04/12/20

Low carb Sugar free Apple and Blueberry Crisp- From items in the pantry!

Happy Easter! I hope your day is filled with peace, good health, blessings, and love- from a distance, of course. And if you happen to be social distancing alone or away from your loved ones, I hope that you find ways to connect with them today through a video call or maybe even a virtual Easter lunch or dinner. <3

Today I’m cooking dinner for my husband and me, and our Easter menu consists of roasted chicken with lemon and thyme with roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and low carb apple and blueberry crisp for dessert!

Apple crisp has always been one of my favorite recipes. Tia, a fellow friend of mine, made a batch of apple crisp last week and ever since I saw her post, I’ve been craving it! With today being a holiday, I really wanted to be able to bake something, but when I took a peek at my pantry inventory, I realized that I didn’t have much at the moment. But I did have a few things, including a little bit of coconut flour, two bags of Swerve sweetener with about 1/4 left in each bag, some flaxseed meal, about 1/2 cup of walnuts, 6 gala apples, and an almost-too-ripe-to-use lemon.

I can work with that!

And to make this crisp a little more spring-y, since this is typically a fall dessert, I decided to add some fresh blueberries which I happened to have in the fridge. 

This crisp turned out amazing for using up some pantry leftoevers! Buttery and crisp, tart and sweet, with warm spices that are comforting and delicious! Here’s the recipe! Enjoy and Happy Easter!

Low carb Sugar free Apple and Blueberry Crisp

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Uncategorized

Servings:  6-8

Low carb Sugar free Apple and Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients

  • For the filling
  • 4-5 medium sized gala apples, or other similar apple good for baking (honeycrisp or pink lady)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (blackberries would be great too!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 cup no calorie sweetener (I used granulated Swerve)
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • -----------------
  • For the topping
  • 1 stick of cold butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sweetener (I used brown Swerve)
  • 2 tbsp. flaxseed
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. maple extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Core, peel and slice apples into bite-sized chunks and lace into a bowl. Add lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and sea salt. Stir gently to coat all of the apple slices. Fold in blueberries.
  3. Place the apple and blueberry mixture into an 8in greased pie pan. Pour the additional juice from the bottom of the bowl over the apples. Set aside.
  4. Using a hand or stand mixer, combine all topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle onto the apple mixture in the pie pan.
  5. Loosely cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking. The top will be golden brown and the filling will be bubbly.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes and then serve warm with vanilla Rebel ice cream or homemade whipped cream!
http://orangespoken.com/appleblueberrycrisp/

04/10/20

8 years

I can’t recall how many times I’ve thought about my mom over the past 8 years. Quite possibly more times than when she was here on earth. I wake up thinking of her. I think about her when I look in the mirror each morning, and see faint resemblances of my mom in my own reflection. Sometimes I think of her when I hear the familiar and comforting tone of her voice inside my own words when I speak. And oftentimes something- a song, a picture, an artifact, a scent- will trigger a forgotten moment I experienced with my mom, and that memory will pop into my mind.

When I started this phase of my life 8 years ago, I never dreamed that I would be able to think about my mom without completely crumbling. While there are still times when the thought of her not physically being here can still overwhelm me with sadness, over time those moments have become less frequent, less vivid, and less familiar. 

I think that’s one of the toughest, yet beautiful parts of reaching 8 years of a grief healing journey.

Over time things, including memories, start to fade. Sounds and mental images of our loved ones and the experience of the loss itself start to lose their vividness. We’ve heard the phrase that time heals all wounds, but not because we’ve forgotten our loved ones, but because through this post-loss journey, we, the grievers, experience life a little differently. We feel our emotions a little deeper, and connect a little more with other grievers and allies. We empathize with others who are grieving and experience the concept of time a little differently. We appreciate things that others may overlook, and see the world for what it is- a temporary gift. And, most of all, we create new relationships with our loved ones that is solely spiritual, and those spiritual experiences and memories become stronger as those physical memories begin to fade. While it’s not time itself that’s healing our wounds, it’s the learning and the awareness that we gain during that time that helps us to navigate and embrace a post-loss existence. 

I promise you that I wouldn’t be able to explain those words in the above paragraph to my 31 year old self who just watched her mother take her last breath. But 8 years later, I can say with confidence and conviction, that although the vibrance of who my living mother was has faded in my mind, the learning, the awareness, and the spiritual connection I have with her is a bright light in a world that I thought would always be dark. 

