A Prune A Day

An apple a day is a great idea…because who doesn’t like apples? A prune a day on the other hand – I’ve found it a little more challenging to get my friends to participate in this practice.

The age old saying was actually originally phrased as, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” According to Caroline Taggart, author of “An Apple a Day: Old-Fashioned Proverbs and Why They Still Work,” and Margaret Ely with The Washington Post, the idea first gained popularity in the 1860s, then continued to evolve and change in phrasing over the course of the several decades that would follow.

Long story short, yes, it’s true that apples are good for you! Will practicing an otherwise unbalanced, unhealthy diet be completely rectified by eating an apple? Probably not. But I think you probably already knew that, too.

So what’s with prunes? With so many delicious apple choices, why should we be eating prunes? And everyday?! In honor of my favorite human/grandmother who has been blessed to celebrate another birthday yesterday, I wanted to share a little insight on the magic of a dried plum.

Aside from prunes being high in dietary fiber (3% of recommended daily intake), they also contain high amounts of sugars which contribute in a positive way to encouraging the digestive system…aka they help you have healthy poos! 🙂 Additionally, prunes are good for your heart, hair, skin, and vision, and are considered a powerful antioxidant! But to be honest, none of these reasons alone are what make me interested in the dry fruit.

Believe it or not, a dried plum/prune can positively impact your brain power, i.e. boost your memory! How? Those antioxidants I mentioned help to aid or neutralize cell-damaging free radicals which affect how our brains “remember.” According to yourhealthtube, eating 3-4 a day is actually more recommend than just one, but all the same, incorporating the snack into your regular diet will not only boost the function of your brain, but help to improve your ability to remember, and learn new information.

My mom was who actually discovered the magic of the prune (meaning all it’s aforementioned benefits) just a few years ago, and shared it with me. Unfortunately influenced by the presence of dementia in our family, I’ve continued to make eating prunes a part of my daily routine – I even keep a snack bag in my desk at work! I will admit, they can take a while to grow on you if you’re not that into plums, or dried fruit, but I think most of my friends (who I’ve forced into giving them a try hehe) will agree, they can be tasty. And isn’t everything a little more enjoyable when you know all the good it’s doing for your insides?

It’s no secret that as we age, memory loss is more and more common, even without a disease diagnosis. Why not try to fight that commonality, even if only by slight measure?

My favorite prunes (much like my favorite everything) are just $2.89 for a 16 oz bag at Trader Joe’s. Even sharing a few here and there, this will last me about 3-5 weeks!

 

Another good ol’ prune is the individually wrapped Sunsweet Ones, which you can get in a 12 oz bag from Walmart or Target for around $5-$6. These are good if you want to throw a few in your purse or gym bag, and always have them available to you on the go.

Happy pruning, happy remembering, and happy birthday, to my sweet, sweet Grandma! 🙂

BACK at it.

This blog is OLD. NEWS. Honestly – this baby has been sitting in a metaphorical corner gathering dust for several years. And while I am definitely one to exaggerate, that is no hyperbole. I have been writing as long as I can remember, and I’ve been clacking on this keyboard into this window specifically since it was originally a Tumblr page (and people actually followed it hah!). But the Tumblr app hasn’t graced my phone in many moons, and followers are much harder to come by these days…so somewhere along the road, I stopped. Why? I don’t really know, to be honest. Maybe because I never really had anything exciting to write about after college, maybe because after my stint as a teacher I went through a little cloud of depression struggling to figure out my place in this world, maybe because I still am not sure what that place is supposed to be?

For whatever reason, I lost my will and drive to do the one thing that has otherwise always kept me motivated, energized, excited, and truly has given me LIFE: writing. I LOVE WRITING. I might not be able to fully explain why, but I figure my close friends and family would probably say it’s because I love talking, too. I just love an idea and a thought and a word as much as I love breathing, and donuts, and a good summer rain. They’re natural, everyone knows about them, but they deserve more attention than is typically afforded to them, in my opinion.

So where do I start? Well, I guess I mean, where do I go from here? This cute lil’ site is full of my personal “ramblings,” as I mentioned, but I decided it’s high time we drive this baby in one specific direction. If I’m gonna talktalktalk, I want it to be about something I love as much as writing. For now (and the undefined future), I’ve decided that is going to be health, wellness, fitness, and just being. And as an ode to my re-return, what better topic to kick off such a thrill than that of the BACK.

What?

Yes, the back.

Super weird, I know. Why would I want to talk about backs? What even am I actually referring to when I say ‘back’? I’m talking about the rear surface of the human body, running from your shoulders to your hip-line: your freakin’ back. Does your back hurt? I actually would be more surprised if you answered ‘no,’ because believe it or not, we use our backs as much as we do our arms, legs, and hands. It’s involved in almost every movement we make (and don’t make), in any given day. Your back is under pressure when you’re sitting, when you’re standing, when you’re running, and even when you’re lying down. Because of this, it’s also probably one of the strongest parts of your body. Hell yeah, go back!

So why do I want to say a few words on the back here and now? Well, other than just receiving my new foam roller in the mail that I legit can’t wait to get home and use on my back, when I first started really reflecting on my personal fitness journey, I came to the conclusion that it all started with my back. To fully do the tale justice, let me take you BACK a few years…ok, I’ll stop…

During the beginning of my second year of teaching, times were seriously rough. It took getting through the first year of my inner-city program to realize I had no life, whatsoever. I worked a minimum of 60 hour weeks, slept on average 3-4 hours a night, and when I did have free time, I was using it to research how to make my work-life easier (i.e. lesson planning!). Right out of college, I also had very little insight yet as to how completely bad this was for my overall personal health. I once had a phone meeting with my mentor and she asked what was one thing I planned to do for myself the approaching weekend, and I said I was excited to go to the local supply store to get new monthly supplies for my classroom. And I remember that I was truly, really excited! Her response? “Um, Tenika, you realize that is not for yourself, right?” I didn’t. I loved being a teacher, and I loved my students, but my body was taking a beating, and so was my mental and physical health.

