Primal Reboot – Week 1

I am doing another Primal Challenge with a few friends.  Summer, counter-intuitively, always means weight gain for me.  Why?  Because even though we are outside more and get more exercise in, we are also biking to the brewery or to lunches consisting of famous Iowa tenderloins and hand-cut fries.  Even a 2-hour bike ride stands no chance against a couple of drinks and nachos.

We started the Challenge on Monday.  My main goals for the challenge are:  1) No alcohol for 21 days, 2) Meditate for at least 10 mins daily, and 3) Walk outside for at least 30 mins daily.  You may think  that these are not exactly “stretch” goals for someone who is pretty healthy.  But, trust me, they are!  Between working full-time, teaching yoga part-time, prepping for the classes, sleeping, eating, continuing my movement education, etc., my days get really full.  I have not been doing a good job of prioritizing the behaviors that I preach in my yoga classes.  Also, I’ve fallen into the habit of having 1-2 drinks each night.  So that is what I’m mainly tackling this go-around.

I have been doing really well so far!  No drinks for 7 days means my stomach is flatter (less bloated), and my sleep quality has VASTLY improved.  While I do not drink copious of alcohol and rarely ever get drunk, I know that alcohol really affects hormone levels (it’s pro-estrogenic), thus negatively affecting your risk of breast cancer.  It also saps my evening productivity something fierce!  I listened to a podcast with James Swanwick, and his experience going alcohol-free really made me question the innocuousness of my habit.  For some additional information on the effects of alcohol, check out this post written by James.

Prioritizing walking and meditation has also made me re-vamp my morning routine.  While I would love to read articles online for an hour each morning while drinking my coffee, instead, I drink one coffee, hop in the shower, go for a walk, and then meditate, and then eat breakfast and then go to work.  If I don’t take care of these two goals in the morning, the day escapes me.

Walking in the morning as the sun comes up is a beautiful way to start the day.  I love hearing the wind in the trees and watching the light slowly illuminate the neighborhood.  It’s also a good test of my proprioceptive skills, and I have to be cautious of ancient sidewalks dipping and rising unexpectedly.

And meditation.  Wow.  Lately I have been feeling more calm, less reactive, and more joyful.  Is it the meditation?  Is it because work is not really stressful right now? Is it because I am teaching more (which I love)?  Is it because I am sleeping better?  That’s the problem with changing multiple behaviors at the same time. I don’t have a control group. 🙂  I think it’s the meditation though – it trains me to take that second breath before reacting which gives me time to observe my instinctual response and reflect on whether it’s really necessary.  What story am I telling myself that is causing me to get fired up?  Is there another reasonable story that will help me maintain my equanimity?  Oh, I still get fired up, but at least now I am more aware of it, and it’s a *slightly* more conscious reaction.

There you have it, Primal Reboot Week 1.  If you are interested in learning more about the Primal Challenge, check out this link, or hit me up in the comments with questions.

Hope you have a fabulous Sunday and can get out and enjoy the crisp sunshine and crackling leaves.

Take care,

-Hlo

Day 5 of 21 Day Challenge Reboot

As I mentioned, two of my coworkers and I are doing the 21 Day Challenge together.  My friend want to lose some weight and get healthier, and I want to reboot myself.  My 80/20 has been slip, slip, slipping, and I’ve added about 3 lbs as a result.  I want to get back to my fighting weight so my clothes fit better.

So far the challenge is going pretty well!  My friends have lost 8 lbs and 5 lbs, respectively. I’ve lost ZERO pounds.  I’m super happy for my friends – they say they have been sleeping better, and they enjoy not being miserable and bloated after every meal.  I think that feeling so much better after just a few days of eating differently has really opened their eyes.  They are full of questions and good meal ideas and helpful websites!

