Thursday, November 10, 2011

Real Life.

I love the show "Biggest Loser." I love to see the transformation take place in the characters' lives - not just physically but also as they discover the incredible person inside of them that has been slave and captive to the verbally- and physically-abusive demon that has led them down the path of shame and misery. I appreciate that the players are vulnerable enough to not only allow millions of viewers the opportunity to see them more than 150 lbs overweight and shirtless but also to open up the chaos of their psychological well-being and allow us to see them cry, laugh, scream, cuss, and work through all the emotional baggage they brought with them to the show.

I did always wonder, though, why over half of an episode was sometimes dedicated to "counseling sessions" instead of physical labor. I mean - this is a weight loss show, right Bob and Jillian? Well.....I found the answer to all that when I became a coach at CrossFit UCS.

In the past five months, I have been blessed over and over again with the stories of our people and with their willingness to open up the story of their "real life" - the story of a kid going to college, of a marriage in crisis, the story of a teenage daughter, the story of a past abuse......and how all these stories have affected or been affected by their journey with weight loss/gain, training for marathons and other sports events, and other aspects of their health. Maybe during the WOD, they got to a place where they thought they might die, and decided that whoever was available (i.e., me - the coach), should hear their last confession just in case. Maybe for some - the feeling of puking is so endearing that they see me as a new friend. Or's that encouraging and coaching someone to become the best they can be opens up a channel of trust and safety for the stories of their lives to naturally flow through. I'd bargain on the latter.

Well, now I have my own story to tell. For those of you who didn't know, I was about 12 weeks pregnant last weekend when we lost our little one (this might help explain the small hiatus I took on the blog from October til now...1st trimester pregnancy leaves you with very little time for everything other than the absolutely essential). To say that this has been a tough journey would be almost trite - we have one daughter - "E" - who will be turning four this year, but this is my second miscarriage in the past year.

To be honest, I've avoided talking about it as much as possible. It hurts - not just because this single event hurts, but because it reaches down and brings back the pain of last year's miscarriage. Because if I thought I had any answers, any peace, any resolution from what the Lord meant the first time, it's all been stripped away again and I am left with nothing. Because I struggle with longing for the things that I have desired and prayed for and I realized the gap that now exists between what I have wanted and what the Lord has planned for me.

And in all this, I realize that this is part of what "CrossFit" is. It's not just a place where men come and lift heavy things and beat their chest and shout loud, obnoxious things (though this does happen). It's not just a place where ladies come to do everything humanly possible to wear that bikini or fit into those jeans just one...more...year... (though this happens too). It's not just a place where we sweat, it's not just a place where we puke, it's not just a place where we see who can do the most work in the fastest time with the heaviest weight, it's not just a place with music that's too loud.

CrossFit is for those of us who have real lives and deal with it. Who see challenges and buckle up for the ride. Who face tough circumstances with the attitude that "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us...For [we are] sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." That's it. And our community, our "box" is full of people who have lived this surety out through many measures of suffering here on earth.

Thanks to everyone who has been on this journey with me and my family and to those of you who have also shared your "real life" with us at CrossFit UCS. This is an awesome community to belong to as we all journey forward.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grains: What's the big deal anyway?

So, I had a friend text me last night that she was making a big pot of steel cut oats and wondered - all Paleo aside - if she was still making a nutritious choice for her family. After all, it's steel cut oats, right? I mean, as far as grains go, steel cut oats are about as raw and natural as you get and are packed with a good bit of naturally-occurring vitamins and nutrients. are right! At least in all the points you (I) have made above. In the spirit of gaining an awareness about our food, let's chat for a minute about this whole vendetta against an entire food group. Because I know that for most of us, making the switch away from grains, rice, pasta, biscuits, cornbread, cookies, double fiber wheat bread, steel cut oats, and anything else that was a daily "staple" is nearly life-altering. So you definitely shouldn't be doing this simply because so-and-so "said so" (though if you are, that's okay and we'll start there!)

