Good gracious, beauties, I'm so happy to get this trip down on (virtual) paper. I'm coming to you from Dallas, Texas, where I have the pleasure of taking in a work meeting this weekend. And under these extremely special circumstances, I'm finally finding the time to give our Belize trip its proper due. You guys. Belize is a really wonderful place to visit. We followed our Costa Rica model of spending the first half of the trip in the jungle and the second half on the beach, and that worked out really well again. If you have the chance to get yourself down to Belize, or if you just want to daydream about it (like I do, all the time) these were the highlights for us.
Part One: The Cayo District
One of the things that just has to be said about Belize is that driving through it will break your heart. It is stunningly beautiful and starkly poor. The houses are made from plywood and cinder blocks, stray dogs are running everywhere, underfed and unhealthy, and there is garbage along the side of every road. We started our trip driving from the Belize City airport to Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge in the Cayo District, and that landscape was a little shocking. And then we arrived at the hotel, which was basically paradise.
The Cayo District has a lot of citrus trees surrounded by tree-covered hills, and the landscape is really beautiful. Hiking up through the hills, surrounded by enormous trees, will reward you with incredible views.
A short drive from the Cayo District are the Xunantunich Mayan ruins, and they are absolutely worth the drive. First of all, the ruins are much larger than I thought they would be (I've seen pictures of Mayan ruins but didn't understand how TALL they are!) and you can actually climb up on the ruins to see the rest of the excavated site and even look over to the Guatemalan border.
I'm not a huge history buff, but looking at something that was built THOUSANDS of years ago and marveling at the beauty, the details, and the fact that these things are still standing basically unscathed is pretty amazing.
We also did a day trip to the ATM cave, which is a cave that the Mayans used for ritual sacrifices and other ceremonies. You can't bring any cameras into the cave because tourists have damaged the relics and remains in the past because they weren't paying enough attention to their feet when they were trying to take photos. But, because I can't do this experience justice with words alone, I pulled some photos off Google to help me paint the picture--we were in all of these spaces.
Through a lot of the cave you have to swim or wade through water, and many times you're squeezing through tiny openings and climbing over huge rocks. This is what the opening of the cave looks like--the last time you see any sunlight.
You climb and swim for quite a while until you get to a point where you have to do some rock climbing (!!!) to get up to the ledge where you can see remains of ceramic pots used in the Mayan rituals, and even bones from the sacrifices.
Part Two: Ambergris Caye
After a few days in the Cayo District, we drove back to the airport in Belize City and returned our rental car to board a teeny tiny plane to fly to Ambergris Caye, an island just a very short flight away (about fifteen minutes). I was a little worried about the flight on a plane this small, but it goes very quickly and is actually really cool (you can see the island as you fly over it, and the flight is over before you know it).
The island is next to a huge coral reef, so it attracts a lot of scuba divers and snorkelers. We aren't divers, but we did snorkel one day and went out to an area where nurse sharks and stingrays gather to be fed by the boats. They're basically tame after the boats coming to feed them multiple times a day for years, so you can touch the sharks and rays--I don't have a photo of this, but I did dive down and touch a nurse shark that was about eight feet long. So, that's something. Dan wanted nothing to do with touching sharks even though our guide tried his hardest to encourage him. ("No, you can pet them! Just not on the mouth!")
But you know what we didn't have any reservations about? Pina coladas. At every meal. Ok, not breakfast. Most days.
Most of the island is small enough to walk around, but when people are driving it's usually on golf carts. We rented a cart one day to head out to "secret beach" (a beach that apparently used to be a real secret and is still pretty difficult to find, but once you get there you are rewarded with a sandy swimming beach, rum punch, and tacos). Most of Ambergris Caye doesn't have great swimming areas because of the nearby reef, so this beach is a good find.
There are also lots of dogs running around the island, but they seemed to be owned by someone (we didn't see any dogs on leashes but lots had collars, and even the pups without collars seemed to be well-fed). We went for a run one day and this dog decided to come with us--he hung tough for more than a mile, just padding along next to us until some kids who apparently knew him saw him and called him away. We loved him, and he made us miss Chewy.
This trip was dreamy all around, and was a great combination of adventure and relaxing. It was probably the most action-packed with bucket list activities of any trip we've ever taken (even things we didn't know were on the bucket list until we did them!)
We'll be daydreaming about Belize for quite a while. Especially when it's below zero in Minnesnowta.
