Thursday, April 24, 2014

whole30 - the whole story

Well folks day 30 came and without much particular fanfare. When we started this I was sure I would be dying at this point, salivating at the mere thought of a diet coke or a muffin. Instead I just feel a passionate desire to keep eating this way as much as possible. This is going to be a beast of a post because there really is no succinct way to verbalize how I feel about this experience. So thank you for bearing with me! 
I think the first thing that happened when we started Whole30 was a reassessment of our previous eating habits. We weren't eating poorly before, especially not at home. We don't have sweets and desserts at home, unless I make them, and I stuck to cooking fairly healthy meals. However, what we couldn't have seen without this journey was just how much we were snacking ALL THE TIME. This is killer. In between meals, several times a day we would essentially be having tiny little meals that rarely amounted to anything good. What we realized was that this completely prevented our body from functioning properly and from knowing when we should be full from a meal or how much of the meal to eat in the first place. With snacking out of the way we quickly learned to eat three large healthy meals a day. But most importantly we learned to be ok with being hungry. I think most of the West at this point has conditioned people to think that being hungry is a horrible thing and this feeling must be abated as soon as possible, thus fast food and food essentially EVERYWHERE you go - gas stations, home supply stores, even clothing stores!! 
Looking back on my life I now realize just how grateful I should be to my mum for the way she raised us. When I was a kid I thought she was harsh for never allowing us to snack between meals but now I realize how wise creating that healthy habit in us was. I remember often being hungry that last hour before lunch or dinner and I realize that that was a perfectly healthy and normal feeling. It's a feeling I completely erased from my life in college and thereon forward. It's taken time to retrain my mind, yes, but now that so much time has passed it feels good to be in a grocery store while hungry and not feel the desire to sneak a small bag of chips or a granola bar into my cart. Instead, I now wait until I'm home and if I'm that hungry I just go ahead and start working on lunch or dinner. 
Another huge revelation was seeing just how dependent I had become on sugar in my life. I couldn't drink a cup of tea without a dollop of honey, all of my non-water drinks had to be sweetened and dessert was not dessert unless it gave me a toothache. This was a hard one for me to kick since I inherited my dad's sweet tooth but about halfway in I realized that I was actually masking the natural flavors of whatever I was eating or drinking with all that sweetener. I also realized that some things are even more delicious in their natural state. This was a HUGE one for me. Now I'm not saying I'll never enjoy a piece of chocolate again (in fact I have a lovely chocolate bar waiting for me in the kitchen as I write this, a little present to myself for finishing) but I no longer view sugar as a daily necessity but as an occasional treat. 
Something that we took a very frank look at during this journey was our relationship with eating out and processed foods. This is the area where the change we decided to make is perhaps the most radical - no processed food or "bad/chain" restaurants EVER. There is simply no excuse. Essentially all processed food, whether savory or sweet, has sugar in it and the presence of that will inevitably break my ability to monitor what I'm eating and also break my bodies ability to process food in a normal and healthy way. Bad restaurants create a never ending cycle of overeating and dulling our palates. Not to mention the fact that we never used to eat out at these places without enjoying several refills of diet coke and we feel that we can't cut that out without cutting out its best enemy. By partaking in that kind of food we make it monstrously difficult for ourselves to continue making healthy choices, it would be too tempting to slide back into our old ways. 
This is actually a good place to talk about what it was like doing Whole30 while pregnant. I have previously mentioned that I had a terrible time during my first trimester, I was nauseous pretty much all day and throwing up several times a week. However, just like during my last pregnancy the one thing that seemed to "help" was fast food. French fries were like magic to me, instantly making the nausea subside. So for almost two months I was eating garbage practically every day. My skin looked awful, I felt lethargic and exhausted (partially due to pregnancy), just overall I felt terrible. So I was really looking forward to feeding my body well, not to mention I'm pretty sure my body was crying out for something other than a whopper. So eating healthy and super clean felt wonderful! My skin cleared up in a week, I had more energy than ever and I felt strong, healthy and happy. If anything I think pregnancy is the perfect time to do Whole30 (granted you're not dealing with morning sickness or food aversions). The fact that I was eating so many fruits and vegetables, drinking so much water and preparing my food in the cleanest way possible just made me feel empowered and thrilled to know that I was doing the best for myself and this little baby. 
But the most important thing that Whole30 taught my husband and me is that eating healthy and well is sustainable, realistic and a must. Cutting corners when it comes to mealtime isn't as innocent as we thought because essentially we are cutting corners with our health and the cost of that would one day be astronomical. So yes, perhaps to eat this way we have to spend a couple more hours in the kitchen every day, have more dirty dishes, spend a little more money and be more diligent with reading labels but the results are so worth it. In fact, cooking together during Whole30 has been one of our favorite parts of this experience. Papa bear was always a little shy in the kitchen and it has helped him gain so much confidence. Because of how much work is involved with cooking three meals every day I knew I could have never pulled it off on my own and we've had a blast prepping and cooking alongside each other, it's like an added bonus! 
I think I learned more about food and eating habits during these thirty days than I have in the last five years and I am so excited to go forward with renewed resolve and so many good new habits under my belt. I think this is going to be ongoing conversation in our house and I will do my best to keep you posted on how we do going forward. As they say eating healthy isn't a sprint, it's a marathon and we're going to keep learning and doing our best!
Before I sign off here is the last installment of our meals, these are dinners, lunches and snacks we've been having:

