Category Archives: Healthy Life

“…those who run seem to have all the fun…”

Egg Breakfast Cups

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Bacon & Kale Cheesy Egg Cups – Part of a Successful Weekly Meal Plan
Yield: 12 individual egg cups Temp: 325° (f) Cooking Time: 25 minutes Prep Time: 15 minutes  

Ingredients – Equipment Needed
undefined 1 head kale, chopped
undefined 5+ strips bacon, cut/crisped (save some bacon grease for cooking the kale)
undefined 12-14 eggs, medium to large
undefined ½ cup combined, shredded Parmesan & mozzarella cheese
undefined Kosher salt/pepper to taste
undefined 12 pan muffin tin
undefined Parchment paper or cupcake liners
undefined Skillet
undefined Canning funnel

Step 1: Preheat oven to 325° (f) and prep the muffin tin with liners. Set aside. My best advice for still intact, non stick egg cups is to use parchment paper by making your own muffin tin liners or purchasing liners that are specifically made from parchment paper. Making your own is super simple and here is a really quick cool video I found on the interwebs by Cooking with Manuela on how to make your own. If making your own is not your thing, I use these from Paperchef all the time and I 100% swear by them *not a paid ad

Step 2: Dice bacon and crisp in a pan. I use a cast iron skillet, but any pan will do. Make sure to drain the fat (but save it!!) while cooking to ensure a good crisp on the bacon. Once crisp, remove from pan and set aside.

Bacon rendering in a cast iron skillet.

Step 3: Wash, dry, and remove kale from stems. Chop and place in skillet with a tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat. You can omit and use olive oil or any oil of your choosing. Kosher salt and pepper to taste. Saute until desired wilt or crispness has been achieved, add back bacon and toss for a few minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 4: Crack and whisk eggs with kosher salt and pepper. Set aside. Fill each muffin tin with a tablespoon of bacon kale mixture. Sprinkle shredded cheese mixture on top.

Step 5: If you have a canning funnel, I would totally use it because it will help to eliminate any drips or spills, which in turn makes egg cup removal from the muffin tins a bit tedious… the funnel helps keep everything in the cup where it needs to be. If not, use a large spoon or ladle and fill each muffin tin ¾ full.

Step 6: place in a 325° (f) preheated oven for 25 minutes. Serve and enjoy immediately or do as I do and store in airtight containers in the fridge for your meal planning win during the week.

Additional Ingredient Options: Here are some additional examples of breakfast egg cup variations I’ve made this year:
undefined Broccoli, bacon & goat cheese
undefined Kale, sweet peppers, & cheddar cheese
undefined Sweet peppers, zucchini, sausage & Parmesan cheese

A Note About The Ingredients I Use:
The eggs in this recipe and all recipes I create are made from the chickens I raise. They are fed organic feed in addition to all of the organic produce scraps from my kitchen and all that nature has to provide for them in my pasture. All other ingredients I do my very best to source locally if it does not come direct from my homestead (i.e. the produce & meats) as well as organic and non-gmo options. These recipes do not need to be local & organic but this is what I chose to do for my family.

The Story: I’m a fulltime remote employee for a global tech giant, I wrangle two very active boys and husband daily. The dog needs walking & the chickens need food. The land needs tending and there are only so many hours in a day, then you need to eat. This year I’ve decided to reinstate meal planning and meal preparation. Egg cups – the first installment of that plan. I’m typically (when Covid-19 doesn’t have us stuck at home) on the go, tacking on 120+ miles a day in the car in addition to meetings, kids activities, tending to the homestead, trying to stay physically fit and all the things life has to offer. In my back to basics journey I’ve made deep strides to improve the health in my life and I don’t want to hinder the progress by eating crap on the fly. Having good for you, fueling meals ready on the go is key for success in my day to day. This recipe makes 12 egg cups for me for the week. I warm up 2 egg cups a day from Monday through Saturday for my breakfast. Sundays are left for meal planning and meal prepping. I’ll be 100% honest, these are best the moment they come out of the oven and look a little sad on day two, but the taste is still delightful and fills me up on the go. So, here’s to your meal planning success, Egg Cups!

Let’s Talk About Mindset – 2020 Version

Happy New Year! It is still hard to believe it is officially 2020. Honestly I still feel like it’s 1995.

A decade has come to a close and a new decade is upon us. 2020 is considered perfect vision and I’d like to think that after the past 10 years my vision is finally clear. You see, this is not my first time writing about weight loss, fitness, or mental health. Since the decade started, I’ve lost 100 pounds two times over. This was due to extremely difficult pregnancies and an unhealthy outlook on myself. Sadly the weight continued to return. From the start of 2010 over the past 10 years I’ve spent learning how to be a mom, fully devoting myself and every moment of my time to my family. I completely lost myself and my identity in the process.

Around the summer of 2018 I had about enough and I started to dig my way out of a decade (possibly a lifetime) of funk. After months of research I came across a woman who lived in Denver. She was young. She was an athlete. She was preaching some pretty back to basics information that just clicked. She was in the process of developing an online subscription fitness program and recently became co owner of a gym in Denver, CO . You know a million people can tell you the same thing but it will be just one person who says it or performs it in a way that just gets through. Tara broke through.