First things first, read this. I could rewrite it all here in this post, but I'd just be stealing from someone else's brain and endeavor. However, in the "comments" section, Dallas puts a question out there that I AM going to steal and re-post for you as you consider whether or not you should start cleaning out your cabinets tonight. The question is this: “Why are you fighting SO hard for your (fill in food choice here)?” I think my next move is to print that question out and put it on my fridge for the next time I feel like putting my face in the ice cream carton.

After you've read through the "manifesto" above and attempted to answer your why, watch the video below for a tip of the iceberg on why "fortified" foods are certainly not the answer for getting in your daily value of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. And if you're feeling a little nerdish today, here are a few articles that provide some more in-depth explanation of the governmental "conspiracy" behind fortified foods. :) (Tip for making sure you don't get "scammed" by food labels: If something says it is "fortified with ________" or "contains 100% of the daily value of ___________" ask yourself: "How did those nutrients get there?" and "Why was it necessary to add those things?")


So, at the end of the day, if you make a big pot of steel-cut oats, don't despair! In the grand scheme of things, you have probably made a better, more nutritious choice than if you were to have poured a bowl of cereal or made the quick-fix-brown-sugar-rush version of oatmeal. Just be aware of the insulin-response (which is scientifically linked to obesity) and the acid-response (which is being scientifically linked to cancer) going on in your body and make sure that you aren't shoving nutrient-dense vegetables off your plate in order to get a second helping of oats in there. And pay attention to the way you feel immediately after the meal, a few hours after the meal, the next morning, and at your next workout, markers that are of great value as you build a lifestyle of eating that works for you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paleo on a Ha'penny

My hubby and I had a little 'chat' the other night about our recent spending and - more specifically - the fact that I blew our grocery budget out of the water this past month trying to steer us onto this whole "Paleo" thing. When it comes to things like...well, everything......I'm a little (lotta) bit of a perfectionist. It's hard to do things half-way - most days I'd just rather avoid them or not do them at all.

So it is with Paleo. When I'm standing in front of a bag of organic apples and regular apples, there's a debate going on in my head. And do I choose Boar's Head turkey which is free of additives or the Deli-Fresh pre-packaged stuff that is half the price? What about chicken? What about eggs? What about coconut oil???

And so I have been doing a GREAT job of choosing some delicious dinners for our family but a terrible job at managing what the Lord has given us in the way of finances for this season in our lives. And let's be honest - the former one equates to choosing to serve myself (what I want to eat/drink/etc.) and the latter one equates to not choosing to serve and honor the Lord by faithfully using only what he has given us. Hence, not just a budget problem but an idol problem (Exodus 20:3).

So - here's my new challenge and I'm gonna blog it out so that hopefully I can help anyone else out there trying to do this Paleo thing on a tight budget as well. My new goal is to feed my family on a Strict Paleo diet at $300/month, understanding that we eat at/from home 2-3 meals per day nearly every day of the week (if you think Paleo at home is expensive and intimidating, just trying eating out Paleo!). So, each month, I'm planning to feed our family about 90 meals prepared from the freshest ingredients  at less than $3.50 per meal, which is a pretty incredible task if you think about it. Which, now that I think about it, maybe I understand why I've been failing at this task lately. Anyhow, time for change and we're gonna see if we can make this happen.

Obviously, I'm not going to be able to buy all-organic, grain-fed, only-the-freshest-available foods. There are some things I am going to have to sacrifice in order to make this work for our family. But I am certainly committed to making sure that we are not purchasing products with extra fillers, additives, and chemicals that are completely unnecessary unless you are planning to stock up for the next cold war. For example, I went to Sams yesterday and got a few things - among them, a huge can of green beans that when I read through the ingredients had nothing but beans, salt and water. Now, do the canned beans have as many nutrients as fresh ones? Of course not. Do they taste as good? Of course not. But I bought about 10 servings (maybe more?) of green beans for about $3.75. And in the end - it's going to be a LOT better for us than a pack of dinner rolls. So - definitely some sacrifices made, but in the end a winning choice I believe.