butternut squash soup
apples and almond butter
mango salsa and sweet potato chips
grilled steak & thai salad (marinated carrots, mango, tomatoes & lettuce)
tuna salad (tuna, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion & cucumber) & green beans
semi-homemade: chicken from the farmer's market, baked sweet potato & green beans
grilled flounder, roasted asparagus & tomato, cucumber & grilled onion salad
green beans, turkey meatballs, tomato sauce and tomatoes stuffed with avocado
chili - beef, sweet potato, squash & tomatoes topped with avocado & green onion
thai lettuce wraps - turkey, "peanut" sauce (I made my own with almond butter) cauliflower rice with pineapple and a mango, tomato & onion salad
I do want to briefly mention here that I am aware that we are very fortunate in that due to our current work situation it affords my husband and myself a lot of time at home, this made Whole30 much easier since we could actually cook from scratch three meals a day. This would definitely be more difficult for someone working 9 to 5 outside of the home. However, the days that papa bear traveled for work we got creative with packing his meals the night before and making sure he had healthy snacks on hand with him. I think one way around this predicament would be spending more time prepping meals one day a week and also cooking bigger batches of food so as to have more leftovers. We actually naturally got better at this by the end. And as far as the expense goes I will be honest with you and just share how it worked for us:

- 1st week to set up: $250 at Costco
- 3rd week: $100 at Costco
- 4th week: $70 at Trader Joe's

It is expensive to set up your fridge and pantry initially but as time goes by it actually becomes cheaper and cheaper to eat this way, especially since we practically stopped eating out. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

a family of... four!

We are so thrilled to finally share our big news with you!! We are going to be a family of four come this October! To be honest it still hasn't completely sunk in. It was a total surprise when we found out and we've been bursting with excitement, anticipation and some trepidation ever since. We always thought Birdie would be a bit older before we would bring another baby into our family but as with most things in life now that it's really happening we see just how perfect the timing is. 
I'm fifteen weeks along now and finally feeling better after a rough first trimester that I spent bedridden or throwing up. This pregnancy has kind of thrown me for a loop as it has been much more difficult than my first. But the good news is I've been feeling the baby much more and earlier than I ever did with Birdie. I don't know if it's the fact that I know what to expect but I've been feeling those first flutterings for a few weeks now and my goodness if it isn't the best feeling in the whole world! Now that I feel like myself again I'm actually surprised by how excited I am about the pregnancy - I'm loving seeing this little baby grow inside my and change the way I look. 
Every night when we climb in bed papa bear is so anxious about feeling the baby move. I tell him it's too early for him to feel anything yet so he just rubs my blossoming belly instead and asks me how the baby is doing today. More often or not this rolls into a conversation about all those questions we have about this child that we have yet to meet. There is nothing more wonderful than bringing home this tiny little baby that will open up and bloom like a flower before your very eyes, layers peeling away revealing someone so special and so unique. I just can't wait to meet him or her!!
Photos are courtesy of the lovely Saraya Cheney. We did a little family shoot with her (probably one of the last of us as a family of three) and I can't wait to share more of the photos with you and properly introduce Saraya as she was such a joy to work with! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

a week's worth of odds + ends

^ a new space for birdie's books ^
^ some products I've been loving lately ^
^ boots always on hand for a quick walk outside ^
^ summer clothes now fill birdie's drawers, can't wait for her to wear them! ^

Did this week go by super fast for anyone else? It feels like I blinked and it was Friday!! Which is awesome! I love when that happens. Especially when Friday means a trip up to DC to see family, have a few much needed date nights and probably a little bit of shopping. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about this!! I haven't seen my mama and papa in ages and I always relish a trip to my favorite city. 
And it doesn't hurt that this weekend is Easter Sunday. I've always had a special place in my heart for Easter. I suppose a part of me even misses the Russian Easter tradition. The Saturday night candlelight vigils and the sound of church bells ringing through the air at the first sign of daybreak. There was so much reverence and sanctity to the whole occasion. It was a time for rebirth, you could see it on the tear stained faces of the parishioners walking home with their blessed pascha's frosted in white. I too am looking forward to taking some time this Sunday morning to reflect on where I am in my relationship with God, where I would like to be and to allow God to work in me. 

