Ready

I’m going to blow past the fact that I haven’t posted here for over two months and just jump right into what’s been happening, okay? Okay.

I haven’t felt particularly inspired to post lately, and I haven’t really had the time. I’ve been too busy working, worrying, dating (!!), and more importantly, living. My weight has stayed steady. I’ve made healthful food choices, but I’ve also indulged. Probably more than I should. I’ve been doing a lot of yoga. Like, a lot. And getting back into running. I’ve been taking more time for myself and clocking more hours at work. Basically, what I’ve been doing, is working to find balance.
IMG_20140515_193007 IMG_20140518_190529 IMG_20140518_191626 IMG_20140520_175521 IMG_20140519_190456IMG_20140502_225241 IMG_20140523_085827IMG_20140530_205124 IMG_20140602_191342Earlier this week, I started services at The Emily Program. In my initial conversation with one of the therapists, we talked a lot about my preoccupation with losing weight, body image, exercise and food. She asked me, “How much of your day do you think you spend thinking about this stuff? Honestly?” I gave it some thought and, if I’m being completely honest, a good 90% of my thoughts revolve around:

  • How my hair/makeup/outfit/fat rolls look at any given moment.
  • What my next meal will be and when I will eat it.
  • When my next chance to workout is.
  • How to schedule unexpected social and work obligations around my meal/workout schedule.
  • If I’m having a particularly weak day, how soon I can leave work and binge and what foods that binge will consist of.

After re-reading my last post, I think this is borderline obsession is something I’ve sub-consciously been aware of, and frustrated by, for awhile. And it’s probably why I’ve been shying away from blogging. I don’t want a life all consumed by being A Person Trying To Lose Weight. It’s frustrating and it’s unsatisfying. I fully understand that it needs to be a major piece of my life, but there can, and absolutely needs to be, a measure of balance and flexibility as well.

Speaking of The Emily Program, at my appointment this week I was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. I mean, obviously it’s not a surprise, but still. I can’t help but feel that it’s yet another huge obstacle I have to overcome on this freaking never ending journey. But, on the flip side, I’m incredibly proud and grateful that I chose to formally address this issue and take steps to fix it.
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They  say admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

That thought flooded my mind earlier this week at my intake assessment, as I filled out form after form, test after test, and shared very personal information during  an incredibly, horribly uncomfortable conversation with the intake therapist.

We were having a pleasant, happy conversation, going through my background (how’s your relationship with your family, what are your hobbies, what do you do for a living) and suddenly she comes at me with this gem:

What does a typical binge look like for you?

An eating disorder, like any other substance abuse problem, is something typically done in secret. I’ve become an expert at hiding my eating from friends and family. I’ve never shared my dirty little tricks, habits, or menus with anyone.

To sit down with someone and walk them through my eating rituals, step-by-step, bite-by-bite…well, it felt like I was confessing to heinous murder. I was waiting for the Law & Order detectives to walk through the door and arrest me.

My anxiety soared. But, like with most difficult things, the more I talked about the problem, the better I started to feel. The more in control I started to feel.

I have an appointment next week to discuss my treatment plan going forward. And I can’t wait to dig into all this new uncomfortable stuff :)
IMG_20140531_191120And finally, speaking of uncomfortable, I picked up my bridesmaid’s dress for the wedding I’m in this fall. Let’s just say, I’m not entirely comfortable in it. So, Operation Bridesmaid is now in full force. I’m going to do my damnedest to get back on a consistent workout schedule and mostly Whole 30-type eating plan. I have set some great balanced goals for the summer (which I’ll share in an upcoming post), so it’s time to get going.

I am ready.

The Struggle Is Real

We rise, we fall. And, hopefully, we’re strong enough to rise again. Over and over. This is life.

After 30-some successful days–really, my most successful healthy days ever–I now find myself fallen. Again. The struggle is very real, my friends.

The tip of the iceberg, this small piece of chocolate unleashed a torrent of self-doubt, self-hatred…all the usual suspects. And this time, loneliness. I absolutely do not say this to welcome pity, but lately I’ve been feeling very alone. Very stuck in this life that is all-consumed by rigid schedule: what you eat and when, how you workout and when, sleep, work. I’m tired of it, I’m frustrated by it, I want the life others seem to have so effortlessly.
IMG_20140401_175830And then, today, for whatever reason, it all seemed to click. A blogger whose journey to a healthy, balanced life I’ve been following for awhile now posted the following:

…I also know that for the rest of my life, healthiness will need to be a priority…Other people have to focus on their recovery every day for the rest of their life, whether it be drugs or alcohol. Other people have to focus the rest of their life on managing their diabetes or heart disease. For me, every day, I need to focus on my healthy.

