Happy Half-Century to PaleoMarine!

Today is Mr. PaleoMarine’s (my husband E.J.’s) 50th birthday.  I feel incredibly lucky to be married to this guy, not just because he’s my best friend and my favorite person in the whole world, but because it’s been so inspiring to watch him take stock of his life over the last several years and fix the things about himself he felt were broken.

With the pace that the world moves around us, it’s easy to say that we’ll be better tomorrow, or to give excuses why circumstances or luck keep us from being the best version of ourselves that we can be – but it takes a lot of courage (and maybe a little healthy fear) to take an honest look in the mirror and summon the determination to change the things we don’t like.  Those of you who have been following our journey here or on his blog at no doubt have been impressed at his weight loss (over 150 lbs to date), but the actually that’s only one small part of his transformation.  In addition to getting his weight under control, he has also been working out to improve his fitness, adjusted his sleep habits to ensure he’s getting enough rest, made a conscious effort to look at the world in a more positive light, improved his money management and personal savings, and makes a conscious daily effort to be the best husband, father, and friend he can be.

The result has been awe inspiring, not just for me, but for many of the people that he talks to about his journey over the last couple of years.  We personally know more than 20 individuals and couples who have made similar improvements in their lives as a direct result of E.J.’s story.  Yes, it requires effort for both of us in equal measure to keep a good thing going, but it is so worth it.  It’s amazing how one positive change affects the next and the next, and how you can look back after a while and wonder how and why you didn’t make the changes sooner.

I challenge everyone, regardless of age or situation, to find the courage to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What is one thing about yourself that you really want to change?”, and then form a plan to change it.  Know that it may take years to make it completely, but every journey begins with a single step and a determination to reach the destination.  Try to take someone with you if you can – the support of a friend or spouse definitely makes the journey easier, but if you have to go alone, be sure to keep a journal and or find an online community with similar goals to help support you in the moments when you want to give up.  And when you fail (and you will), remember to love yourself enough to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

Happy 50th Birthday, E.J.!  I’m so incredibly proud of you, and like a fine wine, you’re definitely getting better with age!!


Recipes · Strategies

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.




Reality Checks · Strategies

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.

Strategies · Victories

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!

Reality Checks · Strategies

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!

Recipes · Strategies

Quick Dinner Wins

This past weekend was again one of those where I had places to be on Sunday in addition to my regular meal prep duties.  Fortunately, we still had quite a few lunches in the fridge from last week, so a couple of slow cooker dishes filled the gap.  But one of the things I’ve learned in our Paleo journey is that there’s nothing more depressing than food boredom.  Since I hadn’t had time to really try any new and exciting dishes this week, I decided to see if I could pull off some quick weeknight meals and share them with those of you who struggle to dedicate 6-9 hours of your weekend to cooking.

Here are a couple of those wins:

  • Honey Glazed Salmon with Orange and Ginger from Laughing Spatula – let me just say “Wow”.  I had picked up some salmon this weekend when scoping out the seafood counter looking for lobster specials.  I really didn’t know what I was going to do with it at the time, and just picked up some asparagus to go with it, because there’s something about asparagus with seafood…   Anyway, I had made a special treat for E.J. and Brendon on sunday in the form of a Double Chocolate Orange Torte, and had another really good navel orange sitting on the counter that needed to be used.  On the way home on Monday I searched “Paleo Orange Salmon” and picked this one out of the long list of hits.  To make it a one-pan dinner, I trimmed the asparagus and just laid it on top of the sliced oranges around the salmon and let the lovely juices mingle.  Yum!  This is definitely a must-try, and was seriously a 30 minute meal with very easy cleanup (quite rare in the Paleo world)
  • Steak with Chimichurri Sauce from Paleo Hacks – I used flank steak instead of skirt steak, but this chimichurri turned out really well and made for a really quick weeknight meal.  Over the weekend, I cooked some beets in the slow cooker and had them available in the fridge already, so all there was left to do was caramelize some onions on the stovetop, have E.J. grill the steaks, and throw everything in the blender for the sauce.  Dinner was served in about 20 minutes.  Can’t ‘beet’ that! (I’m sorry, couldn’t resist)
  • Pork Loin with Blueberry Sauce from PaleoLeap – I’ve posted this one previously, but it’s another really good quick weeknight win.  I think you could even substitute cherries, blackberries, peaches, or any other pork-friendly fruit and end up with a lovely meal within 30-45 minutes.  If you’re looking for a way to amp-up a pork loin, this is it!

Et voila!

Recipes · Strategies · Victories

Slow Cooker Sunday

E.J. and I had a fairly eventful weekend, considering we originally didn’t have much planned.  Friday night, E.J. wasn’t feeling very well, so we called it an early evening and just stayed home, but that was really the only relaxation we got.

17757225_10208869035672281_5729165839992357941_nSaturday was the annual Houston Art Car Parade downtown, which is a fairly big deal when it comes to H-Town traditions.   Considering I remember attending 20 years ago when there were only a handful of cars, the parade has come a really long way and consists of nearly 2 hours of colorful entries sauntering down Smith street.  I consider the Art Car parade a must-do activity for any self-respecting Houstonian, along with the Rodeo, NASA/Space Center Houston, and the Texas Renaissance Festival.  So it was with great horror, that I discovered E.J. had never seen the parade before.  Queue a serious face-palm.

