super adventurous in the morning, because we eat pretty early and not a whole lot is palatable then.
  • Things we didn't care for: Egg Muffins and Faux-tmeal (it was okay, just not for morning)


  • Salad with lots of veggies and grilled chicken - this was a staple. We tried to mix up the veggies we put on there, the dressings, and the flavor of chicken.  But there were many times when I cursed my salad bowl and felt like a very angry rabbit.  
  • Taco lettuce wraps - so good!  We love Mexican, so this was a nice way to eat it.  It's basically taco meat with lots of diced veggies cooked in, guac, and homemade salsa in an iceberg lettuce wrap.  Ignore the corn in this picture (that's not approved - this was a practice meal before we actually began).

  • Turkey Burgers with red onion and guac -  I never thought I would be the type who could eat a burger without the bun - or the cheese!  But I did.  Smothering it with guac and a grilled red onion really helped! 

  • Fajitas - Well, the chicken and veggie part, anyway!
  • Leftovers would be a good lunch, but we never seemed to have much.


  • Meatballs with homemade red sauce - easy to pre-make and freeze!
  • Coconut chicken or shrimp - soooo good, feels like a cheat!  A little bit of work and a little oily, but so tasty.  Make a dipping sauce from pineapple or mango and coconut milk!

  • Roasted shrimp. Can't go wrong here (we splurge to buy wild-caught instead of farmed when it comes to seafood).

  • Seared pork chops - we don't really eat this usually, so this was a nice change-up
  • Indian crockpot chicken - totally amazing.  Would have been even better with some naan, though!  This was basically bone-in chicken breasts, coconut milk, Indian tangine spices (we have a pre-made mix) in the crockpot all day.  We would eat this anytime! It looks gross but tastes great.
  • Butternut squash soup - Perfect fall dish that you can pair with your protein.  Saves and freezes well.
  • Paleo chili over sweet potato fries - I prefer my chili on Fritos and coated with cheese... But this was good.  Very good, in fact! 
  • Stuffed sweet potatoes (minus the cheese) - These are great vessels for all kinds of goodness.  Shred some chicken, add your veggies, and insta-meal.
  • Pork tenderloin carnitas - another crockpot easy recipe.  I'm sure Tony added extra spice, but this recipe helps get you started

  • Grilled mahi with a mango chutney - Easy enough!

  • Many lunch and dinner items overlapped


  • Skewered, grilled peppers and pineapples - sweet and delish!

  • Roasted cauliflower - I liked to make mine spicy!  Freezes well.
  • Roasted butternut squash - I love this squash!  I made both morning versions (cinnamon, nutmeg) and dinner versions (savory, spicy)
  • Sauteed veggies in coconut oil - yellow squash, zucchini  carrot, and peppers.  The oil makes it a little sweet!


  • Fruit - any kind - a recent fave was sliced honeycrisp apples with almond butter
  • Veggie sticks
  • Nuts
  • Lara Bars - we probably abused our privileges on these.  They are so good and so convenient   They are supposed to be for emergencies, so we ate them with care. (Check the ingredients as only certain ones are approved due to things like added vanilla!)
  • Monkey mix - sliced banana, shredded coconut, crushed nuts

Random Things We Discovered
- Ginger is amazing!!  Why didn't we eat this before??  We have the ground kind, but the best is grated fresh off the nub.
- Coat salads with dressings instead of drizzling.  Since we were using thin, vinegar-based dressings, we found it was best to shake the salad with the dressing for better coverage   Why didn't we do that before??


So, what's our plan moving forward?

Well, glad you asked.  The book suggests you reintroduce key food groups post-Whole30.  We did this with dairy and gluten.  Luckily, Tony and I didn't have any major health issues that we were looking to solve, and these food groups didn't make us have any crazy symptoms, beyond general guilt for eating them at all!  Believe it or not, when I had cheese, it was kinda meh.  Bread, on the other hand, I was alllll about it.