So before I let the thick of that second fall semester get the best of me as it had the year before, I decided to commit to something – anything, to try to beat the busy-blues. A coworker was super into yoga and said she looked forward to the practice as a means of release at the end of the school week. She went religiously every Thursday evening, so I decided to join her onc week for my first ever class. Holy buckets was my world changed in a quick 45 minutes. I became obsessed with the idea of letting go of my stress, and clearing my mind for an hour – so much so that I yearned for it more and more. I joined a studio near my house and started going on my own accord. My commitment? I left my classroom everyday within one hour of the dismissal bell either to attend a yoga class, or at least to work from home where I could feel a little less stressed. Obviously yoga was my primary choice on most days, and by spring, I was attending classes five times a week! To my friends, I became the go-to yogi, and often would drag them along to experience some of me favorite instructors, or break-out practice opportunities around the city. The best part was that it was actually working – I was not only developing a better, more healthy work-life balance, but I was happy, energized, and felt like I had a personal life again.

Everything was going smoothly until one April evening, out to drinks with a few friends, as I was walking from one end of the bar to the other, I collapsed unexpectedly due to an indescribable pain in my back. Within 20-30 minutes it escalated from something sharp and quick, to something dense and throbbing. My friends had to help me to my own car, where I laid flat in the backseat demanding they drive me straight home rather than to a hospital. My beloved roommates helped me to put some biofreeze on the area, and I was able to move around and stretch a bit before bed, leaving me to think everything would be fine by morning – boy was I wrong. I woke up the next day with thankfully just enough mobility in my left arm to text my roommate in the next room and tell her I couldn’t move from my bed. I legitimately thought I was paralyzed, and it was terrifying. She brought me a painkiller, and called my school for me to let them know I wouldn’t be able to make it in.

Fast forward a few hours and it turns out I had severely disrupted a joint in my back called the Latissimus Dorsi: one of our largest muscles, which explains why it was affecting nearly my whole body. I had to undergo a couple months of physical therapy, remained seated constantly at work over the next several weeks (which as a teacher is torturous), and ultimately, realized I had been overdoing it with my yoga classes. It wasn’t that I was doing yoga too often (#yogaeverydamnday, amiright?), but I wasn’t doing it as properly as I should have been. I wasn’t warming up appropriately every time, and outside of class, I was known to #stopdropyoga into random poses without warning! I guess I grew to love my new hobby so much that I was overly excited to partake whenever I could, as often as possible, and in turn, I learned the hard way that there is a right and a wrong way to do fitness.

But I didn’t learn my lesson right away…no, that’d be too easy.

Fast forward a few months later and I found myself back home, sleeping on my sister’s couch. This wasn’t a big deal because I intentionally signed myself up for some detoxifying time off post the second school year, and truthfully, it was a great opportunity to really grow in my love of fitness and exercise. It was during these short months that I first discovered #TeamKayla, the #BBG workouts, and quickly became known among my circle as the friend who was always up for a trip to the gym. Since I had a flexible bar-tending schedule, it was typical for me to hit the gym in the morning for a weight-lifting circuit, and then again in the evening, or during my lunch break to get a run in. (Side note: I HATED running long distances – growing up I was a sprinter. Since I had been running every other day a few miles here and there, I thought I’d try my luck at a 10k in October 2016…it was awful and I could barely finish. I kept training anyway, and last month I finished my first half marathon (April 2017) with an 8:27 split).

It could have been that during this time at home, I was bored, and didn’t have a lot going on career-wise or socially. Whatever the cause though, I found I thrived in the gym. My friends from college used to joke that I was “most comfortable” listening to chill music in bars, probably completely by myself. I now realize that comfortability has evolved, and my place of choice involves sweating, grunting, and a good up-beat Beyoncé song.

When I moved to New York, I lost a lot of time on my fitness journey because it took me several months to really figure out my groove in the city. During a ski trip in January of this year, I got knocked down pretty hard, and it was back to the back doc. I discovered alongside a moderate concussion, I also had pretty bad strains to both of my rotator-cuffs. Granted this was a completely separate injury than the first time I found myself with pain in my back, and with a completely separate (mostly out of my control) cause, the experience lit a fire in me that I hadn’t felt before. Up to this point I had spent so many hours at the gym, so many mornings traveling there early, free hours from the work day, and even often times late in the evening – anything to get in my lifts, my miles, and my yoga practices. Yet, with one foul swoop of a wreckless snowboarder, I was on my ass and back in physical therapy. How could this be? I decided it was time for a change. To an outsider, I may have always appeared to live a super healthy, active lifestyle, and to be in “good” shape. To me I felt tired, heavy, and like I was spinning wheels and wheels of energy all to still feel weak.

So in the months that followed this recovery, I no longer committed to just working out, just running the miles, or just attending the yoga classes. I flipped my own health & wellness world on it’s head and cleaned out every corner of my life until it became better aligned with my goals – see: my elimination experience, for example. I wanted to not only walk the walk, but also talk the talk. When I am not at the gym, I’m researching ways to be better at the gym. When I’m not measuring my macros, I’m learning more ways to get the most out of my physical routine by aligning my nutrition, sleep, and mental health. And my favorite part so far? It actually feels like it’s working. My commitment has become my passion, and my passion is slowly becoming my lifestyle.

