Why Moderation Didn’t Work For Me

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Hi everyone! I want to talk a little bit today about my own personal struggle with moderation (in terms of diet and exercise).  As someone who has struggled their entire life with finding a healthy balance between eating and activity, I finally found what worked for me and made me successful.

I can vividly recall when I was a teenager going on the 3-day Military Diet that my mom was always really successful with.  My mom has never been overweight, but she did struggle occasionally with a stubborn 5-10 pounds.  We were never made to feel like we were fat or out of shape in our house, which I am thankful for because I’m sure my emotions wouldn’t have handled that well.  However I was always mesmerized by how dedicated my mom could be for a short period of time, lose the weight, and then go back to eating all of the foods that she wanted to.  She would repeat this cycle maybe once a year, and it just helped rid her of any unwanted weight gain.

My own foray with the 3 day military diet didn’t go over as well.  By the end of the first day, I was starving.  The goal of this diet plan is to severely restrict your caloric intake for 3 days, and only eat a set amount of food (think saltine crackers, tuna fish, steamed carrots). GROSS.  By day two, I was off the wagon and eating everything like normal.  This was NOT the diet for me, and SURPRISE, I didn’t lose any weight.

When I got older, I started adopting more of an 80/20 rule when it came to diet and exercise.  80% of the time I would eat healthy (or what I thought was healthy), and the other 20% of the time I would eat….whatever I wanted! I remember actually rewarding myself with a triple cheeseburger from Wendy’s after I spent a whole week eating less than 1000 calories per day.  This was a very unhealthy cycle, and my body saw very few gains.  And honestly, I felt AWFUL all of the time and had little energy.  I had no idea what I was doing and the toll it was taking on my body.

We often hear how a calorie in is equal to a calorie out.  Eat less than you burn and you will lose weight.  So if your body burns on average 1600 calories a day through normal functions (breathing, sleeping, blinking) and exercise, then in order to lose weight you should only consume 11oo calories to have a caloric deficit.  500 calories a day equals 3500 calories a week which equals a pound lost. Woo!

Wrong.  Calories are not created equal (that 500 calorie piece of cake is NOT equal to 500 calories worth of veggies), and eating anything less than 1200 calories a day puts you at risk of being in starvation mode.  And what happens when your body goes into starvation mode? You store fat! Your body doesn’t want to think that it’s starving, it wants to know that more food is always coming and you can go ahead and burn all of the energy that you need.  Eating MORE calories for weight loss allows you to burn your energy stores in the form of fat, rather than muscle, and you will lose weight.

Eating more makes you lose more? That doesn’t make sense.  But it DOES! Our metabolisms are such delicate machines.  The minute our body feels like it isn’t going to get enough food, it slows down to as not consume all of your energy stores.  Eating more, and being more active in general, keeps your metabolism high and thus allows you to lose weight.  (However, I should mention that you can’t just eat 2000 calories a day of cake and lose weight.  You need to eat lots of vegetables, protein, fat and fruit. Limit your sugar to less than 25 grams a day. More on this below.)

So what happens when people stick to a low calorie diet for an extended period of time? Your organs fail to function properly, your body is depleted of essential vitamins and nutrients, and your metabolism doesn’t know how to function properly anymore.  The minute you start to eat more than normal, you will gain weight.  Your body soaks up those extra calories like a sponge to store for the next time you decide to starve yourself.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Now you’re probably wondering “what does this have to do with moderation?”  If you recall, eating healthy Monday-Friday and bingeing on a burger on Saturday was not the best route for me in order to gain control of my weight and my health.  About two years ago, I got really serious about eating a Paleo diet after my cancer diagnosis.  I started doing a lot of research into Ketogenic diets (where you limit carbohydrates and eat more fat and moderate protein) and no sugar, to help starve out the cancer cells.  It worked! In addition to chemo (which I’m sure did a majority of the work), I was able to beat my stage 3 lymphoma.  The best part was that I had minimal side effects while undergoing my chemo treatments.  I felt great! I even continued to work out and eat a healthy diet.  Aside from an upper respiratory infection and a case of mouth sores, I sailed through cancer with ease. Because I felt better, my mood was better, and I know that my positive attitude helped me beat cancer as well.

I have a very addictive personality, and in the past I had very little willpower when left to my own devices.  Most people don’t have the willpower to eat healthy and workout like a professional athlete and that’s okay.  They do it because that’s how they get paid.  But what if we considered our bodies like a bank? Every good deposit that we made (eating healthy, getting in a workout, playing catch with your kids, dancing in your kitchen) started adding up to some big savings? Would it make a difference if it bought you another 10 years to be with your spouse? To see your kids get married and start families of their own? To take a dream vacation and be healthy enough to enjoy it?  That’s how I had to start looking at my life.  I am definitely living for today, but I am also making sure that I have enough life left in me in the future to continue living the way I want.  So for me, eating that bread is not worth it, and that’s how I have had the success with sticking to my healthy lifestyle.

For many people, they have success with the 80/20 rule.  They can eat healthy and work out most of the time, and they allow themselves a treat on the weekends.  Again, I have never had great success with this plan.  Have you tried this before and failed? It’s probably because, like me, the temptation to continue eating the “bad” for you food was too difficult to overcome.  Monday would roll around and I (you) would just continue eating the junk.  Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s a vicious little cycle to break.

So what has worked for me? I’ve been able to maintain a steady weight for over two years now.  Even with health setbacks (a deadly staph infection, my autoimmune disease, cancer), I stuck to my healthy way of eating.  I never eat less than 1200 calories a day. Honestly, I don’t even count calories anymore, and the only reason I might is to make sure that I have enough! I work out at least 5 days a week doing moderate intensity activity (30-50 minutes a day) and try to stay active outside of my formal routines.  I found exercise routines that I enjoy, and that makes me excited to do them again the next day.

I eat a diet that consists of protein, fat, vegetables and fruit.  I do not consume dairy, and especially not grains! This includes wheat, barley, oats, and rice.  I love finding new recipes and trying them out in my kitchen.  I even got my husband on board with me and he has lost over 10 pounds in less than three weeks.  The only way I can be successful with this way of eating is to remember WHY I’m doing it.  Eating foods that make me tired, bloated, sick, and achy are NOT worth it.  Eating foods that give me energy, make me feel clean inside, give me almost an euphoric high is what I’m all about.  Knowing that I’m taking care of my body and putting good fuel into it makes me proud.  I know that I’m going to be around for a long time to be with my husband, spend time with my niece and nephews, and take care of my parents as they get older.  My stress is getting under control, I’m sleeping better at night, and I’m able to enjoy life like never before.

