Whole 30 #3 – Week 4

Heading into the final few days of my third Whole 30 now, and I think it’s safe to say I’m going to make it to the end this time.  Since I had to travel twice during this run, and ended up eating out quite a bit, I don’t think I can swear that I never had sugar or soy, or any of the other no-no’s that often hide in restaurant foods.  But I can say for sure that I tried my best to make compliant choices at every opportunity.  The sugar cravings have subsided substantially this time, and I don’t see myself diving into any cookies on day 31.  In fact, my plan is to do my best to maintain a near-Whole30 eating pattern as my standard diet, and use my newly found tricks with tea and coffee to avoid sliding back into the afternoon and evening sweet habits.

While the scale has stalled again this last week, I did manage to lose some size, as several of my clothes that were tight before are looser now.  Now that I’ve got the sugar back under control, I need to continue working on limiting my meal portions.  I still struggle to stop eating when I’m full when I’m really enjoying what’s on my plate.

My knee still aches when I’ve been walking and/or standing for long periods of time, so I’m probably going to wait a few more months before I try running again.  For now, I have to be content with the exercise bike, and just try to keep strengthening the ligaments and muscles.

All in all, I think this was a highly successful Whole 30, and I definitely feel much better coming out of it than I did going into it.

Whole 30 #3 – Week 3

Week 3 is always when things start to finally feel better.  On each of my Whole30’s, week 3 is when the swelling is pretty much all gone, my clothes feel looser, I’m sleeping better, and the scale is starting to cooperate again (down 7 lbs now).

This week we had E.J’s favorite meatloaf, brisket, smoked ribs, and Crock Pot Orange Chicken.  For dinner on Monday we had Crab-stuffed Tilapia, which I took to the next level by using Primal Kitchen’s Chipotle Lime Mayo and adding some crushed red pepper  to the stuffing… OMG, serious yum!

This weekend, we even had a little impromptu pool party IMG_2784where we served some Whole30-friendly summer fare that everyone really enjoyed.  E.J. grilled up some sugar-free smoked sausage from one of the smokehouses out near Weimer, TX, and my friend Anita contributed her now-famous Cucumber, Tomato, & Avocado salad, which is perfect for a hot summer get-together.

I also found a new Whole30 & Paleo friendly potato salad that everyone (including me) raved about.  Potato salad is serious business down here in Texas – everyone has a favorite recipe, and I’m no exception.  As far as I’m concerned, my mom’s mustard potato salad with pickles, boiled eggs, and gobs of Miracle Whip is the epitome of the classic summer dish, but since E.J. and I have decided to ban white potatoes from our diet, we’ve been looking for a decent substitute.  While I’ve tried several sweet potato versions, the texture and the sweetness of the yams just hasn’t really worked for me in this application, so I was thrilled when I finally found the legendary “white sweet potatoes” at Whole Foods.  They call them Japanese sweet potatoes, and they have a dark red skin with a white inside.  They are harder and not as sweet as a Jewel Yam or other standard sweet potato, so they actually work really well for dishes that you want to be more savory.  This recipe from Paleo Running Mama is the ticket.  I am so glad I made a double recipe, because we have leftovers that we will definitely be enjoying this week.

IMG_2783Now comes the final week of the Whole30, which will be made even more difficult due to my need to travel for business Monday – Wednesday, but as always I’ll pack as much as I can in the way of snacks and emergency meals just in case, and I’ll just be really picky with my meal orders while dining out.

 

 

 

Whole 30 #3 – Week 2

Ah, week 2 – this is the one where you always wish you had picked a different 30 days to do your Whole 30.  Week 2 is when real life hits you in the face like a ton of bricks, and typically challenges your resolve in major ways – a birthday party, an invitation with the boss for happy hour, or something similar that makes being on a Whole 30 incredibly awkward.   In my case it happened when I needed to schedule 2 last minute business trips, and my ability to choose my meals and eating times was going to be sorely tested.