I guess it’s a little bit of a stretch to think the injury in 2015 lead me here, but maybe it’s not. Maybe everything happens for a reason, and maybe even that snowboarder a few months ago was a part of the puzzle. Jeez, I’m all emotional now…that happens a lot when you’re doing something you love, I guess. It has taken a lot of courage and dedication to get to this point, especially when nowadays (especially in New York), you can’t blink an eye without someone offering you their unwarranted opinion on the movement. And when I look back at the person I was five or even three years ago, it’s mind-boggling to see the difference. I know a lot of people promote their physical/fitness journeys from a place of physical transformation, and I think that’s great. For me, my transformation physically is important, especially because I do aim to get stronger everyday. But most importantly, I know a world has passed through my mind over the course of this journey, and to me, that’s what mindfulness means.

In short, I’m thankful for the injury(ies) that prompted the mental and physical strength I’ve developed, and the feeling to finally have something to write about again. If you’re reading this now, I hope you’ll stay tuned for what’s to come…This journey is what gets me out of bed in the morning (that, and the strength I’ve continued to build in my back!). 😉

Finally, I’ve included some of my favorite back stretches below. These were a few favorites to get me through the separate rounds of recovery, and thankfully, I’ve always been a fan of #1. Keep moving, keep breathing, and keep trusting the process. Enjoy!

#1 Wall Supported Handstand

 

Yes! I’ll do anything to flip upside down – anywhere, and anytime. My yoga instructor in Indianapolis recommended that I focus on my handstand practice in lieu of pretty much everything else during my rehab in 2015 (see featured photo on my front porch in downtown Indianapolis). It takes a lot of practice and core muscle to be able to stick one of these babies out in the open, but kicking up into an easy handstand supported by the wall, and tightening your back and butt, is a good way to strengthen your body’s most valuable muscles.

#2 Legs Up The Wall

 

Maybe my second favorite pose/stretch – legs up the wall is an easy go-to for adding strength specifically to your lower back. It’s easy to kick up your legs when you’re just lying around the house, wathing tv, or reading a book, and this can undo hours of sitting at a desk all day!

#3 Bridge

Bridge is a tough one to do if you have an injury, but is a great pose to incorporate into your practice to prevent the injuries from happening. It’s good for targeting your thorax, and neck – just don’t look side to side, and instead stay focused on the ceiling.

#4 Crunch

 

Not just good for abs, most crunch-type exercises actually target the back, too! This standard crunch pose is a good one for adding strength to the lower back muscles, as well as the full core, by simply balancing for 10-20 seconds per rep.

#5 Front Bridge/Plank

 

Similarly, an exercise usually looked at for ab work, the forearm plank, or front bridge pose can be good for strengthening the back, too. To make this more focused on the back, rather than your abdominal muscles, simply lower your shins to the ground, and focus on arching through your mid-section.

Poses/exercises to avoid when you have a back injury:

When nursing a back injury, I’ve found it’s best to avoid all strenuous exercise, as it likely involves stress to your back in some regard. The worst thing you can do is not give your body time to heal and rest. Just as well, if you start to feel better, and then push yourself before your muscles are ready, you can end up worsening the injury, putting you out of your typical routine for longer, or worst case scenario – end up with permanent damage.

But if you want to still take it easy, from my experiences, the most important exercises to avoid when you have any kind of back injury include any of those which include twists, backbends, forward folds, and running.

If you do have back pain and are unsure what to do, definitely consult a chiropractor, or physical doctor for the best advice! And don’t be afraid to befriend a foam roller! 🙂

Re-Freakin-Introduction!: My Elimination Experience

Finally! The day(s) have come to reintroduce all those beloved favorites I’ve/we’ve missed so much…you know what I’m talking about: chocolate and bananas, of course – the straggler triggers we eliminated mid-process, plus all those other goodies: corn, ice cream, and least we neverrrrr forget GLUTEN! I am so. freaking. pumped! I’ll add a brief, all-inclusive recap below:

We had to be strategic in our planning of the re-introduction phase because it is SO important in order to get the most out of the whole experience. If you aren’t careful about re-introducing the food which had been eliminated, then all the struggling and cleansing was basically for nothing. This being an obstacle enough as it is, Brenen’s birthday is coming up, and you know we gotta celebrate appropriately (pancakes, ice cream and beer=mandatory). So we decided to take a less common approach upon reintroducing, and DIDN’T do less obvious triggers first. Instead, we got alcohol out of the way early, each enjoying a plain cocktail with soda water, kind of as a celebratory toast to our diet’s plateau. Brenen went with tequila and I gave vodka a try. One drink was enough for me to realize I did not really miss that much at all (lol), so the next day we actually attempted some food. First up was gluten, and cue the most unexpected reaction ever: on schedule to knock out a 10 mile run Thursday morning, I woke up from a perfect sleep that followed a mere 1 cup of whole wheat pasta the night before and I felt I had gained 100 pounds! It was incredible, and feels almost impossible to properly explain. I felt as if I had never run before in my life, my whole body was just overall heavy, and I had to stop running every 1/2 mile or so to catch my breath. It was the weirdest experience of my life, and I was so shocked to feel this way after almost 3 full weeks of otherwise feeling perfect! I went from being pumped, to legitimately being fearful of introducing the next item. For that reason, it took me almost 3 full days to move on to the next food group: dairy. I drank half a glass of 2% milk with dinner, and then held my breath until my body and mind forced me to sleep. I woke up the day after feeling completely fine, and decided to continue with the process. Soy, caffeine, nor eggs gave me any trouble (although Brenen wouldn’t be able to say the same for himself), but I continued to stay away from gluten for the full week that would follow. Finally, after my final trigger: peanuts, I decided to give gluten a final try. Again, I woke up the following day feeling sluggish, and just “not my best.” I figured the conclusion was just that gluten was something to which my body, specifically mood and energy level, must be sensitive. It’s not the end of the world – this is why I did this diet in the first place! Right?