The following is a testimonial I wrote the first week of January 2019 about the fitness program TL Method and how it has drastically changed my physical and mental health. It is January 1st 2020 and I’m revisiting this write up, realizing not much of my thoughts have changed so I want to share it again. I can’t thank Tara enough. I also can’t thank my team enough. I hope you enjoy. I’ve also included some photos and sample workouts from the program for reference. One of the biggest things that still rings true is that I’m just going to keep going. I’m not going to stop working my ass off to do better and be better than I was yesterday. My life depends on it and I will become a better mom with it. Thank you for reading and thank you for your support.

The LEFT picture is from July 2018 when I made the mindful decision to join the #TLMethod with Tara Laferrara. The picture on the RIGHT is me today, just two days before 2019 came to an end. Not sure how much weight or how many inches have been lost and I don’t care… I look and feel awesome!

PAST POST: Let’s talk about mental health. Let’s talk about fitness. Let’s talk about food. Let’s talk about resolutions & goals.

We’ve made it through the first week of 2019!  High five! The first couple of weeks of the new year seem to be flooded with blueprints for resolutions, reinventing, trying new things, setting new goals.  I believe goal setting is important and I definitely believe in trying new things but I wanted to do something different this year. I’m going to simply keep going. I am going to keep working hard. I am going to keep pushing myself to be better than I was yesterday and the day before.  That’s it. Nothing drastic, nothing out of reach. It is sustainable. I’ve made huge strides in 2018 as it relates to my mindset, my mental & physical health, so I’m just going to keep working hard in 2019 and trying to be a better me every day.  That’s it.  In the past I would set out these giant, unobtainable lists. The ideas are grand but not sustainable by any means.

2018 was a year of lessons, a lot of opportunities to challenge myself and operate outside of my comfort zone.  It was also a year of learning to be comfortable in my own skin.  Sounds a bit odd at my age, but it happened.  Since childhood, I’ve not had a healthy view of what being beautiful & fit was. I had curves and I was beautiful but I didn’t see it as such. I always wondered why I was always more developed than others and it made me embarrassed. I hid under large sweatshirts and baggy clothes.

Never would you find me in tight anything because I was always afraid of how I looked… I’m done worrying about what other people think of me and how I look. I am only concerned with how I feel and I feel great which in turn radiates in my energy I put out.

It has taken years of hard work but I’m learning to have a healthier view of myself vs. what I’ve been fed from childhood. It’s taken time to understand everyone’s body composition is different and that is OK. Once I had my two boys, I struggled with my new body even more than before. There are a lot of stretch marks, scars, and extra skin.  Mentally I was fat, ugly, and exhausted.

Over the last 8 (**now 10 yrs**) years, I’ve lost 100 pounds, twice, after each pregnancy. I experienced difficult pregnancies so physical activity was null each time. My system and metabolism were shot from the hormone changes as a result . I met my weight loss goals each time but my mental goals were far from attained. I obsessed over the number on the scale vs. how my body and mind felt. This was probably the worst part of the process. You believe you’re working so damn hard but yet the number on the scale doesn’t move. I struggled with food. Large portions and emotionally eating. Not necessarily bad foods; simply lacking balance. I would restrict myself from carbs or other foods that made me happy. In my life, restriction equates to failure. I need to be able to sustain the lifestyle and keeping myself from something I loved was making it hard for me to maintain.

For those who have been following me for some time you know I like to cook a lot of good food and drink lovely drinks. This makes me happy and taking away those things was breaking down my mindset to keep going, to be consistent .

I make much of what my household eats, from scratch. I also rely heavily on food prep to ensure I don’t mindless snack or go through a drive thru. I also don’t restrict myself from things that makes me happy.

2018 I made the year to get comfortable with being uncomfortable; trying new things and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’ve got two boys. I’m still young (definitely at heart). It was fucking time to get off this emotional roller coaster because I have a life to live.  

I did a lot of research, seeking out communities I could relate to.  Growing up, I watched my hard working, single mother use free weights and workout in her living room every evening no matter how long or difficult her day was.  She loved weightlifting.  I remember, I was of preschool age, waiting in line with my mom at a local gym grand opening to get Rachel Mclish’s autograph. Her influence guided me as a teen to purchase my own set of weights & strength train at home.  In my 20s I dove into yoga under Ben Thomas who was a direct student of BKS Iyengar.  In my later 20s I began Sanshou with Cung Le at his Santa Clara gym.  Weightlifting, yoga, and mixed martial arts were all components of fitness in my life as I got older. These are communities I sought out to guide my mental & physical groove today.  It took a few months of trying new things; 8 week yoga or animal flow programs, kickboxing, kettlebell & body weight challenges.  All things I loved but nothing was resonating, still I kept going, I kept trying new things.  The cool thing about exploring new programs was opening connections to people I would not have come across before. This brings me to Tara Laferrara.

I’ve been following a lot of personal trainers on Instagram over the past year. This is how I discovered Tara. May of 2018 I did her 7 day body weight challenge.  After the challenge, she offered an 8 week program that included 6 days a week of planned workouts from weightlifting, body weight, yoga, and mobility exercises. Along with the program came an accountability group.  The accountability group was WAY out of my comfort zone. The program as a whole, included everything that fired my soul. The major plus is I gained a group of supportive people who helped me get through mental challenges. The group on Facebook is private (some of us connect else where as well), and lets you know you’re not alone on the journey.  After the 8 week program she launched a full membership, called the TLMethod, very similar to the 8 week program. I’ve been a member ever since.

