21-Day Sugar Elimination: The good, the bad, and the chubby

We all go through phases in our life where our good intentions with diet and fitness get left behind. For me, I didn’t just fall off the wagon, I took an epic swan dive off of it and then got dragged behind for a few miles. Yeah, it was that bad, or at least, it felt that way to me. I decided I needed to take charge of my diet again, especially now that I have a consistent schedule. I decided to try a 21-day sugar elimination challenge. 30 days can feel like forever, and two weeks isn’t usually long enough to see results, but 21 is pretty manageable.

The What:

No processed food, no fruit, no honey, no sugar (obviously). I grappled with the idea of whether to include grains or not and opted for occasional grains. No wheat, but I did make some savory millet muffins to satisfy my texture cravings. I also did use stevia occasionally. I made up my own rules for this challenge, however, there is an official version of the 21-Day Sugar Detox complete with guidance and meal plans here.

The Why:

My weakness is poor planning. I dread coming up with meal ideas and I absolutely loathe going to the grocery store. If all the ingredients are there and a plan is in place I have no problems with the actual cooking. The sugar detox was less about eliminating junk food like candy, soda, or donuts which I don’t eat anyway, and more about actually cooking real meals on a regular basis instead of reaching for a Lara Bar as dinner (oh, yes, I did).

The Bad:

The first few days were a little rough. I had some mild headaches and fatigue as my body made the switch from carbohydrates to fat as its primary fuel source. Meal planning and prepping was definitely an effort and I had to set aside the time to make it happen. I never made it the full 21-Days. I didn’t think about Thanksgiving when I started this challenge. This holiday isn’t that indulgent for me, but I didn’t anticipate leftovers and it fell apart quickly after that. I only survived 15 days of the challenge.

The Good:

This was so much easier than I expected. I thought my sugar cravings would turn me into something like Gollum, lurking around my kitchen, tearing food out of my cabinets looking for any morsel of chocolate I can find hissing “my precioussssss!!!” I’ve totally been there before; you probably have too. Admit it. Honestly though, I didn’t have many cravings. I found that some tea or coffee with a little stevia easily squashed the sugar monster when it started to rear its ugly head. I did have success with planning ahead and cooking real food. Usually doubling the recipe to ensure I had lots of leftovers for lunch and dinners throughout the week. Now that I know I CAN do this, it will be much easier to commit to and maintain in the future.

The Chubby:

Yeah, ok, I admit I did this a little for the weight loss. I know that eating proper whole foods is the key to having a healthy lean body and I wasn’t eating enough of it. I did lose almost 3 pounds in the 15 days I stuck to the challenge. That’s actually pretty good considering I haven’t been working out at all. It was the difference between pants that were unbearably tight, to pants that are now merely uncomfortable. Now that I have had some success with this experiment and will be starting to train again this week, I see no reason why I can’t get back to the fitter version of myself I was a year ago.

The Takeaway:

A challenge like this should never be used as a quick fix. Instead, view it as an experiment to see how your body, mind, and mood are affected when changing variables such as nutrition, fitness, or mindset. I noticed that when I did indulge in sugar again, the headaches came right back. I wasn’t expecting that but I’m glad I know that I have immediate negative reinforcement to keep me in check. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t complete the challenge, but instead of binging on cookies because I failed, I’m going to celebrate the success of my 15 days and use that to fuel the coming weeks, months and years of a healthier lifestyle. I won’t be perfect, but I’ll be a step closer. I also think a challenge like this would be good to do a few times a year to help reset any bad habits that have crept back in and keep you aware of your goals.

Changing bad habits doesn’t have to be agonizing and dreadful, but it does require effort and that effort is critical to the success of your goals. What effort will you commit to today, right now, this very moment?

“I See A Healthy Me” Children’s Book

I See A Healthy Me!

I’m so excited because my mom, Lois DiMari, has just published her first children’s book!

The book, titled “I See A Healthy Me” is about teaching young children the value of building healthy habits from a young age. Adorable illustrations and fun, easy to read text make this a great book you can share with the little ones in your life.