A grief healing journey is different for everyone. Each year of my journey has brought its own uniqueness to my life. There is no timeline or expectation for when you are supposed to be completely “healed” after loss. Loss changes who you are, and at first, it might feel rocky, but over time the hope and dream is that a grief journey can help you discover things about yourself, the world around you, and your loved one that maybe you didn’t see before.

Friends, life is beautiful. It’s special. It’s meaningful. Notice those around you. Ask people how they’re doing. Make time for friends. Don’t lose sight of what’s important. Go on vacations. Put yourself in other’s shoes. Fall in love. Love yourself. Pay attention to your children (even if they’re already grown). Visit your grandparents. Create opportunities to give back. Call your mother. 

And if you are like me, and your mother is no longer here physically, call her anyway.

Just say the words in your heart and in your mind. She’ll be listening. 

“Hey mom, it’s me Steph. Thinking about you today. I know you’re dancing among the seastars”

ttttttt-2

Other posts about my mom Judy

Happy Birthday Mom

Be Merry

Judy’s Tales: The Ketchup Incident 

Judy’s Tales: The Waterfall Incident 

 

03/14/20

Healthy cooking for beginners

Out of all the searches that drive readers to my blog, one of the top search phrases has always been “healthy cooking for beginners”. I get lots of questions about how to meal plan, how to shop, and how to, well, cook! I’ve had people tell me that their eating habits are horrible because they “can’t cook”, and so they resort to pre-packaged foods, fast food, and dining out way too often. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that healthy cooking is EASY! No seriously, I promise! Here are my tips for getting started in a healthy at-home meal prep and cooking routine… and making it a life-long habit! 

PicMonkey Collagecooking

First things first
What does it mean to “eat healthy”? For me, it’s eating whole, unprocessed foods, low carb and low to no sugar foods like low glycemic fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, full fat dairy products, nuts, healthy oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil), butter, stevia, monk fruit etc. Yes, I eat full fat items. Typically foods labeled “fat free” come with a price typically in the form of high sugars, corn syrup, added preservatives, and other yucky stuff. My motto? Keep it clean, fresh and natural. Before you begin diving into the world of healthy home-cooking, you will need to do some research and figure out what healthy eating means to you, so that you have a starting point for shopping. I will be focusing this blog post around how I fuel my body, but it will apply with other plans as well. 🙂

I cook 5 days a week (Sunday through Thursday), and on Friday and Saturday evenings, we dine out. I do all of my shopping and meal prep on Saturday or Sunday morning, but if those days don’t work for you, find and commit to a day that does! You don’t need to shop AND prep on the same day, so divide the time into two separate days if necessary. 

But before you dive into the world of shopping and prepping, let’s consider the following:

  • What is in your fridge and pantry right NOW? If your goal is to eat and cook healthier meals (and you’ve defined what that means to you), start with an analysis of your current food supply. Take an inventory of what you have in your fridge and pantry and identify anything that doesn’t align with your healthy living goals. Pre-packaged items that have 5+ ingredients can be the first to go. Anything that contains MSG, high fructose corn syrup and/or giant words that Siri wouldn’t even be able to pronounce shouldn’t be going into your nor your family’s bodies so those can go too. Take a look at your spice cabinet as well and look for the same kinds of words on those labels. If you’re feeling badly about throwing those items away, consider donating them to a food pantry or soup kitchen. 
  • What are some of your (and your family’s) favorite foods? If you live alone, think about what you enjoy eating. Make a list and cross off items that are prepackaged and processed. Grilled chicken? Keep. Pop tarts? Cross it out! Focus on what’s left uncrossed on the list and keep that list handy when planning meals. If there are things on the list that are crossed off that you aren’t ready to step away from, that’s ok! Focus on ensuring that 90% of the items on the list on healthy, and 10% are things saved for special occasions and moderation (think 2 Oreos instead of the entire package). Have children or a spouse? Consider giving them the same survey and collecting info about what their favorites are. Are donuts making an appearance on your list? Instead of scratching these off, think about how you can make treats like this with whole ingredients. There are TONS Of great recipes out there where you can re-create your favorite treats with a healthier spin. Give yourself permission to think outside of the box. Almost ANYTHING (bagels, waffles, cookies, pizza) can be made to fit your healthy cooking goals! I’ve made these peanut butter cookies that are out of this world good! It’s not about restricting what you’re eating, it’s about rethinking what you’re eating. 
  • What tools do you have in your kitchen? Keep it simple. All you really need for healthy prep and cooking is a sharp cutting knife, cutting board, vegetable peeler, can opener, saute pan, baking sheet/jelly roll pan, food processor OR blender, a simple slow cooker (think $20 at Target), a somewhat deep pot, your oven (of course), a spatula and a wooden spoon.
  • What’s your weekly grocery budget? This is a big one, as healthy eating sometimes comes with a higher price tag if you are unfamiliar with how to shop smart. Consider shopping at a local farmer’s market or joining a co-op to save money on fresh produce. Look for BOGO deals and other sales on meat at local supermarkets and stock up (if you have the space) when you find a good deal. Join a rewards club or a bulk store membership. Check out stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s that are both significantly cheaper than other grocery stores. Plan meals that are heavier on vegetables (like stews) which will stretch your dollar further since vegetables are cheaper than proteins. 