From about Day 2, I made the declaration that if I had to choose, I would go dairy free, but could never give up grains.  I stand by this statement.  

So the good news is we can safely (relatively speaking) eat all of these things in our diet - if we want.  Yet, we've decided we don't even really want to all that often   We felt good on the Whole30 and realized we could do with a lot less cheese and pasta and bread and the like.  We will probably stop buying cheese and pasta with regularity, and instead, treat it like a treat.  Having a burger out?  Yes! I will have cheese and a bun!!  Eating Mexican out?  YES!  I will eat me some cheese dip.  But neither of us want to have these things as integral parts of our at-home, everyday diets.  It feels good to be relieved from the grip of feeling obligated to cheese everything I eat.  

We'd like to keep eating a majority of our meals as close to Whole30 as possible.  We don't want to put a number on it, but I'd say probably 80/20...

Here's what we're going to try to follow.

  • Dairy only occasionally - won't buy it regularly
  • Wheat in moderation - as a side, only sometimes, in limited quantity
  • Yes! to coconut oil, ghee, evoo - out with soy-based oils
  • Legumes like beans in moderation
  • Dessert as a treat out!  Not at home.
  • Make healthy substitutions - baking with almond/coconut flour, gluten-free pasta or quinoa, gf breads
  • Ditching the soy unless it's intentional - soy sauce, tofu - occasionally
  • Non-gluten grains in moderation - corn, rice, quinoa
  • Better choices when dining out
One of the biggest changes I noticed was the disappearance of my need to snack.  I rarely ate much protein, so I was never full between meals.  This was especially apparent after breakfast - no wonder, considering I just ate sugar and empty carbs.  I don't need to snack now that I eat eggs. I stay legitimately full until at least 1pm.  I want to permanently change my breakfast routine.  Sure, some days I'm sick of eggs and might have a homemade muffin or something instead,  but I'm not going back to my cereal ways.

For lunch, I now have more confidence to make myself something legitimate and healthy.  No more Ramen or cobbled-together cracker, cheese, pasta combos.  I want to continue to eat salads and protein.  

Luckily, I now see other options for afternoon snacks, beyond crackers or granola bars.  I would much rather have an apple or something now, really I would (nearly all of the time... I'm not perfect you know!)

For dinner, our meals will remain pretty much Whole30.  We will eat so many more veggies than we ever used to, and grains will no longer take center-stage.  Yes, if we are having tacos we will probably use corn tortillas.  If we are eating that Indian chicken, we will probably have some rice.  But these will be respectable portions, seen as a complement and not a requirement. We aren't buying ice cream for our nightly routine any more.

I admit that I got a sort of pride wheeling my shopping cart around Kroger.  I truly shopped the perimeter, and my basket was filled with so many produce bags.  A woman once told me she admired my stash of squashes.  She said too few people appreciated them.  I felt happy to be included in the club.

So there you have it!!  Our Whole30 experience in a long, convoluted nutshell!  Please do share your thoughts/experiences/questions in the comments!  This was such an inspiring, perspective-changing thing for us, and it will shape the way we eat, and the way our kids eat, for years to come.  

If you are on the fence, I say do it!  Find a month where your commitments are slim and you can devote yourself to being a slave to your kitchen.  It's tough, but so worth it!  You can even find ways to adapt these sort of ideas to your own family, in your own way, without going all in.  

Read your labels, know what's in your food, and be a happy, healthy you!  Yay!  Virtual high fives in slow-mo for everyone!


You can read my post about One Month Post-Whole 30 here

Friday, October 4, 2013

Whole30: Part I

Well, our Whole30 is officially over!!  I'm so glad we did it, but also so glad it's over.  It's a lot of pressure and a lot of prep.  The short story is - I lost 15 pounds (!) and we will probably keep eating this way most of the time.  We felt good, lost weight, were scientifically healthier, and expanded our eating horizons.

