And Now For Something Completely Different…

This time around, I’m not going to apologize for my (rather extended) hiatus. My life got turned upside down in the best possible way; we have a tiny human! And even better we managed to keep her alive for a whole year! And I left the world of miserable cubicle work and am now working on an organic farm. All of this to say, I have been doing a whole lot of living life and not a heck of a lot of writing about it.

If I’m totally honest, I have completely fallen off the wagon of fitness and nutrition. I need to remedy that, and I’m hoping blogging can help. I also plan on including a little more lifestyle related posts (a little bit of design, crafting, and parenting maybe) and I will leave it up to the people how the content balance plays out. I have seen some of my favorite foodie blogs turn into fashion blogs and visa versa so I’ll just share what I love and you guys just have to let me know what you like. Deal?

So what have you lovely readers been up to for the past year?

5 Great Gluten Free Snacks

If you’re anything like me, then you’re probably going to be spending most of the next month driving around visiting family. My husband has a a really close family, and me being an only child, we can wind up at as many as 3 Thanksgivings and at least 2 Christmases. Being on the road during the holiday season is no excuse to totally throw in the towel on healthy eating and just leave it for January, just throw some of these healthy treats in your bag whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile.

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Five Tips For Your First Vegetable Garden

Five Tips For Starting a Vegetable Garden

So anyone who follows me on basically any social media outlet knows that the husband and I spent this weekend installing this year’s vegetable garden. We have both made an effort to really focus on getting more vegetables in our diet, and sometimes that can get a little expensive so why not grow them in our own yard for pennies compared to the grocery store? I really believe in eating as healthfully and sustainable as possible without having to take out a second mortgage to fund it, so I will let all of my readers learn from our many failed attempts so hopefully you can enjoy the bounty of your garden (no matter the size).

Five Tips For Your First Vegetable Garden

 

Only Grow What You Like to Eat

I know many people enter the world of vegetable gardening are doing so to increase their own vegetable intake, and can sometimes try to do too much too soon and buy all of these exotic vegetables they’ve never tried because they thing it sounds like the healthy thing to do. While eating a wide variety of plants is always ideal, they provide you no nutritional benefits by sitting in your refrigerator or rotting on the vine. No one in our house is fond of eggplant or the more bitter greens, so they don’t make an appearance in our garden, but we do eat tomatoes on a daily basis (sometimes at just about every meal in one form or another) so we have 16 total tomato plants in our garden this year from tiny cherry tomatoes to giant beefsteaks. A productive home garden will likely overwhelm you with produce, so make sure you are picking things you already know you’ll enjoy. If you’re just getting on the veggie bandwagon and have no idea where to start, I highly recommend growing some tomatoes, zucchini, and strawberries to get you started. All of these can be enjoyed raw or cooked in about 1000 different ways and they’re all fairly easy to grow (and with some TLC, your strawberries will come back year after year).

Do Some Good Research

What zone do I live in? When are my frost dates? How many hours of sun will my garden get? These are three questions you’ll need to get answers to before you even begin to pick what you want to grow in your garden. We live on a mountain that keeps frost about 2-3 weeks later than the surrounding area, so we really have gotten the timing of our garden down to a science after having to run outside before bed to put buckets over the strawberries because we’ve gotten a freeze warning in mid-April, so I highly recommend doing all of this research well in advance (aka winter) to plan and time your spring garden well. A good rule of thumb is if you’re growing plants for the fruit or the root you’ll need a spot that gets full sun (8+ hours a day), but if you’re growing something for the leaves you can sometimes get away with partial sun (4-8 hours, ideally in the morning and evening). Once you’ve got your plants picked out, try to make sure you know how to keep them happy by doing a quick search for spacing, watering schedule, and what types of fertilizer it prefers. Once you get the basics down you can really get nerdy with this gardening stuff, and there are more gardening books, blogs, and articles than any master gardener could read in a lifetime.