If you have tried and failed at the 80/20 rule, I really suggest dedicating yourself to a clean eating plan for a full 30 days and moderate exercise at least 5 days a week. Challenge yourself to be a better version of you.  There are very few things in life in which we have control.  Food and exercise are two things over which we have absolute power and control. Take back your life and give it a shot.  What do you have to lose?

XOXO,

Kristen

My Second Week…The Autoimmune Protocol Diet

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“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an act.”

– Duc de la Rochefoucauld

Hi again, friends! I’m back with the latest edition of my AIP adventure.  Hubby and I just completed week 2, and I have to say, we are so proud of ourselves! Between going to a friend’s house for the open ceremony of the Olympics, a relative’s house for an overnight stay, to a weekend where it was hot and tempting to not cook and just go out to eat…we made it through.  I bought some new cookbooks, did a lot of working out and house projects, and was just overall BUSY.  I hope that you find through my own experience that taking control of your health can seem daunting, but it can be done, no matter how busy your schedule is.

I mean, look at this picture of bacon.  You can eat BACON! (Uncured) WHAT?!?!

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BACONNNNN!

In addition to the “Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook” by the fabulous Mickey Trescott, I splurged last week and bought four additional books to help me on my AIP journey.  You just cannot read enough, know enough, or sample enough to feel like you have a complete grasp on anything in life, right? That’s definitely my approach with handling this new way of life.

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I bought all of these books on Amazon and spent around $80.  If you are able, I suggest giving them all a go:

  • “The Paleo Approach” by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (the BIBLE of AIP books and the foundation for a lot of AIP authors)
  • “The Paleo Approach Cookbook” by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (because of course you need the cookbook to go along with the guide!)
  • “Nourish: The Paleo Healing Cookbook” by Rachael Bryant
  • “The Healing Kitchen” by Alaena Haber and Dr. Sarah Ballantyne

I spent the first two days skimming through each one, and then got down to business with a highlighter, some page flags, and a notebook to jot down recipes and tips.  I am far from being done with all of them, but they really got my creative cooking juices flowing (don’t mind the pun) and inspired me to create some new and interesting meals.


Aside From Eating…

This week for me was a challenge because I wasn’t always at home and had to rely on family and a friend to prepare a meal for me (which I didn’t ask for, but they were gracious enough to do).

On Wednesday, I spent the day at an amusement park with my uncle and cousin and packed some leftover fish and tabbouleh salad to eat in the park.  It didn’t have to be warmed up, so it worked out well.  That night, my uncle and his wife prepared a roast chicken, salad, compliant dressing, and grilled zucchini.  It was perfect!

On Friday, we were invited over for appetizers to our friend Jodi’s house and to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  She prepared bacon-wrapped shrimp, an avocado dressing, homemade sweet potato fries, and a meat and olive platter.  It was delicious, interesting, and filling.

During this second week, I also upped my exercise and worked out nearly every single day. Whether it was a formal workout or just a TON of walking, I made my goal 6 out of 7 days. The only day I didn’t work out was my day traveling back from my Uncle’s house, and I was exhausted!

I didn’t lose any weight, but my clothes felt baggier and my skin looked more taunt.  Jason did lose about 7 pounds, and will lose more than me regardless (size and more to lose). Our cravings have nearly gone away completely.  I still miss coffee, especially Starbucks, and I still have a sweet tooth, but we don’t seem to be craving those things nearly as much as we did in week one.  Going into week three, I feel confident that the cravings will diminish completely.


Recap of Prepping for Week 2

For week two, I prepared the following foods on Sunday to have as meals throughout the week:

  • Whole chicken (to shred)
  • Nomato sauce (The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook)
  • Beef/Pork patties
  • Bone broth
  • Radish and Jicama Tabbouleh (The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook)
  • Chicken stock/bone broth from chicken carcass
  • Shredded beef roast

Menu for Week 2

  • Monday – Squash noodles with lamb meatballs and nomato sauce
  • Tuesday – Salmon and tuna with radish and jicama tabbouleh salad
  • Wednesday – Garlic beef and broccoli with riced cauliflower
  • Thursday – Shredded beef and salad
  • Friday – Dinner at a friend’s house

On The Menu…

8/1/16 Monday- Day 9

Woke at 7:30

  • Breakfast (9:00): Cup of hot tea, beef/pork patty, kiwi
  • Lunch (1:15): Chicken lettuce wraps (leftover from Sunday night)
  • Snack (2:30): Small dish of cherries
  • Dinner (8:00): Spaghetti squash with nomato sauce and lamb meatballs over wilted greens
  • Snack (9:30): Cup of bone broth and clementine
  • Workout: 35 minutes of PiYo Sweat, cleaned garden and played catch
  • Journal: “Felt great today! Worked out and ate well.  I did get really hungry after lunch so I ate some cherries.  Worked on my log, cleaned the house. When Jay got home we worked on the garden and then played catch and let the boys run around. It was a perfect evening!
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Spaghetti squash with tomato-less sauce, lamb meatballs over sauteed greens

8/2/16 Tuesday- Day 10

Woke at 7:00

  • Breakfast (8:10): Cup of hot tea, beef patty, two pieces of bacon, clementine
  • Lunch (12:45): Leftover nomato sauce over spaghetti squash, lamb meatballs with greens, kiwi
  • Dinner (7:30): Tuna steak and salmon (each 3 oz) with radish and jicama tabbouleh salad, 1/2 of an avocado, and sauteed kale
  • Snack (9:25): Handful of dried fruit
  • Workout: 35 minutes of PiYo Sweat
  • Journal: “First day since starting this way of eating that I wasn’t hungry between meals.  Got in a good workout and prepped dinner for tomorrow night because I will be visiting family.  Also packed lunch and breakfast for while I’m gone.”
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Salmon and tuna with radish and jicama tabbouleh salad, avocado and kale

8/3/16 Wednesday- Day 11

Woke at 6:00

  • Breakfast (7:10): Cup of tea, beef patty, two pieces of bacon, sauerkraut
  • Lunch (1:30): Leftover tuna, salmon, tabbouleh and kale
  • Dinner (6:00): Roasted chicken, zucchini, kiwi, salad with balsamic vinegar dressing
  • Workout: Over 15,000 steps (over 6 miles)
  • Journal: “Spent the afternoon at an amusement park.  Got over 15,000 steps.  Packed my lunch so I wasn’t tempted to eat anything at the park.”
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My lunch at the amusement park! No deprivation here!