UPDATE: Several weeks removed from the experience, I have decided I cannot (and do not want to) run from gluten forever. I have stuck to 100% whole grain items that contain gluten, and have worked my body upward to a level of being able to maintain a level of energy and a positive mood I can be proud of, while still leading a completely full, balanced diet. I’ll update soon with some of my favorite gluten-go-to’s, for anyone looking to keep the good ol’ boy around, without letting it weigh you down! 🙂

Torture and Wonderment and Elimination

So here it goes! I’ve committed. I’m doing it. The idea behind starting such a feat admittedly came from first reading about the experience from one of my favorite health enthusiast, @leefromamerica. While I’ve always been interested in leading a healthy lifestyle, nothing quite captivated me much as did the concept of first needing to take the appropriate steps in determining what was exactly healthy for me. Sure, there are the healthy habits by which we should all aspire to live – exercise, water, moderation of potential toxins…but what really got me thinking was the idea that, as far as I know, I am living as healthy of a lifestyle as could be, yet still often struggle with symptoms I might be able to control if I just take the time to first examine their source. For example, I often feel fatigued, very seldom do I see true definition in my muscles, and I truly feel that admitting I have a perpetual headache is not that extreme of a claim. I know I drink a lot of caffeine (teaching took care of that miscalculation), and I know the handful of alcohol I consume in a week doesn’t seem like a lot, even though it probably is (college took care of that miscalculation). But I also realize with full humility that I am human, and it is a gooooood human feeling to eat cheese, drink beer, and reward myself with donuts whenever I feel like it!

Here is the conclusion I came to – to be honest, I am healthy. I wake up every morning between 5 and 6am, go to the gym, eat oats (& blueberries) everyday for breakfast, and usually a salad for lunch. I have an ever-running list of friends and family whom care for me deeply, and I am so beyond blessed enough that I’ve never had to face a life-threatening situation in which I was forced to change my diet in any kind of extreme way. I am healthy, but I am also lucky. I know a lot of people who cannot say the same. If I’m being completely honest, there is a large possibility that I could continue just as I am now for the rest of my life and I may never have any issues. I may even live into my 90s! But if I’m being realistic, there is also a large possibility that this isn’t the case. I figure a major part of my world (and everyone’s!) is the fuel that provides us the privilege to inhabit it. Without fuel, we are immobile. We are dead. Our bodies really are, or should be, our temples. At least for now.

So at the very least, I figure I owe it to my body to do myself a learn. I study and read and practice and experiment so much with different recipes and foods, but I’ve never really done so with my body. What I have learned to be true is that everyone’s body is different, and is constantly changing and evolving. MY Elimination Plan will revolve around ME, and my only goal for this adventure (as if with most any step I take in life) is to be mindful. 🙂 I want the experience to be one by which I learn more than I ever have – including continuing to try new foods and new recipes, but also paying attention to how what I am consuming is impactful, as well as whatever I am not eating may be.

Up to this point it’s been an astounding (and quite) several MONTHS of preparation. Yes months. I have plans, and lists, and ideas, and dates, and charts, and…well you get it. I am ready. We are doing this.

Stay tuned for all the torture and wonderment. I am SO excited.

The Final Week – How Do You Spell Positivity?: My Elimination Experience

It’s been a while, and this post will be short.

This weekend was not easy. We’re so close yet feel so far away.

There was a lot of irritability floating around between myself and Brenen, and try as I might to maintain a healthy enough level of positivity for the both of us, I have been struggling. The funniest part is, it’s not even that I miss certain foods or drinks, or that I have even really been craving anything specific. Okay, I actually could really go for a beer…but it’s more that the restrictions have left us missing out on experiences. That realization has been increasingly frustrating. Prior to her visit with my mom to the city, my sister and her boyfriend were in Boston, and had asked us to join. It was the first weekend of our diet, so to avoid feeling tempted or out of place, we declined. Unforeseen, we felt the need to pass up a second opportunity to go with friends from the city this weekend. Of course we still could have made the trip (or even both), but what’s Boston without a Lobster Roll and a drink by the Bay? Still Boston, I get it…just complaining over here…

I’ve never been to MA, and now the opportunity has been propositioned twice within our elimination period. It’s hard to think taking a trip or trying something new would be logically worthwhile right now when our main focus is just on achieving the goals in front of us. Not to mention, both of us realizing this has caused us both to become irritable and frustrated. It’s not been difficult maintaining within our restrictions – it’s been difficult realizing how easy it would be to just not.

Ah but enough of that pessimistic crap! On the up side, we made a couple great -no probably the best we’ve had- meals recently! A long-anticipated roast went up this weekend, and holy crap I’ve never had something homemade so well. It was a crockpot recipe and took less than an hour to throw together, including my trip to Whole Foods on a Sunday morning!

I’ll save you all the details but it’s clear this past week/weekend was no walk in the park, especially when compared to the initial days of the journey. I think getting through Monday and Tuesday (days 20-21) will feel like crossing a new threshold. Even though the diet will continue for the most part, knowing we’re on the other side of the little mountain (I feel) will have significant impact on both our attitudes. Onward to reintroduction!

