August goals

It’s August.

We did a little back to school shopping yesterday, for my freshman. I can’t tell you how over-whelmed I am by that. I am not possibly old enough to have a freshman in high school, and she is not possibly old enough to be a freshman in high school.

I always wonder how our lives can possible get crazier…and then they do. Back to school for the kids, a second church to pastor for Tom, more needs to fit in our busy hours, and hopefully back to school for me. I’m still not sure how it’s all going to work or what our days will look like, but I do know I’ve got to be on track with my eating and exercise to even attempt it all.

So I set a few goals for August.

Because, you know, my summer ones have just gone so well.

And by well, I mean mostly not at all…except the house isn’t a disaster and we’ve actually been eating fairly well.

But for myself, this month I plan to:

  • continue with month 2 of my Turbo Fire plan – which is harder and longer and will require me being up by 6 once school starts
  • lose 5 pounds – although more would be nice, but I’m being realistic
  • walk or swim 3-4 evenings a week – which seems to be helping me sleep better, burns a few extra calories and just seems to help my mental health in general
  • keep eating the way I have been, but cut back to 2 servings of fruit a day – funny, I think this will be the hard one. all of the fruit I love is in season right now, but I know I need to keep my sugar and carbs a little bit lower than I have been.

Have you set any goals this month? I’d love to hear about them! If you want to share, I’ll try to post a weekly check-in.

5 things Friday: Turbo Fire

A few months ago, I stumbled across a blog post that talked about Turbo Fire, and it just sort of tucked itself away in my brain. It looked like fun, sure, but it also looked a little bit insane. There was just no way I could workout that hard.

Was there?

I’ve been looking for a workout I could love and stay consistent with for what feels like forever.

I like running, but only outside and only first thing in the morning…which doesn’t always work with my schedule or the weather. I like the elliptical…for about two days and then I’m bored out of my mind. I’ve tried different workout DVD’s…for years…and I last about a week before I’m itching for something new.

I still don’t know what made me order Turbo Fire a few weeks ago. I’d been starting to look for a DVD series that I could do here at home, knowing that school would be starting up again soon. One of my summer goals was to get into a sustainable workout routine that would survive the kids – and me – going back to school. I searched online, found Turbo Fire again, did some more research and one night in June finally pushed submit on my order.

And I love it. I do have a few difficulties – my inability to do roundhouse kicks, trying to navigate a high impact workout with sneakers and carpet (just call me Agador Spartacus), on occassion I do in fact punch myself in the face – but I wake up every morning excited about working out.

That’s big.

5 reasons why I’m in love with Turbo Fire:

  1. Once my order was processed, I was sent a link to a video online of the Fire Starter (beginner’s) workout. The DVD’s shipped quickly – in less than a week – but I was able to get started learning the moves and getting a solid workout immediately.
  2. 14 workouts on 10 DVD’s means I’m not getting bored. Other than the days I did the Fire Starter workout, every day of the week is different which means I’m staying engaged and my muscles are getting nice and confused. Some days, it’s a long cardio workout…others it’s a 20 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and others focus on sculpting or deep stretching. The DVD set came with a class schedule, and I’m following it explicitly…even when I don’t want to. I’m sure I’ll deviate at some point, but I’m committed for at least 12 weeks to do exactly what it tells me to.
  3. I like the trainer, Chalene Johnson. Actually, I really like the trainer – she’s upbeat, does every single move with you and is encouraging. I feel like I’m working out with friends, and if she says to kick two inches higher…well, I kick two inches higher. After three weeks of workouts, I still think she’s someone I’d like to hang out with.
  4. I do the Stretch 10 class, almost every day. It’s helping my flexibility but I think more importantly, it’s kept me from having lingering muscle pain and stiffness. Unlike other DVD’s that leave me unable to walk the day afterwards (coughcough30dayshredcoughcough), I’m working out harder than I ever have before and can do it again easily the next day.
  5. I’m seeing results. In the first two weeks, I was down nearly 4 inches. More importantly, I’m improving. Yoga poses are getting easier, my punches are getting faster and my flexibility is pretty impressive. Every day I feel stronger.
    And I don’t feel quite like dying at the end of workout anymore.