My focus is not allowed to slip. When it slips, weeks like this happen. And then weeks turn into months, into years, into an entire lifetime. While I need to work on ways to incorporate balance into my focus, it cannot waver. I cannot relax or indulge. My focus must remain…focused.

To that end, I took a big step this afternoon: I asked for help.

The rise and the fall will always be part of my life. Every day I have to make the conscious choice to focus on the rise, face my addiction, choose healthfully. And though I’ve been afraid to admit it, I know deep down all of that will be more manageable if I have help. If I have the tools to be successful and the support to encourage.  

So, for now I will heed the advice of a friend to acknowledge the past few days for what they are and then let them go. I will get a good night’s sleep, and try to make better decisions, to be stronger, tomorrow. Fall, then rise.

Always rise.

Creamy Tomato Soup

This bad boy was my favorite discovery of my Whole30. In fact, I love it so much that I’ve made a batch of it every week for the past five weeks. No joke, it’s that good. And that easy–which is extremely helpful when you’re diving into a completely new way of eating and looking for anything familiar to cling to :)

Easy, delicious, and versatile. The inspiration recipe here is pretty basic, but I’ve given it a bit of zhoozh each week by adding extra veggies, different proteins, more/less balsamic, different herbs, etc. You can literally do anything to the basic recipe and it will remain amazing. You can even eat it cold (gazpacho, anyone?) and I bet it would serve as a great marinara over some zucchini noodles…or pasta, if you eat that stuff, you lucky bastard.

Oh, and finally, don’t fear the coconut milk here–used as the “cream” in this creamy tomato soup. It will not add a coconut flavor to your soup, you will not notice it’s presence other than the delightful silkiness it adds to the dish.
Blueberry Muffins(via)

Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients
2 tablespoons oil or cooking fat of choice
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 large stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed, diced or whole peeled tomatoes
1-1⁄2 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock if making vegetarian)
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried basil), plus more for garnish if desired
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  • In a large soup pot that is already hot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and sauté until softened. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
  • Mix in the remaining ingredients, and simmer for at least 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Carefully pour a cup or two of the soup mixture into a blender (until it is only halfway full) and puree until smooth. Remove to a separate soup pot or container, and repeat with the remaining soup mixture, working in batches. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup mixture—or you can skip blending and enjoy the chunky texture of the soup.
  • Serve hot (or cold!), topped with some minced basil for garnish.

Whole30 Reintroduction: Sugar and Dairy

Well, I’ll be keeping this post brief because I think I have to. Post-Whole30, I’m down another five or so pounds, at my lowest weight since beginning this journey! Awesome! I’ve also spent the past few days doing the reintroduction phase of Whole30, and so far, there have been no problems. Until today…

The sugar reintroduction went fine–no physical reactions, though I learned that my palate is very sensitive to the artificial after taste of it. I tried my old favorite coffee creamer first thing on day 31, and had to pour the majority of the coffee out because it was so sweet. I’m definitely going to limit my sugar intake going forward!
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Dairy, however, has been a different story. Woah, boy! Today I had goat cheese in my eggs for breakfast, and Greek yogurt with salsa atop my chicken breast for dinner. I felt uncomfortably bloated after breakfast, and now, after eating dinner…Well, let’s just say there are some rather unfortunate digestive  issues happening. No bueno. It looks like dairy will be out for the long haul!
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This week, it’s on to legumes and non-gluten containing grains and carbs (for me, that’s brown rice and tortilla chips). And, being completely honest, after that, it’s probably back to a fairly by-the-book Whole30/paleo diet for me for good. Don’t fix what isn’t broke!

Whole30 Update 6: The End Is Near…Or Is It?

Well, that’s that. My first Whole30 is technically in the books. Why technically?

Because as I’ve been trying to figure out how to navigate the recommended reintroduction phase, I’ve become more and more apprehensive about going back to old habits–habits or foods, really, that I know were not conducive to my health and, (at this point) more importantly, my weight loss.