However, since it was such a big undertaking (and isn't that just crazy - that eating real food for a measly 30 days is a big undertaking??), I wanted to document it a little further and explain the ways it affected us, how we made it work with the budget, the bad parts, and some tips.  

Read on if you're interested.  I am going to break this down into 2 parts because it got sooo long! This part is about our results and my general feeling on it.  Part 2 will be about the food we ate and how we reintroduced food groups, as well as our plans for moving forward.

I tried to keep it organized but it's so hard to get it all out without rambling.  Apologies!  And if you've done it or want to do it, I'd love to hear about it!
We decided to attempt the Whole30 after I read Chelsea's blog post about doing it and her weight loss.  It hit me at the right time.  I was feeling so ick.  I knew I was eating poorly, I was unhappy with how I looked, and I always felt blahh.  I needed a way to jump out of the rut I was in.  I am so glad she posted about it - this was just the kick in the butt that I needed.  I read the book she did, It Starts with Food, and convinced Tony to do it with me.  I actually read the book on our beach trip, as I was shoveling fistfuls of Chex mix and downing Diet Cokes... and feeling like garbage.  I did not miss the irony.

To explain a little - the Whole30 was designed by the people who wrote It Starts with Food.  It is a 30 day eating plan that is based on the Paleo diet, yet it is a little stricter.  What that means is it's a diet based around real, unprocessed foods - animal protein, vegetables, some fruit, and healthy fats like avocado, coconut, nuts, and healthy oils (coconut, olive oil). The book does a great job of explaining how certain foods like dairy, grains, legumes (including soy), and especially all of the obvious and sneaky sugars in our lives, affect our bodies, often negatively. The Whole30 deviates from paleo in that it consists of no added sugars of any kind - even natural things like honey and agave.  They also tell you to not make "paleo" versions of regular cheat foods (subbing almond flour and coconut sugar to make paleo cupcakes, for instance), since part of this plan is to rid yourself of your unhealthy relationship with food.  You can't do that if you're just finding loopholes.

I won't go into all of the science of it here.  Read the book if you are interested.  It opened my eyes in a lot of ways.  The Whole30 is a way to break the cycle of eating processed, nutrient-poor foods.  

Anyway, here is a snippet I wrote before we started - it explains where I was with eating, thirty days ago:

Today marks the beginning of our Whole30.  I'm nervous, but excited, and really hopeful that this will help me.  My goals for the program center on my poor eating habits.  When I'm hungry, I reach for a carb.  My attempt at a "healthy" diet really consists of low-fat, nutrient-poor foods.  And when you throw in actual bad food, like brownies or a bag of chips, I have no willpower whatsoever. 

I want to re-frame my mind.  I want to see fruit or veggies or nuts as a viable snack, not just crackers or fistfuls of cereal. Vegetables shouldn't be occasional or optional - they should be required.  I want to broaden my horizons and be forced to try new things - I just might like them! 