A Woman With A Plan

Go In With a Plan

Draw yourself a little map of your garden and plan out what plants should go where, keeping in mind spacing needs and height differences. I recommend starting with a nice round square footage and creating a 1 foot by 1 foot grid for yourself within that space since most plants tend to be spaced out at pretty even fractions of a foot (12, 6, or 4 inches apart) this will made your spacing super simple and easy to translate once you get out to the garden. The plan you see above was based on two 4’x4′ plots, and divided each square foot up when I needed to. Once you have your layout complete, make a list of the plants and the quantities you’ll need, AND STICK TO THE LIST. It is far too easy to get overexcited when you get to the nursery and buy a whole farm’s worth of vegetables, which I promise you will only cause you heartbreak if you don’t have the time to commit to that many plants.

Start Small

If you have never gardened before, and can keep the plants in your care healthy and happy, you will be blown away by the amount of produce you can get from just a few plants. Even keeping two or three tomato plants on an apartment patio could put a major dent in your weekly grocery budget with the additional satisfaction of growing them yourself. One of my all time favorite gardening books is (affiliate link) Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work and I still have the well loved, stained, paper back copy boasting “A Guide to Accompany the Popular PBS Show!” that my parents used to build their own gardens at every house we’ve lived in. This is where I learned how much you can grow in a tiny 4’x4′ space with the proper care and planning, and that even includes watering only 1-2 times every week!

Jalapeno Business!

 

Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself

We already have too much stress in our lives, don’t force gardening to be one of those stressors in your life. We bought our first house in 2011, and I have tried and failed to create a garden all three summers so far, but each time I got a little bit closer to the right answer. Use your garden as an excuse for some time away from all the screens we sit in front of, use it to teach your kids about where food comes from and get them excited about new foods, use it as a way to spend more time with your four legged friends (they love to… *ahem* help), but you are not allowed to use it as a reason to bite your fingernails, lose sleep, or beat yourself up. You are going to make mistakes, you are going to kill some plants, you are going to track mud in the house, and you are going to forget to water your garden, and it’s going to be okay. Master gardeners everywhere have gone through the same growing pains, and they are better gardeners for them. Through the trials and triumphs, keep in mind my absolute favorite gardening quote…

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

Without a tomorrow there could be no blooms, and without a day after that there could be no fruit, believe in tomorrow because it is coming anyway.

 

Have you ever planted a vegetable garden? What was your most successful year or favorite thing to grow?

Love List – Victory Belt Publishing

Oh my goodness, this has been a whirlwind of a weekend so far. About a month ago I entered a contest to celebrate the release of a new cookbook by some of my favorite bloggers with the hopes of winning a chance to hang out with George of Civilized Caveman, Julie of PaleOMG, and Pete of Pete’s Paleo in San Diego. And guess what guys? I won! There was a lot of dancing around and maybe just a little celebratory giggling.

So to celebrate this awesome experience coming my way, I purchased the rights to http://www.littlespoonblog.com and made this whole blogging thing officially official. Also, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite Victory Belt books because if you don’t already know what awesome works these guys have published, you need to know!

The Paleo Kitchen

Preordering this awesome cookbook entered me to win the contest, and it will come out on June 10th and you should go reserve your copy now if you haven’t already. Juli was the first paleo blog I ever subscribed to, and her slow cooker recipes have saved me more than once. If you miss some of your pre-paleo grain filled favorites, you need this cookbook because George has gotten paleo baking down to a art form!

The Paleo Coach

Jason Seib is just an all around amazing guy. If you’ve gotten all the information you need about diet and nutrition, but can’t seem to act on it, this is the book you need. Jason dives into the science of why the standard American diet isn’t working for us, and the psychology behind making real change in your life. He presents everything in a super easy to understand voice so don’t worry, you don’t need a MS in Nutrition to get all of the information you need.