Meal planning
Whether you’re completely new to cooking or cook regularly, plan to prepare 2-3 healthy meals each week to start. You can easily double most recipes, giving you leftovers that you can freeze, take to lunch or serve for another dinner option that week. Most recipes can be used in other ways as well (think slow cooker pork roast becomes pork tacos another meal). 

Before you start your weekly meal plan, think about what you currently KNOW how to do. 

  • Can you grill? Think grilled chicken, steaks, burgers, veggies (wrapped in foil with salt, pepper and a bit of oil).
  • Can you roast? Think roasted veggies, roast chicken stuffed with lemon wedges, fresh herbs, and garlic, or pot roast in the oven.
  • Can you saute? Think sautéed shrimp and veggies for stir fry, mushrooms and onions for burger, steak and chicken strips for fajitas, fish filets with a little butter, lemon and fresh herbs, ground meats like chicken and beef for tacos, lettuce wraps and meat sauces over veggie noodles (like thinly sliced ribbons of zucchini). 
  • Can you bake? Think homemade meatballs lined up in a glass baking dish and baked until golden brown, and homemade frittatas with eggs and veggies like spinach, onions and fresh herbs, for breakfast options. 
  • Can you turn ON a slow cooker or Instant Pot? Think slow roasted pork loin, brisket, chili, soups, shredded bbq chicken, chowders.
  • Can you boil? Think boiled sweet potatoes topped with ground beef, veggies and shredded cheese (like sweet potato taco boats!), thinly sliced ribbons of squash or zucchini (as a pasta replacement), hard boiled eggs to add in salads, and cauliflower, rutabaga or parsnips boiled then mashed with milk and cream cheese. 

Think about what you CAN do and build on those strengths. Sure, there will be times when you might try a recipe that’s a big fail (I’ve done it PLENTY of times), but it certainly doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Cooking is a science. It’s all about exploring and testing different flavor combinations that work and please you and your family. Don’t be scared to play around. And, try being a little adventurous during each trip to the market! I like to try and purchase 1 new item at the market each time I visit. Maybe it’s a new vegetable, or a fish I’ve never tried. This keeps things interesting in the kitchen, and teaches me to learn to like new things (and not be scared to cook them!). 

Once you’ve established what you know how to do as far as technique goes, grab a pen and pad and get to work on a list. I try to never complete a big grocery trip without a list. If you’re thinking about going low carb, low sugar, and ketogenic (like me), feel free to use and print the list I’ve made with foods that support this way of eating which you can find in any local market. You can find the list here. (I’m not a medical professional, so please consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet). If you just can’t seem to give up carbs completely, consider trying to whip up meals that use quinoa as a rice or pasta replacement. You can click on this link to learn all about purchasing and preparing this ancient seed. You can also try using cauliflower as a rice replacement! It’s delicious! Here is a recipe for cauliflower “rice”. Squash, zucchini, and spaghetti squash also make a great pasta replacement. Check out Rachael Ray’s recipe for zucchini noodles, this recipe for spaghetti squash and sausage bake (think baked ziti!) and my recipe for unpasta lasagna with squash and eggplant instead of noodles! 

