sugar

Warning: Clean Eating Post!

A friend asked me to get them a cup of coffee the other day. Four creams. Two Equals.

There is so much wrong there, but let’s just concentrate on the Equal for a moment, shall we?

I countered that Equal was poison. They acted shocked and said, “Really? So I should get sugar?”

Really?

I don’t drink coffee. I never have. I tried it for a while in high school and just didn’t like it. I feel like I want to like coffee. I feel like I would like the ritual of coffee. But I just don’t like the taste. So, I don’t drink it.

I stopped using artificial sweeteners long before I began clean eating. Let’s just begin by looking at the name – artificial sweeteners.

I won’t get all scientific. We’ve all heard that artificial sweeteners may cause cancer, weight gain and migraine headaches. But I’m not a scientist, so I’ll just stop at the word “artificial”. And that’s enough reason right there to not put it in my body.images (3)

So would I recommend sugar instead? Well, I wouldn’t really recommend artificial sweeteners or sugar, but if I had to choose? Sugar. At the very least, it has connections to something natural, and that is far better than the chemical shitstorm that is Equal.

Since I started clean eating, I don’t use sugar anymore either. If I need to sweeten something, I use honey or maple syrup. Occasionally, I’ll use coconut sugar in a recipe, but for the most part, I just don’t find it necessary anymore.

Y’all, this is coming from a former 4 Coke-a-day person….a glazed-donut-eating, sweet-tea-drinking sugar-holic.

Sometimes all I can do is look back at my former self and shake my head.

Since I switched to drinking only water, my tastes have totally changed. Even when I drink hot herbal tea now, I don’t sweeten it at all. I find that I love the taste of the herbs and it isn’t necessary to cover the flavors with sweetness.

Our addiction to sugar can be difficult to break. I can tell you though, there is an endpoint to the addiction and the benefits are amazing. Just by quitting drinking Coke 2 years ago, I lost 9 pounds in about 2 weeks.

Here are a few ways to break that sugar cycle:

  • Eat lots of fresh, whole fruits
  • Stay away from artificial sweeteners
  • Clean out your pantry! Sugar is hiding everywhere!!
  • Go cold turkey! One bite usually leads to two…

I know it’s not easy. Believe me. I know it’s not easy. I did it. But once that sugar craving turns off, it turns off.

To go from literally craving Coke and sweet tea as my drink of choice all day long, to not even being able to imagine taking a sip of either is astounding. I feel so much better, too.

Sugar is a known inflammatory. Chronic low-grade inflammation can contribute to a number of conditions. Some of these are:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Acne

Wait. Acne? Yes, acne. My skin was never awful, but I often found myself lamenting the random, well-placed zit on my face. I’m an adult! Why am I still getting acne??

Our skin is the largest organ in our body. It only makes sense that our nutrition would affect the way it looks.

Clean eating = beautiful skin!

I overheard a conversation the other day at the grocery store. A clerk was talking to a customer and she was explaining to the customer how she was doing a sugar detox. The customer reacted pretty typically:

The horrified “No sugar at all?!?!”

The clerk responded that she could eat fruit, but that no, she was not eating sugar in any form. She said that it was hard, but she was 13 days in and she was feeling really good.

The customer then said the one phrase that I absolutely cannot stand:

“I wish I could do that.”

UGGHH!!!

Then do it! This doesn’t require superpowers! If you want to feel better, it is literally in your own hands. Every piece of food that you carry to your lips is an opportunity to make a better decision.

We look to big pharma to cure us, when our diets are the ultimate panacea.

This is about your health.

I can’t think of a better reason.

#notmylimitations

DORSAL TALUS

The Way Things Happen

I finally got to go rock climbing again the other night. It’s my favorite activity, and I don’t get to do it nearly as often as I would like.