I have had some huge Whole30 milestones. For example, in the past 30 days: 

  • I’ve lost 23 pounds. Day 1 I weighed 335, this morning I clocked in at 312.
  • The inches have been melting off and I’m seeing new muscle definition (I’m kicking myself for not taking measurements on Day 1!)
  • I usually have crazy high energy
  • Workouts are much stronger
  • My mood feels much more stable
  • My skin is clearing up (for the most part)
  • Best of all, I don’t feel the urge to binge. Like, at all. I had a frustrating day at work on Monday and it didn’t even occur to me that I should soothe my soul with a stop at the drive-through. My brain instinctively knew it needed to workout.

So, why would I give all that up now just to enjoy a few bites of non-compliant food? 

I did decide that I would follow a revised reintroduction plan, testing a handful of foods that I “miss” or that would make life more convenient/delicious. I posted about this a bit in a previous update, but here’s my official test list:
IMG_20140318_201406The way reintroduction works is you pick one of the four groupings (for me they are sugar, dairy, gluten-free grains, and legumes), and test each for a day, eating something from that group with each meal. Then you go back to strict Whole30 for two days to see how it affects you. I’m going to be testing each group, but if I don’t notice any odd reactions, I may only wait a day or not at all before testing the next group. I’m also not even entertaining the idea of bringing gluten back. That’s gone for good.

Day 31, today, I’m testing sugar and artificial sugars. My new version of junk food. I had sugar-free creamer in my coffee this morning, sugar-free syrup on my two-ingredient pancake (two eggs, a mashed banana, SO delicious!), and I’ll be eating sugar-free balsamic vinaigrette on my salad at lunch and turkey bacon with supper.
IMG_20140318_201309I tried the creamer in my coffee this morning–the recommended serving size of 1 tablespoon…and had to dump it out after maybe half a cup. It was so incredibly and artificially sweet. The taste is still in my mouth now, a few hours after the fact. Yuck. So, no, coffee creamer will not be going back in my diet.
IMG_20140319_102211The syrup on my pancake was also sweeter than I expected, so I think I’m going to ditch the fake stuff and “invest” in some genuine maple syrup. And I’m expecting similar results from the two remaining foods. I don’t know if any of these items will be going back into regular rotation. In fact, at this point, I highly doubt they will. Sugar is in everything, but I’m going to do my damnedest to avoid it.

Tomorrow or Friday I will be testing dairy: goat cheese and Greek yogurt, maybe some froyo. Probably not, but maybe. But again, if it doesn’t work for me, it won’t be coming back. I’m not about to sacrifice this progress, not when I’m seeing such amazing outcomes.

Everything finally feels like it’s clicking again. I feel in control, I feel strong. I feel like I’m once again Manda Kay, making it. 

Whole30 Update 5: Home Stretch

Today, day 22, marks my full last week of my very first Whole30. And I can’t decide how to feel about that…

I’ve been doing, looking, and, most importantly, feeling great. Tired, but great (I blame daylight savings). I cheated and weighed myself this weekend (20 pounds in 20 days!), clothes that were tight are lose, and while my workouts have been somewhat lacking, my food has been spot on. I went back to some familiar meals this week simply because of my busy schedule. I’ll be eating fish with homemade tartar sauce, eggs and smoothies for breakfast, sweet potato fries, vegetable soup, and the world’s most delicious pot roast.
20140309_11511520140309_144429All positive aspects aside, though, the anxiety of “what happens after the 30 days?” has slowly but surely begun creeping in. What does happen after day 30? What am I going to reintroduce to my diet? What will I test first? Will I gain weight back? What if I start to plateau again? These are the questions that have been clouding the sense of accomplishment I should be feeling for making it most of the way through this battle.

Anxieties aside, I do need to be smart about day 31, 32, 33, and on and on. I obviously want to continue this amazing success, so I need to figure out what it is about the Whole 30 that has been so helpful and positive, and build on that.

So! Starting Day 31, I will:

1. Remain gluten-free. As I’ve mentioned here before, a lot of popular opinion points to a connection between PCOS, consumption of gluten, and stalled weight loss. So, gluten-free I will be. Though, for my sanity, I will be occasionally incorporating gluten-free bread (slathered in peanut butter, obviously) and gluten-free flours into my life. Expensive, sure, but if it helps my weight loss…

2. Test dairy. I miss my Greek yogurt. And goat cheese. And freaking ice cream. So, I’m going to slowly test/reintroduce dairy to my diet. I’m giving up flavored yogurt for good (too much sugar), and I’m going to test plain Greek yogurt—mostly because I need breakfast options. More eggs = death. Also, while not technically dairy (or anything else, really) I will be bringing back my fakey fake coffee creamer on a trial basis.