Anyway, this year’s parade was at 2pm, so we had plenty of time before then to run some errands, have a lovely Paleo-friendly lunch at Escalantes in the Woodlands, and then head downtown for some parade fun.  We ended the day having dinner with friends at one of our favorite fancy dinner spots, Peli Peli in Vintage Park.  If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend the South African inspired restaurant, and while there’s nothing on the menu that is anything short of delicious, you have to try their beef filet covered in Diane sauce.  Sigh… it’s a rustic mushroom cream sauce that definitely isn’t dairy free, but oh is it divine.

Then today we were planning on meeting some friends in the afternoon, so Sunday Cook Day needed some special help.  Enter my 3 trusty slow cookers!  Before we headed out, I managed to get a Shepherd’s Pie cooked and packed for lunches, and also these favorite Crock Pot dishes going:

  • Mongolian Beef – this has become a new favorite.  I actually made it for the first time last week, but only made a single recipe, so it didn’t last long.  It’s back by popular demand this week and with more meat
  • Sweet Chipotle Slow Cooker Chicken – This is my own invention, a super simple sweet & spicy chicken that is easy to do in the standard sized pot. I paired this with some sauteed yellow squash and zucchini with onion.
  • Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce – Instead of sweet potato noodles, I went with spaghetti squash to help reduce our carb intake this week after Saturday’s splurge.

But before the weekend ended, I went ahead and helped E.J. kick the craving he’s had lately for hot dogs.  We grilled up some Applegate Farms Uncured grass-fed beef hot dogs and used this cassava flour bun recipe to make some hot dog buns.  Like most Paleo buns, the texture is definitely different from standard bread, but they held up well to the dog and the toppings.

At least today is a short week.  Next weekend is the big Easter meal, so I’m starting to put together my recipe list.  Next week I’ll report on the springtime spread!

Reality Checks · Strategies

Few more to go…

Ok, it’s been about a week and a half since we got back from our trip and I’ve still got a few pounds to lose.

E.J. was able to drop all of his trip weight within about a week – lucky bastard.  I did everything he did and mine not only came off slower, but are still sticking around.  I think this is what they mean when they say it’s harder for women to lose weight than men.

That being said, I have been running every other day or so without too much trouble, and and I’m happy to no longer feel swollen all over.  My right knee gave me a little grief after my 5k this morning, but I’ll give it an extra day or two before my next run and it will hopefully be good to go.

On the cooking front, this weekend I went the lazy route because I felt like I needed some quality time with my fur baby, Buddy, who really missed us when we were gone on our trip (how can I resist that face?).  I threw some ribs in the smoker which got paired with sweet potato halves in the instant pot.  Then made this Italian Pot Roast in the slow cooker, and one of E.J.s favorites, the Instant Pot Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala paired with caulirice.

Friday will be the big traditional St. Paddy’s Day viewing of The Boondock Saints with Irish Dinner.  I am so glad Sam’s & Costco now carry almond flour for a reasonable price, because I’ve got about 4 loaves of Irish Soda Bread to make Thursday and Friday!

Recipes · Strategies

Whole 30 Week #1

Ok, well it’s been a short week, but I’m feeling a lot better.  Way less swelling, more energy, and generally feeling more like myself.  Down within a couple of lbs of my pre-holiday weight now – and not suffering too much from lack of sweet.

All in all, not a bad place to be.

Here are some of the dishes we enjoyed this week:

  • Paleo Tex Mex Casserole – a perennial favorite.  We have this one about once a month or so and it’s still really good and filling
  • Slow Cooker Butter Chicken with Indian Style Cauliflower – wow, this one was really good, and I think will be one of our new favorites.  As a slow cooker dish, the chicken is really easy and the flavors are pretty awesome.  The cauliflower is pretty simple too but the spices really blend well
  • Roasted Pork Loin – I basically followed this recipe, except used a rub of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and chopped fresh sage.  Served with half a sweet potato and roasted broccoli.  This turned out way better than I thought it would and may be my new go-to recipe for pork loin.
  • 20-Minute Shrimp & Sausage Skillet Meal – This was really easy to whip up for dinner on a weeknight and was very tasty.  Brendon joined us for dinner so there weren’t any leftovers.

This weekend the temperature is going to mostly be down around and below freezing, so I’m not sure how much adventuring we’ll be doing.  My plan is to finish putting away the Christmas decorations and start thinking about Valentine’s. I think I’m going to miss the garland on the banister most of all – I love the glow when I come home on dark evenings.  Maybe there’s a way to do a Valentine themed banister with lights?

Reality Checks · Strategies

January Reboot: Whole30 #3

Ok folks, it’s Jan 3.  If you’re like me, you got on the scale this morning and cringed.  Clothes are just a bit tighter, energy levels are down, and wouldn’t some maple syrup-drowned paleo waffles be awesome right about now, even though you just finished your healthy breakfast a couple of hours ago??

Time for the proverbial January kick in the ass.

Time to throw away or freeze the paleo goodies (or the ones your friends brought over), and reset.

Time to give the maple syrup, coconut sugar, and local raw honey a rest.

It’s time for another Whole30.

I know, I know – you were pretty good over the holidays – you avoided the egg nog and milk-laden hot cocoa (mostly because you knew what  it would do to your stomach), and you only ate one or two regular cookies at the holiday party – but I bet if you’re like me, the portion sizes kept creeping up, and the Paleo goodies were sitting right there on the counter and then there was the wine…. yeah.  We won’t talk about the wine.

So, what’s done is done, and it’s time to get back into those good habits you had before all of the holiday crazy kicked in.  Back to regular exercise – maybe even adding some new ones, and kicking the sugar dragon’s ass one more time.

Who knows, maybe we’ll find some new favorite recipes we can enjoy all year long.

Who’s with me?