Before you create a shopping list, start with your meals. Here are some “norms” that show up in our house each week:

  • Breakfast: Try blending fruit and almond milk with unflavored whey protein powder for a smoothie. Want something warmer? How about mini fritattas and crust-less quiches? I make them ahead of time, freeze or refrigerate them, then warm them up throughout the week for breakfast. You can add your family’s favorite veggies, cheeses and meats. They’re easy, portable, healthy and delicious!  Low carb cream cheese pancakes are also an easy make ahead breakfast item that you can refrigerate or freeze, then warm up when ready. 
  • Lunch: I split my time working from home and traveling for work. When I’m at home, lunch is usually dinner leftovers or snack plates (cheese, deli meat, olives, pickles, fruit, veggies). We try to grill out on Sunday evenings, giving me an opportunity to grill up extra chicken (breasts or boneless/skinless thighs) and burgers then pack those for lunch (think grilled chicken salads and burger salads). When I’m traveling, I’ll pick up pre-made salads from the grocery store, or purchase items to make snack plates on the road so that I’m not leaning on fast-food.  
  • Snacks/Dessert: I love munching on celery with almond butter (ingredients should just be nuts+salt), energy balls, cheese cubes, pork rinds, guacamole, fresh salsa (in the produce section or make it yourself!), raw or roasted nuts (like walnuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds), 85% or higher dark chocolate or Lily’s brand milk chocolate, fresh whipped heavy cream with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger with fresh berries. I also like to boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week for hard-boiled egg snacks, or to toss into salads. 
  • Dinner: I plan on grilling once a week (grilled chicken, burgers, steaks, fish wrapped in foil with veggies). Once a week I make a roast in my slow cooker (pork loin, brisket). Sometimes I’ll bake a whole chicken  (great for chicken salad with the leftovers!). I’ll use leftover grilled chicken or homemade meatballs paired with one of the pasta alternatives mentioned above. Big pots of chili or soup are also great go-to dinners that make for delicious leftover lunches. Some of my favorite sides are mashed cauliflower or rutabaga, butternut squash, roasted veggies, and sweet potatoes.
  • Beverages: Water with lemon or lime and fresh mint, coffee with half and half and cinnamon powder. I love to flavor water with berries, citrus, and fresh herbs like basil and mint. My latest craze is sparkling water (Think Topo Chico and LaCroix!). It’s such a satisfying treat! 

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This is just a sample of what my week looks like as far as meal planning goes. Remember, build on your strengths in the kitchen, and food likes to help create your own family favorites that are healthy, and you can feel good about cooking each week! 

When you head to the market, stick to your list. Try to shop the perimeter of the store (produce, meat/poultry/fish and dairy. Head to the center aisles only for things like nuts, healthy oils (coconut, olive oil), dried fruits, and seasonings. And never shop on a hungry stomach. Let your list guide you, not your brain! 

Prepping and cooking
Plan to dedicate time to prep everything when you get home from the market. An hour on a Sunday afternoon will save you TONS of time during the week. Wash and chop all of your veggies ahead of time (keep in mind things like apples and pears will brown if pre-cut). Utilize gallon and sandwich/snack sized bags for cut veggies for roasting and snacks. Pre-wash greens and fresh herbs, then keep them dry and long lasting by wrapping them in paper towels before placing them into Ziploc bags. Do not freeze fresh greens, however, a great idea for herbs is to chop them, then freeze them in ice cube trays filled with chicken or vegetable broth. They are an easy way to add flavor to soups, slow cooker recipes and so much more. Pre-season roasts and meats, then place them into gallon sized bags to marinate (they can be easily frozen in the marinade), then defrosted the night before you plan to cook them. Post a list of everything you plan on preparing that week for dinner as a reminder of things like what to take out of the freezer ahead of time (and of course, to keep you motivated and organized!) 😉

Want to save even more time? If you find that you have extra time on those weekend prep days, consider roasting veggies, baking sweet potatoes and steaming cauliflower for sides! Store them in containers, refrigerate or freeze then warm up when needed throughout the week, that way you’ll only need to focus on cooking your protein on busy weekday evenings. Stews, chilis, cooked beans and soups also freeze well ahead of time, so when you have the time, whip up these dishes in advance and store them in your freezer for when you’re in a pinch and are dangerously close to hitting the drive thru. Get into the habit of labeling containers and Ziploc baggies before you store them away in the freezer. When times get really crazy, you’ll be glad you did! 

Stay well,

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09/5/19

My Health Journey

In the spring of 2005 I weighed 388lbs. 