One of the sites they found is Paleotrack.  It’s kind of like MyFitnessPal, but it’s tailored more for the paleo client.  For example, it doesn’t encourage you to eat more carbs and less fat. It also doesn’t tell me I will weigh 2 more pounds in a week if I continue to eat this way. 😛  The site also provides the vitamin/mineral/macro nutrient ratios for your foods. It’s very helpful information.  My friends especially like the way the site rates how closely your eating habits fall within the primal/paleo spectrum.  If you do well, you get “Strict Primal!” written in green on your journal page.  It also tells you if you are sugar free/grain free/legume free.  The colors are incentivizing.  And yes, I do believe that’s a word.  We all want to be GREEN!

The site is so cool that I emailed the site creator, who quickly responded with a thanks for using his site and some encouragement for our primal quest.  We also briefly discussed how quickly the 80/20 rule can get you into trouble.  Hearing that from another primal enthusiast has really made me consider how I will eat, once this challenge is over.  I think I’ll need to restrict my “cheats” to just one evening a week; otherwise, I just start to fall of the cliff.

I still feel a little off the cliff, actually, even though I’ve been eating pretty clean since Sunday.  I’ve avoided grains and cheese overall, but it’s been an odd week in that I’ve done some work traveling, and we’ve had company, two things that mean I’ve eaten out every day this week for at least one meal.  While I try to get quality food (salads, burger w/ no bun, etc.), you never know what chemicals are put into/onto the food, or what fillers are added.  I’m wondering if that’s why I haven’t lost any poundage yet.  Or, as Tim says, since I have such a small percentage to use, and I already ate PRETTY well, the weight won’t come off that fast for me.

I’ll keep at it for a few more weeks, until the challenge is over.  I’ll see how I feel, not just how much weight I lose, and move forward with a game plan at that point.

That’s my update so far.  Wish us all luck!  I’m doing the Bix 7 (a local 7 mile hilly run) on Saturday, and I don’t get any beer afterwards.  WAAAAAAHHHHH!  Oh, and after this run, I’m going to focus more on walking/weights/sprints and see if not doing long runs at a high heart rates helps get me back in my old shape.

Good luck with your ventures this week!

Hotter than Hell Barbacoa

Perhaps Tim and I are pantywaists, but I made this recipe tonight, Leftovers: Barbacoa, and our mouths are STILL on fire.  I super appreciate Juli posting recipes free on her blog, so I’m hesitant to express any dissatisfaction, but holy hell!  This barbacoa was SOOOO spicy.  AND.  AND.  I used an extra pound of meat, above what was called for in the recipe!

I should have remembered that Juli likes her food spicy.  I made something else from her, and Tim and I had to cut it down with several extra cans of tomatoes to tame it down.  I think if I cut down the spices by at least half, it would still be plenty spicy.

We now have about 3 lbs of ultra-spicy barbacoa marinating in fridge.  I’m hoping that overnight the flavors will mellow, and it will be all kinds of delicious in the morning.  Tim and I are trying to save about $300/month out of our food budget, so we can’t afford to NOT eat this.

Tonight we ate it over baked sweet potatoes.  I think we’re going to try it with eggs and then maybe over spaghetti squash.  Wish us luck!

Trying my hand at fish

For some reason, I’m intimidated by cooking fish.  Maybe it is because there is such a slim margin for error – cook it a little too long, and it’s all dry and nasty.  Maybe it’s because it’s usually expensive, and so it really sucks when you cook it too long, and it’s all dry and nasty.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in Monticello, IA, 1000 miles from the ocean.  Fish and me are not familiar creatures.

Well, fish is an important part of the primal diet, so I need to get over my fears (fear is the mind killer, you know).  So I started with this recipe:  Tilapia Puttanesca. (Thanks, Diane, for the recipe!).  I made it for my hubby, Tim, and my friend, Michael.  They both totally loved it, as did I.  I used frozen fish from Target (Market Pantry brand), defrosted for 30 minutes in a bowl of water.  The recipe is super simple, yet delicious.  We ate it with a side of spinach salad.  I will definitely be making this again.

Here are a few other recipes I’ve made over the past two weeks that have turned out good.