HI! It's been a little quiet around here, eh? Good gracious, January is tough. Here's what's been happening: it's cold and dark and that is always hard. On top of that, my grandma and Dan's grandma both passed away in the last month, so we've had a lot of family gatherings and sadness and that's been hard. And, I don't know if you heard, we did get a new president on Friday and it was Donald Trump, so there's that. I went to the Women's March in St. Paul yesterday and it was actually one of the most wonderful experiences I've ever had, but this post isn't going to be about that, it's going to be about soup. This soup is the food equivalent of a hug, which is exactly what I've been needing. And there's vegetables but mostly it's got a silky, carb-y, salty-fatty feel to it and that is just what I've been wanting, but also cruciferous vegetables because we need to stay healthy around here. Let's discuss.
Cauliflower (I used two 10oz bags of florets, which I think was about the same as 1 head)
Potatoes (I used 20-25 red and gold baby potatoes and they were perfect)
One yellow onion, medium/large
Bacon fat or butter
Water or chicken/vegetable broth
Truffle oil for garnishing
1. Plop a spoonful of bacon fat or butter into a soup pot (I should apologize upfront, if you can't tell from the ingredients list I did not measure ANYTHING for this recipe, but I did take a lot of pictures so just stay with me. Probably 1-2 tbs of fat.) Turn your burner on to medium heat to melt the fat.
2. Chop your onion and add it to the pot, with two good pinches of truffle salt, then turn the heat down to medium-low so these caramelize slowly. A quick word about the salt--I started this recipe thinking it would be measured in pinches and found that I added a lot more at the end, probably around 1 tsp total. I would start with a few pinches to help your onions cook and add to taste when the soup is finished. I buy this salt on Amazon.
3. Rinse your potatoes and pop them in the microwave, covered, for 8 minutes to cook most of the way. If you prick them with forks they probably wont explode at all but I didn't and it was fine.
4. When your potatoes are done in the microwave, smash them like this:
and then add the smashed potatoes to the pot once your onions look like this:
5. Add 2-3 glugs of olive oil to your potato/onion mixture (for those of you who like to measure, I'm sorry you accidentally ended up on my blog...let's say 3 tbs). Give it all a good stir and let it fry for 3-5 more minutes.
6. Add your cauliflower florets to the mix, stir, and add 1 cup of water or stock to the pot. I would have used chicken broth but I didn't have any, and water was fine. Cover, and cook until the cauliflower is super tender (mine took about 12 minutes). Then mash everything up a bit, like this (don't judge the appearance at this point, the magic is about to happen).
7. Add another cup of water/broth and start blending the soup together with an immersion blender, adding more liquid as needed (I added 2 more cups at this stage, for a total of 3 cups counting the amount we added when the cauliflower went in). If you don't have an immersion blender you can do this in a regular blender, but make sure to take the middle part of the top off so it doesn't explode.
8. Blend until smooth. Mine still had some texture because I left the potato skins in, but just a little bit. When the texture is right, taste and add truffle salt as needed to get to the desired level of saltiness (I wanted it really salty and delicious and I think I ended up around 9 pinches total).
Spoon into bowls and garnish with truffle oil, if desired. This is also great with a little cheddar cheese if you're into that sort of thing, and it reheats beautifully. Enjoy!
Happy New Year, friends! I'll be honest, I started writing a "looking back on 2016" post a few days ago, and it was just terrible. I'm not going to make you read a terrible post. Let's just look forward instead--2017 is going to be fantastic. My word for this year is Joy. I'm going to be more present, grateful, and joyful. Less stressed, more relaxed. And this soup was a good start to my Year of Joy.
What's more comforting on a cold winter day than a steamy, dreamy bowl of soup? And this one--oh, my. It's hearty and full of vegetable goodness, it's silky and creamy and delicious. I also love using Nut Pods in this recipe, because it gives the soup that creamy goodness but doesn't have a strong taste like coconut milk does. I don't know about you, but when I'm doing strict paleo or Whole 30 I get pretty sick of coconut, so I like the option of making a creamy dish without the coconut flavor. It's also easy to throw together and makes a big batch. If you're doing a January Whole 30 (or just looking to eat some veggies after a few weeks of Christmas cookies) this recipe is for you!
2 medium butternut squash
Ghee (you could also use avocado oil or olive oil, or butter if you're not doing strict paleo/W30)
4 tbs dried onion flakes
1.5 cups original nut pods (one small container--could sub half and half if not paleo/W30)
1 cup beef broth (could use chicken or veggie broth)
Salt (to taste)
1. Preheat the oven to 425F and cut your squash in half. Remove the seeds, place the squash in a baking dish face up, and cover the cut sides with ghee. Bake at 425F for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another hour or so, until the squash is soft and easy to scoop out.