What’s your favorite workout right now?

Just a note: I’m not affiliated with Beachbody or Turbo Fire in any way – just a fan.

paleo and me

I’ve had a great big bump in blog views lately thanks to my review of Make It Paleo and the amazing authors sharing it on Facebook, and it’s really made me want to share more of my story…and a few photos.

Deep breath…here goes…

I’ve struggled with my weight and my relationship with food for as long as I can remember. I’ve battled between binge eating and obsessive dieting, sometimes falling into unhealthy workout and harmful purging habits. In high school, I discovered fat-free and Snackwell’s and ate pasta every day. In college and my early years as a wife and mother, I gained and lost the same 40 or 50 pounds on a fairly regular basis.

I thought I had finally found a place of health a few years ago after losing 70 pounds on Weight Watchers, but even that was a struggle. I constantly fought cravings and it was nearly impossible for me to maintain my weightloss.

Seven months after I stopped Weight Watchers, I came home from a women’s retreat and became ill. What started as a low fever and body aches quickly developed into frozen and swollen joints, and complete mental fuzziness and confusion within a week. By the end of that month, I had more or less every symptom you could list for fibromyalgia…even though my doctor continued to be certain that it was all in my head. I gained 40 pounds in less than 2 months, with another 30 piling on within the next three.

What followed was 18 months of confusion. I didn’t really respond to fibromyalgia medications and was having horrible side effects to the anti-depressants my doctor was convinced I needed…probably because I didn’t. I’ve lived with depression on an off since middle school – this wasn’t it. My gynecologist thought I had classic symptoms of insulin resistance, tested me for it, and told me to pull all refined flour and sugar from my diet. I ate very little flour and almost no sugar for a month, lost 10 pounds, felt a little better, and then went back to my normal diet when the blood tests said insulin resistance wasn’t my problem.

This went on and on until August 2010. Pain, confusion, stress, anxiety, more pain, more stress, and so much frustration because I felt like my body was betraying me. My normal diet has always been fairly clean, full of lots of fruits and vegetables and lean meats. With the added stress of a new school year and one child having a particularly difficult time adapting, I found myself moving far away from that normal diet to lots of fast food and junk food and feeling worse than ever before.

I noticed, though, for the first time how truly horrible I felt after each meal – especially when they were wheat heavy, like a dinner at Bucca di Beppo that left me feeling like I was in a coma…underwater…and incapable of putting together a coherent sentence – and started to wonder…

maybe gluten was the problem.

I’d felt so much better that month I stayed away from refined sugar and flour. I did a few internet searches and decided to go for it.  Within a few days, the mental fog started to clear. Before the first month ended, the joint pain was gone. At two months, it was beyond obvious that gluten had been my problem all along. Now that I’m over a year gluten-free, I have no fibromyalgia symptoms at all. I lost about 25 of those pesky pounds I gained in the first year, and another 25 over the last eight months. The mild depression that I’ve battled since middle school went away.

I started studying paleo three or four months ago, after a failed attempt at vegetarianism. I’d noticed during that time that I was relying more and more on grains and legumes, and some stomach issues I hadn’t dealt with for a while flared back up. I was fighting for energy levels – even while making certain to get lots of animal free protein. And I just didn’t feel good.

I’ve been reading about nutrition for quite a few years now – spending a little time dabbling in Weston Price stuff, learning about things like micronutrients – and knew that what my body wanted was a whole foods based diet that was also non-imflammatory. The more I studied, the more I became convinced that paleo was something I needed to commit to.

It didn’t take long to figure out that paleo was the answer I’ve been looking for all along. My weight, which had plateaued for the last six months regardless of what I ate or how much I exercised, started dropping again. The stomach issues are a thing of the past. Sugar cravings are gone.

Food is simply that – food. Fuel for my body. It’s not something I obsess about, it’s not something I feel guilt or anxiety over. It’s just food.

Even more than that, I feel good. When I look at that picture from December two years ago, all I can see is how unhealthy I was. Not just over-weight, but chronically ill. My skin looks gray, my face swollen, even my posture is bad.