8/4/16 Thursday- Day 12

Woke at 7:00

  • Breakfast (9:00): Cup of hot tea, beef patty, two pieces of bacon, clementine
  • Lunch (1:00): Riced cauliflower with ginger garlic beef, broccoli and mushrooms, and a small dish of freeze dried fruit
  • Dinner (7:00): Shredded beef with blackberry balsamic sauce (recipe below), salad with veggies, olives, avocado, hearts of palm, balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack (9:00): Fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and mango)
  • Workout: None
  • Journal: “Had a bit of stomach bloat today.  I believe this was due to the freeze-dried fruit.  Was also hungry all day today and did not work out.”
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Shredded beef with blackberry sauce, salad packed with deliciousness

8/5/16 Friday- Day 13

Woke at 6:45

  • Breakfast (9:45): Hot tea (2 cups), beef patty, 4 strips of bacon, two clementines
  • Snack (1:30): Cup of bone broth
  • Lunch (2:30): Salad with balsamic vinaigrette, beef with blackberry sauce
  • Snack (4:00): Small dish of fruit (berries and mango)
  • Dinner (7:00): Three pepperoni/salami wraps, 4 bacon wrapped shrimp, olives, serving of fruit
  • Workout: 30 minutes of PiYo Core and 20 minutes of TurboFire 20 min HIIT
  • Journal: “Ate a lot of fruit today,  A friend had us over for dinner and we did well with eating (Thanks to her).  My stomach did get a bit bloated after dinner (may have been something in the pepperoni).  Did two great workouts today.  Feeling good about my progress.”

8/6/16 Saturday- Day 14

Woke at 9:45

  • Breakfast (10:15): Bacon-wrapped shrimp, fruit (berries) and sauerkraut
  • Lunch (2:30): Salad with olives, avocado, grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack (4:50): Banana chips and veggie chips
  • Dinner (9:00): Brussels sprouts, shredded beef, bacon-wrapped shrimp
  • Workout: 2 hours of scrubbing the front of the house
  • Journal: “Did a lot of outdoor work today scrubbing and cleaning the front of the house.  No formal exercise.  I ate a lot of banana chips and my stomach got upset.  Won’t do that again.”

8/7/16 Sunday- Day 15

Woke at 7:35

  • Breakfast (10:15): Bacon and berries with mango
  • Snack (2:30): Handful of freeze-dried apples, banana chips and root chips
  • Dinner (6:00): Pork roast and brussels sprouts with blackberry sauce
  • Snack (9:25): Applesauce with cup of bone broth
  • Workout: 34 min Country Heat Country Swing
  • Journal: “Worked out this morning and then did housework outside all day.  Ate a snack of banana chips (I said I wouldn’t do that again) and I feel constipated and sick.  Will drink more water tomorrow.”

On the Menu for Week 3

  • Monday – Lettuce-wrapped burgers with zucchini and coleslaw (recipe below)
  • Tuesday – Loaded sweet potatoes with shredded chicken and broccoli
  • Wednesday – Steak and green beans
  • Thursday – Dinner at a friend’s house
  • Friday – Sockeye salmon with asparagus
  • Breakfast – Turkey herb patties, bacon, fruit
  • Lunches – leftovers

Recipe for Blackberry Sauce

Makes 1 1/2 cups of sauce approximately

  • Two small containers of fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp of honey or maple syrup (this is just to sweeten…I used raw honey)

Directions

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan on the stove over medium heat.
  • Allow to simmer and stir occasionally for 15 minutes, until sauce thickens and the berries are soft
  • Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), blend the ingredients until ingredients are fully combined.
  • You can strain the sauce through a mesh sieve if you do not want seeds.  I just left mine in.
  • Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Serve over chicken, pork or beef.

Recipe for Coleslaw

Makes 5-6 servings

  • Two bags of pre-shredded cabbage (I like red cabbage with carrots)
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of raw honey
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and put in the fridge until ready to serve.  Mix well before serving.
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Coleslaw with sweet dressing

 

Thanks for tuning in for another week of my AIP journey!  Please don’t forget to leave a comment, and let me know if there is anything you would like me to include for next week.

XOXO,

Kristen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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*Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor.  I am a loan officer, which makes me specialized in interest rates and angry customers.  However, I am an avid researcher and practitioner of all things healthy.  I encourage you to discuss any new diet or exercise regimen with a doctor before beginning.

Hi friends! I know it has been a while since my last post, but that is because I have anxiously been awaiting the completion of my first week on the Autoimmune Protocol diet so I could share my results with you.  I have spent the last week cooking, reading, prepping, journaling and photographing my journey to give you now an in-depth look at this crazy adventure that both Jason and I have been on with great success.

To begin, the Autoimmune Protocol Diet is the Paleo diet with more foods being eliminated.  So in addition to grains and dairy, I also eliminated nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), nuts and seeds (including their oils and spices), eggs, coffee (gasp!) and butter (even ghee).  The reason behind this is to uncover any hidden inflammatory foods that could be further enhancing my autoimmune disease (I have a lung disease called PVOD).  Many people who follow this protocol have thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, etc.  The list of autoimmune disease is lengthy.

The goal is for the next 30 days (I am currently on day 9!) to eliminate all of these trigger foods, concentrate on consuming only whole, natural food, and then slowly reintroducing the previously eliminated foods back into my diet in stages. I will not be adding everything back, as I know grains are a huge trigger for me already. I will then be able to judge by my body’s reactions (stomach upset, bloating, headaches, fatigue) if those foods were trigger foods for me all along.  This will help to alleviate my autoimmune disease symptoms and get me on track to living a fuller, more energetic life!

As many of you know, I eliminated grains a long time ago, so I really thought this would be a piece of cake.  But do you know how hard it is to not eat something with tomatoes? Or pepper (the seasoning)? I didn’t.  But we made it through the first week successfully, and have hope for the next three weeks.  The following information gives you my day-by-day meal plan, results, and things I know now that I didn’t know before that would have helped me better prepare for this undertaking.

For anyone interested in learning more about the Autoimmune Protocol, I recommend getting “The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook” by Mickey Trescott and doing a lot of research. There are a lot of books out on Amazon that can help you navigate this lifestyle.

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The Beginning

I began this journey by buying “The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook” on Amazon and reading it cover to cover.  I did some Pinterest searches for some recipe ideas, and began following different pages on Facebook.  The amount of information is staggering, so take a day or two to fully immerse yourself in the details and buy yourself a good cookbook.  It’s an investment that you won’t regret.