It was one of those numbers that you never thought you’d actually see on a scale that YOU are standing on. That number was reserved for really obese people-like the ones you see on tv that have difficulty leaving their house because of their situation. I wasn’t that big. At least I didn’t think I was that big. But there I was. That number was my reality. 

I didn’t understand what that number meant, how I got there, or why there was so much shame attached to it. I just knew it was a LOT, and I would never, ever admit it to anyone. Ever. The scale became my enemy, and that number became the only identity I fixated on. And, the only identity I attempted to fix.

Truth be told it’s been the Stephanie vs. the scale show for as long as I can remember. 

I was an average-sized (whatever that means!) baby and toddler, but by kindergarten, I was already labeled as “the chubby girl”, and still hold onto vivid memories of being aware of my size compared to my classmates. 

I don’t recall a single grade where I wasn’t one of the biggest (and often THE biggest) student in my class- including college. 

Being overweight was who I was, and to be honest, aside from my career, it was all that I was. Being overweight got in the way of everything because it’s all that I ever thought about. It was difficult for me to form friendships, be in relationships, and, most important, understand how to love myself. Life revolved around my weight. It made me angry, sad, and embarrassed. It made me feel as though I wasn’t good enough. It made me settle for things. I couldn’t look any deeper into who I was as a person and how to get better at being ME because my mind was obsessed with the idea that fat=broken.

From 2005-2011 I decided to try something, anything, to lose the weight once and for all. I dieted, exercised, started running (I even completed a few triathlons!), went to weight loss meetings, downed weight-loss shakes, and although I never tried anything drastic or dangerous, I tried many, many things. 

In that time I discovered a love of running. Although I was slow, when I ran, I didn’t feel fat. I felt strong. 

I felt strong enough to complete multiple 5ks, a 10k, a 15k, and even two sprint distance triathlons! 

I also began learning how to cook and experimenting with creating and cooking healthy, clean, and nutritious recipes and sharing them on my first blog, Faked Goods (a play on the words Baked Goods). Running, cooking, and sharing my story with the few blog followers I had gained were game changers. In fact, they were my life changers. 

Through these newfound passions I was able to begin to gain strength and confidence that I never thought I had, AND I was able to lose around 80lbs. For the first time in a long time I was feeling good, and beginning to figure out that I was capable of so much more than I had ever imagined. I began to realize that I wasn’t limited by a number on a scale, and that the only person putting these limits on me was ME. I began to realize that I wasn’t just the chubby girl. And even if I was, it didn’t matter. Registering for races, committing to training, crossing finish lines, sharing recipes, and connecting with like-minded people was something so much bigger than the value, energy, and time I gave to the number 388. 

In the spring of 2011 my life did a complete 180. 

I went through a divorce, and my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 of an aggressive form of metastatic breast cancer. In 2012, she passed away, and my mindset took a hit. That first year of my grief journey was the most difficult year of my life. Nothing had prepared me for what it would be like to lose a parent at the young age of 32. Anything that had happened in the past- my divorce, weight loss struggles- it all paled in comparison to the emotional tornado I had just been unwillingly thrown into. I lost my motivation, I ate whatever I wanted, and crept back up to 340lbs. 

Fortunately, I had some bright spots to support this unexpected life chapter. While my mom was facing cancer treatment, I met Brian, my now husband, and shortly after her passing, I decided to join Orangetheory Fitness

Watching my mother suffer through cancer, and witnessing her taking her literal last breath was more debilitating and traumatic than I could have ever imagined. And although I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, being there for my mother’s last year of life helped me see that I needed to prioritize myself, my health, and my happiness.

It took a year for me to even begin to think about how to go about doing this. Fortunately, falling in love and gaining a strong push and support system through my new coach friends at Orangetheory (plus grief therapy, and lots of vent sessions with the best girlfriends I could ask for), I was able to begin to heal, rediscover my motivation, and get back into the groove I had lost. 

I began to sign up for races again.

I began blogging again (specifically about my grief journey).

I began living again.

For the next 4 years I pretty much tossed around the same 50lbs. I continued to run, cook healthy meals, and attend classes at OTF, but something was always getting in the way of truly controlling my health and my weight. Now I know that weight is just a number, and should not define overall health, but those extra pounds I was carrying on my body day in and day out were getting in the way- literally and figuratively. Even though I was in a much better place in my head than the girl that fixated on and placed way too much value in “388”, I knew I needed to take control of my future. The excess weight was preventing me from feeling good- not only mentally, but physically. I wanted to run faster. I wanted to feel confident in my skin. I wanted to feel comfortable in clothes. I no longer wanted to fear the numbers I’d see on my annual bloodwork paperwork (or fear going to the doctor for that matter!). I didn’t want to be *this close* to being pre-diabetic anymore. And most of all, I didn’t want to go down the same tragic road as my mother. 