2. Cover your onion flakes with water to soften them up while your butternut squash cools. They'll soak the water right up and be soft enough to blend in about ten minutes.
3. Scoop the butternut squash out of the skin and into your blender (you could also use a stick/submersion blender for this soup, in which case you'd want to scoop your ingredients into a large bowl or pot to blend. I used my Vitamix and it worked great.)
4. Add your nutpod, broth, and onions to the blender.
5. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Taste the soup, and add salt to taste (blending again to incorporate).
6. Crisp up a slice of prosciutto and crumble it. You can crisp your prosciutto in a pan--I prefer to throw a slice in the microwave on a plate for about 45 seconds, which will crisp it right up. Let it cool while you fill your bowls with soup, then crumble and add your prosciutto to the top of each bowl. I like about one slice per bowl, but you can add as much or little as you like.
Enjoy, lovies! Now go make the most of 2017. It's going to be a good one.
Oh my GASH it has been forever since we've had a Fueled Up Friday around here! I'm so excited to be doing one that I've got a whole mess of stuff for you. So many things to be fueled up about. Guys, can we talk for a second, before we get fueled up, about how hard it is to be a productive working person during the Christmas season? Maybe it's because the end of the year is so busy for me, so I'm just extra worn out, but I feel like it should be acceptable to put a Buddy the Elf bounceback on my email and just ghost until New Year's. I have some serious sitting by my christmas tree and drinking mulled wine to do, ya know? Ok that's a spoiler alert. Today's first thing is mulled wine. You know what? Let's just start.
I. Mulled Wine
That photo, and the recipe for the deliciousness that is this mulled wine, can both be found here. I love this wine so much. I may or may not be drinking it right now. OK, I am. Next time I make it I will use less sugar than the recipe calls for (probably half, maybe even a little less and swap it for honey instead) but YOU. GUYS. This is winter happiness in a glass. It was five degrees below zero in Minneapolis today, and I thought about having a mug of this for breakfast. I didn't, but I THOUGHT about it. This is perfect for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, this weekend, your niece's baptism, whatever. If it's winter, you should be drinking this. Bonus, you can keep leftovers in your fridge and reheat them in the microwave all week! Just take out the fruit and spice pieces, I don't think you want those sitting in there for too long.
Also, can we appreciate for a second how different my favorite things are in the summer and the winter? Usually I'm like "THIS VEGETABLE IS AMAZING" and then the cold weather hits and I'm like "I'll just be over here in my fleece-lined leggings drinking warm wine." Join me.
II. Pentatonix Christmas Album
Yeah, I know, you already know about this one. But it's REALLY good, and the album is only $8 on itunes, and if you're not listening to it already you should just go ahead and take the plunge. Fun, upbeat, awesome vocal remixes of your favorite Christmas songs. My only complaint is that the music is so jazzed up that I noticed it makes me drive too fast. But nothing's perfect.
III. THE SNOW
I'm sorry, we're having a lot of caps here. I'm excited. It might be the wine. So, this is the time of the winter when the snow is just wonderful. It's white and sparkly and beautiful and it makes Chewy the happiest that he has ever been ever.
The cold is oppressive and awful but the snow is beautiful and the air smells crisp and it's magic. We're getting 8-10 more inches tomorrow, which feelsl ike the amount of snow we had all of last year combined, so I'll probably be over it by then, but right now I still love it.
IV. My Healthy for the Holidays Challenge Group
December is a rough month for working out, but I reached out to a bunch of awesome ladies and just said, "Hey, I know this isn't going to be anyone's healthiest month ever, but let's do a challenge group anyway, and embrace enjoying the holidays but still staying on track with working out and not going TOTALLY off the deep end with the nutrition, and we can start January without feeling like total lumps on a log?" (*sorry, hold on, sipping my wine...*) AND IT'S BEEN AMAZING. They were like, "Yes, let's do that!" and everyone has been checking in with workouts, and supporting each other, and we're all staying motivated together during a month when I normally just turn myself into a human burrito of fuzzy blankets and don't leave the couch. I love it so much.
V. The Good Life Project Podcast
I've become a little bit of a Podcast addict (Serial was totally the gateway drug) and I just stumbled upon this one. I've listened to a few episodes and I'm totally hooked.
The general theme of the podcast is about living a good life, and the guests and host explore that idea from a bunch of different angles. It's totally my jam, and I definitely recommend you add it to your list. Also, if you're not listening to podcasts already...you should start. It's basically all I do on my commute now (unless I'm listening to Pentatonix, but I had to cut back on that for fear of the speeding tickets).