I made a batch of bone broth (slow cooking marrow bones with water and apple cider vinegar for at least 24 hours) as a starting point.  I went grocery shopping and bought some veggies, some fermented sauerkraut, tea that I knew I would like to drink, and some protein (ground beef, pork chops, fish).  The sky is really the limit on what you decide to purchase.  I just tried to ensure that all of my meat was organic, grass-fed.  You don’t want to continue putting toxins in your body.  There are great lists on Pinterest that show you what foods to eliminate or avoid, and the ones to add.  I recommend saving the picture on your phone so you can reference it while shopping and preparing your foods!

Meal prep was key for me to start the week.  In addition to cooking bone broth, I cleaned all of my fruits and vegetables, cut them into sizes for my recipes and for snacking, and I cleaned out all of my cupboards and the refrigerator with foods I knew I wasn’t going to consume in 30 days.  I knew to be successful I needed to eliminate all of the temptations in my house.  I also used my cookbook and my own foresight to create a meal plan for the week.  Without having a definite meal plan written down, I had a feeling we would cave on a late night and just order takeout.  I needed to be prepared for all of these hiccups.

I also continued to take all of my required medication and my supplements.  Vitamins are still a critical part of my health.

Day One – 7/24/16 Sunday

Starting weight = anywhere between 127 and 125 (two doctors’ scales said two different weights…we’ll go with 126 to split the difference.)  Even though this diet is NOT about losing weight, I feel weight loss is inevitable because you are eating only whole foods and nothing processed.

On Sunday we went to the Strip District in Pittsburgh with my uncle and his wife to do some shopping and have lunch.  Yikes.  I knew we would be eating out, but I figured I could manage to find SOMETHING that was compliant.

  • Breakfast: Hot tea, a handful of grapes, uncured pepperoni
  • Snack: Stopped at a coffee shop and grabbed a cup of Earl Grey tea with some coconut milk
  • Lunch: Went to a brew pub (awesome choice, right? No.) Ordered chicken lettuce wraps with zoodles and sweet potato fries.  Two things: the chicken was cooked in an unknown sauce, so it probably contained pepper, and the chicken also had peanuts.  I had water to drink.
  • Snack: A small dish of sauerkraut and more pepperoni
  • Snack: Cup of bone broth
  • Dinner: Beef liver, onions, mushrooms, all sauteed in coconut oil with garlic, bay leaves and salt
  • Journal: “Felt great until 1:30, and then I got super hungry.  Ate 5 pieces of pepperoni and had a small dish of sauerkraut.  Also drank the bone broth which filled me up until dinner at 9:30.  Napped during the day so I took 5 mg of melatonin to fall asleep.”

Overall, not the best day of eating and being compliant, but I worked with what I had.

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Not the best picture…beef liver, onions and mushrooms

Day Two – 7/25/16 Monday

Woke up with a lot of energy.

  • Breakfast: Irish breakfast tea, half of a plum, 2 pieces of uncured bacon, 1 herb turkey patty
  • Snack: Cup of bone broth
  • Snack: Grapes
  • Lunch: Salad with red wine vinegar dressing (homemade), leftover liver and onions, one avocado
  • Snack: Cup of tea
  • Dinner: Squash noodles (zoodles) with sauerkraut and two all-natural hot dogs (I cooked the sauerkraut and hot dogs in the crockpot on high for 4 hours)
  • Journal: “Took a nap today out of boredom, not of necessity.  Was hungry today, but again, I know it was from boredom.  No stomach upset or headache.  Did a lot of relaxing.  I did crave sugar today.  I desperately wanted to cave and get an iced mocha from Starbucks.  Even writing about it makes me salivate.”

Overall, eating was on par, but I needed to get more movement.

Day 3- 7/26/16 Tuesday

Woke up at 6:45.  Today I started to keep track of the times that I was eating to gauge my hunger.

  • Breakfast (9:00): Cup of hot tea, blueberries, turkey patty, two pieces of bacon
  • Snack (11:10): Two pieces of bacon
  • Lunch (1:00): Sauerkraut, two hot dogs, squash noodles (leftovers from last night)
  • Dinner (8:00): Salmon filet over lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cucumbers, mushrooms, olives, avocado with lemon vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack (9:30): Cup of bone broth
  • Journal: “Took another nap today.  Felt fine, did a lot of relaxing but also got a lot of housework done.  My need/desire for caffeine is fading.  I made one cup of hot tea this morning for breakfast and didn’t even drink it all.  No headaches or stomach upset. Decided to drink a cup of bone broth before bed to ensure I got all my nutrients.”
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Salmon over lettuce with olives, veggies, avocado and lemon vinaigrette dressing

Day 4- 7/27/16 Wednesday

  • Breakfast (9:00): Cup of hot tea, turkey patty
  • Lunch (12:30): a few grapes, 3 oz of salmon, lettuce, snow peas, carrots, cucumbers, olives, hearts of palm, 1/2 of an avocado, with lemon vinaigrette dressing
  • Snack (4:00): pepperoni slices
  • Dinner (8:00): Pork belly, coconut tumeric sweet potato noodles with zucchini and squash
  • Journal: “Didn’t eat as much today but I was busy helping Jodi paint and it was so hot out I wasn’t very hungry.  Did get home and take a nap.  My energy has been low the past couple of days, but I think it’s from the detox.”
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Pork Belly with a coconut tumeric “curry” over sweet potato noodles

Day 5 – 7/28/16 Thursday

Weigh In: 123 pounds (down two/three pounds)

Woke up at 6:45

  • Breakfast (8:30): Cup of hot tea, turkey patty, plum
  • Workout: 20 minutes PiYo Lower Define
  • Lunch (11:36): leftover sweet potato noodles with zucchini and squash, coconut “curry” and pork belly (leftovers from last night’s dinner)
  • Snack (2:30): pepperoni and bone broth
  • Dinner (8:30): Pork fried “rice” (cauliflower) with avocado
  • Journal: “Did my first workout since beginning this way of eating.  Took a small nap from 12:30 to 1:30.  Went to get my hair done, so I drank bone broth and ate pepperoni on my way, knowing I wouldn’t get to eat dinner until later.  Overall, felt great today.  Down 2 pounds since last week.”
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Pork fried “rice” with avocado and veggies

Day 6- 7/29/16 Friday

Woke at 7.