Practical Paleo

If you’re just starting with a paleo lifestyle, this is book I recommend you pick up. Most of Diane’s recipes can either be precooked ahead of time, or are easy to put together on a weeknight after work (trust me, I’ve followed her digestive health meal plan!). She starts by breaking down the nuts and bolts of nutrition with a TON of great visuals, and then you get a whole cookbook attached to it too! It’s seriously two books in one. I love it!

Fermented

Are you looking to take your whole food or canning game to the next level? Pick up a copy of Fermented by Jill Ciciarelli and you’ll be transported to a whole new world of preserving and improving your favorite foods. I have always struggled with digestive health, and especially after having to be on some pretty serious antibiotics at the beginning of the year, and a little bit of super flavorful fermented foods can really go a long way in getting me back on track.

So that’s what is sitting on my bookshelf from my friends at Victory Belt. Do you have some cookbooks you’re looking forward to, or have read so often they automatically open to your favorite pages? Tell me all about them in the comments!

Disclaimer! All of the book links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links, so any purchases made by following those links will help support this blog. I have not been asked to endorse any of these products, I just love them and I think you would love them too! 

My Relationship With Food (or how I broke my metabolism)

Anyone who has watched an episode of The Biggest Loser or any other popular weight-loss show, they always try to get to the root of why people are overeating. I struggle with this for myself because to be perfectly honest, I have had a fairly comfortable life and a pretty normal childhood. When asked on college entrance essays about “the biggest struggles I ever faced” I had to roll my eyes because honestly, I’m a white girl from an upper middle class family who hasn’t ever really wanted for much. So I had to think back to when I started to gain weight.

Looking back my weight gain started right about the same time as I was really hitting puberty, and unfortunately the same time we realized that our family history of depression and anxiety had not passed me by. While hormones probably played a role in the early stages, I was then put on anti-depressants which, for me, had the side effects of increasing my appetite and killing my already kinda sluggish metabolism. I don’t think I was ever born to be a svelte little gymnast, but the combination of teenage angst and a broken metabolism caused me to turn to food for comfort.

I can’t blame my parents in the least for the situation I’ve gotten myself into. I was always a picky eater, and naturally I gravitated to the worst foods for me. Ice cream, mac and cheese, chicken tenders, and, of all things, peas. I went through a Cesar salad stage, but even then the pounds kept coming on. I was once on my way to becoming a reasonably competitive swimmer, and suddenly I couldn’t hack it at practice, much less at a Saturday meet.

And that’s when I stopped moving. I ate crap, I drank more soda than water, and I spent a lot of time on the internet. My life was kind of out of control emotionally between the boyfriends, occasional bullying, and eventually the move during my last year of middle school and food was my comfort. I loved to cook, and despite my family not always being on board with what I made (too spicy, too vegetarian, etc) I did enjoy making family dinners and meal planning. Then high school came, and I realized how much weight I had gained, and realized I needed to diet, but like any teenager, it was never in a healthy way.

I remember every year for homecoming and prom all but starving myself to fit into the perfect dress and then ordering pizza the following day because I deserved a reward for doing so well. High School was just a never-ending cycle of yo-yo dieting and hating myself. I would lose 10 lbs and then gain 15, lose another 10 and probably gain another 20, and by the time I was leaving for college I was over 200 lbs and nothing worked anymore. My body was a mess, and no level of calorie restriction or gym loyalty could get the numbers to budge. Food never stopped being comfort, and as over-stretched college student I had set my body up for failure.

I apologize that this is a wall of text, and a bit of word vomit, but this blog (at least at this stage) is also a bit of therapy for me. If I put it out there, it’s not my dark little secret and I can move beyond it. I’ve moved beyond dependence on anti-depressants, and now I just need to move beyond using food as a crutch as well.

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Diving Into a New Challenge

Diving Into a New Challenge

Today I officially weighted in for the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans Summer Blowout Weight Loss Challenge! If you haven’t checked out http://www.shrinkingjeans.net go there now, this site is run by a group of ladies with a passion for sharing their experience openly and honestly and unlike me they have a lot of great insight for those of you who want to get in to running.

