Whole 30: My Journey [Week 2]

You can’t ever really anticipate how difficult a change in eating habits is going to be. I mean, you think you know, but once you’re in it, it’s so much harder. Especially when, even though you live with someone, you’re ultimately on your own [my fiancé, who I love dearly, barely made it three days before deciding he could not go without grains or dairy].

The first week of Whole 30, I was strong. I was excited about the challenge of cooking meals without grains, beans, dairy, sugar and processed food. I started off with a major bang, and was on such a high from immediately feeling the positive effects on my body from cutting out all of these food groups.

The second week, though.. I felt like I’d hit my max on creativity. Even though I’d purchased the Whole 30 cookbook, I felt like everything was the same. The truth is, none of the recipes are even remotely similar, but because I was already getting burned out, I was getting lazy. It wasn’t too hard to avoid dairy or gluten, since I don’t eat much of either of those on a daily basis anyway, but avoiding all grains and even corn on top of that? That was difficult for me. In situations where I’d normally substitute quinoa or add a corn product for flavor, I couldn’t! Also, most of the recipes I found were calling for a slow cooker, which I don’t have [yet.. there’s one on my registry! – *hint hint* to those of you invited to my wedding :)].

Luckily, I know something about myself that will hopefully keep me going with this diet – I have a tendency to cop out when things get “difficult.” I give up, I throw in the towel. I fall off the wagon, if you will. But having a track record of this and having a resolution to have more willpower this year is what’s helping me to maintain my motivation to climb this 30 day mountain [of which I have 23 days left.. but who’s counting?].

In short – week two of Whole 30 has been hard. But I have to remember that it’s mind over matter. I have survived much more difficult obstacles in my life than temporarily cutting out certain types of food.

Any of you guys have recommendations on how to keep my momentum going with this diet [and continuing to eat healthy moving forward]? Would love to hear thoughts and recommendations!

Also, a little sidenote, if you’re considering doing W30, I highly suggest doing it in the winter! Almost all of the recipes are heavy and winter-y and, in my opinion, seem like they’d be way too filling and uncomfortably warm for the summer months.

Whole 30: My Journey [Week 1]

Earlier this week, I came home from a run with the dogs, took a quick shower, and, upon surveying  the current state of my body in the nude, had a full-blown meltdown to my fiance. “Our wedding is in six months! My arms are fat and my stomach is disgusting! I’m eating healthy, I’m working out, and nothing is happening! I don’t know what else to do.” [I know all you ladies can relate to this].

He, of course, thinks I look beautiful, and assures me every single day that even if I actually got fat [because, let’s be honest, I’m definitely not even close to “overweight” in any sense of the word], he would still love me as much as he always has. Of course it feels good to hear praise from your S.O., but let’s be honest – regardless of how many people tell you how good you look, you ultimately have to feel good to yourself. When I explained this to him, he threw out a suggestion, “Why don’t we do Whole 30?”

I’d heard of Whole 30 before. A couple of my friends had done it before and had huge success with it. I agreed to give it ago without doing any research beforehand. How hard could it be? I was pretty sure all you had to do was eliminate gluten and dairy. I could do that for thirty days, no problem.

It turns out it’s much, MUCH more than that.

When we decided to the Whole 30, I immediately went online and ordered the book and the cookbook, and start scouring Pinterest for any Whole 30 friendly recipes I could make in the meantime while I waited for the books to be delivered. I found three right off the bat that looked delicious, and prepped for the next three dinners of the week. My fiance [who really only ever eats dinner due to his work schedule and doesn’t actually need to do any sort of dieting], didn’t even last one meal without adding cheese and sauces that were on the no-no list. That was fine with me, as long as he was okay with me making the base of the meal, he could add all the crap he wanted. In my mind I was sure that I could make it 30 days without dairy and gluten NO PROBLEM.