So what do you do?  Honestly you have 3 options as I see it.  You either 1) Give up your Whole 30 and start over again when the threat to your plans is passed 2) allow yourself to go off the rails when you have to, and then get right back on that horse as quickly as possible or 3) Do your best to navigate the tricky waters of resistance to temptation and social awkward questions to the waitstaff, and simply do your best.

While travelling this past week, I went for option 3.  I made sure I brought snacks with me for the trip in the form of Rx Bars and mixed nuts.  I also brought some of my new favorite tea, and some True Lemon packets to help liven up bottled water.  Obviously black coffee is often available fairly easily, so between my lemon water and coffee, I was ok on drinks.  It was a little harder for meals though, so for the ones I had control over, I was squeaky clean.  I ordered bacon and eggs a la carte for breakfast instead of browsing the buffet, and enjoyed a steak with bacon & brussels sprouts for one of the dinners.  One of the lunches, however, required ordering from a very restrictive pre-fixe menu, so I went with a salad as the best option presented.  The salad was primarily greens, poached eggs, chicken, small tomatoes, and croutons (which I dutifully picked out before eating).  The dressing was a vinaigrette, however, and I’m sure if I insisted at looking at the bottle’s ingredients, it would have indicated added sugar.   That being said, I think the important thing to remember when choosing any weight loss strategy is to always keep the “Do your best” motto and not sweat the small stuff.  All of the other options were pasta-based or sandwiches.  There was going to be more protein on the salad than any of the other choices, so that was the best I could do.

We had several other situations over the weekend, including a “Family Day” event for E.J.’s Army National Guard battalion, and a trip to the ER with my mom for another stroke scare.  (she’s ok, btw, and now they’re starting to think her symptoms are actually being caused by migraines instead of her heart)  In each of these, we made sure we had compliant snacks packed so that we could quash any hunger until we could get solid Whole30 meals.

The result – not a blip in cravings, or in weight.  My weight stayed steady for the week, and I consider that a victory in and of itself.

Whole 30 #3 – Week 1

First, I need to give a shout out to my friends and family members for their support on this latest Whole 30 effort.  You guys are awesome, and I appreciate it!  I even went to a party this weekend where there were lots of approved options on the table so I was able to enjoy a healthy and tasty plate!

Second, I think I can say this is the easiest Whole30 I’ve done to date.  I’ve learned quite a few things about myself since the last time – the most important of which is the mindset.  There is a determination that you simply have to embrace to make the most of these 4 weeks.  I keep repeating to myself, “I don’t want sugar.  It’s making me uncomfortable and keeping me from being my best self.  Eating those cookies or cake may be enjoyable for a moment, but the self-loathing I would feel for breaking my commitment would be much worse.”  I’ve also done some self-discovery into my cravings, and 90% of them come after dinner and before bedtime when I’m trying to calm my brain from the stresses of the day so I can relax and eventually sleep.  E.J. finally got me to try some caffeine free hot teas from Celestial Seasonings, and I’ve actually managed to find something that kills the craving – “Tension Tamer”.  The ingredients are  “Eleuthero, peppermint, cinnamon, ginger, chamomile, lemongrass, licorice, catnip, tilia flowers, natural lemon flavor with other natural flavors, hops and Vitamins B6 and B12.”  I add a packet of true lemon to the cup when it’s steeping, but otherwise drink it as is.  It actually calms my brain, helps me relax, and prevents the urge to raid the freezer looking for paleo cookies.   With one cup of tea every night, I’ve managed to not just survive the first week, but feel like it was no big deal.

Finally, the best part is the result.  I know you’re not supposed to weigh yourself, but I managed to lose 5 lbs in 7 days.  That’s half of the weight I was hoping to lose in the 30 days gone in the first week.  It just tells you how much of the weight we’re all carrying around comes from bloating and inflammation from sugar [even natural ones like maple syrup and honey], dairy, and alcohol.  All of those had crept back into my regular diet, and that’s really all I’ve cut back out.

I’m still battling the knee pain, but I’ve been religiously riding the exercise bike 3-4 times a week and have added push ups and crunches to those days as well.  I’m determined to make this the best Whole30 yet!

