Sunday, January 25, 2015

whole life challenge week 1: and i didn't even kill anyone

Week one of the Whole Life Challenge is done -- I survived a week without dairy. A week without bread. A week without added sugar. Okay, if I'm being honest -- a week with MUCH less added sugar. As much as I've been label reading to cut down on sugar, it's impossible to nix it entirely, and I refuse to drive myself crazy trying.

I went through some pretty terrible sugar and/or carbohydrate withdrawal earlier this week. I was lethargic, cranky and had an awful headache for two days straight. I felt like death for all of Tuesday. I was so tired by the end of the day that I had to take a 15 minute nap in my car before going climbing. By Wednesday, my energy levels were starting to rebound and my headache was just letting up and then.. I started sneezing uncontrollably. Of course I have since come down with a nasty cold. I doubt that one is related to the other but the cold has really made me crave carb-y comfort foods. I'm also trying to deal with the fact that things aren't as sweet as I'm used to. Sounds obvious, since I've cut out most of the added sugar from my diet. I'm hoping that eventually my taste buds will "reset" and I won't crave overly sweetened foods.

Despite the headaches and coming down with the plague, I managed to have a good week. I even had the chance to do a little experimenting in the kitchen.
  • Mint Chocolate Larabars: I learned a few lessons from this one: 1. Soak the dates before using them and 2. CUT the dates before throwing them into the food processor -- not doing so resulted in me almost destroying my little food processor (which is okay, because it led me to purchase a nicer, bigger one with a more powerful motor). If I had soaked and chopped the dates before starting, then I probably would have been able to get everything to the correct consistency. Texture-wise they start to crumble when they get back to room temperature. Taste-wise? They're delicious and I'll definitely try this recipe again.
  • Coconut Chia pudding: I don't have a link because I combined a few different recipes. I used 1 1/2 cups almond/coconut milk, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut, and a handful of blueberries. I put it in a jar and shook it every 10 minutes for the first half an hour and then let it sit in the fridge overnight. 
  • Banana Coconut Macaroons: I didn't use full fat coconut milk, so I found the mixture to be waaaay too watery. I made the executive decision to add some unsweetened cocoa powder and that seemed to hold it together pretty well. I love macaroons - though of course the ones I usually eat are full of added sugars, so I wasn't sure how much I'd like these. I was pleasantly surprised - the very ripe banana that I used added a good amount of sweetness. These are great for those times when I just need a little snack. 
  • Green smoothie -- with a twist: I've made a lot of kale and/or spinach smoothies, but this time I tried something new: I added half an avocado to a mixture of banana, kale, peanut butter, and coconut/almond milk. And you know what? It was delicious. Creamy, rich, and perfect for breakfast. 
For week two, I'm going to focus on getting a little more creative with my dinner options. Last week consisted mostly of turkey chili and and chicken noodle soup (hold the egg noodles -- my favorite part!). I have a few ideas in mind, starting with mashed cauliflower and buffalo chicken quinoa. I also think I need a few more meals that involve bacon because, well, bacon.

Have you ever done the Whole Life Challenge, or something similar? Any recipes that you love and want to pass along? Share 'em!  


Sunday, January 18, 2015

#wholelifechallenge

Have you heard of the Whole Life Challenge? Neither had I up until a month ago. It's an eight week game that allows me to partner with my colleagues across campus to compete against teams and individuals all over the world. According to the website, the game "works by identifying the areas that almost everyone wants to change, and then making a daily game out of creating new habits in each of those areas." There are three levels -- Kick Start, Lifestyle, and Performance. I'd like to think that I eat pretty well(ish) to begin with, so I went with Lifestyle. 

Something that attracted me to the Whole Life Challenge is nutrition is not the end all be all of the game. Over the next eight weeks, I'll be focusing on my physical and mental well-being in equal measure. Will I give up bread and added sugar forever? Probably not. But I am hoping that by the end of this I will be making more mindful food choices.