VI. Trader Joe's Winter Bouquets
I almost never buy flowers, but we had a party last weekend and I grabbed this lovely winter arrangement and a few bunches of eucalyptus from Trader Joe's for like $8, and it's just really classin' up the joint. It smells good, it looks good, it makes it seem like I'm a person who buys flowers. Thanks, Trader Joe's!
Alright, that's it for today's edition of Fueled Up Friday! Thanks for joining me. I have a lot of fun here.
Are you guys dying to hear about Belize? Let's talk about snow instead. But seriously--I can't wait to tell you all about Belize . . . but actually I can wait until later this week. Early next week at the latest.
Coming back from vacation has been a little bumpy--it's always hectic when you've been away from your house for a week and emails have piled up at work (and there's laundry everywhere and groceries nowhere) but I also got a little touch sick when we got home, and it's been COLD and I've been TIRED and last week was Kelly's birthday and it's been busy. Kelly is ELEVEN! I can't. Even. With that. Eleven?? The child will be driving in five years. I'll just be over here in the corner pretending it's still 2007. Thx.
So, what I want to talk about today is winter. And specifically, I want to talk about how seasonality affects our bodies and minds, and how we can be mindful about responding to the cycle of the seasons. My good friends Dallas and Pilar talk about this on their podcast, The Living Experiemnt (yup, still listening to every episode of that) and I've really noticed it myself as the weather has gotten cold and the days have gotten darker. In a nutshell, the idea is this: our bodies are hardwired to respond to sunlight, and when we get much less sunlight because the days are shorter, and the cold weather keeps us inside instead of outdoors soaking up the sun, our energy levels are naturally going to be affected. Winter is also a season of rest and rejuvenation throughout winter--the plants and the trees and the earth are all taking a break from the frenzy that is spring and summer, and readying themselves for the next season. It's wise to take time to do this for yourself, as well.
We live in a culture that promotes constantly firing on all cylinders. Productivity is king, so the more you can squeeze out of your day, the better. But this is not optimal for our health. Just as you need adequate sleep every night to rest and rejuvenate, you should also incorporate seasons of rest and lower activity to allow your body to recover and replenish. Personally, I notice myself being a lot more tired in the winter, and a lot more inclined to cuddle up on the couch with a cup of tea (partially because I'm ALWAYS FREEZING, but also because rest sounds good when it's cold and dark outside). Being conscious of this shift and respecting your natural inclination to rest is a healthy and good practice as the snow falls.
For me, this doesn't mean I stop exercising altogether (this is not good for my mental or physical health). I'm still getting in my half-hour beachbody workouts most days, but in the summer we take long walks, we go for bike rides, we spend hours moving around and staying up late that we just don't do in the wintertime. Winter is also a great time to go to bed earlier, and get some more sleep than you might when the sun is up late.
Winter also brings some inclinations that I have to push back on--I'm craving a lot more grains (and sugar) than I do in the summertime, and sometimes in the winter Seasonal Affective Disorder can get the best of me and I'll get a little down. I'm eating more hearty, warm foods, and fueling my carb cravings in a way that serves my body well (eating things like steel cut oats and brown rice made with coconut milk) to resopnd to the need without going overboard on cereal, cookies, and buttered noodles (all. I. want. right. now.)
As we enter the craziness of the holiday season and then dive head-first into New Years Resolutions, I wanted to write this post to encourage you to notice your inclination to rest more in the winter, and to respect it. You all know I'm very committed to fitness and my life is pretty busy, but we all need to tone it down now and again to avoid the mental and physical pitfalls of burnout. Now is a great time to take advantage of some downtime, my friends. If you'd like to join me, I'll be on the couch with a mug of tea and a fuzzy blanket.
Steph Gadreau shared the image above, and it's perfect. For any time that you're exhausted, really, but especially for these darkest days.
Happy Monday, loves--be well.
OH HAI. Guys, I've missed you something awful. But we just got back from an AMAZEBALLS trip to Belize (I don't even use that word, but it's the best one for this trip. It was incredible.) I'm going to tell you all about that, but TODAY I'm going to tell you about this awesome harvest hash that I made when we got back on Sunday. It is all of the things a winter dinner should be--warm, easy, savory, sweet, wholesome, delicious. This is like...a fifteen-minute meal, and it made enough for five servings for us so hellllooooo yummy leftovers. It's paleo, Whole 30, generally nutritious and wonderful. Make it and ENJOY!