Although surely it's due to chasing a toddler around, I have no energy these days.  I am dragging in the morning, have a spike around midday, then by the time Harper is up from her nap at 3pm, I feel beaten.  This is not good, normal, or healthy.  Once she goes to bed in the evenings, Tony and I veg on the couch for the rest of the night, neither of us having the energy to do much more.  I get headaches frequently.  My body always feels broken when I wake up in the morning - my shoulders pop, my feet prick with pain when I walk on them, and I'm achy and stiff all over.  My right foot has been sore/stiff for months now.  I always feel bloated and gross.  I get a jittery and icky feeling around mid-morning - usually causing me to reach for a snack of crackers or the like (and it's no wonder, based on what my morning looks like!).  I feel legitimately hungry often, leading to frequent snacking.
Here's a typical day, showing the Normal Day version / Bad Day version:
  • Wake up:  Coffee with tons of fat free vanilla creamer / two coffees
  • Breakfast: Low-cal cereal with almond milk / Bagel with butter
  • Snack:  Crackers, Cereal, anything sweet I can find / guzzle from chocolate chip bag
  • Lunch:  Turkey sandwich on wheat with 2 pieces of low fat cheese / Ramen noodles and some crackers and a Diet Coke
  • Snack:  Crackers, Cereal, anything sweet I can find
  • Dinner:  (actually usually pretty healthy since Tony cooks it!)  Some meat, some veggies, usually with my addition of bread and cheese / Meal out like chicken fingers, half a pizza, you name it
  • Dessert:  Bowl of ice cream / Half of the cookies I just made
My morning starts out with a sugar jolt and nothing substantial.  No wonder I feel gross at 10 am!  I feed the gross feeling with crackers, which to me are a comforting, filling choice (they aren't, really.).  We always choose low fat or low cal or no sugar type of foods, but as I've since learned - that's often sending my body the wrong signals and not a healthier choice.  I don't choose to eat veggies or fruit unless they are a component of dinner and I'm just obliging the cook.  I'm a dairy/grain machine - and it's clear that's just not working.  My hopes are high for the next 30 days!
Bleak, huh? :)

One of the book's reasons why many foods make you "less healthy" is because of the way they play with our minds through our hormones.  That was my biggest reason for embracing this plan.  My "unhealthy psychological response" to food (as they call it) was always most clear in comparison to Tony.  When I was hungry, I wanted a food that would make me happy (ie - not a healthy choice).  Tony could always just eat something that he knew would fill him up and satiate him, whether he loved it or not.  Now, I am vain enough to stop myself from always eating what I really wanted, but I rarely made smart choices, acting on my emotions instead of the reality of food as nourishment.  So it was easy to convince Tony to do the Whole30 with me, and he was happy to see me want to embrace a change.  

Sure, I was hoping to lose some weight in the process.  But I truly wanted to re-frame my mind.  That's why the Whole30 appealed to me - it wasn't a diet.  It was a lifestyle change.  A way to approach food with a different lens.  Something maintainable.

I've never been a diet person or a person obsessed with the scale.  I go based on how I feel and how my clothes fit.  I know when it's not good just by how I feel.  I have a pretty healthy self-image and confidence, so I knew that I would do well with something like this that is strict enough to give you a framework to be confident within, but something that wasn't deprivation-based or unsustainable.  

Anyway, enough rambling, here's how it went:

Our Results
- I lost 15 pounds, and Tony lost 10!!  In 30 days.  And honestly, I was busy starting my new pt job and got sick and we were traveling etc. etc, so basically I rarely exercised this whole month.  So that's a lot of weight just by food changes alone!  I cannot wait to keep eating this way and add in more exercise and see what happens.  I lost the first ten pounds in the first two weeks, and the other five during the last two.  I haven't lost this much weight since the time before our wedding when I was killing it in the gym (although I always like to joke that I once lost 25 pounds in one day (birthing a large baby helped)).  This took much less effort. 
- We both felt healthier.  Neither of us had any big health issues that we were hoping to solve or find the root cause of during this month.  We just had general malaise and minor aches and pains.  But we both agreed that we felt much better after meals.  I never felt bloated.  I actually didn't realize how bloated I used to always feel until I didn't.  Tony's heartburn went away.  I actually even forgot about how achy I used to feel in the morning until I just read my pre-month synopsis above!  I don't feel that way anymore!!
- Scientific proof of more-healthyness! Tony has to get yearly physicals for his work health insurance, including blood work.  He scheduled this year's for the last week of the Whole30.  He had his results (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) from last year and was able to compare them.  In all ways, he got healthier.  His cholesterol levels went down significantly (yes, even with eating this much meat!).  I wish I had the same metrics to look at!
- We stayed full.  Yes, there are many things you can't eat.  Yet I didn't feel hungry between meals at all.  I got hungry when it was time to eat again, at an appropriate time.  It was weird to feel honest hunger pangs - something I rarely felt before because I was constantly grazing.  I didn't often feel the need to snack - and if I did, I reached for something healthy.
- My food perspective definitely changed.  I have a new appreciation for food and how good food can make you feel...good!  I'm not going back to my cracker and cereal ways!  I used to be the girl who could NEVER eat a hamburger without a bun.  Or a sandwich without cheese.  Well, guess what -- I got over it.  Now it will be a treat, not a requirement.  And I ate lots of veggies - and they were GOOD!  
- I learned to read food labels.  And no, not the way I used to where I looked at the calories, maybe the fat.  I skip that section now.  Instead, I focus on the ingredients.  I was floored by how many nasty ingredients were in the things I used to eat every day.  For instance, I knew my coffee creamer was bad for me, but I was astounded when I actually read the ingredients with a critical eye and realized it was straight fake sugar and chemicals.  And it's incredible how many products have soy in them. Soy is literally everywhere - in so many things that it shouldn't be in.  Ick.  One of my biggest ah-ha moments was when I realized that rotisserie chickens that you grab at the grocery store are filled with all kinds of stuff.  I thought - it's shaped like a stinking chicken - shouldn't it just be chicken???  It's not.  This woman's blog - 100 Days of Real Food - has some great posts about food ingredients (a Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich has over 100 ingredients in it - what???!).  The book helps you decipher how nasty stuff is sneaked in there - "natural flavor," "artificial flavor," lecithin, carrageenan, etc.  It's fascinatingly disgusting.

The Easy Parts

- The food.  Well, after the initial suffering (more on that below), the food was easy.  It was yummy food (most of the time).  We ate so many meals that we said we would totally make any time, not just during the Whole30.  We found many new recipes that will be standards from here on out.
- The weight loss.  Like I said before, we didn't do much beyond just eat real food.  The veggies did the work for us.  The book does a great job explaining how bodies eating the way I ate learn how to burn quick, cheap sugar for fuel, abandoning the more natural method of fat burning for fuel.  So once I ditched the sugar, my body started learning how to burn fat again.  I guess it figured it out pretty quickly!
- Not eating sugar.  I thought this would be so hard.  In my past, sweets were always the go-to thing I craved.  The sweeter, more decadent, the better.  Yet this was surprisingly easy to avoid.  I didn't really even want anything sweet.  Sure, I had the expected sugar hangover the first few days, but I never found myself ever really craving sugar.  Even now, I don't really have any desire to run out and eat a plate of brownies.  I'm glad to have banished that!