Time for another Whole30…

In my last post I shared how the struggle continues long after the initial weight loss, and how much I have to battle the sugar dragon even now, a year and a half later.  Lately the dragon has been winning more than I have, and it’s time for me to buckle down and kick it’s butt again.  Starting today, May 30, I’m doing a Whole30.  This will be my 3rd one – the last one I attempted was in January after the holidays and I ended up cutting it short a few days.  For this one, there can’t be any quitting.

There are clothes I bought in my closet that looked great before Spain, and I haven’t been able to get into since.  I’m struggling with being tired again and with fitful sleep.   My knee still can’t handle running (I tried last week like an idiot and had lots of pain to show for it), but I have the exercise bike, the pool, and a kettlebell.  No excuses.

I’ve got all the meals lined up: Chimichurri Meatballs, Chicken with Bacon Mustard Sauce, TexMex Casserole, and Shepherd’s Pie, packed and ready for lunches.  I’ve also got smoked brisket, fresh trout, and some T-Bone steaks I picked up at the store on sale.  Bacon is cooked and ready for quick breakfasts, and I’ve got mixed nuts ready for snacks.

Let’s do this!

Confessions of a Life-long Emotional Eater

Back in September 2015 when E.J. and I started to change our eating habits, we did a lot of soul searching.  What makes us eat what we eat?  What do we crave and why? Can we really change, or are we just wired to do what we do?

Though E.J. and I were both very overweight, we took very different paths to get there.  E.J. had grown up thin and healthy – an avid bike rider and swimmer, and eventually a super-fit Marine.  His weight gain started once the kids were born, and I honestly think the sleep deprivation, the stress of his difficult marriage (pre-Sherry), the financial burdens of a young family, and the sudden switch from an active Military life to a Corporate desk job were the biggest contributers to his weight gain.  When you have a family, your personal needs often take a back seat to everything else, and it’s so much easier to solve hunger with McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts than it is to plan and cook regular meals.  E.J. had great health for so long previously that the weight gain was fairly gradual, and didn’t honestly impact him that much… as his doctor’s said, he bought himself credit with all of the good fitness which had finally caught up with him years later.

I, on the other hand, have always been overweight (well, as far back as I can remember anyway.  My mom says I wore slim pants when I was a toddler).  Both of my parents are overweight, though neither of them appear to have been so before I was born… (Noticing a pattern here?)  And according to my mother, while she tried to get me to eat healthy home cooked meals, I was extremely picky and refused to eat anything that I didn’t like, even to the point of vomiting it up at the table if I were forced to try.  I’m personally appalled by that now, of course, but truth be told, it’s somewhat consistent with the way I’ve approached food as long as I can remember.  I’m simply not going to eat what I don’t want to eat, and I no one can tell me otherwise.  It’s as much a control thing as a pleasure thing – there are a lot of things in my life that are out of my control, but food isn’t one of them.  And there’s the root of my problem.  Even when my parents tried to scold me, or punish me for not complying, I’d find ways to stash, sneak, or otherwise circumvent the issue.  Once I was old enough to drive and have my own money, a huge percentage of it was used to avoid eating school-made or home-made lunches and get food I really liked.  People could be mean to me, make fun of me, or otherwise cause me to have a bad day, but I could always drown my sorrows in a Wendy’s classic Frosty.  My only saving grace was my activity – I played all kinds of sports (gymnastics, diving, softball, volleyball, basketball, soccer, badminton, racquetball, cheer leading) and so I remained a “stocky” athlete who was never the fastest, but was strong and coordinated.

Once I hit College, the athletics dropped off, save for the intramural volleyball, badminton and racquetball that I enjoyed, and once I graduated, the exercise was gone.  I ballooned at that point, and drowned my stresses with work, loneliness, and trouble at home (my parents’ divorce and related family issues) with food.  When I met E.J. I was already pretty big, and we both got bigger those over the next 7 years, eating cheap, comfort foods that kept us moving in between full-time jobs, E.J.’s school, and the kids’ activities.  Any time I had a bad day, I would tell E.J. I needed “queso therapy” – my term inexpensive binge-eating on chips and melted cheese.