  • Breakfast (9:30): Cup of hot tea, turkey patty, olives, blueberries
  • Workout: 10 minutes of PiYo, 17 minutes of Core Rhythms quick workout
  • Lunch (1:00): leftover pork fried cauliflower (no avocado)
  • Snack (4:00): Olives and grapes
  • Dinner (9:00): Spaghetti squash with scallops, capers, yellow squash, garlic and shallots
  • Journal: “Felt good today.  No headaches, stomach upset or fatigue.  Did an intense yet quick cardio workout and attempted Buti yoga (which was hilarious).  We made it through six days so far without caving once, even though we wanted to.  I desperately wanted sweets this week but I’m doing better with the cravings.  About an hour after dinner I got some stomach upset, bloating and gas.  Will watch for symptoms tomorrow.”
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Scallops with spaghetti squash, yellow squash, capers and bacon

Day 7- 7/30/16 Saturday

Woke at 7.  Today we went shopping, so we were out and about all morning/afternoon.

  • Workout: 20 minute energize yoga
  • Breakfast (9:00): Cup of hibiscus tea, three pieces of bacon
  • Snack (3:00): Handful of Terra chips and baked apple chips with cinnamon, cup of Earl Grey tea with coconut milk
  • Dinner (6:00): Steaks from our new butcher with a dry herb rub, onions and mushrooms, and sweet potato curly fries (not good.  Did not get crispy and just burned).
  • Workout: 40 minute pilates
  • Snack (9:30): Cup of bone broth (pure gelatin!!!!) and a clementine
  • Journal: “Had terrible period cramps today.  My whole body was sore because of yesterday’s workouts so I only did a calm 20 minute yoga sequence this morning.”

Later…

  • “Was restless after 9 so I did a pilates workout and had a cup of bone broth that was nearly pure gelatin! I was so excited!”
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Delicious steaks…failed attempt at sweet potato fries

Day 8- 7/31/16 Sunday

Woke at 7:00.  Dogs had to go to the vet at 5 in Cranberry so we left the house around 3:45.

  • Breakfast (9:00): Cup of hot tea, homemade guacamole and plantain chips
  • Lunch (12:30): olives, turkey wrapped prosciutto, half of a plum, half of a clementine, 3 pieces of pepperoni
  • Snack (2:00): apple chips
  • Snack (6:45): black tea, iced, with coconut milk
  • Dinner (8:30): Shredded chicken lettuce wraps with zucchini, cucumber, and broccoli slaw with an olive oil and avocado dressing
  • Journal: “No exercise today. I spent most of the day food prepping and batch cooking for the week ahead.  Feel good about going into next week, except for snacks.  Need to figure out some different ideas to get Jay more calories and to keep hunger at bay.  Need to do some Pinterest searching.”

Batch Cooking (to prepare for week of August 1st)

  • whole chicken (to shred)
  • Nomato sauce (AIP cookbook)
  • Beef/Pork Patties (AIP cookbook)
  • Bone broth
  • Radish and Jicama tabbouleh (AIP cookbook)
  • Chicken stock/bone broth from chicken carcass

What I Learned This Week…

  • Sugar cravings and sugar addictions are REAL
  • Pepperoni has paprika in it (no good)
  • Most vegetable chips are cooked in sunflower oil (no good)
  • Prepping food and batch cooking is a MUST to be successful!
  • Bone broth is fun to drink
  • Bacon tastes good on everything and satisfies salt cravings
  • “It’s not that hard to eat this way.”- Jason
  • Eating out is impossible and should be avoided
  • Meat markets are a life-saver
  • Pack snacks if you are heading out…don’t get stuck hungry and away from compliant food!

On the Menu for Week 2 (August 1st-August 8th)

  • Monday: Squash noodles or zoodles or leftover spaghetti squash with lamb meatballs and nomato sauce
  • Tuesday: Salmon/tuna with radish and jicama tabbouleh salad
  • Wednesday: Garlic beef and broccoli with riced cauliflower (will make ahead Tuesday night; I will be gone for Wednesday dinner)
  • Thursday: Shrimp skewers with sauteed kale, chard and collards
  • Friday: Shredded beef and rosemary skillet
  • Saturday: Pork chops with mashed sweet potatoes and kale
  • Breakfasts: Bacon, fruit, beef patties
  • Lunches: Leftovers from dinner

Overall Impressions

I can honestly say that after the first week of following this way of eating, I feel great.  I don’t constantly crave food and I don’t crave sugar as much.  I thought that planning meals and sticking to the diet was going to be more difficult, but with the right planning, it was not that bad.  It really does require a lot of cooking and prep work, but that is something both Jason and I enjoy doing.  We typically dedicate our Sundays to staying at home and prepping for the week, and even if we have something to do, we always try to get our prep work done ahead of time.  I have noticed less pain in my chest and the ability to take deeper breaths, which is something that I have to constantly remind myself to do.  I haven’t had a headache in over a week, and my allergies are under control.  I am anxious to see what I feel like at the end of next week and beyond.

Thanks for reading, everyone!! Please comment below to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions about starting the AIP for yourself! I can also answer questions about batch cooking and prep work, and get more in depth for those that have questions.

XOXO,

Kristen

 

My First Week…The Autoimmune Protocol Diet

Forming Healthy Habits…Part One

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How often in life do we try to do too many things at once? I am completely guilty of this.  I will start multiple projects, decide to change multiple aspects of my life at once, and end up throwing in the towel way too early.  Then I end up getting frustrated with myself rather than acknowledging what I have done to succeed, regardless of how small that success.

Here’s my point:  Too often, (we as women especially), tend to try and tackle diet and exercise simultaneously.  How often do you start a new diet and exercise program cold turkey on a Monday morning, convinced that you are going to make some SERIOUS changes? For some people, this approach will work.  However, I have never had success with this approach.  I will inevitably stop working out, or get lax on my diet, and end up feeling like a failure.

As many people are told, diet is the majority of the battle with forming a new, healthy lifestyle.  Exercise is great, because it can help increase lung capacity, decrease resting heart rate, make you have more energy, etc.  But if you are eating garbage, and not changing your eating habits, you will never be successful with long-term, sustainable weight loss and overall health.

As someone who suffers from an autoimmune disease, it is important for me to alleviate my symptoms through diet.  I have cut out all grains, but continue to eat dairy and nuts. My personal goal for the next few months is to adopt the Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP diet, to see what my body is not responding well to in terms of food.  Once I have completed a 30 day AIP diet (completely eliminate dairy, nightshades, grain), I will slowly start to incorporate those foods (except for grains) back into my diet to see if I truly have a food allergy or sensitivity to something I wasn’t aware.  After doing this before with grains, and then trying to reintroduce grains into my diet, I had some TERRIBLE repercussions (nausea, stomach cramps, stomach bloat, fatique, lethargy, migraines, etc.)