This would make a perfect Christmas gift for under $10! Available in softcover or Kindle editions.

Please check it out at Balboa Press or on Amazon, spread the word, and encourage children to be healthy for life!

Why Giving In Doesn’t Mean Giving Up

never-give-up

I originally moved to Austin a little over two years ago to start my own health & wellness business. I’ll give it a year, I thought. That’s enough time to get established.

I vastly underestimated the amount of time it would take to immerse myself in a new city and a new community. It wasn’t until at least a year and half went by that I really felt like I was finally starting meet some people and make friends. My business was going nowhere, but, I thought, I’m just starting to build my network so I need more time. Unfortunately bills don’t wait for you to build an established clientele so I started personal training at a major gym chain.

Nearly a year and a half went by working at the gym and clientele had slowed to a crawl for all of us. Looking at the accumulating debt and shrinking paychecks I decided I could no longer give the gym more time to make it work. I had dabbled in viewing Craig’s List ads and could never quite commit to sending out a resume that would chain me to a desk again. On a whim one night, I sent out a resume thinking nothing would come of it. I got a call back the very next day which led to an offer I couldn’t ignore.

Though I made it known how thrilled I would be to work with this company, a part of me rebelled. Why am I giving up everything I have worked for the past 2 years? Would I be selling myself out for the comfort of a steady paycheck? If I go back to an 8 to 5 job is the dream dead? Am I trading the potential to change someone’s life for a stapler and some white-out?

I wrestled with this for quite some time before I made peace with my decision. Here’s how. First, I had to accept that it’s ok to take care of myself. My mounting debt was a big source of stress for me and knowing I can reduce and soon eliminate it is like a huge burden removed from my life. It’s ok to do what you need to do to pay your bills.

Second, I realized my opportunity to work with clients or teach classes or workshops wouldn’t really be hindered. Most of my successes have come in the hours when the public is free, on nights and weekends. If anything, I now have more time for these opportunities since I was working nights and weekends at the gym.

Third, I now have the time to attend events where I can enjoy myself, network, and potentially meet new clients. I am now looking at my business as a hobby that brings me extra income instead of a job that I am failing at. This releases the negativity I have associated with it and allows me to have passion for health again.

So, I did give in to taking care of my needs, but I didn’t give up. If someone wants my help, I will give it with enthusiasm. I will still learn about the newest research and health trends. I will continue to blog about health, wellness or my experiences in life. And I will still let my hair down (well, if I had enough to let down) and dance with passion when the opportunities arise.

I am grateful for the opportunity that a desk job is giving me. The chance to be debt free and to have the income to GO! and DO STUFF! again. I am so excited about that. Call me sometime; we’ll go have coffee. My treat, because, I can afford that now.

How I Decided to Stop Being Miserable and Start Kicking Ass

When I tell people I am a personal trainer for a large gym chain, they usually exclaim how awesome it must be to be employed at a place where you can work out anytime you want. I thought the same thing when I started. A year and a half later I now understand that though I like working with my clients, the gym is still a job, and that means when my time is my own, the last thing I want to do is be there longer for my own workouts. This led to less and less motivation until I realized one day that my clients were becoming fitter than me.

Fast forward through the general stresses of life like moving back and forth across town a few times, a couple of breakups, a nearly empty summer client schedule, dwindling funds, and lack of exercise, and I have to admit I put on a few pounds. Well, ok, more than a few. Even worse, my energy was lacking, my strength was waning, and the depression demons were starting to eye my growing discontent greedily.

My recent relationship failure was a wake-up call. I immediately decided that I didn’t want to be the person who reclines on a chaise lounge with the back of their hand to their forehead exclaiming “woe is me!” Nope, unacceptable. I decided to use this opportunity to become something better. I took a few days to process the sadness, then got to work.

fainting_thumb

“Woe is me!” Hell no, not happening!

It was a convenient coincidence (or was it?) that during this time Groupon happened to offer two things I had been wanting to try: Kettlebell classes and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Both of these classes were close to me and even fit with my schedule. Realizing I needed to be out of my gym’s environment to succeed, I immediately signed up for both.