The books finally arrived on the third day of my “diet,” and within the first two chapters of learning about Whole 30, I quickly realized there were a lot more things on the bad food list than I’d anticipated. Anything underneath the grain umbrella was restricted – including quinoa, corn and rice. All beans and legumes, peas, processed dairy and unnatural sugars were also not allowed. I immediately panicked. I’d anticipated cutting out two food groups, not FIVE. After reading a giant list of foods I couldn’t eat, I wasn’t even sure what I had left to choose from.

It turns out, there’s a lot more than I thought. Any type of meat, greens, eggs, veggies [minus peas], and potatoes are all on the approved list of foods. Pre-made sauces and dressings were out of the question due to added sugars, but I discovered plenty of recipes teaching you how to make your own. Instead of feeling disheartened, I started to see the fun challenge that the Whole 30 would bring for me. I had the opportunity to make fun new dishes with homemade sauces! And the first three days of trying new recipes had been extremely enjoyable for me, not to mention I had already noticed little changes in my body: I wasn’t waking up starving in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. I wasn’t having cravings, I wasn’t feeling bloated after meals, and I didn’t have an energy crash in the middle of the day. Even my mood had improved, despite it being my “PMS” week. I decided that if three days could make that much of a difference, ten times that could only be something short of miraculous.

With these feelings and hopes in the forefront of my mind, I am embarking on this new food journey with end goals, a plan in mind, and a new cookbook to boot. I would love to hear from anybody who has tried Whole 30 or something similar like a paleo or vegan diet [since there is a lot of crossover]! Part of my success will be learning what has worked for other people and what hasn’t.

My Journey With Scoliosis + Holistic Healing

Above: the aftermath of cupping. The darker spots indicate places that needed and responded more to the treatment than others. “Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.”

Remember that day in seventh grade during PE class when the school nurse came to the locker room and checked everyone’s spines for scoliosis? We all giggled and tittered nervously because we had to bend over in front of her with our shirts off and it was just an awkward moment for a tween. At the time, I didn’t really understand what that little test was for.

Two years later, I definitely understood.

I don’t really remember why my mom ended up taking me to a spine doctor when I was 14. Undoubtedly it was for back pain, but I can’t say for sure. At just 14-years-old, I found myself receiving x-rays of my spine, and being told I had scoliosis. Even after the diagnosis, I still didn’t really understand what that meant. “Your spine is curved,” is what the doctor told me. “It’s too minor to do surgery on, but you can do some physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around it.” And he sent me to a physical therapist who gave me a list of moves to do every day that would help stretch and strengthen my back.

Psh, yeah right. What 14-year-old girl is going to do physical therapy for a back condition she doesn’t know anything about and doesn’t really effect her life in any way?

Of course, now I wish I would have taken his advice, because my condition is currently 16 years chronic. And basically I’m in constant pain, every day. It hurts to sit for a long time, it hurts to stand for a long time, it hurts to walk for an extended period of time. So essentially, I just hurt.

On the flip side, I’m very fortunate that the actual condition itself hasn’t worsened in the 16 years that I’ve had it. My spine has stayed in exactly the same awkward curve all that time. And the pain that I feel is mostly a dull, constant ache, no shooting pains or tingles. What that means, though, is that all of the muscles in my body have slowly lost their purpose.

When I say all of the muscles in my body, I pretty much mean all of them. From head to toe. The funny thing about scoliosis is, it isn’t just a spine condition. It effects every inch of you. Something that I recently discovered.

I’m really against taking pain medication for anything other than a headache. That’s literally the only time I’ll take them. Because in all honesty, they do not work. And putting foreign entities into your body is extremely unhealthy. Which is the main reason I’ve turned to holistic healthcare to aid in my ailments.

When I started going to acupuncture a little over a year ago, it was for migraines and stress. My acupuncturist also knew I had scoliosis and tried to relieve the pain, but unfortunately the needles did little to rid me of my aches and pains [it worked wonders for everything else, though! Read about my experience here]. To be fair, with a condition as chronic as mine, there was little she could do. Acupuncture is wonderful for so many things, but my scoliosis pain was something that was too deep-rooted for acupuncture to fix.