Because here's the deal, folks. I know it's hard to give up that morning biscuit. I know it's hard to not have that potato soup you are craving. I know it's really hard to tell the waitress to take away those buttered biscuits when you sit down at the steak house. I KNOW that it's hard. Making good food choices has gotten a little easier for me, but now my challenge is to be able to do it on less. But it's worth it. Maybe it isn't to you yet - but have you asked your kids lately if they would rather you eat whatever makes you happy now or live another ten years to see them married, meet your grandbabies, leave a legacy of health for the next generation? It's worth it. For now, for later, for you, for those around you who love you and care about you - it's worth it.

So since it's worth it, I want to help make it possible. I want it to be possible for our family. I want it to be possible for your family. I want to help people see fitness and nutrition as tools for honoring and glorifying God with our bodies - daily denying the opportunity to serve ourselves and choosing instead to serve and honor the Lord with this vessel He has blessed us with. So here we go!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Day in the Life and Paleo Granola

I thought it might be helpful to slice open a day of my eating habits for ya'll. Like I mentioned before, I'm not perfect! But when I eat right, I feel better, so I really am making an effort. So here's a backward's glance at today so far and a look into the meals I have planned for the evening:

Breakfast: 3 Hard-Boiled Eggs; 2 handfuls of raw carrots, broccoli, cauliflower; 1 Paleo "Granola" Bar

Mid-Morning Snack: Carrots; 4 oz. Tuna with homemade mayo

Post-Workout Recovery Shake after CrossFit Workout

Lunch: 6 oz. Turkey Burger with Romaine lettuce leaves, homemade mayo, mustard; Kiwi; 1 Avocado with Balsamic vinegar drizzled (okay, me, it's awesome...)

Mid-Afternoon Snack: Paleo Granola (can't keep my fingers out of this stuff!) and Coconut Milk, 1 Hard-Boiled Egg

Dinner: 1/2 Coconut Milk Smoothie; 4 oz. Deli Turkey Meat; Sugar Snap Peas

Evening Snack: Fried Plantains and Decaf Coffee

Sooooo.....that's a day in the life! As I mentioned above, I absolutely cannot keep my hands out of this paleo granola I made the other day. It does have a little honey in it, so that probably has something to do with it. But for those of you who are looking for something to satisfy that sweet tooth that stays within the confines of this Paleo thing, you've gotta try this!

Paleo Granola:
Servings: 16
  • 2 cups toasted coconut (unsweetened) - see directions below for toasting
  • 2 cups raw coconut (unsweetened)
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seed kernels
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seed kernels
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp + 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

To toast the coconut, combine 2 cups raw coconut with 2 tbsp of your coconut oil and spread on a baking sheet. Place in oven on low broil for 2-3 minutes, watching to be sure it doesn't burn. Stir, broil for 2-3 more minutes until browned evenly, then remove and cool.

Next, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine both toasted and raw coconut, pumpkin seed kernels, and sunflower seed kernels in a large bowl.

In a saucepan on the stove, melt together the honey, coconut oil, cinnamon, and vanilla, stirring occasionally, until combined.
Pour honey mixture over oat mixture and stir to coat.
Spread coconut mixture into baking pans (metal pans cook faster than glass) in a thin layer (you may need more than one pan). Bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on your oven - watch for it to brown), stirring every 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven and immediately press  all granola into the bottom of a glass baking dish, using a glass cup to press it hard down into the dish (the glass won't stick to the granola like a spatula might). Store in the fridge for best taste (it keeps the coconut oils hardened).

This is definitely a Paleo "treat" - so try not to eat the whole batch in one sitting! :) Also, count one serving as your "fat" intake for the meal and make sure you combine it with a good protein source and lots of veggies each time you munch on it. Enjoy!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Time for some tough love.