While I begin a new overhaul of my diet, I will continue to do light exercise, but I first need to focus on healing my body from the inside out.  Once I begin to feel better, I will start to incorporate more intense workouts.

So now you’re probably wondering, “What is the right diet for me?” First off, let me start by saying you should consult with a doctor before beginning any weight loss program.  Get regular blood work to see what your baseline numbers are.  Then, start slow!!! No one has ever had a negative reaction from eliminating grain in their diet, so that’s a good place to start!

For me, the easiest thing to do when I wanted to change my diet was to cut out all grains. This includes bread, pasta, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, spelt, corn, rice, etc.  Give yourself two weeks following this way of eating before throwing in the towel.  I promise you will look and feel better. You can find so many recipes on Pinterest that cater to a grain-free lifestyle.

Drink more water.  I know it’s easy to say, hard to do.  You need to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day (if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink 75 ounces of water per day).  One of the techniques that helped me drink more water was to purchase a 30 oz Yeti tumbler.  I know they are expensive, but you just need to find ANY bottle or glass that is visually appealing, keeps your water nice and cold, and encourages you to drink more.

Increase your intake of healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, olives), protein, and vegetables.  Limit the amount of carbohydrates that you consume per day (aim for 45 grams or less per day).  Berries are great in moderation (no more than 1 cup per day).

Here’s an idea of what a perfect day of eating for me looks like (keep in mind, everyone’s caloric needs are different.  I strive to get between 1400 and 1600 a day to maintain my weight):

  • Breakfast: Two eggs, cooked in butter, with two pieces of bacon.  Hot sauce for flavor. Coffee blended with a tbsp of unsalted butter and a tbsp of coconut oil, with a dash of cinnamon on top (it’s like a latte, honest to God!!!)
  • Lunch: Typically, leftovers from the night before. OR, I will do a can of tuna fish or other serving of protein, vegetables cooked in coconut oil or butter, and a cup of iced tea (no sugar)
  • Snack: Handful of raw nuts OR a handful of Whisps (parmesan cheese crackers) OR a yogurt
  • Dinner: Meat of choice and vegetable of choice (always cooked in a healthy fat or butter) –LOAD UP on the veggies! Fill your entire plate if you want to.  Especially dark leafy greens like sauteed kale, spinach or swiss chard.
  • Snack: Small serving of berries and a cup of decaf tea

What are your goals for gaining a healthy lifestyle? How are you going to take the first step? Is there a particular diet you are going to try, vitamins/supplements you want to incorporate, an exercise regimen that you know you can stick with?

Please comment and let me know! Let’s go on this journey together!

XOXO,

Kristen

 

From Survivor to Patient…You Can Do This

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” -Bob Marley

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Dear friend,

I want you to know, above all, that you are loved and you will get through this difficult time. I remember sitting in your chair just two short years ago, scared to death of the unknown and wondering,

“Am I ever going to get through this?”

“What is my life going to be like while I’m going through treatments and how will I remain committed to my faith in God?”

I know you are probably asking yourself these very questions, and I’m here to tell you that you will get through this, and you will be able to walk away as a stronger, more thankful and patient person.

I have a few tips for you on how to stay positive throughout this journey, because being positive will truly affect your recovery and your overall wellbeing. That being said, you WILL have a few rough days. Your hair may fall out. When it does, you will cry, and quite honestly, you should! Don’t be afraid to let your emotions show. Don’t be afraid to lean on your loved ones, your family and your friends, to say, “I’m struggling right now, and I need you to hug me and just be here to listen to me.” You may have a week where you are supposed to get treatment and you find out that day, that your platelets are low and you are ineligible for treatment that week. You will cry, and you should! It’s frustrating to be set back a week, because it’s one week further away from being done. But you will get done. The day I finished my last treatment was an emotional day. I never thought that I would get to this point, and when I did, I felt the whole weight of the world lifted from my shoulders and I gained the knowledge that life was now just beginning for me. I was reborn. I fought cancer and I came out a survivor. Just like you will.

I won’t say this is going to be an easy process, because there are definitely up’s and down’s, high’s and low’s, and times where you question your faith and you just want to give up. But I can tell you with great certainty that your attitude and your positive outlook will keep you from the darkest suffering.

Find a hobby that you enjoy, keep working when you feel up to it, and find positive distractions. Talk to friends and family and keep the conversations light and happy. Watch funny movies, eat ice cream, bake cookies at 2 a.m., travel…whatever it takes to let you know that life is beautiful and you are going to have a long, beautiful life. This is just a temporary setback. Don’t ever let the sadness and frustration about going through the toughest battle of your life dull your sparkle and rob you of your happiness.

I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s B-Cell Lymphoma on May 16, 2014. I’m was 27 years old, married, no children. I started treatment on June 8th and I completed my treatments on October 1st. I lost huge clumps of my hair 14 days after my very first treatment and my husband shaved my head. I became an expert at wearing scarves and found that I was more beautiful than ever before, because I wore my strength for the whole world to see. Don’t be afraid of losing your hair, getting sick, being tired…everyone has different side effects.

Yes, I lost my hair, but I never got sick. I did lose my appetite, and lost a few pounds, but some people find they are hungry all the time and gain a few pounds. Listen to your body and give it the nourishment that it needs. Eat healthy! I can’t stress this enough. Eat lots of dark green vegetables, lean protein and fruit. You will feel a million times better. Drink LOTS of water. A gallon a day! Get those chemo toxins out of your body. If you have a picc line or a port (I had a picc line), take it easy with lifting heavy objects. But do yoga or stretching when you feel like you can. If you have a dog, go for a nice walk. Breathe fresh air and let the sunshine on your skin for a few minutes every day. It will make you feel so much better.

I never wanted this letter to be anonymous because I want you to reach out if you feel like you need a friend or just to talk to someone who has gone through what you are about to start and can be a shoulder to cry on or just someone to talk. Or more importantly, to listen with the knowledge of being in your shoes.  If you need help learning to tie a scarf, give me a call or email me. Text me at 3 a.m. if you can’t sleep and you are nervous or sad. You are not alone.

“Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, help you, uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

 

XOXO,

Kristen

814-592-7494

kplotner@livingthesunnylife.com

 

 

 

 

Building An Oasis

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The finished oasis

It’s a cool, sunny Sunday morning here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, so I took the opportunity to have my coffee outside on our deck and enjoy the sunshine.  Our back deck has not always been the most comfortable place to sit and relax.  Let me give you some background…

When Jason and I bought our home in August of 2014, we were immediately in awe over the expansive back deck and the hot tub nestled into the deck floor.  “How cool! Our own hot tub! I bet we are going to use this every day.”