I continued to live with the pain for another eight months or so, but knowing we had a trip to Europe coming up and I’d be walking and standing a lot, I wanted to start seeking treatment again. My fiancé directed me to a chiropractor friend of his. I’d always been afraid of going to a chiropractor – I had a major fear that a correction would go horribly wrong and I’d be paralyzed for the rest of my life. My fiancé reassured me that Vince practiced a different, more modern form of chiro and would barely do any adjusting at all. He was right.

Dr. Vince Hoffart practices a form of chiropractic care called Active Release Technique. He does do some adjusting, but it’s mostly a lot of centralized muscle release. Instead of adjusting the bones in your body, he works on the muscles around them. Instead of a quick fix, he focuses on getting to the root of your issue. [In my case, the scoliosis has caused all of the muscles in my body to create a backwards support system. Instead of the muscles around my spine supporting my spine, they are trying trying to keep my spine from twisting. So other muscles have taken the place of those in order to support my spine.] It’s pretty amazing, actually. The first time I saw him, he dug around in my hip bone and the inside of my leg to try and help ease the tension in my back. A truly eye-opening experience to learn that other parts of my body could be worked on in an effort to aid my chronic scoliosis.

I’ve been seeing Vince for three months, and while the pain in my back hasn’t lessened, he’s done wonders for my neck and hip/glute, which both were aching and ailing me due to the unnatural curvature of my spine. The scoliosis is still a work in progress, but I have high hopes for this type of treatment.

In addition to chiropractic healing, I’ve also been seeing a massage therapist who practices a style of massage that focuses more on the nervous system and fascia. Her belief is that when you don’t use your muscles properly, over time the fascia [tissue between your muscles] glued them together unnaturally and constricts your range of motion. It’s a painful, yet oddly relaxing, form of massage. My first appointment with her, she worked on the muscles and fascia in my armpits [I know, weird], chest and between my ribs and rib cage. Her hope is that by releasing tension throughout the body, one section at a time, my back will eventually loosen up as my muscles remember their original purpose. She also performed cupping on my back and shoulders in order to release tension and toxins from my muscles that her hands and fingers could not do.

Jury is still out on whether this will work or not. Although I will say that I could breathe so much easier after she worked on my rib cage. It actually felt like a weight had been lifted off of my chest. I am looking forward to seeing if this form of massage therapy will work for me. The fact that I had no idea how much tension had built up in just my chest cavity means that every inch of my body is likely experiencing the same tightness and pressure.

Only the future knows how my body will respond to these holistic treatments, but I am willing to put all of my money and effort into finding out. Even if it doesn’t help my back, other little parts of my body and soul are starting to feel better, and that is just as, if not more, important. I also think it’s good for the human body to let its guard down every once in a while. Even if you don’t believe in holistic healing, having someone spend so much time and effort [they’re literally so passionate that they make a living doing it!] to try and help you is truly an amazing and beautiful thing. People helping people. There are still kind and humane people out there who just want to do right by others. And that – that gives me hope. Hope for myself, hope for my health, and hope for the health of humankind.

“Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. While scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is unknown.”

Why Is It So F*ck’n Hard To Find Decent Healthcare For Our Lady Parts?!

Until recently, I never bothered with finding a good OB. All I’ve ever needed in my adult life from them is birth control, so why worry about who’s supplying it? Planned Parenthood was as good as any doc covered by insurance, as far as I was concerned. As long as I was protected and having normal paps, I was worry-free.

But now that I’m engaged, and my fiancé and I are planning on starting a family within a year or so after we get married, I really actually care about who my doctor is. I’m actually thinking about who’s going to be my hand-holder during pregnancy, reassuring me every step of the way [aside from my fiancé, who will likely be rolling his eyes and telling me I’m fine #truelifeihaveanxiety].

Prior to our family trip to Europe, I really didn’t have time to research any doctors. I was scrambling at work and also trying to get wedding details together, and I figured there wasn’t any reason to start that process when I would be taking off and leaving the country for two weeks. But when I returned, I put my feelers out into the Facebook world and asked my fellow females for some OB recs. It was amazing how many women responded and loved and highly recommended their doctors. Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t cross all borders, and, like everyone else, I am limited to a number of doctors who take my insurance.