I was starting a route in what is known as a “sit-start”. You basically have your hands on two holds, your feet on two holds, and you are usually in a sideways sitting position. The first major reach was pretty long, and I was on my fourth try to grab it. As I pulled myself out of the sit-start and reached for the rock again, my fingers barely grazed the rock, I lost my grip on the wall and stepped back with my right foot, closely followed by a step back with my left foot.

And that’s when my ankle rolled.

I’m not an ankle-roller. Some people are prone to it. I’ve never done it before in my life. I walked it out. It stung a little bit, but I kept climbing. Every once in a while my ankle would start to tighten up and I would stretch it out, but for the most part, I babied it and ignored it.

After I got home, I iced it and fell asleep.

I woke up at 3:00 am to go to the restroom, and couldn’t put any weight on my foot at all. Like, none. I hopped into my office, dug up a pair of crutches from when my daughter was younger and made my way into the kitchen to get another ice pack. I crutched my way back to bed, Googled some stuff about ankle sprains, and fell asleep with my ice pack on.

The next morning was not much better and while I was at work, I made the decision to have it checked out. I went to a walk-in clinic (ha!) and had my ankle x-rayed.

When the doctor came in, he was palpating all around my ankle and asking me if each spot hurt. When he got to the outside of my ankle bone, he asked if it hurt and I said no, but then I explained that that was one of my “dead spots”.

Let me explain.

Eleven years ago, I had major back surgery. I had a herniated disc at L4-L5. But it was an 11 mm central protrusion, so the surgery was a bit more involved. I had a discectomy and laminectomy and everything went very well. After the surgery, the surgeon explained that he had to be pretty rough with some of the surrounding nerves in order to access the herniation. During my recovery, I discovered I had some spots in my left leg that were “fired up”. They felt like pins and needles. Over the next few months, these sensations gradually gave way to my dead spots. The back of my left calf, the outside of my left ankle, the ball of my left foot, and the bottom sides of two of my toes.

Flash forward to Friday, when I was explaining this to the doctor. He sat back and looked at me and said, “Well that explains your x-rays.”

He said that my x-rays looked weird, but he couldn’t figure out why. He told me to hold both of my legs out straight and look at my ankles. I don’t know why I’ve never noticed this before, but my left leg dips way in right above my outside ankle bone. He pointed to that area and explained that on the x-ray, he could see that the muscle in that area was completely atrophied. And now he understood why. If the nerves to that area are dead, the muscle isn’t receiving any messages to respond, so it atrophies. And that is likely why my ankle rolled in the first place, I have no muscle there to support it.

I’ve never really thought I had motor problems with my left leg before, it’s mostly been sensory, but now that I think about it, if I stumble on the treadmill, it’s because my left foot dragged a little.

Watching myself do squats in a mirror, my left knee wobbles and drifts a bit and I have to concentrate hard to stabilize it.

And now I know why.

There’s nothing to be done for it. If the muscle isn’t being enervated, it atrophies. But it’s nice to be aware of it. I can continue doing whatever I want, but maybe just a bit more cautiously.

So for now, I’m in a sexy, black boot, awaiting the official reading of the x-rays. I have a possible hairline fracture, or just a sprain. Either way, I now have information I would never have known had I not rolled my ankle.

Squats are out for the time being, but I figure, by the end of this, my arms, back and abs will look amazing!

Silver linings, guys, silver linings!

#notmylimitations

Chanterelle Quesadillas

Lovely Chanterelles

Every once in a while, there is an item in my farm box that I am unfamiliar with. Liiiiiiike this one:

Chanterelle Mushrooms
Chanterelle Mushrooms

You may be sitting there going, “Well, that’s a chanterelle.”

And I’m happy for you.

I was sitting there going, “What the….”

I mean, give me a little credit. I knew it was a mushroom. I just didn’t know what kind. Or what to do with it.

So I hit the internet to check it out.

I found out that chanterelles are best cooked, and, well, it was lunch time…..

So I cooked them!

Um, I kind of made the most amazing quesadilla. You’ll have to try it!