I’ve had gym memberships and I’ve signed up for online workout communities but I never stuck with any of them. I live in the country. I don’t have a lot of options close to me. Any extra funds fuel my children’s & husband’s extracurricular activities (Jiu-Jitsu and Mountain Biking). I have a very full schedule and no extra child care. I need something flexible, cheep, and that I can do at home with the equipment I have.

Let me preface this is not a paid promotion. I believe in the program and the support of a community, whether it be live or online. The TLMethod is a program I access via my phone or laptop, anywhere. Over the years I have been gifted or acquired free weights ranging from 1 to 35 pounds. I invested in resistance bands and makeshift certain household items for benches or steps. These, in addition to my body are the only tools I use in the TLMethod. I plan my day to ensure I make time for myself but I don’t have to think about workouts that will challenge me and provide results, Tara does it for me, 6 days a week.

The key statement here is “make time for myself.” Life happens. Life is always going to happen. Life will always provide some road block, speed bump, something to challenge my day to day. How I chose to react to the situation will determine my success to keep going. I also have to make a conscious effort to ensure I make time for me to take care of me because no one else will do it for me. If I am no good to me, I will be no good to anyone else. The work, the chores, the challenges will be there but those moments for you will not. We’re only given so many hours a day. Be wise how you use them.

The program and accountability group is comprised of so many different people, so many different components, yet we’re all showing signs of success through our various journeys. Some Vegan, some Vegetarian, some on Keto, some just going with the flow. Minimal judgement yet full support of the journey. I chose to stop restricting myself and just made better judgement on size and moderation.  I eat everything that makes me happy, but I am smart about the process. 

I wish I could say what the ahha moment was for me.  Possibly seeing the progress.  I stopped obsessing over the number on the scale.  I’ve kept some measurements to give me a gauge but the big win, the success has been how I feel about me.  I feel good.  I feel strong.  I feel beautiful.  I read something about progression photos and how the photo doesn’t show how your mind has progressed. I have no idea how many more inches has been lost since I started this journey and I don’t care. What I care about most is how I feel physically and mentally and right now… I feel fucking awesome!

Me two days before 2019 came to a close. You see, I’ve lost a lot of weight more than once. I have a lot of loose skin and stretch marks for days. I’ve come to love these parts of me because it tells a story of overcoming adversity… bish… those are my tiger stripes!

My journey has been a long one.  I’ve struggled with my mental outlook from childhood to present day.  The addition of becoming a mom made the struggle that much more difficult.  The journey through this program has made me love how I’ve grown.  I love how strong I am.  I love me.  So this new years, I’m going to continue being a bad ass and working hard to be a better me every day.  Ending with an example workout that is part of the TLMethod program . 

TL Method Upper Body Day Example Workout – for complete workouts signup at http://www.taralaferrara.com

Tomorrow I keep going no matter what. This year… I’m going to keep going.  

Rocking my #TLMethod gear into 2020…
Happy New Year & Happy New Decade… YOU GOT THIS!

My Weight Loss Journey – 100 Pounds & Counting

My Weight Loss Journey – 100 Pounds & Counting

After 31 hours of labor and a last minute C-section, I gave birth to my son a month early to the date. In 2009, I started my pregnancy weighing 215 pounds. At the time of my son’s birth, early 2010, I weighed 266 pounds (keeping in mind that I am barely 5 feet 6 inches tall and a medium build). As of August 2013 I have kept off 100 of the 266 pounds for one year and counting. I still have weight to lose (if you’re counting, 30 plus pounds) but I’ve stopped using my scale at this point in my weight loss journey. It’s all relative to how I feel physically and mentally, not based on a number on the scale. I made slow modest changes and set realistic short term goals that ended up providing long term results. I didn’t use magic pills, drinks, drops, or special diets. It was a combination of real food, physical activity, sleep, and lots of fresh air and sunshine. I had plans of writing about my weight loss in early 2013 because people around me inquired, “How’d you do it?” Time slipped by and I had not taken time to write. Then summer came and I’d hear “you’re so lucky you lost that weight, I wish I did!” Time passed again and I’d yet to write the post. Then recently the interwebs went a buzz for a week or so about a young mother of 3 who took a picture with a caption that sent the world in a tizzy. It wasn’t the photo that prompted my motivation to write this post. It was the comments; the array of comments from both sides of the fence. I don’t often let the drama of the interwebs conflict with my daily operation but the comments hit home for me and so here I am sharing my story and support.

On my 32nd birthday I went to my annual doctor appointment with stress and concern. I was 215 pounds. The heaviest I had ever been. I was over worked and under nourished. I was not getting enough sleep because of my anxiety. I was eating bad food and too much of it, I was drinking too much, and I was working too many long hours at my computer with no fresh air or physical activity. I was stressed and depressed because of my mental and physical health.

In general, I was a healthy woman. I had no major ailments or physical challenges other than stress and a lot of extra weight. Unfortunately the lack of care for my health was going to cause ailments if I didn’t do something about it. From my early 20s to this point I was a health conscious individual, making sure I made time for plenty of outside activity as well as real food consumption. Now in my early 30s I had never carried so much on my medium frame, tipping the scales at 75 pounds over my natural weight. My once excellent blood pressure was now at a deathly rate and they were ready to place me on medication.