I’m hoping to drop at least 10 lbs in this 6 week challenge, and I know if I set my mind and my diet to it, then that’s no problem at all. No extreme diets, no blowing out my adrenals with a crazy workout routine, just a lot of high quality food, walking, and strength training.

If you’d like to join click through the picture at the top of the page and celebrate the end of summer by perfecting your healthy glow!
The person with the highest percentage of weight lost (with photographic evidence) will even win a $100 Amazon gift card. Just think of all the workout gear that could buy!

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How Much Do You Want to Succeed?

It has just been one of those weeks. I’ve been working hard to advance in my career and that involved a 3 day professional education program in the middle of the week before summer semester final exams. I’ve been waking up at 5 AM to leave by quarter to six and hopefully getting back before 8 PM and crashing before I’ve even finished my dinner. That kind of week, we’ve all been there.

When we have these weeks it’s really easy to lose focus, and take our eye off the prize and I wanted to share my favorite motivational video from the Spartan Race series. If this doesn’t inspire you to go out and train for that 5k or chase a new one rep max or ask for more responsibility at work, you should probably reassess what your focus is on and where you want to succeed.

My 7 Rules for Life

Sorry for the hiatus, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching recently and I decided I really wanted to do this blog right. I promise you only quality content from here on out, I hope that one day my story can help inspire someone and I’m going to take it seriously. (but not too seriously, promise!)

I think that the most important thing you could ever do to get healthy and lose weight it to stop dieting and start focusing on changing your lifestyle. It’s about what you put into your body every day, and how well you treat your body and mind.

I think one of the best ways to start to try and change your life without overcomplicating things is to create rules or mantras for yourself. When faced with temptation, or anything set to derail your progress, just apply your rules and take decision out of the equation. I like to keep my rules simple and easy to remember, so here’s how I always try to live my life…

  1. I don’t consume High Fructose Corn Syrup. I think we all know that HFCS is bad for us, but until earlier this year when it was finally explained to me how our body reacts to fructose, I made the commitment to cut it out for good. I was raised on soda, and it was my final battle to get fully committed to the paleo diet to cut out traditional soda (diet soda freaks me out, so I’ve avoided that for a while). This also eliminates most commercial baked goods, and I’ve also made it a personal goal to only eat baked goods that are homemade. I love to bake, and there are some amazing bakers in my family, so I know better than to think I can cut them out all together all the time.
  2. I only purchase ethically treated meat. There was a period during the end of my college career when I actually went vegetarian because I couldn’t control where my meat came from. I try to only give my body what it expects (real food), so I ask the same of my meat providers. Grass fed cows have high omega-3 levels, and my father-in-law’s truly free range chickens lay eggs with the richest yolks I’ve ever seen. I fully believe that we vote with our dollars and even my Martin’s grocery store in the middle of nowhere carries organic/grass-fed meats and a whole host of organic veggies and the variety grows every month. You have the ability to make these foods available in your area by making requests and avoiding the conventional options when you can to make it happen for you and your family.
  3. I trust my body to do amazing things. This is my rule for rock climbing. I know I could be an amazing rock climber if I just got out of my own way. This is probably my biggest challenge, as I constantly doubt that I can stand my body up on a tiny hold or lift that weight during training. My husband and I encourage each other to go that extra mile when climbing by our shared mantra of “Just one more try” and it’s amazing what you can accomplish with just one more try.
  4. I trust my body to tell me when to stop. I don’t believe in pushing through the pain. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that you’ve done something wrong, and I don’t think that’s something to be taken lightly. I also listen to my body to tell me when I’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with me, even if it’s a natural, whole food. I recently discovered that my stomach doesn’t handle cashews all that well, and have grudgingly eliminated them from my diet.
  5. I read every day. I have been a bookworm ever since I was little. I’m a bit of a book snob and refuse to buy a Kindle, but I believe that you should never stop learning. Whether it’s a textbook for my class, or my leisure book of the moment, I try to get at least half an hour in every day.
  6. I meditate every day. If you can’t get your stress under control it’s nearly impossible for your body to let go of the weight because it doesn’t know the difference between “Oh no I’m being chased by a bear” life-threatening stress and “Office politics are really annoying” modern-day stress. Just about every fitness expert I’ve ever heard talk about stress emphasizes the need to slow down and take even 5 minutes to spend in quiet. Don’t worry about trying not to think about anything, just don’t judge yourself for what you’re thinking about. And that brings me to my final rule…
  7. I talk to myself like I would talk to a friend. We all have a tendency to beat ourselves up over every little bump in the road, and it’s not doing anyone any favors. If your friend told you that they just went through a really stressful day and ate a whole pint of ice cream, you wouldn’t berate them over it, you would let them talk it out and try to help them figure out what to do better next time, so why wouldn’t you do the same for yourself? I think that if I can become my own champion, I will see huge returns.