Wishing all of you a wonderful weekend and may you be blessed in this wonderful new season!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

whole30 - must haves

I can't believe there are just a handful of days left before we finish our Whole30! It went by so much faster than I expected and was much easier than I expected. I do believe that a lot of has to do with preparation and having the right ingredients and tools on hand. On that note I wanted to share a little bit about things that we found really helpful on this journey. 
Let me start out by saying that pre-Whole30 both papa bear and I had a big problem with diet coke or just sweetened beverages in general. I was the worst, I couldn't even imagine eating a meal without some sort of "juice" or soda. So I knew a glass of water with lunch or dinner wouldn't cut it. We instead stocked up on Pellegrino at Costco and I took Jenna's recommendation and bought the Tazo iced tea in passion that I already loved so much at Starbucks. I would make batches of the iced tea or jugs of water with berries and citrus fruit and I can honestly say I happily enjoy my meals with either one of those beverages. There are even days I do just have a glass of water (we drink plain water throughout the day as staying hydrated is of utmost importance). 

Next, I'll brake down the products we use the most on a practically daily basis:
  1. Pineapple - this was a lifesaver for me when it came to cutting my sweet tooth. The first few weeks I practically lived on this stuff - just cut up in a bowl with some mango, in a smoothie or to flavor my water. My "dessert" cravings are essentially gone now but I've loved adding pineapple to savory dishes as well - kebabs, cauliflower "rice" or just sautéed with veggies. So, so good. Costco has fantastic ones for pretty cheap too!
  2. Eggs - these little darlings will become your best friend on this diet. It's absolutely insane how many eggs we end up going through in this house per week! I eat some version of eggs for breakfast practically every day, we snack on hard boiled eggs (that are easy as pie to make in the oven) and I've whipped up an omelet for dinner when I'm feeling lazy. I've been getting the most divine bright yellow ones at the farmer's market and I don't think I could ever go back, even Whole Foods eggs don't have yolks this bright!
  3. Grill pan - this thing is our everything. From the very beginning we both knew that if we weren't eating meals that were even more delicious than what we regularly ate we would never make it. Grill pan to the rescue! We picked this one up at T.J. Maxx for $15 and I have no complaints! Thanks to this pan we have had kebabs, steak, lamb chops and grilled just about anything you can imagine. It's also such a healthy way to cook your proteins. It's provided us with some very, very delicious and decadent meals with very little effort. 
  4. Bananas - these are a close tie with eggs for how many we go through. Breakfast, snacks and as a base for smoothies we eat this all day every day. I buy a good two or three bunches every weekend and end up freezing half a dozen or so on Sunday to have them ready for smoothies. Papa bear's patented snack has become a banana with some almond butter, not my thing but he loves it!
  5. Coconut milk - this has become my dessert. It is the most amazing base for smoothies! It instantly takes a boring smoothie up a notch, making it taste like something you would enjoy while on vacation. This brand in particular is great because it's free of anything yucky. We get ours at our local Asian market but I've heard you can get it through Amazon too. 
  6. Limes - we must have gone through five pounds of these at this point. Throw it in some water, drizzle it on meat or do what I do practically every day and use it as the easiest dressing in the world to add a little kick to any salad. Love, love, love these things!
  7. Coconut oil spray - I'm not sure who else sells this other than Trader Joe's but it is fantastic. For how many times a day we end up using frying pans we couldn't live without this stuff - easy and no mess. Plus it smells like Hawaii!
  8. Tazo Iced Tea in "Passion" - I already talked about this at the beginning of this post so I'll simply say - this stuff is awesome and refreshing!
I also want to mention that I made a big batch of clarified butter at the beginning of our Whole30 journey and I am SO glad I did. I save it for things like green beans and asparagus but it's perfect for when you're craving that buttery flavor as opposed to olive oil or coconut oil. This is how to do it!

I hope you find this helpful and as always feel free to ask me any questions you may have. And I have to reiterate that Jenna is the ultimate resource and inspiration! She has so much great material on her instagram so make sure to pay her a visit!

Next week keep an eye out for posts about our lunches and dinners as well as my post about finishing Whole30!!!