This annual doctor visit was different for me than most. I had been trying to get pregnant for the past year. The doctor didn’t sugar coat it. She did not want me to get pregnant yet. She wanted me to lose weight. Any weight loss, even 5 to 10 pounds would be a step in the right direction. I had to maintain my life and the life of another so I had to be healthy. I set out on a plan to change my work habits. This plan would allow me to get back to real food and to allow me time outside for fresh air and physical activity. I needed to get my mental focus back.
It was hard going. Work was stressful and I let the comments of others invade my motivation at times. All this said I didn’t let it stop me from trying. If I failed on day one and two, I’d get back on track for day three, four, and five. After a couple months I finally started to lose a few pounds. It’s amazing how one’s body will respond to positive change, no matter how small the change is. I had been trying to get pregnant for a year and within a couple months of adjusting my health behaviors I found myself pregnant.

I didn’t need a test to know I was pregnant. I knew right away because I was immediately sick. I couldn’t eat and I could barely keep water down. Within minutes of eating or drinking anything, it would come right back up. Nothing helped. I couldn’t function. I was left to bed rest. Thankfully my boss was supportive during this time. I laid in bed with my computer and phone at one side and a bucket on the other. The first ultra sound gave us the impression we were having twins. There were two images on the screen, not one. They ordered an emergency ultra sound the next day where they determined I had a septate uterus. A septate reduces the amount of space the baby will have to grow. Some septate’s are more severe than others causing a higher rate of miscarriage. Then there was the constant sickness. This was not your typical morning sickness. Not being able to keep fluids and foods down was becoming a negative health matter for both me and my baby. It was determined that I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum (aka HG), a severe form of morning sickness. I was unable to keep anything down, no food, and no fluids. I received a couple instances of an IV treatment over the course of the pregnancy because the vomiting was so severe. I took a medication every few hours that is given to cancer patients who go through chemo and radiation, just to keep small amounts of food and liquid down. If I did not do this, the ability for my child and me to receive proper nutrition would have been null and void and so would have been this pregnancy.

The first 6 months of my pregnancy were spent in bed a majority of the time in between weekly doctor visits. During the early months I couldn’t function, even with the medication I was not stable. The sickness stayed with me throughout the pregnancy and it wasn’t until the 7th and 8th month that I was able to regulate the ability to maintain throwing up, getting minimal movement, and keeping food down. I had not gained any weight until the last couple months of my pregnancy where I ballooned and my weight skyrocketed. I was severely swollen and the doctors couldn’t figure out how or why the weight piled on so quickly.

My Weight Loss Journey - 100 Pounds & Counting
At 7 months pregnant, this would be one of the very few pictures you’ll see of me while I was pregnant due to my severe swelling and lack of ability to get out and about.

Due to his rapid growth my septate could not accommodate the space he required and exactly a month to the date, my water broke early. I spent the next 31 hours in hard labor before they determined I needed a C-Section. The septate made it difficult for my kiddo to move around thus he was not properly positioned to be pushed out the natural way. They had to cut me open. As quickly as it all began it was done and we had a beautiful healthy 7 pound 7 ounce awesome little boy.

My Weight Loss Journey - 100 Pounds & Counting
A few moments earlier I had my cell phone propped in the crook of my neck. This is one of the biggest reasons why I was so overweight, undernourished, and depressed. I was working hours after having a C-Section.

Within a couple hours of having the C-Section I was up and walking around, which surprised the nurses and doctors. I was so sick of sitting. I was so sick of being confined for so many months. I was so sick of being sick; my will got me out of bed and moving around. I spent the next 8 days in the hospital. They had to keep watch due to the C-Section. Since my son was born a month early he developed jaundice and was required to lie under a blue light for 2 days. He also had not developed proper sucking ability and my milk had not yet fully developed since he was so early. During the 8 days there we worked heavily with a lactation consultant. I ended up having to pump every couple hours for the next few months and place my milk in a special bottle that allowed him to properly receive the milk.

Home at last. I can remember my first shower at home since being back from the hospital. I sat in the bathroom and cried for hours. My body was thrashed. I was a mess. I was mentally and physically exhausted from the last 8 months of sickness and pain. The thought kept running through my mind, would this have been easier if I had weighed less at the time of pregnancy? The fear of what was to come for the future health of my baby and I weighed heavy. I was depressed at the sight of my being. My body was stretched beyond belief. My stomach was gross, laden with stretch marks. I was so swollen I couldn’t wear real shoes. Again thoughts ran through my mind, if I wasn’t so heavy would I have blown up so much, would I have stretched out so much?

It took a week at home to have a sense of normalcy start to trickle in. The second week home from the hospital the hubs went back to work and my mom arrived daily to help around the house, run errands, watch the kiddo while I showered, and most of all get me off my ass and moving. We packed the kiddo in the stroller, snuggled and bundled, and hit the road for afternoon walks. The walks were uncomfortable because of my swollen over weight feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs… everything ached but we took baby steps and by the end of the week I was able to walk normal alongside my mother.