Now, I feel amazing – I have energy to run through my day, I sleep like a rock for 8 hours straight, my skin glows. I’m finally enjoying the health and wellness I lost and have fought so hard to get back. I can be active with my kids and keep up with my two-year old nephew every day.

I still have further to go. I’d like to lose some more weight, but as Stacy shared last week on Paleo Parents my goal has evolved. I want to be at a comfortable weight – something I don’t have to fight day in and out to maintain. I’d like to go down about one or two more pant sizes, but realize that I have good German birthing hips and I’ll never be a size 7. With cooler weather and shorter days, I’m struggling to get exercise in regularly and I know that will help me firm up even further.

I’m worth it. I’m worth taking a few extra minutes to plan meals…to cook extra chicken for lunch the next day…to order crazy requests at restaurants…to reprioritize my budget when needed to feed my family food that nourishes them in the best possible ways.

Are you?

More of my paleo posts.

firecracker chicken: quick & easy paleo/primal meals

I’m about 10 weeks into this whole paleo thing and while I couldn’t be happier with the weight-loss and general health results I’m seeing, sometimes I want something other than a simple meat and veggie meal.

In fact that’s one of the biggest concerns I’ve noticed I hear about following a paleo diet.

Don’t you get tired of eating just meat and vegetables?

And while this is chicken and veggies, there’s a coconut milk sauce that makes it so different it doesn’t even strike me as a paleo meal when I eat it.

Variety is good, right?

And I feel rather silly…there’s not a whole lot of recipe to this recipe. It’s incredibly adaptable – any meat, any veggies, any seasonings. The one consistent stroke is using coconut milk to create your sauce and serving it on top of zucchini noodles. I’ve been known to add other random vegetables, but what I’m sharing today is the basics…or maybe a template. Feel free to add whatever you’d like.

Maybe it’s more of a technique?

Whatever it is, it’s good, it’s easy, it’s a great way to clear out the fridge and I can get it on the table in less than half an hour.

Total win.

Firecracker Chicken
serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T. coconut oil (more if needed)
2-3 T. Cajun seasoning
2 cups chopped mushrooms (baby bellas are great here)
2 T. sun dried tomatoes (chopped small) or 2-3 roma tomatoes (diced)
1 can coconut milk (less if using fresh tomatoes)
1 t. red pepper flakes (optional)
parmesean cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Slice chicken thinly across the grain and toss to coat with cajun seasoning.
    You want the chicken well coated – the cajun seasoning is going to mix with the coconut milk to create the sauce.
  • In a large frying pan on medium-high heat, heat the oil and add the chicken. Stirring often, cook the chicken until it’s done and has browned slightly.
    Since the chicken is cut thin, this takes just a few minutes. You can even start with leftover chicken and save time.
  • Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.
  • Add mushrooms to frying pan, adding more oil first if needed.
  • Once mushrooms are cooked, add the tomatoes and optional red pepper flakes.
    If using fresh tomatoes, cook for a few more minutes.
  • Add back in the chicken and coconut milk.
    If you’re using fresh tomatoes, add a little less coconut milk.
  • Simmer 5-10 minutes,s tirring occasionally. The coconut milk will reduce a little and get thicker. Taste to check seasonings and adjust.

While the sauce is simmering, make zucchini noodles:

Zucchini Noodles
Serves 4

4 or 5 zucchini
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

  • Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini lengthwise to create long strips.
    They’re pretty – the creamy white skin edged with dark green. I tend to stop when I reach the seeds, turn my zucchini and peel again. I end up with a long rectangle of zucchini seeds that I toss in the compost pile.
  • Heat olive oil on medium in a frying pan or skillet.
  • Add zucchini, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.
    I like to cook the zucchini until it’s just barely cooked. Too long and it gets mushy, too short and it’s crispy. For me, it’s done when I can fold it over without it breaking.

To serve, create a bed of zucchini noodles and top with several ladles of the chicken, veggies and sauce.