So I took people’s recommendations and starting researching the docs who took my insurance. Honestly, there are hundreds of OBs out there, but I didn’t want to just throw a dart at a map and pick one. I wanted to know that who I chose would be my medical support system before, during and after pregnancy. Some websites will give you a bio on the doctor – what they specialize in, where they studied, things like that, which I love. And since several women on my mom’s side of the family have Endometriosis and PCOS [see end of post to read more about these], I wanted to be sure I found a doc that was knowledgeable in those two diseases in the higher than normal case that I may be affected by one or both of them.

As a woman, I have always been hesitant to have a male doctor examining my lady bits. That may be feminist or close minded, but regardless of how much education you have under your belt as a man, you will never actually know or experience what we ladies go through on a day-to-day basis because we were blessed [or cursed, pick your poison] with ovaries and a uterus. The free clinics like Planned Parenthood only staff women, and since I’ve frequented those since I was 18, it’s sort of been a non-issue since I’ve had lady docs by default. But so many women who responded to my Facebook post recommended male OBs. And I’m at a time in my life where my health, the health of my future children, and the safety of any and all pregnancies and childbirths ahead are more important to me than whether the person examining me has a uterus. So, after a week of researching doctors and comparing several different ones [all of which ended up being men, by the way], I finally narrowed it down and made an appointment with a man who had an extensive list of specialties [including abnormal bleeding, Endo, PCOS, and many other “issues” that us females are lucky enough to deal with].

Yesterday I had my appointment with this doctor [just a consultation], and despite my nerves that he was a man, I was feeling confident that I’d finally found a reliable and educated doctor that I could trust. I was armed with a list of things I’ve been dealing with for the past several years, and was prepared to feel like the man understood me and could guide me through the next few years of my life.

To say I was let down is an understatement. The man essentially steamrolled me. Oh, he was very nice and very friendly, but he wrote off all my abnormalities as being on the wrong birth control. The ten days of debilitating cramps and abdominal pain I recently dealt with? In which everything I ate literally went right through me? The stabbing, cramping pain in the site of my right ovary last week? Bleeding every single day, all month long for the last several years? Oh yeah, that’s all normal symptoms of a birth control not strong enough for my body. WHAT?!

You guys, I wanted to scream at this man. I know these things aren’t normal. I know they aren’t because of birth control because I’ve tried 85 different kinds over the course of the last 11 years I’ve been on it and I sure as hell don’t feel normal nor do the symptoms ever change. Oh, and when I voiced my concerns about Endo, he told me I had nothing to worry about because my weight was healthy for my height and since I’ve never had an abnormal pap I am a fine 30-year-old female specimen. And even if I ended up having Endo, the best way to deal with it was to keep on birth control and take pain meds. Had I not known so much about the disease since I personally know SEVEN women effected by it, I probably would have believed him. However, Endo is an estrogen dominant disease. It is worsened by the presence of estrogen, which, if you know anything about birth control pills, they’re packed full of estrogen. So basically, if you have endometriosis, you’re aggravating it by being on a birth control that is estrogen heavy [ie: contraceptive pills]. And nobody wants to be on painkillers that do jack sh*t for that kind of pain.

You know what’s even worse about this whole scenario? This guy was the best doctor I could find out of all of the ones that were recommended to me and of all the lists of local docs that I went through. So this man, who claims to have an extensive knowledge of all sorts of female reproductive issues, completely shredded his credibility to me within a 30 minute conversation. If this guy is the best there is for me, am I just doomed? Do I trust this guy to get me to the finish line when I’m super pregnant? Will he reassure me and give me peace of mind if or when I feel like something’s off during pregnancy? Sure doesn’t seem like it.

And you know what else is frustrating? I’ve never had this issue with any other type of doctor. My GP, dermatologist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, naturopathic [yup, I’ve even seen one of those].. All of them listen intently and don’t interject or tell me I’m crazy when I question the health of my own body. And not to say that your general day-to-day health isn’t important, but why, why when it’s the one doctor that’s supposed to watch over your reproductive system and the process of building another life is it treated so haphazardly? This seems completely backwards to me.