I'll be honest (like I'm ever not - ha). There are lots of days when I wake up, force myself to get out of bed, drag myself into the bathroom, stare at the mirror, and think, "Really? I'm a CrossFit coach? There are people today that are going to ask me for advice and help and instruction on weightlifting form, nutrition, diet, other exercise...??? Am I really able to truthfully offer that to these people?" There really are days when I feel like I've woken up into someone else's life.

Because almost a year ago, I was 30 lbs overweight, 3 months gone from any form of exercise, eating crap all day long, struggling with emotional grief, and begging God for answers to things in life that I could not grasp or explain.

When I started CrossFitting in January 2011, I could have never imagined how God would use that one small step to completely alter the path I thought my life was on. Because though I've always enjoyed exercising, always been interested in good nutrition, always wanting to honor God with my body and the way that I take care of this vessel He created and is living within, I've never taken a single class that would make me eligible for any kind of title associated with an expert in the field of nutrition and fitness. But somehow - because of the testimony that the Lord has given me and the passion He has instilled within me for these things - I am able to grasp concepts about diet and exercise that I am learning to now communicate to others to help them make life changes as well. It's humbling. It's exciting. It definitely helps me get out of bed in the morning. :)

One question I get a lot centers around the idea of "how did I do this." How did I lose 30 lbs? How did I lose fat and gain muscle? How did I convince myself to stop gorging on peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies at 11 o'clock at night? I've thought a lot about this question, because I realize that if I could just answer it correctly to everyone who ever asks me, I could really start helping people make changes. The best thing I can come up with, though - truly - is just a little bit of tough love. The answer to the "how" is just honestly - it's not easy every day. Sometimes I don't get all my cooking done on the weekend and my week goes to pot and there's laundry to do and I hate doing dishes and my kiddo desperately wants me to color with her on the floor and the mayo that I just tried to make was an *ultimate* fail and if I don't get all my stuff together right now and walk out the door I'm going to be late for work, but then again I don't have dinner prepped for hubby and dishes are piled up in the sink and...............ahhhhhhhhh!!! Yeah, I have days like that. Some weeks I have a lot of them. We are all human, which means none of us are perfect or will ever be perfect.

So.........somehow even in the midst of all the imperfection and bad days and moments that I really wanted to scream nonstop for about 10 minutes into a pillow, I managed to meet the diet and fitness goals I had for myself. Which means you know what? You can too. When you have the kind of day I've had above, choose to toss the bad day as opposed to the good lifestyle. Don't forfeit the game because your receiver dropped the ball in the second possession of the first quarter. Write it off, let it go, and get back on it the next moment you can. This is a marathon, not a sprint - and for most of us, we have a ridiculous expectation of good change coming to us faster and with greater result than the bad changes (i.e., we expect to lose in 6 months the weight that took us 10 years to put on).

Sarah has an excellent post on her blog that expounds on "How to Succeed at Being Paleo." Really it comes down to not how prepared you are in the kitchen but how mentally resilient you are and how willing you are to push through obstacles and stand up to societal norm that says making healthy food choices is weird.

Be strong. Make good choices when you can. And thanks for letting me speak into your life a little about the things the Lord is teaching me about all this. I really do love this new adventure God has me on. :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Recipes for the *Other* Hardest Part of the Day

This weekend, E and I went to Nashville to visit some friends I hadn't seen in a while. We stopped in at a SuperTarget (*thought about never going back home) to prepare for the weekend by stocking up on some fruits, veggies, coconut milk, etc. Well, apparently, Paleo (or something very similar) is all the rage in the swanky music city, because every single shelf designated for a coconut or almond product was EMPTY. This was probably the first time Target has ever let me down, but it was a big one since I am pretty much living off of almond and coconut products right now.

Anyhow, I did manage to snag some great fruits and veggies, tuna canned in EVOO, and some Apple Pie Larabars (yum!) - all in all enough to make it through the weekend. And - with the exception of Saturday night which I determined was going to be my "cheat" meal, I made it 100% Paleo! Huge success for this newbie to the whole Paleo thang.