I tried several times over the years to break the habits – I can’t tell you how many short-lived calorie-counting exercises I went through.  I had some measure of success only twice before this one – one when I was in 8th grade and wanted to be a cheer leader (I lived on fat-free hot dogs and salads for half a year so I could fit in the uniform and still fit in it through the end of the season) and once in 2009 when I had a small health scare and I removed regular sodas and breakfast burritos from my diet and replaced lunch with a half a turkey sandwich from a convenient sandwich shop.  Both times, my stress levels were fairly low, I was in a good place in my life, and the weight came back when circumstances changed and stresses returned.

Then when we started the Whole 30 in September of 2015, while I was naturally skeptical of the whole Paleo concept, I was determined to help E.J. and maybe finally myself get rid of the life-threatening weight.  I learned to cook and bake all over again, made exercise a regular part of my life, taught myself how to say “no” to office cake and donuts, learned to drink unsweetened coffee and tea, and found stress relief in a walk outside, stretching, and mindful breathing.  Now here I am, 20 months into a journey where I’ve lost over 65 lbs, and I’m struggling with 5 of them which have returned and don’t appear to be interested in going away again.  I think E.J. will agree that the beauty of Paleo and why it works, is that you eat good foods that you enjoy, you can eat out occasionally and still lose weight, but that last 5-10 lbs is a b*$@#.  Worse yet, when I hurt my knee, I couldn’t run anymore.  I didn’t realize how much I relied on that regular exercise both for stress relief and calorie offset.  You see for me, the journey has been a lesson in control – learning how to control my emotions and cravings and not reaching out for a cookie or a bowl of queso to fix it for me.  That struggle for control hasn’t gone away and I don’t think it ever will.   For me, it will be a day-by-day commitment to myself to make better choices wherever possible, be willing to put in the effort to make those choices available as much as possible, and courageous enough to recognize and manage my stresses in healthier ways.

Don’t think for a second that once the weight comes off, the hard work is over.  If anything, it is just beginning.  But I will tell you this, though – it’s all worth it.  Every little good decision, every day.

Stepping Up My Game: Sous Vide

Happy Mothers Day, everyone!  Mr. Paleo Marine got IMG_2724[1]me a really awesome Mother’s Day gift this year – an Anova Precision Cooker for sous vide.  I’ve never tried sous vide cooking before, and honestly I’ve been a bit intimidated by it… anything with a fancy French name sounds complicated in my book.  Turns out, there was nothing to be afraid of – in fact, I’ll say that it rivals the Instant Pot in its simplicity, with the convenience of a slow cooker.

After spending some time reading up on sous vide in general and agonizing over what to try first, I decided to go big or go home, and break in the new toy with lamb chops.  I’m a big fan of lamb, but I am always afraid of preparing it myself for fear of drying out an ruining a fairly expensive chunk of meat.  But it was Mother’s Day and while I got to enjoy a very nice lunch out at a fancy restaurant for the occasion, I really wanted to try the Anova, so lamb for dinner!

I used a FoodSaver vacuum sealer to get the chops settled in with salt, pepper, and rosemary, and then attached the Anova to one of my deeper cooking pots.  I got everything arranged, used the app on my phone connected to bluetooth to run for lamb chops, and then forgot about it while I did the rest of my Sunday cooking for the week.  About 45 minutes before dinner time, I roasted some spaghetti squash and made a simple roasted tomato sauce on the cooktop.   Right before I plated everything, I heated up some butter in a large cast iron skillet, removed the chops from their packets, and seared them.

The result was heavenly… perfectly melt-in-your-mouth lamb with a fantastic flavor and texture that rivals some of the fanciest restaurants.  E.J. said we’ll be spoiled when it comes to restaurants now because we’ve figured out the secret to amazing meats.  Next up is a slab of pork belly and some flank steak.  I can’t wait to see how these turn out!