When you lose a loved one to cancer, especially someone in your immediate family, you think about your own mortality and fate. Everyday is a battle to not take my mind down dark thoughts of “what if it happens to me too.” While I know that I cannot control every situation, I know that I CAN control my thoughts, my choices, and how I take care of my body in hopes to possibly play a significant part avoiding disease.

Two years ago Kristen, a dear friend of mine, started following a way of eating that I had heard a little bit about, but didn’t really understand what it really was. She would talk about the ketogenic, or “keto” way of life, being in ketosis, and foods and recipes that were “keto friendly”, but all that I ever got out of our conversations was how she was eating as much butter as she wanted, while still managing to lose weight.

I sat back and watched her lose 100+lbs in a year, and keep it off. I watched her get rid of aches and pains (she fought Plantar’s Fasciitis for years, like I did), and use this low carb, no sugar, moderate protein, high healthy fat way of eating to help manage her MS, which she was diagnosed with two years ago. Because the ketogenic way of eating is super anti-inflammatory, she was also able to  heal her plantar’s fasciitis, and improve all of her bloodwork numbers immensely which has been one of the most significant benefits of this lifestyle. She continued to encourage me to try it- that if I already cook, and eat pretty clean, this wouldn’t be such a difficult transition. And how it’s not about eating mass amounts of bacon, and zipping through the drive thru for bunless double cheeseburgers on the regular. That it’s about eating clean, whole, nutrient dense foods- a moderate amount of good quality proteins, a higher amount of healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, and real butter, low glycemic vegetables and fruits like spinach, asparagus, squash, and berries, natural sweeteners like stevia, low carb nuts like macadamias, and real dairy products, including cheese (my favorite). It sounded completely doable, and not far from what I was already doing, but for some reason I just wouldn’t take the leap and try it. 

In 2016 I started a new career which completely changed the 8am-3:30pm teacher’s routine I had become accustomed to over the past 13 years. This new position had a steep learning curve and significant travel away from home. Along with that life change, Brian had also proposed! That same year of learning a new career also brought a fun (and stressful!) year of wedding planning. We had a beautiful, amazing, and wonderful wedding in the spring of 2017, and I was on cloud 9. But by the summer of that same year, I knew that I was on the path back to square 1. Between travel, and wedding planning, I was cooking less and running through drive-thrus more. I was stress eating, and using travel and wedding planning as an excuse to do so. 

In August of 2017, a wellness coach I know was starting a group for clean eating and exercise accountability. She invited me to join and so I did. At the same time I decided to finally take Kristen’s advice and expand on the clean eating goals by giving the ketogenic way of eating a try too. For two weeks I’d go all in to see how I felt. If by the end of two weeks I wasn’t feeling good, or if this was too difficult to keep up with, I’d quit and add the carbs back in. But I promised myself two weeks. Two weeks to give it a chance and see what it was all about.

I didn’t decide to take this leap for anyone else but myself. I wasn’t doing it to gain approval from people that don’t know the real me. I wasn’t doing it to be skinny, or to look beautiful (because I already felt beautiful and still do). I wasn’t doing it because I thought I needed to change my body to be happy (because I was already deliriously happy and still am). I decided to make this commitment as an effort to regain control of my health, of my body, and my future. I watched others do it, and I felt hopeful that this might be something that I could do too.

I quickly realized two things- there is SO much to learn about fueling my body this way, AND there is a ton of support, and information in the form of blogs, social media groups, and of course, Kristen out there. There was definitely a learning curve (like knowing that I needed to up my salt intake because as my body began to flush out excess fat, it will also flush out necessary salts, AND that fat=fuel), and, of course, there was some carb/sugar withdrawal the first couple of days (showing itself as a headache mostly). But by the first few days into my two week experiment, the headache had subsided and I was feeling GREAT. Like really, really great. I felt GOOD. I felt energized. I was sleeping better, thinking better, and was less bloated. In two weeks, the scale had even moved, and my clothes were fitting better. 