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Before picture of the deck with the built-in hot tub

Wrong.  In the two years that we have lived in our house, I can count on two hands the amount of times we actually used the hot tub.  Here’s the problem: In the wintertime, it is way too cold to sit in a hot tub.  You get into your swimsuit (or nothing at all) and make a mad dash from the door to the hot tub.  Once you are in, your body is nice and warm, but your face is freezing cold because the cold wind is blowing or else it is snowing on your head.  When it is time to get out, you contemplate just living in the hot tub forever, because the thought of getting out and having the cold wind hit your wet skin immediately gives you anxiety.  But you do it, and you spend the rest of the night with a body temperature that just can’t seem to regulate itself.  You are either perpetually hot or cold…there is no in between.  In the summer, it is way too hot to sit in a 100 degree hot tub.  Even at night.  So it went unused, and the only activity that is saw was when we added chemicals or cleaned it out.

This past summer, we decided to remove the hot tub and create an outdoor oasis on our back deck, one that would actually be comfortable and enjoyable.  A place to truly kick back and relax with our dogs and friends.

The hot tub was built into the deck and cemented to a concrete slab underneath the deck. There was no way without the assistance of a crane that we were going to get it out in one piece.  Therefore, we decided to cut it out in pieces using a reciprocating saw.  This went surprisingly fast.  All of the hot tub pieces were then taken to the local landfill. This cost us about $120.

Once the hot tub was out, we were left with a hole about 8 feet by 8 feet.  We removed all of the decking boards from around the hot tub location, and put down fresh 16 foot decking boards.  Obviously the color wasn’t going to match right away (you can’t stain new wood until it has time to season) but we figured we would put our new oasis over most of the color disparity and hide it from being such a huge focal point.  With the wood and the screws, this part cost us less than $160.

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Hot tub removed and new decking boards installed

The first thing we did was buy a gazebo.  I wanted a lot of shade on the back deck, and something that I could seal during the evenings when the bugs were in full force.  We found a great deal at Value City on a gazebo with metal posts and screened sides for $200.

Next, we started shopping around online and in stores for patio furniture.  I wanted a large sectional couch and a chair.  We already have a table with four chairs and an umbrella on the back porch that we purchased when we moved in.   The best deal we found was at Ikea. We were able to pick the individual pieces that would look best and ended up with a four cushion sectional couch for less than $500.

The coffee table, the separate chair, and all of the cushions came from At Home.  We also purchased the fountain there. If you have never been to an At Home store…I recommend finding one in your local area immediately and spending a copious amount of money there.  It’s not hard to do, that place is incredible.

The rug, the ball light that we strung from the center of the gazebo and the serving tray came from Pier One.  Sign up for their email list to get coupons and you will be amazed at the good deals you can find.  I refuse to pay full price for anything at Pier One because at the end of the season it gets marked down so much.  Just buy all you need for next year at the end of the season and it will be like Christmas when you open a box and find all of your forgotten purchases.  All tolled, the price for our oasis was around $1300.

There are obviously a million different ideas for how to set up an outdoor oasis.  We added planters full of fresh herbs and bought two large palm trees to add to the decor.  The fountain and our wind chime gave it a relaxing, almost tropical feel.

Most of our nights now in the summer revolve around sitting in the gazebo, shutting all of the screens and snugging on the couch to read or watch movies with our dogs.  It has truly become an oasis from the daily grind, and we have enjoyed our deck more this summer than ever before.

 

XOXO,

Kristen

 

Ride or Die

The phrase “Ride or Die Bitches” gets thrown around a lot these days.  My problem with the phrase is the utter lack of understanding of what it truly means.  For some, it is a simple sentiment to use for your close friends and acquaintances, the people in your life that you couldn’t see yourself living without, but could survive if you had to.  It means you would do anything, be anything, and be unwavering to those people, as long as the situation was convenient for you and not too much trouble. It’s casualness is similar to how you would describe a “beautiful” day or a “nice” car.  There is no actual meaning.

When I first started my job working in the mortgage industry, I never thought that I would find my friend soul mates.  I mean honestly, it’s a tough job, one fraught with stress, sleepless nights, rude customers and quotas. You feel very much alone in the job, because all of the responsibility lies on your shoulders. I started to develop close relationships with some of my fellow loan officers, and we would spend lunch hours commiserating about our shitty jobs, our rude customers, the long hours, etc.  Yet those friendships started to form into more than friendly work chatter.  We soon began taking lunch together on a routine basis, texting each other even on the weekends, and sharing with each other life’s triumphs and heartaches.  These girls became a part of my family.  We formed a trust, and a team.

Throughout the past year, each one of us has experienced heartache and joy.  We watched Jodi celebrate her pregnancy with her second daughter, a daughter named Hazel who would become the final piece of the puzzle in our crazy group.  We wept with Johnna as she lost her cousin in a tragic accident, and rejoiced when she found her love, Anthony.  We cried again (this time in happiness) when we watched Beth walk down the aisle to marry her soulmate, and celebrated when she closed on her new house.  They wept and held each other without me when I was in the hospital, worried sick that they were losing their friend.  We have experienced more life experiences than most, and we’ve done it without ever leaving each other’s sides.

Today, we are closer together than ever before.  We struggle right along with Jodi as she raises her girls and gets prepared to move into a new house.  We scheme how we are going to unpack her house in three days (HA!) and have a blast doing it. We anxiously await the next big moment in our joined lives, whether it be good or bad.  Hopefully good, we have all been through enough.

But that’s life.  We will once again have to weather a storm that we weren’t prepared for…and I take great comfort in the fact that we won’t let it beat us.  We’ll get through just fine.  We always do.  “Ride or Die” has so much more meaning to us now.  We couldn’t imagine life without each other.  And although we have our own friends, our own lives, our own experiences without the group…we always seem to lean on each other and anxiously await the next time we can all be together.

To Jodi, Johnna and Bethany…thank you for being my sisters.

XOXO,

Kristen

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On The Menu…Sauerkraut and Sausage Casserole

Right, so I know today in PA it is humid and hot, so I should probably refrain from turning on the oven, but I have been DYING to make one of my all-time favorite recipes…sauerkraut and sausage casserole. Typically during this time of year, we do a lot of outdoor grilling and eating cold salads. However, I’m willing to risk having a hot oven and an even hotter house for this delicious (and easy!) dinner.