3. Eat legumes! Legumes are, apparently, inflammatory. You know the saying, beans, beans, the musical fruit…legumes can cause bloating, gas, etc. but I love ‘em. So, in moderation, I’ll begin eating beans (only black beans) and peanut butter (natural, no sugar). If I notice any sort of adverse reaction after eating them…well, then…I don’t know what I’ll do. I just love peanut butter, you guys.

4. Drink in moderation. Being sober and being social are, frankly, the worst. On special occasions (Tuesdays? Arbor Day?), I will imbibe with a delicious gluten-free vodka soda with lime. Maybe a glass of red wine here and there. It’s going to happen and I’m 100% okay with it. Especially since I’m going to try and start dating very, very soon.

5. Explore new ideas. I recently discovered I love roasted carrots—who knew?! I want to continue to play with new recipes and foods, while continuing to eat as few processed goods as possible. Especially now that I’m going gluten and (mostly) dairy free, things could get real interesting in my little kitchen…
IMG_20140309_173224As of right now, that’s my plan of attack for my post-Whole 30 life. I’ve also got a doctor’s appointment scheduled to check-in and update some test results. All in all, I think I’m making progress. Let’s just keep fingers crossed that it continues!

Whole30 Update 4: Halfway Point

As of today, I am officially at the halfway point of my first Whole30 journey…and I can’t wait to wrap up the second half. I am so over this. Don’t get me wrong: other than feeling so incredibly bloated today (thanks to a lovely combo of my lady friend and the astoundingly accurate Whole30 timeline), I am still loving the results I’m seeing and feeling. I feel in control of my eating and my cravings, and that’s (obviously) not something I’m usually good at. But I’ve grown tired of having to be so careful and restrictive. No worries–it’s only two more weeks. I can do this.

How do I know? Well, let me tell you a little story from this past weekend. On Saturday, where I danced soberly for the first time in my adult life (Change! Positive body image!), I went to a wedding where the following was placed in front of my face:
IMG_20140301_180716Now, I had come to the wedding prepared: I ate beforehand, brought a healthy snack for during the meal, and even, sadly, ate the salad sans dressing. I guzzled water all afternoon and for the rest of the night. But when this, and the subsequent cupcake, was placed in front of me on the table, I nearly lost it. I got anxious. My foot started tapping and I felt like I couldn’t sit still. I watched intently as my tablemates cut into the chicken and buttered their warm dinner rolls.

It was rough–rougher than rough–but I got through it. I also got through the following day with the temptation of my grandma’s cooking and the sinful breakfast my family devoured in front of me (how dare they!), and then I came home and meal prepped for the week.
20140302_16311220140302_16473220140302_163104Yes, I’m sick of restricting myself so intensely, but…I’m not finding it exceptionally difficult. That intense craving has finally passed. I’m not really craving the foods I “can’t” have…well, except peanut butter. I’d give up my first born for a tablespoon of peanut butter right now. But I digress. I’m feeling in control. I may have had a very vivid dream about binging on Friday night, but the fact of the matter is that I’m 15 days binge free. Huge.

I’m looking forward to seeing what battles and challenges the next 15 days help me overcome.

In little moments, day by day, change is possible. Strength is possible.

Whole30 Update 3: Clicking Along

Today is day 11 of 30. Also known, according to the experts, as the day where everyone quits. Apparently, the Whole30 timeline claims that days 10 and 11 are the days where you are most likely to drop the program: you’re bored, you’re resentful, you miss your old pal peanut butter. (That’s not just me, right?)

But there’s none of that here! For me, the cravings are (mostly) gone, I feel great, I look better, I think my fingernails are stronger, my workouts are feeling more powerful, I’m down 17 pounds since Valentine’s Day, and I’m kicking myself for not taking measurements at the start because I am definitely losing serious inches. People have been telling me how great I’m looking and I can feel and see the difference. The only small negatives I’ve noticed are I seem to be more prone to cramping and dizziness during workouts (weird, since I think I’m getting plenty of potassium and sodium, and I know I’m getting enough water), I’ve been getting crazy ridiculous heartburn, and I rarely have an appetite anymore.
IMG_20140226_203323I also have my first big social test this weekend: a family wedding. Plenty of booze, plenty of bad food. And cake. Oh, cake…I’ve made plans to bring my own compliant snacks to eat in the car between the ceremony and reception, as well as my own meal to sneak out and eat while everyone else is enjoying theirs. I also have to try and avoid my grandmother’s sinful cooking all weekend. A true test, indeed.