Chanterelle Quesadillas
Chanterelle Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 5 chanterelle mushrooms
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 2 slices fresh mozzarella, chopped
  • 1/8 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large tortilla (I used Udi’s Gluten Free)

 

Instructions

Melt coconut oil in small skillet. Add chanterelles and saute until lightly browned. Add chopped onion and continue to cook another 3-4 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent. Remove chanterelles and onions to a small plate, and slice the chanterelles.

In a small bowl, combine cheeses, thyme and pepper. Add chanterelle and onion mixture and mix well with a spoon until well-blended.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add tortilla and warm on one side. Flip tortilla over and spoon ingredients onto one half. Fold the other half over to make a half-moon. Heat for 1-2 minutes. Flip and heat other side.

Remove from heat, cut into wedges and serve. Enjoy!

#notmylimitations

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Leaping

I was at work today, standing by the front door, watching the endless rain…I looked down at the black door mat that I was standing on and there was a fly hopping around on the mat. Which was weird for a fly. I opened the door and squatted down to help him out, only to find out that it wasn’t a fly. It was the tiniest black frog!! So cute! I let him hop onto my finger and then went outside to set him under a bush.

When I got home from work, I walked up to my front door, and saw another tiny black frog hopping around!!

So of course I took his picture!!

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Okay. You know me…

One frog. Cute and random.

Two frogs?

Well that requires some research!! So off to the internet I went….

I found out that frogs are a sign of rebirth or renewal. Seeing a frog is said to be a sign that it is time to make some changes or begin a transformation.

Just understanding the life cycle of a frog gives meaning to this belief. Frogs go through so many changes in such a short period of time to reach full adulthood, it is no wonder the ancients chose it as a symbol of transformation.

Frogs are also believed to be a sign that you are working to enhance your intuition and strengthen your connection with the spirit world.

And the frogs I saw were in doorways which is just super cool!! What bigger sign for a transition is there than a doorway?!?!

I love that, even after the extreme changes that I have been through in the last two years, I can still be excited and look forward to even more changes and transitions!

I have no idea what I am leaping toward, but I can’t wait!!

#notmylimitations

Chai Sweet Potato Quinoa Bowl

Chai Sweet Potato Quinoa Bowl

I had one pre-cooked sweet potato left and was prowling the kitchen looking for a good post-workout meal. I grabbed the container of quinoa that I keep in the fridge and as I was closing the door, the carton of chai caught my eye…

Hmmm…

I’m not a fan of coffee, or caffeine in general. My general hot drink of choice is an herbal tea, but occasionally I will enjoy a chai.

Chai is a wonderful combination of black tea and spices. The most common spices used are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pepper. I love hot chai in the winter time for it’s warming, soothing effects. But I also like cold chai in the summertime! Chai can be a great digestive aid and give you a comforting sense of well-being.

You can buy chai in different forms, but I prefer to buy it in concentrate form. It’s the black tea and spices pre-mixed in a carton and you just have to use a little bit and add milk to make a yummy drink! We use almond milk and its sweetness means that no additional sweetener is necessary.

So. I grabbed the chai. And the almond milk. And the almonds. And the cacao nibs.

Chai Sweet Potato Quinoa Bowl
Chai Sweet Potato Quinoa Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 cooked sweet potato
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chai concentrate
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/8 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs

Instructions

Add sweet potato, quinoa, chai and almond milk to a bowl and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes. If you are not using a microwave, place the ingredients into a small pot and reheat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

When first four ingredients are fully heated, top with almonds and cacao nibs and enjoy!

#notmylimitations

Matcha Avocado Smoothie Bowl

Matcha Avocado Smoothie Bowl

On the scale of epic, creamy smoothie bowls, this one’s a winner!!!

Once again I didn’t feel like having “food” for dinner. This happens to me a lot post-workout, so I just go with it. My smoothie bowls are full of goodness, so it’s not like I’m actually missing a meal, I’m just eating it with a spoon!