1/2 a medium sweet white onion, diced small
1 medium apple, diced small
Shaved brussels sprouts (9 oz bag)
Four chicken apple sausages (we like Aidell's, and they're paleo and Whole 30 compliant, but we also like AmyLu if you don't mind a little gouda in there)
Olive oil or avocado oil--about 2 tbs
1. Dice up your apple and your onion, nice and little, and throw both into a skillet with your oil, over medium heat. Stir periodically until the onion starts to smell good and turn translucent.
2. While that's cooking, dice up your sausages. You can do these in rounds, quarters, or halves--whatever size you'd like. I cut the sausages in half and then sliced them up. When your onion has started to cook, add your shaved brussels sprouts and use your spoon to toss it all together. Stir about once every minute--you want this hash to caramelize so you want to let it rest and not stir too much, but you don't want it to burn. When you first add your brussels sprouts you'll see the colors brighten--keep turning it in the pan until it looks like everything is starting to cook (but isn't yet fully cooked/soft).
3. When your brussels sprouts have brightened and they're starting to cook, throw your sausage in there. This is the part where you want everything to caramelize--let it sit for about a minute at a time and then turn the hash so you can see the yummy brown spots forming, but you're not leaving it long enough to burn. If it's burning, turn your heat down a little.
When you start to see good brown spots throughout, it's done.
I served this next to some butternut squash that I roasted at 400F for 40 minutes and finished at 350 for another 30 minutes--I just rubbed the outside of the squash with a tiny bit of butter (just enough to coat, maybe 1 tbs for all four halves) and poked it with a fork and that was it. You guys. I can't with this. SO GOOD. I'll just be here eating squash until May, it's one of the only good things about the season of the frozen tundra. (Ok, I'm kidding, there are many good things, but I'm still grieving summer fruit.)
Ok, GO EAT THIS! You won't be sorry.
La la la laaaaaaaahhhhvvveeeeee you.
Hello, dear ones. It's been another unexpectedly quiet week on the blog, because this week was pretty unexpected in our household. Tuesday was a surprising day for me--honestly, it was a scary day--and I've spent the rest of this week thinking hard, and listening as well as I can, and now I'm ready to talk about it. And I hope that you'll listen too, no matter how you voted on Tuesday or how you feel about President-elect Trump. We haven't done a great job of listening to each other throughout this election season but I think it's critical that we do a better job of that now, and I'm really trying to walk that walk.
I want to set the stage for this discussion with how I was feeling on Tuesday morning. Dan and I went to cast our votes, and like a lot of the country I thought Hillary's election was imminent. I won't get in to why I support Hillary in this post, but I will say that the idea of electing our first female president thrilled me. We took this selfie with our "I voted" stickers and I got ready to celebrate that evening.
I honestly didn't think that Trump being elected was much of a possibility, but I do want to share a little bit about what I did think of Trump before Tuesday night. I'm not putting this impression out there to be argumentative--I'm putting it out there because I've spent the last five days trying to understand what Trump voters saw in him, and I think it's important to also share what this Hillary supporter saw. The loudest campaign messages I heard from Trump were focused on division and exclusion--ban Muslims from entering the United States. Build the wall. Make sure the "others" are not allowed to walk among us. I know he had other platforms, but those are the messages that rang the loudest to me, and those are the messages that made me afraid. Not necessarily for myself, but for my neighbors--for the Somali immigrants who live in our neighborhood and send their children to Kelly's school, for my LGBT loved ones who are worried their rights are in jeopardy, for my Muslim friends. I'm appalled by Trump's treatment of women, but I am fearful of the hateful statements he has made about Muslims and immigrants. I have seen conservative friends in the last few days saying that they don't understand why people would be afraid, or what they are afraid of, so I think it's important to share: I'm afraid that Trump's campaign emboldened people to act on the fear they feel towards the unknown: immigrant and minority populations, and that violence, exclusionism, and hate crimes towards those populations will increase now that those views feel validated. Children at schools in my community are telling their teachers they're afraid that Trump will make their families leave the country. The parallels between comments Trump has made in this election and things that Hitler said before the Holocaust are scary--I don't invoke Hitler's name to be sensationalist, but because those comparisons are deeply troubling to a lot of people, myself included. I'm also afraid that our country won't hold up the promises it's made to fight climate change, and that it will be too late to save the planet by the time we finally start taking that threat seriously.