I continued the daily outings with my son in tow and by my six week checkup I had a 20 pound weight loss and was able to finally wear real shoes. The doctor was very happy I had lost 20 pounds but at 246 she knew that if I didn’t continue this weight loss journey I would not be able to provide my son with ample nutrition. She was right too because by the end of 3 months I was no longer able to produce enough milk to feed my son. The weight and the stress in my current environment did not bode well on my physical being. I had to depend on formula now.

At my six week visit I was given the green light to begin regular physical activity (aka exercise, working out). I was motivated. I bought a super heavy duty bra for those mom boobs that were in the double alphabet category. I invested in used copies of exercise videos on craigslist and I set a schedule. I was ready to regain my physical and mental health. Then life happened.

Less than 3 months after having my son, I was released from my job and went from full time career focused person to full time stay at home mom. My husband moved to night shift and we moved over an hour away from family and friends to a small farming community where we started over. There were long sleepless nights. I was preparing a move and packing for my family alone since the hubs was on night shifts. I was driving close to 3 hours a day round trip to our new community managing our move (unfortunately use of the internet was slow going out here thus the need for travel). I was doing this while trying to bond with my newborn son. These tasks were cutting into that planned workout time. Still, I tried to not let this stop me.

Between long distance drives, packing, cleaning, and other tasks, I still fit in my daily walks with the kiddo. The swelling was gone and I was able to wear real walking shoes so I upped the ante on my mileage. Each day I’d walk a little further than the last. It wasn’t easy but it made for a great bonding time for my son and me. We were both outside getting fresh air and he was seeing (yes at just a couple months) his mommy working hard towards something good. Prior to my pregnancy I was given gift certificates which I put to good use in purchasing a very basic, no bells and whistles, elliptical. It did what I needed it to do – move forward, backward, and provide resistance. Roughly once or twice a week I was able to get on the elliptical for a few minutes. I’d place the kiddo in his swing and he’d rock back and forth giggling at me while I exercised. I’m not sure if he was laughing at the sight of me or if the noise of the machine provided him entertainment? It didn’t matter because he was happy and I was able to start chipping away at my block of motivation.

The super heavy duty no messing around sports bra for mom boobs arrived and fit wonderfully. I felt supported and ready to run, jump, and kick with the best of them. I was slowly incorporating walking, elliptical time, and some basic strength training. What’s next… nutrition.

When my husband and I found out I was pregnant it was a wakeup call. The realization that we were now responsible for raising a sound healthy strong equally participating human being hit home hard. Things we never considered before we now paid close attention to, specifically the food we consumed and the chemicals we were exposed to. We read everything we could get our hands on. Our research got deeper. We were paying attention to everything now we knew we were going to be raising a human being. Unfortunately my pregnancy did not allow me to receive the quality nutrition I needed due to the HG I experienced. Water, chicken broth, watermelon, and fruit popsicles were the basis of my consumption for a majority of my pregnancy. It wasn’t until the last couple months was I able to eat more substantial food. It wasn’t until after I gave birth to my son was I truly able to focus on my nutrition.

We moved to our new community and settled in. My kiddo was now 4 months old and I was down 40 pounds, to 226, since having him. It was a step in the right direction but I had a long way to go. I still weighed more than I did before I got pregnant. It was around this time we discovered the documentary Food Inc. This movie gave us the arsenal we needed to begin the transformation we we’re in the thick of today. We immediately began exploring our community. We sought out the local farms, ranchers, and producers in our area that provided real, whole, organic, pasture raised foods that were going to provide us real nutrition.

My Weight Loss Journey - 100 Pounds & Counting
Me shortly after we moved to the community, 40 pounds down and slowly pushing forward…

It was then I began focusing on canning, preservation, dehydration, and fermentation of our foods too. I had to find creative ways to keep solid nutrition in our home on a very tight single income. I focused on homemade vs. processed. I focused on back to basics, something that seemed to have been long lost after my great grandmother. Raw milk, raw honey, local pastured meats, homemade foods such as yogurts, homemade granolas, breads, and other real foods and fats that would otherwise come to us as processed goods. I was eliminating the junk and the fake stuff. This along with a focus on physical activity did I start to lose more weight. Real food and physical activity; the magic pill many are seeking. It also required hard work and dedication. There were days I fought getting out of bed at the sound of my alarm because I was too tired or too depressed to tackle the day’s workout or the day’s tasks of real food preparation. Needless to say the journey to this point had not been easy at all. What it has been are grand learning experiences that make me stronger and wiser each day.

Prior to having my son and getting wrapped up in the chaos of work I was focused on physical and mental health as much as I was on my education and career. I participated in charitable runs and walks (can you say 60 day breast cancer walk times 3); I hiked every weekend with my younger brother. The hubs and I would have weekend cook fests making homemade meals with ingredients from our local producers. It was around 2006 to 2009 that I lost my way. I got wrapped up in the chaos of proving myself in my career that I stopped proving myself to… me. Before I knew it the pounds had packed on and so did the anxiety, depression, and the lack of drive and motivation.
It wasn’t until we moved away from everything I’ve ever known did I wake up and decide it was time to focus on me. I was raising a little human I had to be an example to – this was my aha moment. I had a household to maintain and I also had to maintain myself. If I was no good to me, what good would I be to anyone else? Each month that passed I saw a slow transformation.