Day 13: 03/13
No Exercise

Morning:
Lemon Ginger Tea
Overnight oats + vanilla extract w/no berries

Afternoon:
Chopt Chicken Tinga (didn’t finish)

Evening:
Leftover homemade chili for dinner
Rice cake topped w/almond butter, cinnamon, honey, and cocoa powder before bed

Day 14: 03/14
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon

Exercise:
Yoga power flow

Morning:
Rice cake topped w/almond butter
Overnight oats w/blueberries

Afternoon:
Smoothie -apples, kiwi, ginger, spinach, almond milk, ice
Grapes as a snack

Evening:
Grilled chicken salad w/apples, dried cranberries, avocado, and homemade balsamic vinegar dressing

Day 15: 03/15
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + honey

Exercise:
4 miles, 500 calories
Weight Lifting for Arms

Morning:
Quick “overnight” oats
-honey, cinnamon, almond milk, blueberries

Afternoon:
Hu Kitchen rotisserie chicken w/roasted sweet potatoes + cinnamon pineapple & cashew milk
Yogi Women’s Energy Herbal Tea
Blueberry Power w/Chi Tea

Day 16: 03/16
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + honey

Exercise:
Half-Marathon Training
Weight Training for Arms

Morning:
Overnight oats w/berries
Cherry Lara bar

Afternoon:
Carrots w/hummus
Double Chicken Tinga w/beans, apples, beets
Herbal tea

Day 17: 03/17
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + honey

Exercise:
Half-Marathon Training
Yoga hip stretches
Handstand practice

Afternoon:
Hu kitchen 1/4 rotisserie chicken + cinnamon & cashew milk pineapple, sweet potatoes
Apple Lara Bar
Grapes
Dried beet chips
Cashew lara bar
Herbal tea

Day 18: 03/18
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + honey

No Exercise

Morning:
Baked steelcut oats w/apples

Afternoon:
Green juice – kale, apples, ginger, celery, cucumber, lemon
BBQ roasted chickpeas
Hummus w/celery

Evening:
Crock Pot roast – boneless chuck shoulder roast w/carrots, celery and chipotle seasoning
Blueberry crumble made w/almond flour

Day 19: 03/19
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon

Exercise:
Vinyasa power yoga

Morning:
Leftover baked steel cut oats + leftover blueberry crumble served cold w/milk
Fresh fruit

Afternoon:
Leftover roast w/carrots
Yogi Women’s Energy Herbal Tea
Apple Larabar

Evening:
Snacks 180 blueberry almond crisps
Honey/cinnamon chicken w/cinnamon roasted beets and homemade almond butter dressing over mixed field greens
Lemon ginger tea
 

The Second Weekend: My Elimination Experience

This weekend was so easy! Even with mom and Taylor visiting, I was able to make it work and never felt pressured to lose control or sway off course. Okay, so the trip to Dō was a little unsettling – the new cookie dough dessert store between West Village and SoHo is what I imagine all dreams are made of, but ALWAYS has over an hour wait lined down the block. Of course, when we strolled by around opening on Thursday, there were only a few others ahead of us, and mom and Taylor got to walk straight in! I couldn’t believe it, and it was truly very tempting to just have a little taste (of everything!) but after thorough investigation of all of their allergens, I excused myself to wait outside with the mantra and self-promise that I will get to go back one day…and have a short and sweet wait like they did 🤦🏽‍♀️

My sister is a newfound fan of Korean BBQ, so we had to hit up K-Town during their stay, plus my mom has never been. I got us a table at my favorite little restaurant, and our sever could not have been more accommodating. I was prepared, of course, having packed enough snacks to get me through dinner without having to eat much (if anything) from the restaurant. But I explained my restrictions when we first sat down (yes, all of them!) and she made me feel as if I was actually enjoying Korean BBQ on any other trip. We communicated through broken but guided understandings of one another and she blockaded the items I wasn’t able to enjoy, serving them on the complete opposite side of the table, and waving me off as she sat them down. At first, I expected this to leave me with little options, but she ensured what could be compromised by the rest of the group was done so, and she continually brought refills of the goodies I could have so that I didn’t go hungry. And by the end of the experience I was far from it. I chowed down on rice, pear root, plain cabbage and lettuce, an unseasoned Asian salad, and of course all of the non-marinated meat I could get to before the others. It was good, as always, but being able to enjoy it now made it better than ever.

To be honest, “inclusion” has been somewhat of a hot topic throughout this experience. I think I entered into the diet under the assumption I would be shunned from friends, or that my restrictions would be ignored by others around me – especially those that I didn’t even know, like our server that night. I’ve been exceptionally pleasantly surprised to learn things have been much of the opposite. Not only do I feel as if my friends and family have been supportive of my endeavor, but so have complete strangers. “It is what it is,” has been the popular attitude, and at best, I sometimes even get questions from people who want to learn more about the diet. I guess making diet changes, or even participating in a healthy lifestyle nowadays can sometimes be looked at kind of sideways, almost as if others are afraid one who does take such actions in their life indicates they believe themselves to be better. I certainly don’t consider myself better than any other human! At the same time, I personally believe making any kind of diet/exercise/health related change should benefit YOU and your lifestyle/health and fitness goals. It’s been reassuring, encouraging, and overall an extremely positive experience feeling as if I am surrounded by such support, or at least indifference.