A few thoughts:

  • If you can handle dairy, a little fresh parmesean is really good on top…and it’s really nice to add a little to the sauce as well while it’s still cooking.
  • Next up on hubby’s list is to try this with curry powder for a more Indian style dish. I also think you could go a little more Mexican or Italian with the spices.
  • I’d add broccoli, but my family isn’t fond of broccoli cooked with other things.
    I have no idea why, but they’re pretty vocal about it.
    If it were just me, though, I’d add barely steamed broccoli when I add the coconut milk and let it finish in the sauce.
  • Beef and pork would be great instead of chicken, and if I can remember to pick some up I want to try it with shrimp.

Linked to:

a little paleo yoda

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Right now, I’m about halfway through my Whole30 and for some reason, this week has been incredibly difficult.

I didn’t have cravings for the first two weeks. I didn’t want to snack for the first two weeks. And I didn’t find myself staring longingly at anything sweet for the first two weeks.

This week, I want some dark chocolate…and some chips…and maybe something baked and full of sugar.

I’m trying to shake up my meals a little bit, working to make sure I’m eating enough at meals (and enough fat), planning try a few new recipes and generally getting a little more creative with my food.

I’m not giving up, though, and I’m not backing down. I had a lightbulb moment the other day, and it’s what’s keeping me going:

Do or do not. There is no try when following a paleo/primal diet and lifestyle.

Trying gives you an out. It makes it okay to fail and flop face first in the first bag of Cheetos you come across. Trying brings with it the whiff of failure from the outset.

I’m in this for the long run. This isn’t a fad diet for me, and it’s not just a weightloss plan. It’s for life and for health, and for general wellness.

It’s a commitment.

And I’m sticking to it.

paleo potluck



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Having been at this paleo thing for the past two months, I like to think I’ve got it mostly figured out.

I keep a stash of emergency snacks and try to  have already cooked protein in the fridge at all times.

I’m careful to make sure I eat enough fat and am working hard to get over that long-ingrained fat phobia.

I’ve changed my workouts to be more in line with the paleo/primal/ancestral ideal.

I can plan a week’s worth of paleo meals in a few minutes, thanks to all of the blogs and cookbooks I’ve come to love.

I can even put together a proper paleo meal at just about any restaurant I choose to go to.

There is one thing, however that sends fear soaring through me.



Our small church has potlucks every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month after service and as the pastor’s wife, it would be strange for me not to eat. And while our church is known for it’s incredible skill in the kitchen, it tends to be very casserole and carb heavy. It was a bit of an issue when I had to eat gluten-free, but now that Tom and I both are refraining from all grains and sugar it’s gotten a little more difficult.

My solution for these past few potlucks has been to bring a paleo dish – and both times they’ve been some of the first empty dishes, something I’m rather proud of – but I’m looking for new ideas. We usually have at least one solid salad, so I’m trying to focus more on protein that isn’t covered in cream-of-something soup and that won’t have me outside at the grill Sunday mornings before church.  

Those aren’t the easiest parameters to work with.

A few of my own ideas:

  • Potluck Mushrooms – but with butter instead of margerine (gah! people still eat that stuff?) and a little parsley. Super easy, super good and almost no clean up. Sadly, no protein which is why I cam up with…
  • Roasted Italian Sausage, Peppers, Mushrooms and Onions – chopped up a bunch of the veggies, tossed with olive oil and garlic, and roasted at 400 degrees for 10 minutes while I steamed the sausages. Gave the sausages a quick chop and finished them with the veggies for another 10 to 15 minutes. This dish disappeared!
  • Paleo Chipotle Beef Chili – I haven’t done this yet for potluck, but the recipe is fairly easy and quick once the veggies are roasted. Next time I make a batch, I’ll probably double it for the next potluck.

A few ideas I’m hanging on to:

  • Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore from Nom Nom Paleo – love that it’s cooked and stored in the fridge, something I could easily do the day before and reheat before serving. I would probably make a few adaptations to the recipe to make it a little more economical for sharing, but this one looks like a winner to me.
  • Primal Chicken Pot Pie with Cauliflower Crust – I’m totally intrigued by this. I’d probably test it out on the family first, but our church membership includes a lot of pretty adventurous eaters – one gentleman is known for bringing frog legs – and I don’t think the cauliflower crust would throw them too much.
  • Meatloaf – seriously, why not? This recipe from Jan’s Sushi Bar looks phenomenal, and so does this Bacon Wrapped one. It would be easy enough to double and I could probably get them prepped the day before and bake while I’m getting ready.
  • Sweet Crockpot Pulled Pork – interesting. 8 – 10 hours means I could get it going before I go to bed, or maybe the day before and reheat.