This turned into a lengthy, venting post which I apologize for. I’ve just truly never been so frustrated with our healthcare system and doctors and how little they educate themselves after med school. And after taking Otis to our vet the evening before, who had just attended not one, but TWO, new seminars on new veterinary studies, I found myself wishing that she was my doctor. At least I know my dogs are getting the best possible care. As obsessed as I am with them, that definitely counts for something.

If any of you are local Sac ladies and have an OB recommendation for me, I am all ears! I am not going to just settle because this guy was the “best” I could find. There may have been someone I glanced over or missed, and I am willing to take the time and steps to find the absolute best doctor I possibly can! My future babies depend on it!

For those wondering, Endometriosis and PCOS [Polycystic Ovary Syndrome] are two reproductive disorders that can greatly hinder your chances at getting pregnant and/or carrying a baby full term. Endometriosis is a condition where your uterine tissue grows outside of your uterus. And when the female period happens once a month and that lining naturally sheds.. Yup, you guessed it! It sheds elsewhere inside the body, too, causing internal bleeding that has no chance of escape. If it sounds painful, it’s because it is. Endo effects at least 1 in 10 women, but the fact that I personally know 7 ladies who suffer from it leads me to believe it’s more common than we even know. If you want to read more about either or both, you can definitely Google them. I also recommend reading the two blogs I’ve listed below. One of them is my best friend who was diagnosed with Endo 11 years ago. Her blog is all about her journey and how she’s found her source of recovery [Endo is not curable, by the way]. The other blog is by another close friend of mine who developed Endo after she gave birth to her child via C-section. She was recently diagnosed within this last year. I’ll also list their Instagram profiles as well – they are both very open about their disease and their struggles and are more than willing to talk to anyone who has it or thinks they do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and is definitely, sadly, more common than we think!

Holistic Merbabe [IG: @holisticmerbabe]
Seashells and Sit-Ups [IG: @saltysweetseasons]

Up Before The Sun: How I Stay Motivated To Get My Morning Runs In

One of the best things about summer in Sacramento is the wonderfully long days. The earth is lit up from the early hour of roughly 5 am, until just about 9 pm. For a warm weather worshiper like myself, this means HEAVEN.

On the flipside, one of the worst things about summer in Sacramento is the oppressive heat [if you live in Sac, then you can totally relate to the god awful heat wave we just experienced a couple of weeks ago].

For me, there isn’t much else out there that’s harder to motivate myself for than working out. I am usually able to justify that I have much more important things to do in what little free time I do have than going to the gym or getting a yoga session in.

Which is why I have to get my butt outta bed and get my heart rate up at the beginning of my day. I mean, it’s not as if I’m going to get up and craft something at 5 am..

But seriously, I understand how difficult it is to climb out of bed much earlier than you actually have to be up for your workday. I am the queen of turning off my alarm, setting a new one, and going back to sleep for an hour-and-a-half.

So, then, where do I get my motivation? How is it that I’m able to get out of bed at 5 am, Monday through Friday, and run 3 to 5 miles [aside from wanting a bangin’ ass bod]?

Here are a few of my tips on how I light a fire under my ass every morning:

Don’t sleep in your workout clothes. In my own experience, already having the clothing on when I wake up doesn’t get me any more motivated to get up and make use of them. Instead, I lay my clothes out the night before – that way I am forced to get up, get out of bed, take my PJ’s off and put my workout clothes on, all the while getting my blood moving and slowly helping my body come awake. I even lay out my clothes in the guest room so that I’m not tempted to hop back in bed.

Train your mind to accept the new wake-up time. I know how difficult this is. Believe me. More often than not, my alarm goes off and I think wistfully of the extra hour of sleep I could get if I just stayed in bed this one day.. But I know my body, and I know myself. One more measly hour will actually make me feel worse instead of better. And once you’ve woken up early enough mornings in a row, your body will get accustomed to the routine, and actually begin to wake itself on its own. Just resign yourself to the fact that this is your life now – this is your schedule. Plus, once you get your workout done, you could potentially be done for the day! [Sidenote: having a dog that exercises with you is another helpful wake up tool. Bella is accustomed to our early schedule – at roughly five minutes to five, every morning, I hear her climb off the couch, shake her head, and come clattering to the end of the hallway to sit and whine until I get up. Hard to ignore, and a total guilt trip if I don’t at least exercise my poor doggy.]