Life always seems to have a plan of getting in the way of the goals I set forth for myself. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. I realized “challenge” was going to be a constant theme; so what was I going to do about it? It boiled down to how I chose to deal with the difficult situations that came at me. In the past, I’d curl up into a ball (not literally – ok, well maybe… not always… sometimes) and retreat from the world around me. Today, I’m learning to face those days with my head held high. I am learning that whether I waste my time sulking or tackle the day ahead… the challenges will still be there.

Four months after my son was born and I was still 86 pounds away from my natural weight. Our journey of real food and regaining physical activity was slowly starting to kick in. We made weekly trips to our farmers market and weekend trips to a local organic farm stand. We slowly started removing processed foods from our pantry and replaced them with real whole and homemade foods, using primarily organic and local ingredients. Each day I diversified my exercise routine, adding in longer walks with the dog, additional afternoon walks with the kiddo in tow, strength training, cardio kickboxing, and yoga. I would get a walk in, in the morning, and a good hour of hard yard work in, in the afternoon. Not all exercise is created equal; doing just one or the other is just not enough especially when you’re trying to loose large amounts of weight. The more I did the same thing the more my body got use to the activity and only maintained vs. loosing… plus it can get boring at times. I had to keep it interesting so there were times when it seemed like the journey was taking forever.

My Weight Loss Journey - 100 Pounds & Counting
It was a huge achievement for me to be able to carry my son on my back while hiking, still pushing past the 40 pound mark.

The pounds were slow to drop because I wasn’t consistent. Like I said, life has a way of getting in the way but I didn’t let that stop me. Just because I had one or two bad days didn’t mean it was time to give up. After my son’s 1st birthday I found myself finally at the weight I was when I got pregnant. I had lost a few more pounds bringing me to 216. It took a little under a year to lose 50 pounds but I did it and I did it the right way. I did it naturally, with real whole foods, real fats, and physical activity. No pills, drops, or gimmicks; just food and activity. After hitting this milestone I decided to do something different to keep me going, to take me out of my comfort zone and prove to myself that what I was doing was all worth the effort. After a weight loss of 50 pounds, with the support of friends, I did the Warrior Dash Challenge – and survived!
My Weight Loss Journey - 100 Pounds & Counting
Warrior Dash 2011… I did it!

Life continued to throw us curve balls. We went from two stable incomes to one very unstable income. The hubs endured a rough going knee surgery that impacted us all. Financial burdens of student loans and the IRS provided many of sleepless nights and stressful days. Finding cheap educational ways to keep an active rapidly growing baby into a toddler was proving challenging. Establishing ourselves into a community we’ve never known was lonely and scary at times. The list of life continued but each day I fought hard to not let it impact the focus I had on getting my health back. There is no doubt after doing this for so long that taking a good brisk walk or a long deep stretch will help clear the mind and improve the body allowing me to be that more equipped to handle what’s ahead.

I’ve continued to follow this path, focusing on real whole foods and consistent exercise. By late summer 2012 I had met another weight loss goal of 50 pounds bringing me to 166. I had made it to my first goal. It took two and a half years but I lost the weight and like I said before, I did it naturally. I’ve maintained this weight now for a year. We’re now in the fall of 2013 and I’ve maintained this weight but I would be happier with reaching my last goal which was my healthy weight ranging between 145 and 135 pounds. I want to be able to run next to my son while he rides his bike, without running out of breath so soon. I want to know that I’d have the capability to help my family if ever in a dire physical situation. I want to live comfortably in my clothes. I don’t want obesity and a family history of diabetes and cancer impact my future opportunity of watching my son learn and grow and spending later years with my husband. These are the reasons why I don’t make excuses anymore. Why I have good days and bad days and keep going no matter what.
My Weight Loss Journey - 100 Pounds & Counting
A clear comparison of my weight loss – 100 pounds and counting.

My thoughts on the mother who posted the photo of herself and her boys… I say more power to you. I’m more amazed at one managing three boys and multiple businesses than I am at her “rock hard abs” as someone quoted. I interpret her photo quote, “what’s your excuse?” as a basic question towards those who are more than capable of changing their current health situation but let the excuses get in the way. I don’t think she’s advising people to get out and run marathons or lift massive amounts of weights or do a spinning class overnight… what I think she’s trying to convey is if I can stay healthy with what’s on my plate… so can you. Her quote didn’t say, “Don’t you wish you looked like me?” although it seemed by the comments that is how people interpreted it. Genetics alone won’t allow you to look like her. For those with ailments beyond basic nutrition and health, the comment wasn’t directed at you. It seemed to be a general statement aimed at those who can help themselves. Would there have been less controversy if the photo was of a women athlete running in prosthetics and the same tag line, “what’s your excuse?” I have no idea. What I do know is that I was disappointed by the comments, especially by women, with grand assumptions made based solely on a photo and some quotes. Bad mothering because she posed in this picture with her sons, inability to breastfeed due to being too healthy & fit, too sexually suggestive by her outfit, and the list goes on of the negative comments aimed at her picture and quote. I think the following blog post by Matt Walsh hits home the points I wanted to address but he says them best.
My Weight Loss Journey - 100 Pounds & Counting
I don’t have any full figured pictures showing all of me since I’m always behind the camera instead of in front but I thought this picture showed it best; My glow, my happiness, my strength of being 100 pounds lighter. Summer 2013

I continue have hopes that we can stop being mean to each other and instead support each other with our stories and experiences. I hope my story has provided some insight into the life and journey of one’s health and to not judge a book by its cover. I will continue to work towards my health goals, be fit, and inspire my son and others around me while doing so. I think Matt Walsh said it best concluding his post, “This isn’t about her, she’s just a case study. Congratulate her for what she’s been able to do, then set out to do what you want to do. But, she’s right about what she said: you’ll have to stop making excuses first.” The keys to success (in weight loss and overall physical & mental well-being) are real whole natural foods, plenty of sleep, plenty of varied physical activity, and fresh air and sunshine. Now go… and be happy!