And of course the most supportive of all — after company left, Brenen and I had a little diet-date, and were lucky to find a cute little Vegan spot in our neighborhood: Rockin’ Raw. Without having to ask, the entire menu automatically met all our requirements: no gluten, no soy, and everything vegan friendly! We each enjoyed our own absurd combinations of brunch and finished with a homemade dessert. I got a chocolate cheesecake and he a sweet iced carrot cake.

The weekends were a top concern a few weeks ago, but this entire weekend just felt peaceful. It was easy, and we are so happy. Not to mention, waking up on Sunday with full bodied energy heading into the week has been the best perk of all! I can feel myself getting stronger every day, and I can’t wait to move forward and see where (else) this journey takes me/us! 🙂

Day 10: 03/10
No Exercise
Morning:

Peach tea w/steamed lemonade
1 dried prune

Afternoon:
Rice cake w/almond butter
Green grapes for snack  

Evening:
Korean BBQ
-Non-marinated meat
-Raw vegetables
-Unseasoned cabbage/seaweed salad
-Plain white rice w/no soy
Day 11: 03/11
No Exercise
Morning:

Peach tea w/steamed lemonade
Rice cake topped w/almond butter

Afternoon:
Smoothie from IndieKitchen
-Fresh berries, spinach, almond milk, flax seed mix
SweetGreen Harvest Salad

Evening:
1/2 Rotisserie Chicken from Chelsea Market
Antioxidant NutBox nut mix
Fresh grapes
Herbal (decaffeinated) Green Tea

Day 12: 03/12
Pre-Workout:
Lemon Ginger Tea

Exercise:
Athletic Yoga w/Brenen & Jay 😊

Morning/Afternoon:
Rockin’ Raw Ranchero
-two mini sun-dried tomato tortillas, topped with seed meat, sunflower queso fresco, fried ‘egg,’ spicy carob tomato sauce, and salsa
Rockin’ Raw “Fried Egg” Sandwich
-open faced, served with a ‘fried egg’ over sesame bread dressed with sliced avocado, sunflower cream cheese, tomato, and greens

Evening:
Yogi Womens Energy Herbal Tea
Homemade Chili
-ground turkey, beans, tomatoes, seasoning, vegetables
Vanilla Home Free cookies

Day 9 – Bye, Bye, Bananas: My Elimination Experience

The theme of the diet has been making it my own, and listening to MY body.  Unfortunately, even on Day 9 the headaches are still persisting. What I originally thought was solely due to cutting out caffeine cold turkey, I’ve now considered may be (also in part) to too much chocolate/sugar or not enough water. Perhaps it’s both. As I’ve mentioned, many “typical” elimination experiences eliminate much more than what I decided to do, but Brenen and I have been making adjustments throughout our own journey, some of which are unique to us individually, too. As an example, I am going to go ahead and kick the cocoa. 😦 It’s a sad, sad realization, but I think I have to do it – at least so that I can be sure it’s something I want to continue eating in the long-run. Similarly, we both decided we should cut back on the bananas. Like chocolate, they weren’t technically meant to be included anyway because they are such an oddity in the realm of fruits and vegetables because they have a higher level of natural fructose. They’re also high in fiber, specifically resistant starch, which our bodies cannot absorb. Since fiber is actually one of the more interesting points of observation for both of us, it makes sense we eliminate bananas moving forward.

To be honest, I do wish I could have a coffee. Or a drink. Yep, it’s that kind of day today. I’ve been thinking a lot though about my humanity throughout all of this, and to be honest, I don’t know why or when humans (specifically this human) became so mentally dependent (almost handicapped, it sometimes feels) by particular food groups. It’s a weird, and unpleasant feeling now that I am sitting outside the space of it. I don’t want to feel like I need to eat something that I know will in turn, not make me feel great. Shouldn’t we only ever be eating things that make us feel our best selves? It’s interesting…yet simple, right?

So Day 9 hasn’t been my favorite, but it’s still day by day, and I know it’s for the best. Yes, somewhat completely terrible at times (ok, I am over-dramatic), but for the best. Plus (!!!) on a higher note, my mom and sister are visiting this week/weekend! They get here today. They’re already way in the loop on the diet situation, and so supportive, but I am sure we will still be hitting up some fun spots that will be more than tempting – thus, now is as good as time as any to really toughen up! I am excited to spend time with family, and look forward to challenging myself…and continuing to win! 😉

Day 9: 03/09
Pre-Workout:
Lemon ginger tea
1 dried prune

Workout:
Cardio + arm strength

Morning:
Apple, plum, raspberry, and blueberry smoothie
Overnight Oats + raspberries and blueberries

Afternoon:
Pineapple w/cinnamon
Sea salt dark chocolate
Hu kitchen rotisserie chicken w/roasted sweet potatoes + puffed quinoa
Hu chocolate w/mint
Herbal tea
Dried cranberries

Evening:
Korean BBQ
-beef brisket, pork belly, cow tongue
-lettuce, onion, cabbage
-pear root, salt/pepper + garlic oil
-white rice
Green grapes

Week 2 – Listen To Your Body: My Elimination Experience

I haven’t been sleeping poorly, but the sleep hasn’t been as good as it was the first few nights. Perhaps I’m eating too much sugar too late in the day. I know sugar is typically eliminated from the common elimination diet, but this is MY elimination diet, and so while I’ve never really been much of a sweet-tooth, I didn’t feel the need to completely forbid myself from a sweet now and again. To be clear here, the sugars, or sweeteners rather, that I am consuming are for the most part just in the form of natural raw honey and organic blue agave. There has been the occasional allowance of pure cane sugar or light brown sugar, but I determined early on in my planning that I didn’t really cross paths with sugar enough to worry about going out of my way to avoid it.