I have committed to going 5 times a week, as long as my schedule continues to allow it. Having an obligation each morning helps keep me focused and more productive throughout the rest of the day. Working hard next to new moms, overweight empty-nesters, cancer survivors or ultra-fit triathletes boosts me out of the depths of loneliness as we cheer each other on. Now, in week 4, I am starting to notice my endurance improving and my muscles becoming firm again, I am eating cleaner than I have in a year, and I have even lost 2 pounds so far. There are still bad days, but being healthy and strong makes them a lot easier to take on.

Want to hear the best part? The best part is knowing that I am doing this solely for myself. This is my practice, what I do that will lead me one day to say I’m proud of who I am and what I have accomplished. Like a catalyst in a chain reaction, this growing confidence will spread to other areas of my life, and to other people in my life. We’re going nuclear, baby, yeah! An explosion of greatness is about to happen!

415575_424625037551784_1253440103_o

Effecting worldly change whilst kicking some ass. Go me!

Authors note: This post took quite a U-turn. The original intent was to write about injury prevention, but sometimes you just gotta go with the flow and express the message that needs to be given. This helped me process the past 4 weeks of emotional turmoil; I hope it helps you in some small way too!

Primal Deodorants – A Review

As a holistic-minded individual, I am always seeking healthful alternatives to chemical-laden products that have become ubiquitous in our lives. Today, we are talking about deodorants. I won’t go into the lengthy debate of whether they may or may not cause cancer; I’m sure you have heard enough over the years to make the decision on whether or not you are willing to use commercial deodorants.

Here’s a secret I’m a little ashamed of….I do. Here’s why….because I have tried a dozen different natural deodorants and none of them work. Still, when my friend Sandra Brougher over at Renew Whole Health sent me some samples, I was excited to try them out. My results were pleasantly surprising.

Primal Pit Paste – (Baking soda, coconut oil, shea butter, arrowroot powder, lavender)

Primal Pit Paste comes in a jar with a consistency sort of like cookie dough. You are provided a mini-popsicle stick as an applicator and you rub a pea-sized amount into your pits like a gritty lotion. Here’s the deal: I hiked in Texas summer heat, I ran in Texas summer heat, I wore a polyester uniform shirt all day long and this stuff held up like a champ. No need for reapplication and it kept the stink away for literally two days straight (don’t ask why I didn’t shower for two days).

I was worried the coconut oil would stain my clothes, but it didn’t. The baking soda can leave a very light residue, but it’s still less than the “invisible” deodorants and washes out easily. If you plan to travel with this stuff, stick it in a baggie though, the box it arrived in was stained with oil that leaked out of the jar.

Unfortunately, I began to notice after about a week that my arm pits were becoming red and I had some painful clogged pores. I switched back to my old anti-perspirant and it cleared up right away. Their FAQ does warn that irritation may occur but usually clears up after consistent use. They even mention it may be necessary to go through a detox period from the chemical build-up of aluminum deodorants. I really like the product and will continue to use it as often as I can.

Pros: OMG, it works!, smells nice, doesn’t stain, lasts forever, only $8.95, comes in regular, strong or even kids varieties, various scents, sticks now available (contains beeswax)

Cons: May cause irritation, jar can leak oil during transport in hot weather

Image

Primal Pit Stick from Paleo Life Organics – (Coconut oil, baking soda, beeswax)

Similiar to the Primal Pit Paste, Primal Pit Stick deodorant comes in a more convenient stick applicator. I didn’t experiment with this one as much because though it was unscented, it smelled strongly of beeswax which I find very unpleasant. I passed it on to another friend who didn’t mind the smell as much. It seemed to work equally as well as the Primal Pit Paste though just a bit stickier due to the beeswax. I just discovered they have a Sensitive version that contains arrowroot powder in place of baking soda and does come in scented varieties. If I can’t overcome the irritation of Primal Pit Paste I may give this a try instead.