So that’s how I guide my life, what is one rule you try to implement every day to make your life better? If you have your own list posted up, please share your link in the comments so I can come check it out!

Why You Should Be Rock Climbing

 

When I was a kid, I don’t think I ever saw a rock formation I didn’t want to climb. I remember going on hiking trips with my family and mainly just wanting to stop at the viewpoint with all the rocks, there are probably enough pictures of me on those rocks to pretty well document most of my childhood years. I have a feeling that I’m not the only person with a childhood love for conquering the rocks, and it naturally became part of my fitness routine.Image

I try to encourage anyone I can to tap in to their inner child, put on a harness and some shoes and get on a wall! One of the best parts about climbing from a fitness point of view is that it really provides you with a full body workout. When you really think about some of the moves you have to ask of your body, it’s almost like trying to do a step up on a bosu ball while doing body weight rows. Here are the key muscle groups you hit with almost every move…

  • You should be getting most of your power from your legs and glutes while climbing. The nice thing is that you can hit all part of your lower body from hip felxors to calves to quads in one route because you may be forced to stand up in a number of ways. A serious step up from static squats and lunges!
  • Even though your power comes from the legs, your forearms and shoulders will get a workout like they’ve never seen. You get your grip strength from your forearms and the first day you get on a wall, you will discover muscles in your forearm you never knew you had. The thing all elite-level climbers have in common is a back that could bend steel. You do row-like motions to reach the next handhold and like any good row, you need to be squeezing those shoulder blades to activate the larger muscle groups and do more work with less energy.
  • Finally, like any body weight workout worth it’s salt, you will get a great core workout. Climbing creates some natural instability even on the easiest routes and you have to engage that core to keep yourself upright. Once you progress and start going over pitches like super girl in the above picture, your core both front and back will be one of your greatest assets.

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The less physical, but equally important, reasons to rock climb are what keep me coming back. As a bigger girl, rock climbing has not come naturally to me. At 230 lbs I have no business being on a rock wall, but I go 2-3 times a week and I know that I have a community behind me that cheered me on when I finally reached the top of my first route after months of practice. It’s similar to CrossFit where you get to go to a gym where everyone knows your name and celebrates your victories. I love the staff at Vertical Rock and never worry about asking a noobie question.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for those at all fitness levels is that rock climbing teaches you to trust your body. My new rock climbing mantra is “I trust my legs to stand up”, because despite the fact that you know you’re tied into a rope and can’t fall, it can still  take some convincing to get your body to stretch its limits. More advanced climbers, like my husband, have to learn how to balance their weight on increasingly smaller holds and climb smart not hard. It’s a constant learning experience and gyms are always updating routes to provide new challenges to all of their climbers.

So I challenge you to do a quick google search for “Rock Climbing [your area]” and you might be surprised to find a gym where you can learn the ropes isn’t that far from you. They’re becoming more and more popular, and rock climbing is even a contender to become the next olympic sport!