Anyway, I’m going to experiment with avoiding sugar at least in the evening moving forward. Further, Brenen and I both decided to eliminate bananas, and I am going to leave the chocolate at the door :(. These are both also noted as common “triggers,” cut out of most elimination experiences, but we didn’t bother at first. To be clear, Brenen claimed that he hopped on this crazy train of mine as a “might as well” opportunity for him to experiment with his reactions to gluten and dairy. He personally hasn’t given up caffeine, (and isn’t that worried about cocoa), but otherwise he is on the same exact restrictions as I am. To be even more clear, I think he mostly just is just in this whole mess as a means to support me ;).

Which of course has to be contributing at least in slight measure to my mood, which has never been better! I know i’ve already mentioned this, but it remains steadily true, and is very profoundly obvious. I am still feeling extremely positive about the whole experience…despite it only being a quarter of the way through and my yearning for coffee and donuts growing everyday 😅 ..”I can do it!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept: listening to your body. I’ve spoken about it before, and so it’s clear I’m a true believer in it – I think it’s fair to say I wouldn’t even be on this current venture if I wasn’t. Part of what makes most people I speak to skeptical of the whole process is “how do you know” when your body feels differently. Perhaps this is something that I’ve spent a lot of time working toward…but perhaps it’s also something that comes natural for each of us, if we let it. I believe our bodies are the only thing we have. Seriously. What else is there guiding you through life? Your brain? Your heart? All a part of your body, my friends! It might seem funny to cut-things-out along the way, but again, that’s why I am so determined to make this process my own! Listening to my headaches and pains and positive vibes and following the right nudges is what is going to make it worthwhile. 

I am back to attending regular physical therapy sessions for my skiing injury, and it’s actually be a great because I feel like I’m getting two workouts in in the mornings. As long as I wake up about 25-30 min earlier than normal, I can still hit the gym and then make it to PT before work. Because of this altered scheduling, I’ve been trying to focus on cardio and legs at the gym so I can save my arm and upper body strength for my therapy. I’ve also noticed the two-a-days (so-to-speak) are leaving me a bit more tired than usual. I usually can stay consistently active with my workout routine but, as you can notice, I’ve skipped a couple days already this week. I can’t say I’m thrilled about it because I am anxious about a potentially over-booked weekend with family visiting (yay!) which usually means my independent time is cut short. I suppose it’s a fair trade-off though. Mom and Taylor get here today and I am soooo excited! The weather has been nice and they are pumped for exploring, despite the trip coinciding with my diet. I’m looking forward to getting some q-time in with them both, and guess it’ll be a nice forced-break from the routine if my body apparently needs it. I’ve always listened to my body, but I feel like for the first time, I can hear her so loud and clear! Cheers to hump-day! 😀

Day 6: 03/06
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
1 dried prune

No exercise

Morning:
Overnight oats – no fruit

Afternoon:
Chopt Chicken Tinga – no cheese or tortilla
Hu Almond Fig
Celery + hummus

Evening:
Pasta w/marinara, salmon, mushrooms & zucchini
Fresh mango for dessert

Day 7: 03/07
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
1 dried prune (good for the brain)

Workout:
Full Body Strength Training
Rotator Cuff Physical Therapy

Morning:
Kale, blood orange, banana, and almond milk smoothie topped w/chia + flax seed mix
Overnight Oats

Afternoon:
Chop’t Chicken Tinga w/double chicken
Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea

Dinner:
Pasta w/marinara
Herbal tea

 

Day 8: 03/08
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
1 dried prune

No Exercise

Morning:
Overnight Oats

Afternoon:
Hu Kitchen 1/4 rotisserie chicken w/roasted market vegetables and pineapple w/cashew butter + cinnamon
Hu chocolate bar w/mint
Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea

Evening:
Pureed sweet potato bowl, w/banana + dark chocolate

The First Weekend: My Elimination Experience

It’s crazy to me that it’s almost 7:30PM (dinner time now), and I’ve only eaten…well…breakfast and lunch. But I’m not starving. The headaches are still sneaking in – never for long anymore though, and barely noticeable. This weekend was great! I expected it to be hard, hell to be honest, I expected it to be impossible. The week I never feared. As I mentioned, I’m used to my morning and afternoon routines at the office and the obstacles surrounding both have been easy enough to overcome. Another major challenge I feared would be the weekend which typically included joining friends for drinks, eating out, and drinking wine, and always included sleeping in past breakfast, drinking coffee, and eating donuts. Sigh…I sure do miss donuts.

Anyway, I feel good! I do, actually, I feel great! (And so does Brenen). The headaches, I’ve decided most definitely are related to  the caffeine. Other than the withdrawal side-effects, so far the biggest change I’ve noticed is my sleep – my uninterrupted, deep, completely rejuvenating sleep. It’s as if my entire being – body, mind, and soul are resting for the first time in my entire life. That’s how I feel when I wake up in the morning. It’s actually incredible and I am positive any explanation I give here will never do the experience justice. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and if anything grows stronger throughout the next couple weeks, I hope it’s my ability to maintain this feeling – to maintain this kind of sleep where I wake up in the morning ready to hop out of bed and literally feel as if I could accomplish anything!