Speaking of Larabars, I want to offer a few tips for the "cookie monster" inside us all. Here's a few recipes and easy snacks that L and I are starting to go to when we have the munchies. Hopefully they will help you make it through those long afternoons at work or the late-night-I-must-have-a-Reeses-or-I'm-gonna-die moments. :)

-Larabars. Favorites of ours include Cherry Pie and Apple Pie for sure. Be careful that you don't pick ones that contain peanuts. A friend of mine made her own last week and they were rockin' awesome. She said she just "googled" larabar recipes, but here's one off of the Everyday Paleo website if you wanna give it a shot. If you are looking for them at Kroger, look near the Protein Bars in the Health Food section. For Walmart shoppers, they are hidden over near the supplements/protein bars in the Cosmetics/Nutritional Supplements section.
-Fried Plantains and Sweet Potato Fries. Fried Plantains are one of those hidden treasures. Buy them when they look really bruised, black and ugly if you are looking for a sweet snack, buy them green if you're looking for a chip-like substitute. Either way, follow Sarah's directions on her blog for slicing and frying them. For the sweet variation, sprinkle cinnamon on them after you pull them out of the pan. For the chip-like variation, add a little sea salt, fix up some guacamole and find a dark room in the house where you don't have to share with anyone. ;) Follow Sarah's directions to the letter for the sweet potato fries - her seasoning blend is a little spicy but oh-my-word delicious!
-Frozen Fruit Sorbet. No link for this one because it's my creation. :) Put frozen fruit (any kind) into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little water if necessary, but the more patient you can be, the less water you will have to add and you will end up with a very nice reward - a fruity, pasty sorbet that you will not want to stop eating. For those of you who have stumbled upon Coconut Manna (local Romans can find it at Purple Mountain), add a tbsp in with the fruit - the end result is something like yogurt chips mixed in with the fruit. Almond butter would be a nice addition (or substitution for the coconut manna) as well, I think.
-Smoothie: Process the following ingredients together in a blender and enjoy! (Makes enough for 2)
  • 1 can Coconut Milk (Canned milk, not boxed - look for "Thai Kitchen" brand)
  • 1 cup frozen fruit (any kind, we prefer berries)
  • 2 tbsp nut butter or coconut manna
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs (these are for extra protein - see Sarah's note here on using/consuming raw eggs)
Bon Appetit!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Recipes for the Hardest Part of the Day

Alright, today I'm going to bring you a few recipes. My goal with this post is to give you some fresh and easy ideas for one of the hardest parts of the "Paleo" day for me: Breakfast.

I love eggs, so most days I grab a few hard-boiled eggs on the way out the door, a sandwich bag full of veggies, a spoonful of nut butter, and call it a meal. But then other days, I wake up, stumble to the kitchen, fix my morning shot of caffeine, open up the fridge, and stare. And stare. And stare. Though the egg carton is sitting there, right in front of me, just like every other day, something inside me flips. Not today, I tell myself. Today I REFUSE to eat eggs.

Which leaves me in a predicament, really. See, I'm American. If I don't have eggs for breakfast, my only other options are grits, oatmeal, yogurt, hashbrowns, pancakes, only gets worse, right? Wrong! There are tons of breakfast options for us, we've just gotta start thinking outside the box.

So here are a few ideas for breakfast that I've gathered. Most of them do include eggs (because eggs really are AWESOME - just not if you're limited to one way of fixing them).

-A New Spin On Cereal
-Breakfast Casserole (the possibilities are endless with what you decide to include in your casserole - various ground meats, peppers, spinach, mushrooms, onions, peeled and shredded turnips-taste just like hashbrowns, coconut milk-for fluffiness, various creative!)
-Paleo Coconut Waffles
-Machacado Con Huevos
-Sweet Potato Hash
-Egg Cupcakes
-Paleo Apple Muffins
-Breakfast Paleo Pizza

Most if not all of the above can be prepared the night or weekend before so that they become a quick to-go option each morning for breakfast. If you're still teetering on the edge of "Paleo is too hard and/or too expensive" check this article out. No more excuses...this is TOTALLY do-able. :)