As I watched the polls trickle in on Tuesday night, I felt stunned and I felt those fears. And by the time Wednesday morning rolled around and the result was clear, I realized that I had failed to listen to and to understand a huge portion of the country. Because I deeply believe that people are generally good, and that we are generally all trying to do the best we can. I know that racist, bigoted, hateful groups exist in this country, but I do NOT believe they make up a majority of voting Americans. Which means that people who I know to be good, and kind Americans voted for a candidate that ran on a platform of hate. And for those Americans to vote for that man, in spite of his disgraceful social commentary throughout the election (as we now know many Trump voters disagree with and are displeased with his comments about women and minorities) they must have been incredibly angry. Fed up. Desperate.
In the days since the election I have pushed myself to listen. To hear why people who I respect and care for would support Trump. And I've heard a variety of responses that I can understand, ranging from fiscal policies, to people who vote based solely on abortion stance, to people who were just sick of politics as usual. And here's where I've come out:
-Trump is going to be our next president. I am deeply hopeful that his campaign statements about women, Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants as a whole, and LGBTQ people do not prove to be cornerstones of his presidency. I hope that he accomplishes positive economic reform as he has promised, and I hope that the fires of hatred toward the groups listed above are not stoked by his election as our leader.
-I will never say, "he's not MY president." I heard this said a lot about Barack Obama during his presidency and I found it to be really disrespectful. I am an American, the American people elect their presidents through a democratic process, and the winner is my president, as he is the president of all Americans. I might not like or support his positions, but he's what we've got. My law license isn't good in any other countries so I won't be leaving, and so long as I'm here our president is my president.
-I am more motivated than I have ever been to throw myself into helping causes that matter to me, and protecting the people that I care about. I am actively seeking out ways to support environmental, civil rights, and immigration causes in a way that I probably wouldn't have if Hillary had been elected. I'm seeing this with my other liberal friends as well, and I'm taking it as a huge silver lining. This election was a reminder that we need to be the change we wish to see in the world, and I titled this post, "What More Can I Do?" because that's what I'm asking myself now. Trump is going to be our president, and I can't control what he does in that role, but I can control what I do to be the change that I want to see in the world.
-I don't know the whole answer to the question above, but I know part of it is that I need to do a better job of connecting with people who disagree with me. We all do. I'm working hard at this, and I welcome conversations from people with different viewpoints who want to engage.
If you're thrilled that Trump was elected and you're disgusted by protesters and those who are expressing fear and distaste, I hope this post sheds some light on how those people might feel. If you're devastated that Trump was elected and you're in shock, or afraid, I hope this post is one of many voices you're hearing right now that says, "We're here with you. We stand with you. We won't let you be alone, and you don't have to be afraid."
I love you all very, very much.
Today was an awesome day. It was seventy degrees in Minneapolis in November, which makes everybody sort of giddy and euphoric and brings everyone and their mother to the great outdoors. Kelly and Dan and Chewy and I went to Minnehaha Falls, and I tried to keep Chewy from jumping on people with his muddy paws and we basked in the sunshine.
Then, when we got home I busted open my new DVDs for the Core de Force program, which is my next Beachbody adventure. This program is based on mixed martial arts moves (think boxing, kickboxing, etc) and didn't sound AT ALL interesting to me, but I tried one sneak peak workout a few weeks ago and I was totally hooked. The workouts go by super quickly because I actually have to think about what I'm doing ("jab, hook, cross, knee...wait, what?") and I was dripping sweat by the end of the first workout I tried. I was totally hooked and couldn't wait to get started, so opening the package to start Day 1 today was a little bit like a kid on Christmas.
Since it was the start of a new program, I decided I should snap some pictures too. And after my workout I went back and pulled up the first pictures I took when I started with Beachbody over the summer, and I've got to say--I'm pretty pleased. Now, I know these pictures aren't in the same clothes (sorry, I can't be bothered to dig out those yellow shorts) but I'm pretty psyched about the changes.
Now, here are some key points: there are more than 100 days between these photos--nothing I've been doing is a magic overnight pill, but it's also TOTALLY achievable and manageable with the rest of my life. Here's what happened between the July and November photos:
1) I've been doing 30-minute Beachbody workouts consistently, in my house, most days. I started with 21 Day Fix Extreme in July, and for my first round I was also running to train for the Ragnar and some fall races, so I swapped running for 21DFX workouts some days did both throughout the week. After I finished up the Ragnar I focused more on the 21 Day Fix Extreme workouts, though there were some I didn't usually do (yoga and pilates--I hate yoga and the freaking resistance band pilates was not designed for tall people, I swear) and some non-Beachbody workouts I still did for variety because I enjoy them--walking/hiking/biking once or twice a week, etc.) This last month I've done a hodge podge of Beachbody workouts, some 21 Day Fix Extreme, some Country Heat (which actually deserves its own post, I'll write that soon) and some programs from the Beachbody On Demand streaming service--a few 25-minute workouts from T25, and a few from Turbo Fire. I do work out most days a week (probably 6, average) but it's almost always 30 minutes or less.