 

Hand in hand, I’m also happier; just all around in a better mood. Brenen and I are getting along wonderfully. Not that we ever don’t, but there’s an energy here like never before. It’s healthy and it’s strong and it’s good. Our darling friends accommodated us on Sunday for an over-due family dinner. We hadn’t gotten together in a while as a whole group, so a couple who live together initiated a Taco Night. Of course, Brenen and I prepared to attend and not be able to eat (so packed a bag of snacks for ourselves), but we were beyond tickled to arrive to a full Make-Your-Own-Taco spread, including a sub station meeting all of our restrictions. What amazingly sweet humans! 🙂 So far, the pain and struggle and temptation have been worth every second of this journey, and discovering the positive impacts on my health has only been a portion of the reward. 😉 

Day 3: 03/03
Pre-Workout:
No exercise

Morning:
Hot water w/lemon
Quick oats w/blueberries, banana, honey, brown sugar, almond milk

Afternoon:
1/2 serving of Muscle Maker grilled chicken + steamed broccoli
Yogi Lemon Ginger Tea
1 C Carrots + Hummus
Hu Kitchen pear, spinach, blueberry smoothie
1/5 Hu Kitchen Crunchy Banana Chocolate Bar

Evening:
Fresh fruit mix + chocolate bars at movies (pictured)

Day 4: 03/04
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
GFree Rice cake topped with almond butter + banana

Workout:
Vinyasa yoga + short ab circuit

Morning:
Overnight oats w/almond butter, almond milk, cinnamon, honey, blueberries, and banana

Afternoon:
Grapes, and blueberries
SweetGreen Harvest Bowl w/mesclun, brown rice, sweet potato, apples, chicken, balsamic vinaigrette
1/4 C Home Free Chocolate Cookies
Chamomile Tea

Evening:
Steak grilled w/chimichurri sauce
Mashed cauliflower
Homemade Chimichurri Sauce: olive oil, salt/pepper, cilantro, parsley, garlic, red wine vinegar, crushed red pepper
Sweets by Chloe (shared with Brenen) Matcha Chia Pudding + blueberries, and a chocolate cupcake
Javea chocolate coconut ice cream
Decaf Lotus Blossom Tea

Day 5: 03/05
Pre-Workout:
Hot water w/lemon
GFree Rice cake topped with almond butter + banana
A few apple + kiwi slices

Workout:
Full body work out + arm circuit

Afternoon:
Juice Generation Kale Supa Dupa Greens: spinach, kale, parsley, romaine, cucumber, celery, lemon & apple
Baked Oatmeal: almond milk, apple sauce, mashed banana, baking soda, lemon, salt, topped with blueberries, blackberries, and banana
1 dried prune

Evening:
Taco Salad: plain ground turkey, tomatoes, onions, GFree taco seasoning, lettuce, pick de gallo, salsa, guacamole, terra chips
Blueberries + Raspberries
Hu Chocolate Mint Bar (Shared with Brenen)
Chamomile Tea w/lemon

Day 2: My Elimination Experience

Dinner last night was great! I’m already having fun making my new creations, but I can also already see all the work getting old quickly. I have to make sure I am staying a few steps ahead of myself, purchasing ingredients that can be useful in any recipe, and making sure I am constantly aware of my work/social calendar regarding the days I won’t have as much time to spend hours in the kitchen.

It’s day 2 of the elimination experience, but I haven’t forgotten it’s day 5 without coffee. How could I forget when My. Head. Hurts. The withdrawal is still in full swing, and my headaches are still coming in hot. As I already commented on, it’s extremely evident that I should not have cut off the caffeine intake cold turkey. It seems everything around me triggers a headache. My alarm in the morning, the air being cooler than yesterday, having a close conversation with a colleague, the Indian music playing over the speakers in my cab at this moment…everything 😩 I just want a coffee. Honestly, it’s that intense of a feeling – as if I truly need the source of the issue to make the issue go away. And I’m hungry!! I’m still eating A LOT throughout the day, which I expect to decrease over the next couple weeks, but I snack constantly and still find myself starving by dinner. 

I was considering today that I may not be eating enough calories, but as I reflect on my food journal, that can’t be the case. It’s interesting to observe – I will continued to be most intrigued by the volume of foods and how it changes throughout this process. And despite all this intake, I still feel weak by the end of the day. I think maybe my next factor to research just presented itself…but before looking further into that, I think I will lie down.

Brenen prepared dinner tonight. Well, by prepared I mean reheated my prep from last night. Not my pasta, but I actually prepared a Meatball & Kale Sauté specifically for tonight, knowing I wouldn’t have time to fully make the meal today. It was delicious, and filling, and the reheating process didn’t affect the way it tasted at all! Very smart of me, if I do say so myself. I’m a smart eliminating-dieter. It seemed all my aforementioned exhaustion and sluggishness disappeared once we ate, and I didn’t really find myself overwhelmingly tired after dinner. Still, as soon as I got comfy in bed and told my mind to go to sleep, it did.

Here’s the recap from Day 2, and you can check out my meatball and pasta recipes I’ve mentioned so far if you’re interested! 🙂 Working on getting a running meal-plan journal up by the end of this week! Thanks for following along…

Day 2: 03/02
Pre-workout:
Hot water w/lemon
Rice cake topped with almond butter + banana

Workout:
Short stretch session

Morning:
Quick oats made w/hot water, and added honey, cinnamon, almond milk, berries, and banana

Afternoon:
Muscle Maker Smoothie made with pear, pineapple, and mango
Plain grilled chicken with steamed broccoli
Yogi Lemon Ginger Tea
1 Free2Be Dark Chocolate Sun Cup
1 Trade Joe’s Organic Applesauce Cup with Cinnamon
1 C Carrots + Trader Joe’s Organic Hummus

Evening:
Turkey Meatball & Kale Sauté
1 Kiwi + 1 Blood Orange