This came out so yummy, I just had to share it with you!

Matcha Avocado Smoothie Bowl
Matcha Avocado Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 small avocado
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 5-6 slices frozen peach
  • 2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp matcha green tea powder
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

Instructions

Add all ingredients to Nutribullet or blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and top with banana, pumpkin seeds, Qi’a cereal – or whatever you wish!! Enjoy!!

#notmylimitations

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Pause. And Move On.

Have you ever had an opportunity come up that you were just sure was the culmination of your hard work and dreams…only to have it not work out?

Yeah…

It’s interesting. I tend to take a backseat to my life. Things just “happen” to me, and I like it that way. I shy away from the “hopes and dreams” kind of life because I believe in enjoying each little thing as it comes along. Having no expectations allows me to appreciate the small things.

I recently was offered an opportunity. A writing opportunity. It seemed like it was mine for the taking. It seemed like it was the direction that my new life had been leading me to all along. And I was so ready for it.

I’ve always loved writing. When I was younger, I wrote poetry. In school, research papers were a breeze. Writing comes naturally to me and this blog has really been my first opportunity to stretch my wings, so to speak.

This writing opportunity though. I mean, wow. It would have given me experience in the “real world”, you know? As a WRITER. A part-time writer, but a paid writer.

And I wanted it.

A lot.

The communication went from “you are the clear favorite for this position” to….well….nothing. For two weeks.

I was feeling less and less like the clear favorite.

I finally took it upon myself to make contact and was told that they had decided to hire a full time writer. Oh, and “so sorry we haven’t found the time to dig through the emails and tell you that”.

Is it too early to say I feel grateful for not getting the position?

So here’s me, trying to find meaning in a clear disappointment. Trying to rationalize that it wasn’t the right thing for me. Trying to understand that it’s because something better will be coming along.

Because it will. And I know this.

Deep breath.

Chaos and randomness abound.

I am living a perfect example of this theory.

And so I breathe. I take a step back and just breathe.

In the realm of my experience, this is but a small disappointment in my life. It wasn’t ever even really mine, but it gave me joy and lifted me up for a short period of time. It gave me something exciting to share with my family, if only for a few days. It gave me a feeling of worthiness, that someone recognized my writing as exemplary. That I was even being considered for the position.

It also gave me insight into just how important writing is to me.

I still believe my life is moving in a direction unbeknownst to me. I still believe that all of this is happening for a reason.

I believe in the reason. I trust in the mystery.

This is my experience.

In my universe, I am sitting at a scarred, wooden table in streaming sunlight and shaping it with my own calloused hands.

buddha-quote-with-elephant

Blueberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese

Blueberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese

So, there’s the grilled cheese sandwich that you grew up with, and then there’s this grilled cheese sandwich. And this grilled cheese sandwich is faaaaaaaancy.

A friend of mine owns a great store in Dallas, TX called Evoo & Vin. They sell (you guessed it!) extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Unfortunately, I don’t live in Texas, but due to my incessant fig posts on Facebook, Nicole showed me a little kindness by sending me some fantastic bottles of her good stuff! The first piece of good news is, we can order these amazing bottles of goodness online from her store, so check it out at www.evooandvin.com!!

The second piece of good news? Well, her gift inspired me to make this Blueberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese sandwich.

And you’re gonna be happy.

Blueberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese
Blueberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 tbsp Wild Blueberry Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 slices bread (I used Udi’s Gluten Free Sandwich Bread)
  • small handful of fresh spinach
  • 1-2 tbsp goat cheese, crumbled
  • butter, softened

Instructions

Add blueberries and balsamic to a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring well. Smash the blueberries as you stir. When the blueberries are all smashed and you have a nice syrup, remove from the heat.

Heat a small skillet on medium high heat.