21 Day Sugar Detox Roasted Spaghetti Squash – You can get this, and many other sugar-free recipes, here.  Not to steal the recipe, but basically you cut a spaghetti squash in half (which is no small feat), rub it down with coconut oil, splash on some salt and pepper, bake that baby at 375 FOREVER (at least 45 minutes depending on the size of the squash), and then shred the squash.  Since this took so much longer to bake than I anticipated, we ended up eating the rest of supper and then using the squash over the next few days in breakfast scrambles.  It smelled magnificent while cooking due to the coconut oil, and it held up really well in the scrambles. Once Tim feels up to tackling another slippery, wicked hard, oblong, rolly object, I’ll make this again.  I know there is a dirty innuendo in there somewhere, but I just can’t quite put my finger on it…

Spaghetti Squash Primavera – This is what I was baking the spaghetti squash for.  We ended up just eating the veggies with some sautéed ground pork.  It was delicious, especially with the dressing called for in the recipe – very tart and delicious.  I love leeks, so I used a whole leek.

Today I am cooking a turkey breast in the Nesco roaster.  This is another new recipe, so hopefully all will turn out well!  None of the bastard grocery stores are open today, so if the recipe bombs, we’ll be eating olives and capers and beer, which is pretty much all we have in the fridge at the moment.

For my next venture into unexplored territory, I think I am going to try making soap and/or lotion.  A lot of the blogs I follow have been writing about using more natural products on your face and skin.  We spend so much time and money on the food we put into our bodies; now the paleosphere has decided we should start to pay attention to the stuff we put ON our bodies (skin is the largest organ, you know).  My cousin-in-law just gave me some soap which smells amazing and also shared some of her recipes with me, so I have a good foundation to start with.  I just need to order some supplies from Amazon and take the plunge.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Hope you are having a great day with your families!

The binge before the purge

So…

I’ve decided to do the 21 Day Sugar Detox.  I’m doing Level 3 since I’ve been eating paleo since January.  What does this mean?  Well, I will tell you.  It means Yes to lots of meat, fish, veggies, nuts, seeds, fats, oils, and water.  It means no to fruits, grains, legumes, refined carbs, dairy, all alcohol, and limited high carb veggies (like sweet potatoes).  Why would I do this to myself, you may ask?  I will tell you.

When I first started eating primally, I noticed almost immediately that my allergies were way better.  I used to wake up in the middle of night sneezing, with tons of disgusting snot just running out of my nose.  Within two weeks, this green fountain abated, only to return when I cheated by drinking wine at our company holiday party.  A light bulb went off – alcohol seemed to trigger/exacerbate my allergies.

Well, my allergies are back in full force.  I can only feel normal by taking Allegra every day.  I hate having to do that.  So, Reason #1 – I want to see if this detox will get my allergies under control.

Reason #2 – I’ve gotten into the habit of drinking regularly over the summer – not copious amounts, mind you – maybe 1-2 an evening or so.  But, it’s still not healthy behavior.  When I drink even 1 or 2 drinks, I am much less likely to make food at home (I feel like going out to eat), and I’m less likely to work out or to do anything productive (like write a blog post or paint).  So, I’m trying to reset my habit of casually drinking regularly.  I also read this great post on The Whole 9, and it just helped solidify my decision.

Reason #3 – I’ve become addicted to an evening snack/dessert of dark chocolate chips mixed with nuts and raisins.  I’ll eat supper and immediately want a bowl of this delectable mixture.  I know to people who are not paleo, this seems like a mild “cheat,” but it’s become a nightly habit, when it should become an occasional treat.  Again, I want to reset this to a healthier habit.  I’m never really HUNGRY after supper, my mind just thinks I want sugar.  I can beat this.  I know I can.