Pros: Seemed to hold up well, though testing was limited, baking-soda free available, convenient applicator

Cons: Strong beeswax smell, slightly sticky, a little more expensive at $12 per stick

The Future of Food May Not Be Food At All

Image

Yeah, but what does it taste like?

If you could be healthy, lose weight, and save money all without eating food, would you? I recently read an article on a product called Soylent (obvious nod to Solent Green, except it’s not made from people, I hope) that claims to be the future of nutrition.

Created by Rob Rhinehart, a former electrical engineer, when he was too poor to eat a balanced diet. He decided to do some research on what nutrients were needed in the human diet, ordered the nutrient powders online and proceeded to create a recipe for a shake that one could subsist and even thrive on without the need for actual food.

His personal experiment became so popular that Soylent’s kickstarter campaign of $100,000 was funded within 2 days (they were hoping to succeed within 2 months) and there are now over $1 million in pre-orders. Clearly, others are interested in doing away with the inconvenience of buying, preparing, and eating real food.

The formula is constantly being updated and currently consists mainly of oat powder and maltodextrin for carbs, an EPA/DHA blend, flax seed and MCT’s for healthy fats, and a rice/pea protein isolate blend (switched recently from whey protein due to concerns with allergies and vegan compatibility).

My concerns with this type of diet are digestive atrophy and micronutrient deficiencies. Soylent makers claim that there are no detrimental effects to being on a liquid diet long term; but adding a few solid food meals a week should offset these concerns. As for micronutrients, the complete Soylent recipe isn’t published to protect their formula and I’m sure they have taken this into account. However, the human diet has variety for a reason. This wide variety of foods helps ensure we have maximum absorption of macro and micronutrients. I have a hard time believing a single formula can provide long term health benefits.

It might be nice to have a nutritionally complete meal replacement such as Soylent on occasion, but personally, I’ll stick to eating real food. There’s no substitute for the pleasure of a well-made meal shared in good company.

How Rock Climbing Is Teaching Me About Failure (and Success!)

Image

It’s a long way down!

I recently tried rock climbing for the first time. Before they set you loose inside the rock gym you must pass a short course in how to use the harnesses and ropes. I will never forget the moment when  I had climbed halfway up the wall and the instructor said “Okay, now let go and fall.” I looked down, it seemed like a long, long way down, and replied “Are you kidding me?” I remained glued to the wall though my fingers were tiring and my arms beginning to tremble while the instructor coaxed me to simply let go.

I realized a couple things while I was clinging for dear life. First, it’s hard to overcome  a fear that has been ingrained in you for 35 years. Second, it’s difficult to place trust that someone will catch you. Third, that what I was feeling up there on the wall was a lot like my myriad other fears in all facets of my life.

Whatever the struggle, usually we reach a certain point where we are frozen to our wall. Too scared to go up, but even more scared to fall down. We cling to our safety zone, though we become fatigued and tired of being stuck.

When you approach an obstacle, whether it be a 30 foot rock wall or a career or fitness goal, it looks daunting. You observe, gather information, plan your route for reaching the top then tackle it with enthusiasm. Somewhere, halfway up you get stuck and panic sets in. You can let go, give up, and start again, or you can take stock of your resources. Are you using everything available to you to progress? Can you shift right or left, move even an inch up or down to provide more leverage? Does another perspective from a friend or family member offer a solution that you cannot see? 

Usually, the solution isn’t easy. It’s a reach that’s just outside of where you feel stable, a move that requires more power than you think you have left. Your only option is to give it a shot, or give up. I’ve discovered that even though it terrifies me to try, I have been able to reach that next handhold more often than not. Being on the wall is teaching me about trying harder, that you are capable of more than you think you are. Even if you fail, you can try again, and you’ll be stronger the next time. 

So what happened with the first fall I was paralyzed to take? Well, I did it, and you know what? It was kind of fun. Even though I get scared every time I climb, once I reach the top and relish that sense of accomplishment, I can let go, enjoy the smooth ride back down, then tackle the next obstacle.