It is a "game" after all, so there's a scoring component. Nothing thrills me more than a healthy dose of competition, even if it does mean cutting out bread and dairy for the next eight weeks. The maximum number of points you can earn in a day is 13 and here's how:
Nutrition (0-5 points):I begin each day with 5 points. If I eat or drink something that is non-compliant, then I lose a point. What I like about this game is that it's fully expected that you will lose points for nutrition. The point is to "make choices that result in long-term health, happiness, and well-being is much more important than earning a perfect score." It's nice to have the option of indulging without feeling as though I've blown the entire day. 
Exercise (0 or 2 points):This is pretty simple -- if I intentionally spend at least 10 minutes doing something that I consider exercise, then I get the points. Basically, if my heart-rate is elevated and I am "doing something to build ... strength, endurance, stamina, flexibility, speed, power, balance, coordination, agility, or accuracy" then it's considered exercise. They recommend 3-5 workouts per week, with the remaining days spent doing active recovery. Of all of the parts of the challenge, this will be the least difficult for me to adhere to, since I already exercise regularly.
Stretching (0 or 2 points): All I need to do for these 2 points is to stretch for a cumulative 10 minutes a day. Yoga counts (ugh, yoga). Strangely enough, I think that I will have to consciously remind myself to stretch, since it's not something that I normally do. 
Water (0 or 1 point):Easy enough -- just drink 1/3 of your bodyweight in ounces per day. As you'd expect, neither water nor caffeinated beverages count towards your total water consumption for the day. 
Supplement (0 or 1 point):I am notoriously bad at remembering to take a daily vitamin, and I am going to try to stick to this for the eight weeks (and hopefully beyond!). The Whole Life Challenge recommends fish oil, vitamin D, or probiotics. I've chosen to go with fish oil for the duration of the competition. 
Lifestyle (0 or 1 point):Each week, the challenge introduces a new lifestyle practice and the point is gained if you incorporate it into your day. "These lifestyle habits will range from physical health practices like getting more sleep to practices with more intangible benefits like meditation or taking 10 minutes for yourself. " This week's is to practice mindfulness for 10 minutes a day.  
Reflections (0 or 1 point):I gain one point by posting in my public journal on the website. It can be about anything -- a challenge I faced, or a lesson learned. It's a good way to stay connected with the game, and with my team. 

Yesterday was day one of the Whole Life Challenge and I thought it went pretty well. I was able to earn all 13 points and I feel as though I made some good choices throughout the day. My menu wasn't all that exciting, and maybe a little low on calories, but I expect that I'll get a little more robust as I get more familiar with the compliant food list. Here's a quick recap of the day:
Workout: WLC Official Workout (to be used as a baseline), 30 minutes on the elliptical
Breakfast: 3 eggs (scrambled), with broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, and diced tomatoes. Coffee with unsweetened almond/coconut blend milk 
Lunch: kale, spinach, banana and peanut butter smoothie 
Snack: 2 apples 
Dinner: Grilled chicken topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles and sweet potato fries (hey, it's allowed!)

Friday, January 16, 2015

hello, moneypenny

Once upon a Halloween, five years ago, I was dressed up as the Travelocity gnome. At some point during the party, I started to sneeze and assumed that I was allergic to my beard (duh). I ended up sleeping in the host's guest room on a pillow that was mostly used by the three cats who lived there. This resulted in an almost-closed throat and hives all over my neck. Yikes. And it was here that I thought my love affair with cats was over.

That was, until I met j2. And Kirby.

At first, I was really hesitant to play with her. Between my allergies and her VERY long fur, I thought that would be a death sentence. I've actually said, out loud, to her (yes, I talk to the cat, don't you?) "You're going to be the death of me". It took a long time, but I did eventually build up some sort of immunity to her and her massive amount of fluff. And it's hard not to love this sweet face:



And no one was more surprised than I when I decided I wanted to adopt a kitten back in November. Me, former cat hater, with a very current allergy. I just felt the overwhelming urge to take care of a tiny little creature. I'd be lying if I told you that a dog wasn't my first choice - but condo living coupled with a busy schedule would be so unfair for a pup. Once j2 was on board with the idea, I started looking online at animal rescues in the area and falling in love with every. single. kitten. I found on petfinder. We went to a meow mixer (adorable, right?) at a pet store about an hour outside of the city, I held literally three kittens and then j2 saw Penny. I held her and she purred and immediately fell asleep in my arms and it was a done deal. I mean, look at this cutie pie:


We had to wait about three weeks to officially adopt her since she was too young yet to be spayed (not even 2lbs, which is the minimum!). Penelope Moneypenny -- Penny -- came home on December 7 and she's been the cutest little monster you could ever imagine. She's playful, smart, and ridiculously affectionate. I've been home sick for a couple of days and she's barely left my side. Whereas Kirbs is chill and calm just like j2, Penny is a tornado of energy just like me. It's pretty hilarious how we ended up with two cats that mirror our personalities so closely.

Anyway, I'm in love. And I can't stop taking pictures. Here are a few of my favorites, but you can find (an almost embarrassing amount of) other photos on my instagram:









Friday, October 24, 2014

on n'es vit d'une fois (YOLO)

I went to Paris with two of my oldest friends (who are also two of my favorite people). 

Other than getting a nasty cold and losing my voice somewhere between Iceland and Boston and being asked by customs if I'd been to Africa, it was pretty much the best week ever.

We ate all the things. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

race recap: title 9 sprint triathlon (hint: i didn't drown)

So, I guess I should probably write about that triathlon that I did a month ago.. right? Here you go --

Months and months ago, I decided that I was bored of long distance running. Two straight summers of marathon training was tough. It's hard to do all of the fun outdoorsy things such as cycling and climbing when you're upping your mileage every week. So I had the brilliant idea of signing up for a sprint triathlon. I kept thinking "man, I have so much time to train for this! It'll be great!" And then all of a sudden it was seven weeks before race day and I had done nothing in the way of training.