So, those are my 3 main reasons.  I do have some concerns, however.  I don’t want to lose any more weight.  I need to stay at my current weight, lest I have to buy MORE PANTS (FYI  – I still have a size 8-12 wardrobe for sale, if you’re interested!).  Since I’m a fairly heavy exerciser (I run 3-5 times per week and do pushups, pullups, squats, lunges on the off days), I will be following the modification for athletes and supplementing with some sweet potatoes – at least 1/2 cup per day.  I also purchased a Crossfit Daily Deal from our local paper, and I plan on starting that within the next couple of weeks.  I hope that I’ll have all the energy and calories I need to perform well there.

AND, I have a confession.  I’m only doing this for 17 days.  I have a work party on 10-11, and I plan to partake of a few alcoholic beverages that evening.  I know!  I know!  I’m cheating, of course.  But this is the best time of the worst time to do this.  The next few months are full of trips and visits, so I’m just going to go ahead and do it.

If you are interested in doing this as well, DON’T do what I did, which is binge on sugar and bad foods for a week before the Detox.  Yes, this week I ate Snickers, frozen yogurt, ice cream, pizza, heavy cream, etc. etc.  I felt like crap after every bad thing, but I still ate it.  I REALLY need a reset.  😉

I will post updates to let you know how I’m feeling and performing.  Wish me luck!

The Week in Recipes

We had some more great meals this week.    I rehashed some old favorites – Asian Pork Meatballs with Dipping Sauce, Sweet Potato Salad, Grilled Eggs with Mexican Chorizo.  They were all absolutely delicious.  I also tried two new recipes:

Moist Chocolate Zucchini Bread – This bread was super tasty.  I used 3/4 cup of almond butter, with a little smidge of macademia nut butter, since I didn’t have any sunbutter.  The title says it all – it was super moist and nice and chocolately.  I think you could even use less honey, and it would still taste great.

Cowboy Steak with Chimichurri Sauce – I used New York Strip steaks for this recipe (the recipe calls for “cowboy steaks.”  I have no idea what that is!!).  I used a fresh parsley and oregano from my garden, and the chimichurri sauce turned out delicious.  We don’t have high -quality olive oil in the house right now (just using the HyVee brand), but the sauce still turned out great.  Make this recipe!  You won’t be sorry!

And that was our week in food.  Now I need to jet to go by groceries for this week.  I think I’m going to try my hand at beet chips.  Wish me luck!

Week 4 of Meal Planning

So….here is another week of meals!

Leftover Sweet Potato Fries – As I mentioned in my last post, Tim added some tomatoes to the leftover chili, to help cut the spices.  While the chili tasted super good, it did NOT agree with the hlo belly!  My digestion was a little effed for like 3 days.  Evidently I cannot handle multiple tablespoons of hot spices in my food.  Lesson learned.

Balsamic Glazed Drumsticks with Turnip and Rutabega Fries (pg 159 of Primal Blueprint Quick & Easy Meals) – These drumsticks were AWESOME!!  They were super easy, and they tasted like teriyaki chicken.  My only regret is that I bought a package of 5 drumsticks.  Next time I will buy a pack of 8 at least, so we’ll have some of these for leftovers.  Mark Sisson has the BEST recipes.  He puts a lot of pictures in his recipes, which is great for showing you how the food should look, but not so great for printing out a nice, concise recipe.  But I’ll take them however he wants to present them.  The fries were good too, I thought.  You basically cut the turnips and rutabegas into fry shape, microwave them for 8 minutes, and then bake them until they get crispy.  I chopped them up and sauteed them with other veggies for breakfast the next morning.  Super tasty.

Best Ever Chicken Wings -I’m not sure if I can agree with the name.  I mean, these were good, but they are not the “best ever.”  I think it boils down to, I just don’t really like sesame oil.  These were good, and we ate them all, but next time I might try to use a different oil.

Beef Brats – I picked up beef brats from Geest Farms at the Farmers Market weekend before last.  These were SUPER TASTY.  Would definitely buy, cook, and eat them again.