2) I've been drinking Shakeology every day, and I know this has played a big part in helping me build muscle. Shakeology is the only protein supplement I've tried that doesn't upset my stomach, and adding that extra protein every day helps get me through my afternoon slump (and avoid coming home from work hangry) and really fuels that muscle growth. When I started 21 Day Fix Extreme building muscle was my primary goal, and I'm really happy with the progress I've made!
3) I haven't followed the Beachbody nutrition program to a T. Beachbody has this container system that helps you to understand portion control and balance your nutrition for weight loss and overall health. It prescribes a certain portion of vegetables, protein, fruit, starch, and healthy fats depending on your current weight. This tool is AWESOME for people who are starting from scratch with nutrition, or who aren't getting the results they want with their current eating and don't know why. It's very close to the way I already eat, but it's not a perfect match. I eat a little bit more than the container system would dictate, but that makes sense because I'm not really trying to lose weight (instead I'm trying to swap some fat for muscle, which is what I've been seeing as my body changes). I also still eat a LOT of chocolate (like, I have a serving of something sweet most days) and I have other treats when I want them. It's not a lot--my diet is pretty clean--but I know I could get faster results if I really buckled down on my eating. I don't really want to. So slow and steady it is.
I work full time, in a job that's been especially demanding the last month, I cook for my family every day, I write this blog, I run accountability groups that help other women get fit, and I still have thirty minutes to work out. Anyone has 30 minutes to work out if they really want to do it. I don't care how busy you are, 30 minutes is a choice. And yes, for me it feels AWESOME to see results in the mirror and be proud of the progress I've made. But here are some important benefits that you can't see in a before and after photo:
-Exercise is huge for my mental health. Ever come home from work in a bad mood, or feel overwhelmed and frustrated and need an outlet? Uh, I do. All the time. I almost never leave my 30 minutes of exercise in a bad mood--no matter how I feel coming into it, the effort and the sweat is cleansing.
-My headaches are better. I've suffered from migraines since I was in grade school, and I still get them, but if I exercise when I'm just starting to get a headache, it will often go away. Exercise is usually the last thing I want to do when my head hurts so I haven't tried this much before, but thanks to my accountability groups pushing me to get my workouts done no matter what, I discovered exercise will actually halt the headache in its tracks. That's a little miraculous for me. Tiny miracles.
-Focusing on achieving my fitness goals and building my Beachbody business has made me up my game in all areas of my life. I'm more energized, driven, and excited because I've got these goals that I am in charge of, that only I can accomplish, and it's making me a better lawyer, wife, stepmom, friend, and human. Adding something to my plate actually multiplied my energy instead of taking some away, because building my business and working toward my health goals is incredibly energizing to me. Last week I got a promotion at work, and we donated money to charities that feed the hungry and drill wells for communities that don't have water, and I was focused on achieving those goals because of the lessons I've learned from joining the Beachbody community. It. Is. Awesome.
And, the cherry on top of all of that, is that I get to hear from women who are making changes in their own life and improving their own health and fitness because of what I've been sharing. I can't even tell you how good that feels.
So, I'm pretty happy with my impulsive decision to give Beachbody a try, and later to jump in with both feet and become a coach, and these first 100ish days have been awesome. And, if reading this makes you want to try working out in your house, give me a shout. I truly think you have nothing to lose and tons to gain.
Have a fantastic week, friends.
I have written before about self-talk, the narration that runs through your mind as you go through your day, but I don't know if I've really hit home how very much I'm talking to myself throughout my day. I've gotten better about doing this mostly in my head, but I am constantly talking to myself. And it's something I really need to keep an eye on, because it's not always nice. In fact, in the last few years I've made a conscious effort to improve my self-talk and...be nicer to myself. This sounds dumb, but I'm pressing on anyway because it's important and it's made a big difference for me.
I thought to write about this today because I noticed two really common pieces of self-talk running through my mind at different points in the day--one bad, and one good, and I realized that the good phrase was once an intentional sentence that I forced myself to think, and now has become sort of an ingrained mantra that has done me some good. Allow me to explain.
The first phrase, which I thought to myself repeatedly this morning, and honestly used to think to myself all the time, is "you are the worst." As in, I am the worst. I realized I was doing this today because I made a mistake at work--nothing major, but I've been tired and a little overstretched lately, and I didn't sleep well last night, and this just put me over the edge. "You. Are. THE. WORST," I thought. And I heard it, and recognized it, and knew that I am not actually the worst, and tried to find some ways to change my train of thought and just move on with my day.