How about you? Any favorite paleo potluck ideas? I’d love to  hear them.

five things friday: paleo hints

I am definitely a paleo-newbie, but here are a few quick tips I’m finding to be super helpful:

  1. Plan for leftovers. Leftovers are your paleo bestfriend.  A chicken breast can be shredded or chopped to top a salad. Leftover roasted veggies make a great side for scrambled eggs or ingredients for a frittata. Some leftover steak can easily become lettuce fajita wraps with a little seasoning, bell peppers and onion. And leftover anything protein can be wrapped in lettuce as a wanna-be sandwich.
  2. Plan, plan, plan. Those leftovers don’t just happen by themselves, but it’s also critical to have a plan in place and ingredients ready at mealtimes – lest you fall prey to that last random box of macaroni and cheese that somehow magically showed up in the pantry. I love my Plan to Eat membership for this. All of my recipes are there, it can keep track of what I already have on hand and generates my shopping lists. Amazing.
  3. Try new things.
    Lots of new things.
    Don’t be afraid of new recipes, or of tweaking them to fit your preferences. I love Chowstalker for a little inspiration, but pretty much every paleo and primal blogger out there posts recipes. I’m seriously considering making a project out of cooking my way through the recipes Nom Nom Paleo posts…even if that means I need to invest in a sous vide.
    Don’t ask me why I want one as badly as I do – possibly far too many episodes of Top Chef in my past.
    Also, I’m not sure what the correct term is…sous vide? sous vide machine? sous vide-r?
  4. Coconut oil is amazing, and so is Tropical Traditions. My first order arrived two days after I placed it, and that was during a huge sale with free shipping. There’s no comparison between their product and even the most expensive coconut oils I’ve purchased at Whole Foods. It’s my go to cooking oil, I sometimes lick it off the spoon and Tom’s been using it as moisturizer.
    It’s good stuff.
  5. Take a breather. One of the facets of the paleo lifestyle that impresses me the most is the push for stress relief and proper sleep. In fact, that chapter in Robb Wolf’s Paleo Diet Solution was what gave me the final nudge to try it. For that reason alone, I’d recommend reading it.

Just try it. Still not sure about this crazy lifestyle? The best thing I can say is to commit for a week (or better yet, a month) and see how you feel. There is a bit of a carb-flu as your body adjusts, but it’s not that bad and the results will be worth it.

the whole30


This past weekend, I dove off the paleo wagon.

Well, sort of.

No gluten, but I did have corn (in a soup, as nachos and as popcorn balls spread out over 2 days), and sugar (the equivalent of two popcorn balls and several candies worth of sugar).

Really, probably not terrible in the grand scheme of things and considering how many different events we attended this weekend. I left the icing on the wedding cake alone and held the rest of it together fairly well…but I paid.

Oh, I paid.

I had the worst heartburn I’ve had in years – possibly since I was pregnant with my nine year old. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t drag myself out of bed yesterday until nearly 7, nearly an hour late.

And I realized, at about midnight last night – as I stacked another pillow under my head and pray for relief – that this whole paleo/primal thing?

It’s as permanent as the whole gluten-free thing.

It’s a necessity.

Yesterday, I started The Whole30. I made the decision this weekend, but it seemed a little more vital Sunday night (penance, perhaps?). It’s a really dialed in version of paleo – no dairy other than clarified butter, no processed anything, and not even unrefined sugars.


To get rid of the rest of this sugar addiction. To work on healing my gut further. To see if it helps with these seasonal allergies that are making me miserable.

But mostly?

The cleaner and more unrefined I eat, the better I feel.

It’s as simple as that.

five things: what I’m loving about paleo

It’s been an up week weight-wise for me, and I’m a little frustrated. I also know I’m scale-obsessed, so I’m trying to focus on other paleo lifestyle positives.