A Primal Primer

I’ve had a couple of friends who are interested in this whole primal/paleo thing.  So I thought I would write a quick post about how to get started, based on my 5 months of experience.  Here are my favorite books, sites, and primal/paleo products.

Good books

  • The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Body Transformation – This is the first book I read, and it was a great, simple introduction to the primal lifestyle.  The author, Mark Sisson, doesn’t just talk about how to change your diet.  He talks about how to re-approach your life – get outside more, disconnect from technology, play, focus on the present, etc.  He also lays out a 21-day plan to help you get on the primal path.  I keep promising to send this book to my brothers, but I just can’t let it go.
  • The Paleo Solution:  The Original Human Diet – I just finished this book by Robb Wolf last week.  It’s a more technical, in-depth book on paleo.  If you want to understand the science behind why the paleo diet works, this is the book to read.  Robb also provides meal plans for 30 days and a pretty detailed weight lifting section.  It’s also a pretty funny read.

Blogs:

  • www.marksdailyapple.com – Mark Sisson’s blog – chock full of health information and good recipes.
  • www.robbwolf.com – Robb Wolf’s blog – also chock full of great information and resources.

Recipe Blogs:

Ingredients

Here is a list of the stuff I always like to have in the fridge or freezer:

  • Grass-fed ground hamburger (from our Farmer’s Market.  If you don’t have a local producer, you can buy it online from US Wellness Meats)
  • Frozen wild-caught salmon (from Target)
  • Canned tuna or sardines
  • Fresh veggies – spinach, kale, avocado, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, peppers
  • Frozen fruit – excellent defrosted with some coconut milk drizzled over them
  • Pastured eggs
  • Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk
  • Nuts – Macademia nuts supposedly have the best omega 3 profile, but I find them a little rich.  I eat a lot of pistachios, almonds and walnuts.
  • Gerolsteiner Mineral water – good source of magnesium.
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil – I LOVE this stuff.  I put it in my coffee and cook with it all the time, and it’s the bees knees.
  • Dark chocolate – I love the Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Chips.  They don’t have a great cocoa content, but they are perfect for snacking.
  • Carlson Super D Omega 3 Cod Liver Oil
  • Magnesium Lactate

Keep all this stuff on hand, and you’ll have everything you need to make a tasty primal meal.

So, that’s an introduction in a nutshell!  Hopefully you found it somewhat helpful.

My concrete blood

My parents are having a craft show at the end of this month.  When I say “craft show,” I’m sure you think of crocheted doilies, handmade pottery, home-made wooden birdhouses, fudge, beaded bracelets, etc., etc.  Oh, if only my parents’ craft show consisted of those things.  Their craft show consists primarily of concrete.  Concrete lawn ornaments.  As in really heavy, dusty, solid, concrete lawn ornaments.  Lawn ornaments that need to be moved around, repositioned, cleaned and organized before said craft show. Don’t get me wrong – the show will have many of the aforementioned items, but we were not enlisted to help with those.  We were enlisted to move what had to be 4 tons of concrete.

The task actually aligned well with the primal directive to “lift heavy things.”  I did use the exercise as an excuse to indulge a bit this weekend – a few pork rinds here, a few chocolate covered prunes there, some milk in my coffee, and to cap it all off – NACHOS.  I’m probably actually going to be up a couple of pounds this weekend, despite actually working hard.

And here’s an interesting fact/observation for all of you out there trying this whole primal thing – I’ve noticed that my digestion is affected by my hormonal cycle.  About 10 days before that time of the month (sorry boys), I gain about 2 pounds, and about 2 days after, I drop 4.  During the weight gain period, my stomach gets easily upset, and almost everything I eat (except my eggs & avocado) makes it feel wonky.  I need to look this up on the MarksDailyApple forums to see if this is unique to me or to be expected.  Anyway, sorry if that is TMI.  For many woman who are interested in the primal diet, however, I think it will be JTRAOI (just the right amount of information).