I decided to do two more strict weeks. Which turned into 2 strict months, then 4 months, then 6 months. Aside from days where I might have eaten too many carbs in the form of vegetables (I love a good salad!), I only went off plan once- with jalapeno jelly while on vacation in the mountains. I ate Lily’s chocolate bars while passing out Halloween candy. I whipped up low carb blackberry crisp and creamed spinach for Thanksgiving. I gifted ketogenic Christmas cookies to family and friends. And even enjoyed biscuits and gravy on Christmas morning. I was feeling TOO good to do anything else than what I was doing. So I continued. And it was awesome. 

And now, here I am celebrating 2 years of following a low carb, no sugar, ketogenic way of life with no intent on going back! 

I have lost a total of 97lbs since starting 2 years ago have gone from a size 26w jeans to a standard size 14, have lowered my average blood pressure readings significantly (they used to average 140/85, and now they average 110/70. I have also reduced my A1C from 5.8 to 2.8 (no more pre-pre diabetic!), have increased my good cholesterol by 60+ points, have lowered my triglycerides by 70+ points, and have lowered my total cholesterol by 120 points! 

In addition to all of those things I have significantly cleared up my skin, gained confidence, energy, mental clarity, and so much more. Making the commitment to give the no sugar, low carb way of life a try was the best decision I have ever made for myself! While I wish I hadn’t waited so long to jump in, I’m so glad I did!

And it’s not over yet! I’m excited to see what this next year brings. I want to continue to lose weight, and most of all, I want to continue to regain control of my fate. In February of 2019 I made the difficult decision to leave Orangetheory and begin a new journey at Bar Method Tampa. I’m about to log 100 classes and cannot wait to continue to see my body tone and get stronger as I continue down this path, and embark on this next part of my life’s story-my 40’s!

If you are feeling stuck in a health or fitness rut, facing weight loss struggles, feeling like you don’t have the energy or ability to do all that you want to do, or if you just want to be a stronger, healthier version of yourself and excess weight is getting in the way of that, I want you to know that you are not alone and you CAN make changes that will benefit your life in the present and change your course for the future. 

If you have heard about keto and have been on the fence about trying it out, or if reading this blog post has inspired you to take a chance and try it out for two weeks like I did, I encourage you to begin some research and think about how this way of eating might fit into your life. One place you might begin is by checking out Diane Sanfilippo’s new book Keto Quick Start: A Beginner’s Guide to a Whole-Foods Ketogenic Diet with More Than 100 RecipesI picked up a copy for myself at Target this week and it’s SUCH a great guide!

As always, I am not a medical professional, and am nowhere near qualified to give nutritional advice, but I urge you to do some research and think about what two weeks of changing the way you fuel your body might do for you and your situation. YOU CAN DO THIS. If you want to know more about this way of life, follow @Orangespoken on Instagram.  

 

 

 

09/1/19

This is YOUR REMINDER

September 1st marks the beginning of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, followed by October, which we all know is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

Have you had your annual well-woman exam this year? 
Are you doing monthly breast self-exams? Continue reading

08/21/19

Greek Wedge Salad with Herb Vinaigrette

Two years ago I visited my cousins at the beach house they were renting for summer vacation.

We were having a little lunchtime potluck, and so I decided to whip up a healthy and refreshing Greek quinoa salad since we’d be in the hot sun most of the day.

Well apparently, my cousin Ryan has been thinking about that simple side dish since that day, and so for this year’s beach trip repeat, I made that same salad.  Continue reading

07/9/19

7 tips for working out in the morning

Breaking news: You don’t have to be insane to enjoy morning workouts!

I know right? I was shocked too. People ask me alllllll the time:
“How do you get up so early for workouts? I could NEVER do that!”
Guys, I’m telling you. Morning workouts are where it’s AT.  Continue reading

07/4/19

Sweet, sour and spicy quick pickles

Happy Fourth of July!

Need a last minute summer snack to whip up for a party or picnic? Try these SUPER simple sweet, sour and spicy quick pickles! 
ddc6df9b-fb92-4edddddddb5-b142-50632b0c4c52These pickles are SO flavorful, with just the right balance of sweet and sour- with a little kick at the end from some spice. They can be ready is as little as 2 hours and will last 2-3 weeks in an air-tight container in the fridge. You can use whatever type of cucumber you like- English, mini-pickling, etc. OR try using onions, sweet peppers or even carrots! The pickling possibilities are endless!
Continue reading