Five quick things I’m loving about following this paleo diet/lifestyle:

  1. My nails are awesome.
    Yes, but seriously…my nails are awesome. I’ve always had strong nails (it must be genetic – I swear my Grandma’s were made out of steel), but I noticed that while vegeterian, they had become flimsy, weak and chipped or tore with any bump. After a month of eating a paleo diet, my nails are stronger than they’ve ever been.
  2. My hair is shiny.
    Yep, I’m a little on the shallow side right now.
    In the past few weeks, I’ve been told my hair looks like it belongs in a commercial and that it’s so shiny and bouncy it looks like a wig.
    It must be all that good fat I’m enjoying.
  3. No more stomach pain…unless I eat something I shouldn’t.
    I was the kid that threw up just about every morning before school. I was 23 when I had my gallbladder out, after suffering with it for 5 years. I’ve been told I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome more times than I can count. Even now, I’m the one who can guarantee that if I eat at certain restaurants, I’ll be bent over in pain 15 minutes later. And I was the one who’s body decided to start shutting down a few years ago because of gluten.
    It’s an incredible thing for me to be able to eat a meal and feel good afterwards, whether I’m at home or in a restaurant (and I’m getting pretty picky about what restaurants I want to eat at).
    That – more than the weight loss, the shiny hair or anything else – is what convinces me to continue with this way of eating.
  4. I walked past the Halloween candy aisle at Target and became nauseous from the sugar smell. I didn’t even glance at the candy corn (a longtime nemesis), strode right past the mini peanut butter cups and didn’t think twice about the fun size Snickers.
    Normally, at least a few bags of candy would have made it to my cart and one would be opened on the way home.
    Again, crazy.
  5. My shorts fell off the other day.
    I was walking down the hall and they just fell off.
    Shorts that I’ve been wearing snug all summer – that were snug at the end of September – fell off. I’ve never seen my body change so quickly or so obviously.
    Have I overused crazy yet?
  6. And a bonus…it’s like someone turned on a light. One of the biggest frustrations about living with gluten was the mental fuzziness I felt all of the time, something that grew seriously worse a few years ago. Taking gluten out of my diet cleared up quite a bit of that, but taking all grains completely out was like going from low beams to high.

the mental soundtrack of an early morning workout

5:20 – if I’m going to go and get one of the good elliptical machines, I have to get out of bed now.

5:22 – maybe no one else will want to be there this early. I’m good for a few more minutes.

5:25 – if I’m going to go and get home before I have to get the kids up, I really have to go now.

5:30 – stumble into workout clothes

5:35 – grab iPhone and bottle of water

5:40 – start car and leave for the gym, after carefully checking to make sure no one is hiding in the backseat

5:45 – arrive at the gym and dang!, someone beat me to the good elliptical…and someone else is coming in that likes them…better sign in and get to it…what’s my last name again?

5:50 – I am going to die. Why do I do this? I’m going to fall off this machine and just stay right here for a while and then go home. Why do I torture myself by getting up an hour before the sun? (a few minutes into the elliptical, just starting sprint intervals)

6:00 – I wish the gym were open this early every morning. Loving this podcast. I’m killing these intervals. Where’d that mosquito come from? I could go for an hour.

6:05 – 20 minutes on the elliptical done, off to find weights

6:10 – I really don’t like weight machines. One of these days, I need to learn how to do free and Olympic weights…or maybe watch that kettlebell DVD I bought a few weeks ago. Oh, the monotony.

6:12 – who the heck is this short? I can’t even figure out how to get this bench back up. I hope no one is watching me because I’ve got to look like a complete idiot.

6:15 – some sit ups sound like a good idea.

6:16 – who the heck thought sit ups were a good idea? Crunches are where it’s at. I haven’t done sit ups since I was a sophomore in high school.

6:20 – one more set of weights – leg presses and a chest machine. 12 reps of each, back and forth between the two.(I try to do this with 6 different machines each workout, plus sit ups/crunches and squats)

6:25 – where did the time go?

Someday, I hope to be one of those people who look forward to working out. I don’t despise it as much as I used to – and always enjoy once I get started, but that getting started tends to be my stumbling block.

Do you have a mental soundtrack for your workout?