Making Time for Exercise – Lycra Pants & Running Shoes

Making Time for Exercise – Lycra Pants & Running Shoes

Original post written on April 4th, 2011 by The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet at site: http://thesustainablesweetandsavorygourmet.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/lycra-pants-and-running-shoes/

I’ve lost 60+ pounds since I my son was born, a year ago this past February 2011.

It has been a challenging road and at times I wondered if I was getting anywhere with my nutrition and exercise efforts – but here I am a year later and 60+ pounds lighter. All of the pregnancy weight is gone and now I’m readjusting my exercise and nutrition to target the “overworked” and “overstressed” weight that was added a year before I got pregnant.

The other night, while scanning the web for activities to do with my toddler, I read an article by a busy mom trying to find time to fit exercise into her hectic schedule. I connected with her, understanding her struggles in trying to find at least 30 minutes of the day to dedicate to herself. After all, I faced that challenge before I had my son, so now more than ever I could identify. But then the article seemed to change. The tone went from genuine need for good health to exercise is a chore. The writer had lumped exercise in with cleaning the fish bowl and dropping items off at the Goodwill. “…I know other moms who successfully fit a run, a yoga class or a trip to the gym into their busy schedules. They’re the ones who pick up their kids after school in Lycra pants and running shoes…”

I found myself taking offense to the concluding statement of the article – maybe because I have found myself identifying with and have turned into that mom in Lycra pants and running shoes (a cotton spandex blend to be exact). I live in my gym clothes as much as I possibly can. I realize there is a time and a place for everything. At times my husband teases me, “…you never know when a random workout will happen…” From what I gathered, her complaint in the article was about finding the “time”. My advice to that statement is you have to MAKE the time. Exercise and living an active lifestyle shouldn’t be considered a chore. It’s your health after all that we’re talking about here; not cleaning the toilet or doing the laundry or in the instance of the article, cleaning the fish bowl and going to Goodwill. Your health, I would like think, would be pretty high up on the priority vs. the chore list.

Similar to the writer I speak of; I too have found myself wishing I was “that mom”. For example, wishing I could find the time to do my hair and makeup and dress more adult like instead of always being in my sweats and a ponytail. Then I remind myself I am “that mom” and it’s up to me to MAKE THE TIME.

One of the readers to the article commented best, “…life happens; you just have to learn to work around it…” So – You didn’t get to wake up at 5am like you planned because you were up till 2am working, then make the effort to switch things up for the day. Look ahead and see where you can fit in any type of exercise here or there. It could be taking the stairs, parking further from your destination, doing squats while brushing your teeth, stretching at your desk, keeping a gym bag packed at work or your car. Making a conscious effort to not let the 2am work nights rule your life, creating a routine can and will eventually happen.

I still have a big chunk of weight to lose. I try and do double days (exercise twice a day) and fit in as much activity as possible in my day. My alarm is set for 400am so I can get my first exercise session in and prep for the day before my son is awake, by 7am. I make an effort to go for a walk every day with my son (rain or shine). The fresh air and activity will do us both good and it’s a great way for us to spend time together. I hope to influence him that being active is fun. I get my second exercise session in at lunch time or at night when my son is asleep and my husband is off at the gym. This schedule doesn’t always happen, so I do what I can to fit in any activity – even if it’s only 15 minutes.

Habits take time to develop and exercise is a habit. It’s taken me a year to lose 60+ pounds but I am making a conscious effort to work on it. The slow and steady process will allow the exercise and nutrition adjustments I’ve made become a way of life that I can carry on for years.

Food Waste in the Land of Plenty

What do you consider food waste in a land of plenty? When you make your weekly trip to the grocery store and pick out your produce do you look for only the most visually “perfect” items? When you get those items home, do you use everything or discard peels, pits, stalks, and stems?

At least once a month I’m called upon to go through a series of boxes of local organic produce that unless I utilize, will turn into food waste and go to the compost pile or the dump. In the last produce run I brought home eight boxes of mixed items; apples, several varieties of squash, citrus, kiwis, onions, and much more. After sorting through the boxes and separating each variety I had one full box of unusable scraps (i.e. mold/rotten). I put the scraps in our compost bin, which will turn to usable compost for soil maintenance. The other seven boxes I divided and made a plan of action for the fast ripening produce. The seven boxes so far have provided a weeks worth of fresh, local, organic produce to five different families. This does not include my son who gorged himself on a dozen different apples and citrus while I sorted through the boxes. I’ve also tested a new marmalade recipe utilizing the whole fruit. I still have a couple of boxes left and plan to test a natural pectin recipe, candied citrus and homemade stock recipes with the remaining items. If I had not put these boxes to use, every bit of produce would have become food waste. The waste goes into our landfills and dumps while people across the nation and beyond are going hungry.
Food Waste from CSAs

How do we educate and promote reducing food waste and using everything to its fullest ability? More importantly how do we change the way we view our consumption and waste habits? I see people every day acting as if there is an abundance of resources available – when in all reality there is not… at least not the way we are consuming today. If we managed our habits differently and stopped abusing our land & home (planet earth) then there very well may be resources plenty to take care of us all…but only if we change.