Anyway, it actually felt pretty good to work up a sweat and to get dirty.  My life is spent 40 hours a week in a cubicle, so it’s absolutely lovely to be outside all day, in the sun, the wind, and the rain.  The birds were out in full force, and between the wind in the Whispering Pines and the birds in said pines, it was a full-on nature orchestra out there.  So beautiful.  I want to move out to the country, convert an old barn into a house (completely open first floor – no walls except for the bathroom and a 2nd floor loft bedroom), plant a garden, buy a gun and prepare for the impending anarchy.  Oh, and I need to learn how to can veggies.  Hopefully before the anarchy strikes.

Ah, as I always say, tomorrow is another day. I’ll be back on the primal wagon – got some excellent meals planned (primal Italian wedding soup, pork with radish hash, heavenly meatloaf, salmon, sausage and sauteed sauerkraut and primal hot cereal), and hopefully we can get our weight bench set up, so I can start doing some more upper body weights.  My tri-ceps are getting all wobbly and disgusting.  At least my biceps are perking up a bit.  I’ve also started focusing on pull-ups more.  I’m doing a flexed arm hang for 15+ seconds and lowering myself slowly to the ground (a reverse pull-up).  I can do TWO of those.  I’m amazing, I know. I have been toying with the idea of doing Crossfit for a month, to learn good form, but it’s wicked expensive.  My older bro keeps trying to convince me it’s worth it, but at this point I should really be spending the money on clothes that actually fit me!  I’ll see how I feel at the beginning of April.  My weight loss/fitness has started to plateau – I have a sneaking suspicion it’s because of the copious amount of cheating I have been doing.  If I can’t get myself straightened out, I might bite the bullet.  Or I just might buy The Paleo Solution.  Maybe that will get me back on track. I’ve been listing to Robb Wolf’s podcast, and it’s really good.  I’m sure the book is good too.

Well, that’s it for today folks.  Hope your Sunday was awesome.  Here is a picture of the cutest dog ever (who just got a double-scrub and blow-dry this afternoon) to send you off with a smile on your face.

One Success, One Failure

Last night I made a super delicious recipe: Easy Breakfast Scramble.  It’s from one of my favorite recipe/paleo blogs, Paleomg.  Get it??  Get it??  Anyway, the writer makes the most delicious foods and tons of paleo desserts.  Every one I’ve tried has been very tasty.

But back to the scramble. As you can see from the recipe, it’s very simple and basic.  The only odd ingredient (at least for my kitchen) was the Herbs De Provence.  I had never heard of it. I was wary that it was similar to the “peace and love” that I was missing for my last recipe.  Come to find out, Herbs De Provence is a mix of several different herbs native to Provence.  I found some substitution sites, however, so I ended up tossing together some marjoram, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, etc.  It was quite the motley crew of spices, but the scramble turned out very tasty non-the-less.  I ate it with some Cholula and 1/2 an avocado.  It did make a ton, though, so my only concern at this point is eating it all before it gets old.

Tonight was another story.  I tried another primal recipe, Flank Steak Italiano.  This recipe was a huge disappointment. The meat turned out almost inedible – very tough and chewy.  I’m not sure why besides the fact that it’s a grass-fed flank steak, so it’s predisposed to be tough and chewy.  It was an expensive mistake though – what with the cost of the grass fed meat, the wine, 2 onions, garlic, lemon, etc.  Plus I had to prepare the marinade before work, stink up the kitchen with cut-up red onions, etc.  I probably did something wrong for it to end up so poorly, but I don’t know what.  At least the accompanying salad was good (spinach, radishes, carrots, celery, mushrooms, broccoli, cucumbers – tasty!).

But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  As I told Tim, only rib-eyes for us going forward.  I’ve been burned by flank steak one too many times.

UPDATE:  I was thinking about this more last night and realized that part of my problem with the flank steak was that the marinade had wine in it.  After the meat is done marinating, you dump the marinade in a pan and heat it up.  I HATE the smell of wine cooking.  It has this unsettling sweet smell.  Shudder.  Note to self – no more cooking with wine!