The Hardest Parts
- The first few days.  Ugh.  This was intense for me.  See, I did something stupid.  I decided to quit caffeine at the same time.  You can have coffee or tea on the Whole 30, you just have to drink it black or with coconut milk or something.  I only like coffee that tastes like candy, so I decided to abandon it altogether.  I know from my previous forays into this that I have really intense withdrawl headaches, even though I only have one or two caffeinated beverages a day.  Yep.  Add that to the sugar hangover, and I was OUT for that whole first weekend (tip: start on a weekend when you can writhe in peace).  Like, felt like I was dying, in bed by 6 pm out.  Tony didn't feel great, but nothing like I did.  Meat is really fun to eat when you feel like you're dying.
- The meat.  I've never been a big meat person.  I don't love it (I'm a grain girl), but I eat it.  You have to eat a decently-sized portion of protein at every.meal, otherwise your body isn't getting the fuel it needs on this plan.  It was pretty hard to eat that much meat those first few days.  Even my carnivorous husband was struggling.  We got used to it, knowing that you better eat that meat or you will be hungry later.  
- The sleepies.  There is a timeline that is a helpful guide to how you will feel as you go through the plan.  Our experiences pretty much followed it, with a little variation and without the crazy energy boost.  We were so so so tired those first few weeks (again, our bodies were learning how to get used to not having a crazy kick of combustible sugar all of the time).  It took all we had to drag ourselves to the cutting board.  Speaking of...
- The prep.  Oh, the prep!  This takes a ton of work in the kitchen.  When you are using almost all real food, the convenience factor is majorly impacted.  I haven't chopped (or eaten, honestly!) this many vegetables in my whole life.  Cubing a butternut squash is like carving a darn pumpkin (but so good!).  I was peeling sweet potatoes in my dreams.  We went through knives and cutting boards like it was our job.  I ran my dishwasher 3 times a day, at least.  We spent probably a good 2 hours of total time preparing food each day, and even more when you add the actual cooking and eating.  It's a time suck, for sure.
- The planning.  We aren't big meal planners around here (mostly because Tony cooks dinner and he's a guy).  But with this, you must plan or you will fail.  I used these meal plan templates to plan a few days at a time.  This way, each evening, we would know what we would need to prep or cook for the next day's breakfast and lunch.  It was fun for the first few days, then I was so over it.  But those plans saved our lives in the crunch of it, and I'm glad to have them for the next time we attempt this Whole30 business.
- Not eating grains.  It surprised me, but I found myself saying I could probably give up dairy if I had to choose - but not grain.  I wanted bread so badly.  I would daydream about homemade bread loaves.  A muffin.  A bagel.  Even some rice.  Anything!

Life Still Happens
- We traveled.   I want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing my mama is.  We had planned to go visit my family one long weekend, and so my mom set about educating herself on what we could and could not eat, researched recipes, found some ghee, and planned out and cooked every.single.meal. for the entire weekend, all Whole 30 friendly.  She is the best!!!  That made travelling a lot easier, understatement of the year.
We ate out.  It's tricky, but it can be done.  You aren't supposed to use veg/soy oil on this plan, but that's impossible at 99% of restaurants.  It's one of those things where you weigh your options and do your best.  I had a few meals with friends planned already, so I endured bread baskets and pita-less gyros.  Most places have some sort of grilled meat, and you just go dressing-less with the salad.  Fajitas work too (minus the tortilla, cheese, beans, and rice :) )
- I got sick.  Blah.  The timeline says the last few weeks of the Whole 30 are when you feel great - energy, happiness, general euphoria.  Well, I got some bug from Harper and felt none of that.  I  had a fever and chills and a super sore throat.  What do I like to eat when I'm sick?  Toast.  Maybe cereal.  What did I get to eat?  Eggs and meatballs.  I figured if I could push through that,  without my usual comfort food, I could do anything.

Unexpected Results
- I flossed my teeth so much more.  Broccoli tends to stick a little more than a club cracker.
- Our trash slowed down.  We had so much less trash and far less recycling filling up our bins  Produce bags and meat trays don't take up that much space.
- We fit it in the budget.  This is not a cheap way to eat.  At all.  They suggest you do organic, grassfed, pastured - the whole bit.  We tried to do it when we could, but honestly, I often bought things based on what was on sale.  It was a balance.  I would say we spent at least $500 on groceries, probably more.  But what we overspent in groceries  we totally underspent with our entertainment budget, as we didn't go out to eat unless we had to.  I wish I paid more attention to our exact expenses, but I do think there is a way to work eating this way into a modest budget if you decide what to prioritize in terms of buying the best quality.
-My cooking skills improved.  There were times when I had to cook all by my self. And it was scary. That's why I would often eat Ramen for lunch before starting this - I was ill-equipped to cook real food for myself when Tony wasn't home.  I focused on learning from him this month.  I even cooked some meat all by myself (including totally murdering some pork chops...rock hard...).  I prepped lots of meals and my knife skills are mediocre at best now (as opposed to terrifying to watch).  I feel a little bit more in charge of my food destiny now.

Click here for Part II where I talk about what we actually ate (with recipes!), as well as our plans for moving forward.

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