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to stretch thoroughly before you exercise. I can’t stress this enough! I have had far too many injuries from not prepping my body correctly for a run. I am prone to weak ankles and also suffer from tight hips, which for a runner are a couple of doozies. When it’s really cold out I spend 15-30 seconds stretching each muscle that is impacted by running. It helps to wake my muscles and warm them up a bit. Supposedly we aren’t supposed to stretch until after we’ve done a warm up, but I know my body well enough to know what it needs – and it needs to be stretched before physical activity. [You should also stretch and/or foam roll after runs and workouts.]

Do some breathing exercises before you hit the pavement. This has helped me tremendously. Especially in the early days when I’m just getting back into running, whether I’ve taken a few months off or was forced to take a couple weeks off due to a cold or the flu. I always struggle the most with getting my lungs back into shape [they say it takes a full week to get your endurance back]. If I find myself gasping for air mid-run, I try and focus on getting back the control of my breath. Even though it’s extremely difficult, I force myself to breathe deeply while I run, in through the nose, out through the mouth. I find that filling the chest and the belly full of air, and then forcing it all out, really helps me to regain my endurance. I also suggest slowing your pace a bit. Since I run with Bella who always tugs me along a little bit, I tend to be unaware of how swiftly we are moving. Often times that is a contributor to why I get so short of breath.

Invest in some decent workout clothes! I cannot stress this enough. The last 15ish years I have been working out in scrubs – old cheer shorts, worn out t-shirts from soccer tournaments in my teens, or sorority shirts from my early twenties. Oh, and shoes that are so old that they’re coming apart at the soles. Nothing makes you feel crummier than throwing on old shit and trying to get motivated. I know workout clothes can be expensive these days. And I know how painful it is to have to spend money on something expensive that you’re just going to sweat in. But honestly, you feel SO much better about yourself if you feel good in what you’re wearing. It’s such a silly concept but for me it’s proven to be true. I am always replenishing my supply, and I definitely always ensure that my shoes are up-to-date and are going to provide me with proper support. For those of you who think it’s “cool” to wear Chucks [Converse] to the gym – it’s not!! You NEED more support than that, even if you’re just pumping iron or doing low impact cardio. I go to Fleet Feet to get my shoes – they fit you for runners according to how you walk and stand and how narrow or wide your feet are. [Sidenote: because athleisure is such a “thing” now, so many stores are carrying athletic apparel. Target actually has some great clothes for a reasonable cost.]

Purchase a fitness watch of some sort. I am an Apple consumer through-and-through, so I, myself, am an Apple Watch wearer. FitBits are great, too – my fiancé wears one. Honestly, just getting a product that keeps track of your steps, your distance, and your calories burned is a game-changer. It’s amazing how motivating it is to be able to look down at your wrist and see your progress for the day. One of my favorite features of the Apple Watch is the ability to share your activities with other Apple Watch wearers [I believe FitBit offers a similar feature, as well]. So, not only can I track my own progress, but I can see how my friends are doing, too. My best friend, for example, burns anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 calories A DAY. Every time I get a ping on my watch that she’s completed another workout, it makes me want to hop out of my desk chair and do the same.

Let’s be honest – everybody is different. Obviously not everyone will be able to get up and work out before work or school or whatever it is that fills your days. BUT, if you’re like me and just need a little push in the right direction, the above are what have helped me to semi stay on track with my workouts. Find what works for you and stick to it as much as you can. And don’t forget that it’s completely okay to have off days. Yesterday I was too sore from Tuesday’s five miler and a booty workout to go for a run, so I just let my body have a rest day. And I felt great and ready to go today! Again, whatever works for YOU and your body.