To assemble your sandwich, place the spinach leaves on one side of the bread. Top with the crumbled goat cheese. Spoon the blueberry syrup over the top and place the second slice of bread on top. Spread the softened butter on the top slice of bread and place in the warmed skillet, butter side down. Butter the top of the slice of bread that is now facing up. When bottom of sandwich is golden brown, flip the sandwich. When bottom is golden brown again, remove from skillet and serve. Cut in half if you wish. Enjoy!!

#notmylimitations

eat-real-food

Clean Eating with a Family

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I would love to eat that way, but I have a family.”

What?!?!?!

Having a family is not an excuse to avoid eating well. You should be clean eating because you have a family.

The only reason your children have the expectation of packaged, processed foods is because you have trained them that way. You buy it. They eat it.

When I first started clean eating, my then-16 year old daughter was walking around moaning all the time that she was hungry. There was nothing to eat. She couldn’t live the same way I did, she needed regular food.

She’ll laugh about it now, because now, she knows. Now, she understands what I was doing. Now, she has become a creative cook in the kitchen, preparing her own clean meals and snacks. She has the most amazing Pinterest boards for “Clean Eating” and “Gluten Free” and “Vegan” foods. She just came back from a vacation with her dad and some friends and griped that they didn’t have “her kinds of foods”. So she was making morning runs to buy a smoothie or some granola. She’s learning how to live a clean-eating life and I am so proud of her.

I’m also proud of myself. Yes, I potty-trained her. Yes, I taught her how to read. Yes, I taught her how to tie her shoes, dress herself, ride a bike, drive a car. But just as important as all of those things, I have now given her the invaluable lesson of learning how to nourish her body. I have taught her the value of real food, and that is something she will carry for the rest of her life and pass on to her own children.

This is a priority. This is a duty, that you, as a parent, should not take lightly.

This is your child’s health. This is your child’s future. Why would you choose to provide them with food-like products, when what their bodies really want and need are real, clean foods?

Clean-eating has been proven to reduce incidence of disease. I am living proof of that. I was on my way to cholesterol reducing medication. I was taking over-the-counter and prescription medicines for daily headaches and migraines. My simple diet change has eliminated both of those health concerns. What future health concerns has my diet change postponed indefinitely or eliminated entirely?

I’m a little late to the game. I’m 46. My son is grown and is 27. My daughter is 17. I think of all of the wasted years that I could have been teaching them about the importance of real food. I wonder what could be different now for them if I had done this for their whole lives. My son suffers with headaches also. Could he also have a wheat allergy that would never have been an issue if I had fed him differently as a child? My daughter has issues with her ribs and connective tissues. There are many real foods on the list of foods that support healthy connective tissue growth and development. Nowhere on that list are Pop Tarts, Goldfish, Lucky Charms, SpaghettiO’s or Scooby Doo Fruit Snacks.

I seriously can’t believe myself.

Knowing what I know now, I feel so stupid.

If I had it to do all over again, my goodness, the things I would change. But I don’t. So I’m doing the best that I can with the time I have now.

It’s never too late to start, but don’t wait for a reason to wish you had done it sooner.

So where do you start?

Pinterest is a great resource. Whatever you normally cook, search for it on Pinterest and add the words “clean eating”. You’ll be amazed at the results you get. Clean eating isn’t cardboard chicken breasts and broccoli every night. I eat really, really well. It’s tasty. It’s healthy. And best of all, it’s real.

Packing school lunches? Again, Pinterest is a great resource. Search “clean eating school lunches”.

Have a weird vegetable or fruit you’re not sure what to do with? Go to Pinterest and search “clean eating eggplant”, or whatever fruit or veggie you’re trying to use up. It’s not that hard.

Slowly start introducing clean eating to your family. They either won’t notice, or they’ll be commenting on how much better everything tastes!! Real food tastes good!

#notmylimitations

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How to Start Clean Eating

You know those memories that pop up in your Facebook feed? Photos and posts that happened on today’s date, but in previous years?

Lately, I’ve had posts popping up from this time last year: my new pair of running shoes, some of my first smoothie bowls, some of my first clean eating recipes I started sharing.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been clean eating for almost 18 months, and exercising nearly every day for a year now.