The second phrase I noticed myself thinking as a force of habit later in the day is, "I'm doing the best I can." And when I noticed that, I remembered that this phrase is one I intentionally chose and tried to incorporate into my thinking to replace the phrase, "you are the worst," several years ago, because I was telling myself that I was the worst too frequently and I needed something to swap for it. So, for a while, every time I would catch myself thinking, "you are the worst," I would stop, and instead think, "no, you're just doing the best you can." When I'm not at my most stressed-out, "I'm doing the best I can" is a big part of my self-talk, and I actually realized when I started thinking about it today that consciously recognizing that I'm doing the best I can has made a big difference in my life and my ability to make peace with myself. (If you are someone who can make peace with yourself without intentional interventions like this one, I salute you. I am not.)
For example, recognizing that I'm doing the best I can also recognizes that I'm not perfect, and that I'm not going to be able to do everything all of the time. I'm only going to be able to do the best I can. Sometimes this means that I miss an event that I want to go to (seeing a friend, supporting a cause, showing up at an event) because I either have somewhere else I need to be at that moment and can't physically be in both locations at once, or because I mentally can't handle doing that thing because I am exhausted/supporting my family with something else/in desperate need of an hour to myself. That's ok. I'm just doing the best I can. This lets me off the hook--not when I don't deserve it, because if I'm not doing my best then honestly I need to do better, but if I really am doing the best I can (and I know that in my gut) then there's nothing more to be said. It must be laid to rest.
This is a picture I posted to my fitness challenge group on Monday night this week--we post sweaty selfies after we finish workouts, but it was Halloween and instead of working out I chaperoned trick or treating for two and a half hours and ate candy. It was the best I could do for that night. And there was totally walking involved. Juuuuust doing the best I can.
I wanted to share this phrase because it really has helped me. If I don't keep an eye on it, I can easily become frustrated with my own imperfections and that frustration can really spiral out of control. But this one, simple little phrase lets me be objective and step out of that. Am I doing the best I can? If so, I can't be upset with myself. I can't ask myself to do any more than my best. And when I'm upset that something didn't go perfectly--I'm not a flawless employee, friend, wife, family member, human--I just remind myself: I'm doing the best I can.
This baked oatmeal has all of the things: oats, zucchini, blueberry, pecans, coconut, honey, ground flax seeds--it is warm and gooey and delicious and comforting. All the things that you want in the fall and winter, amiright? It's very filling and healthy--each serving has 1/4 cup each of fruits and vegetables, plus some whole grains and healthy fats. And you can bake it on the weekend (which will make your house smell incredible) and eat it all week, even if you share. I've been leaning a lot more towards gluten-free grains these days--they're not paleo, but I'm experimenting with how I feel when I eat them and so far so good. I think finding the right way to eat for me will always involve experimenting, and I expect it to shift over time. I'm still trying not to eat a TON of grains (maybe 2 servings a day) but a small amount seems to be serving me well. And I love oatmeal, so if it doesn't upset my stomach or make me feel crappy, I'm going to eat it.
Blueberry Zucchini Baked Oatmeal (makes 8 servings)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
4 tbs ground golden flax seed (sometimes called flax seed meal)
cinnamon (I don't measure cinnamon but we'll call this a "heavy dusting")
2 smallish zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
2 cups blueberries (I used frozen, no need to thaw if you go that route)
2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or regular milk)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup honey (this makes the oatmeal just slightly sweet--I prefer it this way, and if you or your family like it sweeter you can always drizzle extra honey)
coconut oil or butter to grease the pan
1. Preheat your oven to 375F and grease a medium baking dish with coconut oil or butter.
2. Combine oats, pecans, coconut, flax, and cinnamon in a bowl and mix together.
3. Grate zucchini into the bowl and mix again. I did a mix of rough and fine grating, mostly out of laziness/frustration with how long the fine grater took, but it worked well. You can do either.
4. In a separate bowl, mix your almond milk, eggs, and honey until everything is well-combined. If you're feeling fancy you could also add a splash of vanilla--that didn't occur to me.
5. Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and mix everything together until combined. Add your blueberries last, and stir to combine.
6. Pour everything into your greased baking dish, and spread evenly. If you have giant blueberries like I did, move them around so they look evenly distributed.
7. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the edges and top are slightly browned and everything is set. Let the oatmeal cool a bit, then slice into 8 servings and either serve or store in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
Nom nom nom, enjoy!!