First off, I have to introduce my cooking assistant for the day, Atticus Finch.  He’s such a beast!

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Sauerkraut has always been an important part of my health journey. I love to eat raw, fermented sauerkraut as a snack.  Sauerkraut contains good bacteria that helps with gut flora, and it has a lot of vitamins and nutrients.  Plus, it is low in calories and low in carbohydrates.  Talk about a win-win! I particularly enjoy the sauerkraut from Trader Joe’s for my “snacking” sauerkraut.  For recipes, it is always Silver Floss! For some reason, whether it comes from a jar or from a bag, it seems to have the best flavor and texture.

The sausage that I prefer for this recipe is also from Trader Joe’s (see a pattern here?).  The smoked Apple and Chardonnay chicken sausage works beautifully with the sauerkraut.  The flavors make you feel like you are enjoying this meal on a crisp, fall day in Pennsylvania, surrounded by falling leaves.  (Instead, today it makes me feel like I am in an inferno LOL).

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The flavor compliments the sauerkraut perfectly!


Let’s get started!

The first thing I do is prep all of my peppers and onions.  Cut them into 1/4 inch slices and set aside.

Next, you will want to cut your sausages into coins.  This will allow for even cooking and a “no knives required” meal.

Preheat your oven to 375 degree F.  Take a large baking dish (really just one that will fit all of this goodness) and spray with a non-stick coconut oil cooking spray.

I like to add my sausage first, then the peppers and onions, and the sauerkraut last. Drain the sauerkraut slightly before adding as it has a LOT of liquid. Season each layer liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. You can also choose to add a fun spice blend.  I get most of my spices from Penzey’s.  In this recipe, I like to add a dash of Ozark seasoning.  (For a more authentic German flavor, add a tsp of ground coriander and a tsp of ground cardamom to the sauerkraut).

Cover your baking dish in foil and place in the oven.  Cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  You really just want to ensure everything is cooked through.  Serve with a green salad or a side of veggies.  Or just eat it as is!

This recipe is grain, soy and dairy-free.

Enjoy!

XOXO,

Kristen

Recipe for Sauerkraut and Sausage Casserole

Serves 4 big helpings (or 2 big helpings and lunches the next day)

  • 2 packages (approx. 8 links) of Apple Chardonnay Chicken Sausages (or sausage of choice), cut into coin-sized pieces
  • 4 mixed color bell peppers, seeds removed and cut into 1/4 slices
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/4 slices
  • 1- 32 oz jar of sauerkraut (can also use bagged sauerkraut), some liquid drained off
  • 1/2 tbsp of garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp of onion powder
  • 1 tsp of ground coriander (optional)
  • 1 tsp of ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp of Ozark Seasoning (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray.
  3. Layer the sausage, peppers and onions, and sauerkraut in the casserole dish, adding salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and (optional) seasoning between each layer.
  4. Cover with foil.
  5. Cook in the oven for approximately one hour.
  6. Serve with side salad or vegetables, or eat plain.

Variations to try!

  • Can add a layer of shredded mozzarella, white cheddar or yellow cheddar on top of the sauerkraut for a dairy version.
  • Don’t like sauerkraut? (First off, why?) You can always omit the sauerkraut and just do the sausage and peppers.  You may want to add a handful of raw cashews after cooking to give it some texture
  • Go nuts! Raw cashews or walnuts would be delicious if added on top after cooking.  Just be careful, as raw cashews have a lot of carbs.  However all nuts help deliver a healthy dose of fat to a meal.
  • Cook on the stove or on the grill.  There are a millions ways to experiment with this recipe.  Use it as your base and go to town!

 

 

Why I Began This Health Journey…

Good afternoon, friends!

I wanted to share a little bit about my recent past to hopefully motivate you into taking the next steps in eating healthier and living a more natural life in general!

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My weight loss journey started around 2009.  I was following a strict vegetarian diet that left me feeling sick and fatigued.  Prior to my wedding in September 2009, I had gone from weighing over 180 pounds to 137 pounds! To my surprise, it was because I was suffering from mono (the wonderful “kissing” virus).  However, a few short months later, I was experiencing back pain like never before, and had difficulty breathing.

Fast forward to 2011, when I had an open lung biopsy done at Hamot Hospital in Erie, Pa. They discovered I had a life-threatening lung disease called PVOD (pulmonary veno-occlusive disease).  It is a form of idiopathic hemosiderosis and pulmonary fibrosis.  The damage was irreversible.  HOWEVER…I was not willing to let myself be a victim.  So I started to get really serious about my health! I knew that I couldn’t reverse the damage, but I could prevent it from getting worse.

I started out slow by incorporating dance videos and light weight lifting.  Then, I overhauled my diet to eliminate wheat products. I instantly started to drop the little bit of weight that I had gained in 2011/2012. I had ballooned up to 150 from my previous 137.

In 2014, my husband and I had a lot of life changing events happening! We had moved from Warren, PA to Triadelphia, WV for Jason’s job.  I quit my job where I had been working for four years and took some time to myself.  I worked out every day, ate a clean diet and took our dogs on nice, long walks.  I was killing it in the health department!

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Looking hot! 117 pounds of lean muscle

However in May of that year, I was diagnosed after a lumpectomy on my leg with stage 3 Hodgkin’s B-Cell Lymphoma.  Talk about a shock! I had been working out, eating right, and living a very healthy lifestyle.  I was angry for what was happening to me, but knew that I couldn’t lose focus.  I did six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, had one long hospital stay due to getting an upper respiratory infection, and was deemed in remission in October. YAY! My lowest weight before getting sick was 117 pounds. During chemo, I dropped down to a scary 110 pounds.

Regardless of all that had happened, I was still dedicated to living a healthy life.  I ate my grain-free diet (more to come in the next post) and worked out 2-4 times per week.

In March of this past year, I developed a severe staph infection in my lungs and went into respiratory distress (a.k.a. I wasn’t breathing and my body was quickly deteriorating).  I was air-lifted to the Cleveland Clinic where I spent two long weeks in the ICU, and for five of those days was put into a medically-induced coma.

After three longs months of recovery, I am finally starting to get back to my old self.  The one thing that was always constant for me was the love from my husband, family and friends.  Their support was what kept me going and made me want to get out of that hospital even faster! I also maintained my healthy eating habits and slowly started incorporating exercise back into my life.  I am maintaining my weight at around 123 pounds.

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Feeling normal again!

So there it is!  I’m excited to share all of my healthy eating, exercise, and general well-being with all of you.  If I can do it, you can do it! I promise:)

XOXO,

Kristen