It’s not even a choice anymore. It is most definitely my life now. I don’t even have to think twice.

I was driving home the other day and I passed a Sonic drive-up restaurant. It suddenly struck me as odd that I used to stop and buy fast food and soft drinks.

What started out as hard work has become second nature.

What started out as challenging has become simple.

What started out as conscious thought has become a no-brainer.

How did I do this? How do you do this?

Baby steps. This doesn’t have to be an overnight change. In fact, it would be close to impossible to create a change like this in a short period of time. Just like making or breaking any other habit, it can take time.

Try some of these steps below:

  1. Clean out your pantry. When I started this clean eating journey, one of the first things I did was to clean out my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. I literally threw away anything that did not fit into this lifestyle I was trying to achieve. I had made a commitment to not eating processed foods. Having them taking up space on the shelves in my kitchen was not doing anyone any good. These foods were slowly replaced with what I now consider my staples. Nuts, seeds, coconut oil, beans, sea salt, quinoa, almond butter, honey and of course, fresh fruits and vegetables. I didn’t do this all at once. Start slowly, and add things to your pantry as they come up in recipes. You’ll end up with a fantastic, healthy selection of real food that you count on to make a healthy snack or meal at any time.
  2. Buy the good stuff – but in moderation. One of the first big mistakes I made was to overbuy food. Real food rots. I was used to buying $200 – $300 worth of food every time I went to the grocery store. Processed food lasts much longer than real food. I would buy, buy, buy and stock, stock, stock. I’m not sure who or what I was stocking up for, but I could have survived a nuclear winter on what I had stocked in my home. I’ve finally learned how to buy for a few days at a time. Two things I have noticed: I now spend much less at the grocery store, and we produce much less garbage in our home. We basically eat all of the food that we now buy, with very little waste. There are no big boxes or packages to throw away, so I find that we are now producing 1-2 bags of garbage a week. Starting a compost heap would probably take care of about 30% of that waste and is probably in my near future.
  3. Be prepared. One of the easiest and fastest ways to fall off of the clean eating wagon is to not be prepared. You’re out someplace, you’re hungry, and gosh, doesn’t that (fill in the blank) look tasty! I always, always have food. I went to the beach today and in my cooler bag was a jar of overnight oats, a jar of chocolate chia seed pudding, a container of cantaloupe and strawberries, a banana, two plums, three figs, an apple, a snack pack of cheese, dried fruits and nuts and three bottles of water. This was after a muffin and smoothie for breakfast, and with the expectation of eating lunch at a restaurant. Meal prepping on Sundays is another practice I have adopted. You don’t even have to cook entire recipes, just have components prepared and you can mix and match to make food bowls and salads.
  4. Eat 5-6 meals a day. Anyone who knows me well will tell you I eat all day long. Sounds great, right? It is! I have a large, green smoothie every morning. I pack a bag similar to the one above nearly every day. This provides me with fresh, healthy snacks to last me all day at work. I also have a lunch, usually packed from my meal-prep on Sunday. After work, I usually have a light snack, workout, then eat dinner. Before I go to bed, I usually have one more mini-meal such as a smoothie bowl, quinoa bowl, banana nice cream bowl, or just some cut up fruit. Clean eating is not about dieting. It’s about eating a natural, healthy diet of fresh, real foods to nourish your body.

I’m not making this sound easy. It is easy. I work full-time and I’m still making this happen.

You can do it, too!

You will be amazed at how different you feel. You may even cure an ailment or two along the way. My two big pre-clean eating complaints were high cholesterol and headaches. Yeah. I don’t have those anymore. In fact, I am the healthiest and fittest that I have ever been.

Clean eating is not a diet. It does not have an ending. It is a lifestyle that has a beginning. It will be the beginning of the healthiest, happiest part of your life.

And it lasts forever.

#notmylimitations