Here is an example of waste the average person may not consider. Today when visiting my mother we took a walk down the street to her small market to pick up a few produce items for her refrigerator. When we got home she unloaded her grocery bag and said, “I should trim the broccoli now before I put it away…” Trim? I asked her what she was trimming off the broccoli and she said it was most of the stem. Now who doesn’t love broccoli. Those tight green fluffy bunches of goodness. When most people think of eating broccoli, they look to the more visually appealing part of the plant, the florets. This behavior is obvious based on my own mother’s want to rid her produce of its fibrous stem and thick dark leaves. If it’s nutritional value that you’re looking for; every part of the plant is equally nutritious. The dark green leaves of the plant can be cooked like kale, collards, or any other leafy green. A good rinse and then sauté in a hot pan with fresh chopped garlic and a finishing drizzle of olive oil and fresh grated parmesan cheese. Clean the outside of the stalks to remove any blemishes and then chop small circles to be added to a stir fry, roasted with other vegetables, or steamed. The possibilities are endless to use the entire vegetable and not just the florets. Do a quick internet search on ‘broccoli stems or leaves” and you’ll have plenty of options.

Many of us were not as fortunate as those who grew up on a farm or within an agricultural community, to see how our food is brought to life. Many of us still do not have a complete grasp of where our food comes from, how it is grown, or even what it looks like while it’s growing. The typical grocery store chain has us “trained” in how we choose our produce. The eight boxes I received last week were from various CSAs (community supported agriculture) to remain unnamed. After sorting through all eight boxes I was left with one unusable box where the produce was beyond recognizable and moldy. The remaining boxes were, in my eyes, perfectly fine. If you were to take a closer look you’ll find a random bruise, a nick, or an odd-shaped discolored fruit. The customers of these programs seem to be complaining because we’ve yet to break away from uniform variety that we’ve become accustomed to. What grows in nature is not uniform. Everything is a different shape, size, and color. From these remaining seven boxes I’ve provided enough produce for five families to enjoy for week or more. The remaining produce has turned into cleaned & stored squash, jams, sauces, candied fruits, and natural pectin.

The food waste I describe is such a small part in the entire ‘wasteful picture’. There is waste from farms, restaurants, grocery stores, and the consumer. When products go unsold at grocery stores or restaurants they are thrown away, instead of donated. I am proud to say that the ranch I buy my grass-fed pasture raised beef from provides donations to our local food bank.

33 million tons of food waste was created in 2010. I’m not sure that we’ve grasped the big picture of this number. Food = $$ and when we throw out food, we’re throwing out money, a lot of money in an economy that is failing and a society that has more poverty-stricken families than ever before. “If we wanted to stimulate the economy all we’d have to do is cut food losses,” said anthropologist at the University of Arizona’s Bureau of Applied Research Anthropology.

One of my readers sent me a very interesting article on how sustainable chefs are taking a new approach to utilizing food that was deemed otherwise not fit to eat. I was going to rewrite the above sentence because ultimately this is not a new practice. Based on what both my great-grandparents did years ago – they were ahead of their time. In all seriousness it makes me happy to see that there are restaurants out there trying to practice less food waste culinary options.
Food Waste

It has been said that if we as people change our consumption habits and views on what is considered food waste we could change the landscape of what is considered a food crisis. We could fix the starvation problem. Here is a staggering statistic for you to think about, provided by Next Generation Food: “It is estimated that food wasted by the US and Europe could feed the world three times over. Food waste contributes to excess consumption of freshwater and fossil fuels which, along with methane and CO2 emissions from decomposing food, impacts global climate change. Every tonne of food waste prevented has the potential to save 4.2 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. If we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road.”
Food Waste

Before I change gears, here is one more impact that I didn’t consider when first looking into food waste… water waste. It takes a lot of water to grow food, especially in times like this when we’re experiencing a cold dry winter. If 30% of US food is thrown away, that is equal to 40 trillion liters of water that has gone down the drain never to be used again.

So…how do we fix it? Stop wasting…plain and simple. But is it really? Our lives have become busier than ever before; convenience and pre-made has become the way of life. I found a good blog post by the Sustainable Blog on some simple tips to get you going. It’s not drastic; just small changes to get you started. I am by no means perfect and am still learning how I can better use my ingredients, plan my meals, and simply waste less; and I challenge you to do the same. The future of our planet and our people depend upon it…

The images above and below are all produce that would have been taken to the dump or provided as compost if I had not used it. Please note any boxes shown DO NOT represent farms that provided the produce… they were just boxes I had available to carry and store.

Now tell me… does this produce look like it should have been thrown away???
Food Waste

Original post written on January 17th, 2012 by The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet at site: http://thesustainablesweetandsavorygourmet.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/what-do-you-consider-waste/