All in all, I’m a big fan of this Whole30. Fingers are crossed that it will be the force that finally helps me push past this truly ridiculous plateau I’ve been stuck in—I’ve been stuck at and above 313 pounds on the scale since…I don’t even know when, and I’m so close to pushing past it now. I don’t know how accurate this assessment is, but I really think that it is the gluten elimination that’s been helping me. A lot of information out there says that those who have thyroid issues and PCOS also have trouble losing weight, and what sometimes kick starts the weight loss is going gluten-free. So gluten is probably something I’ll continue to avoid after my 30 days are up.

Beyond gluten, and I may regret saying this—who knows what the next few weeks will bring—I can see myself living a slightly modified, less rigid version of Whole30 for the duration. Maybe forever. I don’t miss sugar. I only sort of miss my coffee creamer. I can’t decide how I feel about eliminating my Greek yogurt, but I do know that if it comes back into my life, I probably will never again buy any sort of flavored yogurt—too much sugar!

Even though I know I’ve done it before, and I may at some point do it again, it’s hard to imagine going back to a lifestyle that wasn’t helping me. Yes, I lost about 70 pounds eating tortilla chips, endless breakfasts of peanut butter toast, straight sugar and cream in my coffee…but then it stopped working. For a long time. So if this adapted lifestyle plan can help break bad habits, eliminate my triggers, provide results, and keep me on course to becoming my best me? Then I’m going to keep going.  I’m worth the time and effort, this much I know.

My Kind of Sunday

My perfect Sunday Funday does not, unlike most, include day drinking to excess. What my perfect Sunday Funday does include is coffee, shopping, cooking, and some good music/movies. All of that happened today.

I’ve written plenty here about meal prepping and how it sets me up for healthy success all week. It’s the only thing that works for me; it’s what keeps me out of my nearby Chipotle/Panera/Target candy aisle during the work week lunchtime hours. Being able to reach into my, albeit, crowded fridge and grab a few containers of ready made breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, keeps me on track with my goals. It’s definitely a time suck, but those three or four hours I spend in the kitchen, despite being helpful, are some of my favorite hours of the week.

With this Whole30 nonsense happening, I’ve had to get a bit creative with my meal prep. Last week I mostly made recipes I’ve had before: easily accessible comfort foods that were familiar. But I was hungry. Now that I’ve kind of settled into my Whole30 (Day 7, baby!), I decided to branch out a bit with my week 2 plans. Here’s what I’ve prepped for the week:
image_2imageimage_1image_3image_5IMG_20140223_194259IMG_20140223_173916IMG_20140223_194129image_4Mushrooms, spinach, and brussels sprouts, sauteed in coconut oil for omelets, a curried butternut squash soup with zucchini and coconut milk (of which I didn’t get an ‘after’ photo–oops!), roasted lemon garlic chicken for adding to my soup and topping giant bowls of leafy greens, several pans of sweet potato fries, and HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE, PEOPLE! Get out. So easy and delish. There’s also unsweetened crock-pot applesauce and kale chips for a treat. All of that, plus fish or shrimp for dinner, and raw cashews and fruit for snacks. A little work on Sunday makes for an easy, stress-free, successful week! 

Do you meal prep? What are you cooking? 

Whole30 Update 2: Blergh

Today, Day 5, has been rough stuff. I am exhausted and the cravings are so very real. So real that I’ve taken to watching a cooking show on Netflix to get my fix. Good Lord.

I did manage to put pen to paper and assemble my week 2 meal plan and shopping list. I’m planning to spend tomorrow morning at the gym (spin, cardio, yoga) and the afternoon shopping and starting my prep. If I can keep my eyes open.

You’re not supposed to weigh yourself while on Whole30 (because it’s not about that), but I cheated and peaked today: I’m down 13 pounds since last Friday. Wooo! I’m really going to resist the urge to climb back on that thing until the 30 days are up.

Now: time for bed before I raid the bag of chocolate chips currently in our freezer…