December 18, 2015

how i lost 50 pounds

July 2014 and December 2015
Earlier this week, I told you about my incredible 50-pound weight loss in the last year. Because so many people have asked me (and my mom, who has lost 30 pounds in the last nine months) how I did it, I thought I'd just post here.

I took the basics of Trim Healthy Mama and adapted them to fit me--so what I've done isn't really THM anymore, but it worked for me.

Here are some pointers for following THM:
  • The main thing to remember is to separate your carbs and fats and don't eat them in the same meal. As long as you know the difference between fats and carbs, you could make a go of this diet without knowing anything else.
  • There are three basic types of meals: S (fat), E (carb), and FP (low fat and low carb). I mainly ate S meals with a few Es and FPs thrown in. If you're looking for recipes, etc., you need to understand this terminology.
  • In an S meal, you need to keep your carbs very low. 10 grams or fewer is recommended.
  • In an E meal, you keep your fat very low. 5 grams or fewer.
  • Just say no to refined sugar and processed foods.
  • Protein is a must with every meal.
  • Eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Definitely do not eat more frequently than that, and don't wait much longer, either.
Now here's where I made the diet my own:
  • One of the basics of THM is eating carbs that are low on the glycemic scale--so sweet potatoes and brown rice are OK; white potatoes and white rice are not. Corn is also a no-no, with the exception of popcorn every once in a while. I did not follow this at all. If I wanted a small baked potato with a carb meal, I ate a baked potato ... plain (well, usually with a heavy dose of garlic salt), because you don't want to mix your carbs and fats.
  • THM allows for certain non-nutritive sweeteners: stevia, erythritol, and xylitol. After some research, I grew uncomfortable with using these sweeteners, so I switched to using honey, grade b maple syrup, and coconut sugar in moderation. And I still lost weight :-) (The unsanctioned Facebook group Trim Healthy Mama - Whole Foods Style was very helpful as I switched sweeteners.)
  • THM recommends an upper limit of carbs in an E meal. After the first month or so, I stopped counting--and now, I couldn't even tell you what that limit is! Simply separating carbs and fats worked for me.
  • I continued drinking diet pop (the one place where I didn't cut all artificial sweeteners)--I just limited myself to about one per week, and I never drank diet pop that contained aspartame.
A few things I learned along the way:
  • While the official THM Facebook groups can be helpful, I found that they were not for me--too many people are very dogmatic about what is and is not allowed, and some even treat the book as if it were an extension of Scripture. I know that sounds crazy, but there's definitely some of that going on! Also, many women on the main boards post about incredibly rapid weight loss, and that can get discouraging for people who lose more slowly.
  • That said, the THM Beginners group is a great place to go with questions when you're just starting out.
  • Be prepared to feel terrible for the first few days to a week. You're probably going through withdrawals ... especially if you're coming right from the Standard American Diet. You will feel better soon.
  • You absolutely do not need any of the special ingredients that show up in a lot of recipes, like oat fiber, glucomannan, nutritional yeast, or konjac noodles. In fact, if you're local and trying THM, I have some oat fiber, glucomannan, and konjac noodles that you can have. For free. Seriously. Of all the special ingredients I bought, the only thing I still use is the nutritional yeast, which has a cheesy flavor. (I'm currently dairy free because of thyroid issues, so the nutritional yeast has come in handy.)
  • If you don't mind using stevia, Oikos Triple Zero Greek yogurt will become your best friend. It's no pricier than any other Greek yogurt (so it's still not cheap), and it makes a great protein-packed snack.
  • Keep it simple. You could spend all of your time cooking, but you don't need to.
  • Google is your friend. There are some amazing THM-centric food blogs out there; just Google what you're looking for. Keep in mind that there are also absolutely disgusting recipes out there...I had probably a 50% success rate with THM recipes I found online. (Here's a link to my Pinterest board that contains THM recipes I tried and liked. It doesn't have many pins ...)
  • Many Paleo recipes will work with THM if you're following a whole foods approach.
  • There is now a Trim Healthy Mama paid membership site with videos, recipes, etc. While I haven't joined the site, I know many people enjoy it--but it is absolutely not necessary to join.
Here are some examples of meals:
  • Breakfast: Fried eggs and bacon or sausage (S); omelette (S); steel cut oats with a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon (E).
  • Lunch/Dinner: Bacon cheeseburger without the bun and roasted green beans (S); casserole with brown rice, baked chicken breast, and tomato sauce (E); roast beef or pork (S).
  • Snack/dessert (keep in mind that if it's a dessert, it needs to be the same type as your meal): 85% dark chocolate (S); Oikos Triple Zero (E or FP, depending on how much); coffee with cream or half-and-half (S); full-fat Greek yogurt, unsweetened or sweetened with stevia (S), air popped popcorn (E).
If you have any questions about anything, please leave a comment. I'd love to help!

December 15, 2015

one year later...

I began following the Trim Healthy Mama diet one year ago, in large part due to the picture below. (I'm on the far left in the 2nd row.)
Photo from the 2014 Nebraska Christian Christmas card
But before we get to that, let's go back to the beginning. I've had a weight problem nearly all of my life. I don't know for sure when it started, but I do know that I was quite chunky by the 8th grade.
At Awana Scholarship Camp, 1995.
I don't know what my highest weight was, as the scale definitely wasn't my friend, and I avoided it as much as possible, but I can tell you when it was: six years ago.
This picture was taken on December 11, 2009. I realize it's no body shot, but no one needs to be reminded of that! About three weeks after this photo was taken, my body basically fell apart on me, and I ended up in the emergency room with what I thought was appendicitis and turned out to be a gallbladder attack.

After that, I dropped 20 pounds fairly quickly by sharply cutting the fat I consumed. So how did I replace the hole in my diet? With sugar and carbs. In fact, I can vividly remember making some extremely low fat chocolate cookies that consisted basically of egg whites, cocoa, and powdered sugar. In retrospect, I know this swapping sugar for fat was a terrible trade off, but at the time I thought I was at least sort of taking care of myself. 

Over the next five years, as I went through a lot of health stuff (which I talked about here), I gained and lost the same 15 pounds repeatedly. 

As December 2014 dawned, I was frustrated with myself and my weight. I'd been gluten free (for thyroid reasons) since the end of May, and I'd only dropped two pounds. Around that time, I started seeing lots of Facebook posts about this diet called Trim Healthy Mama. I finally decided to buy the book, which is a nearly 650 page tome. (The authors have since released a much smaller--and cheaper--version.) Once I had the book in my hands, I was pretty overwhelmed, and the book just sat on my coffee table ... until the day we took the picture at the top of this post. The instant I saw the picture, I knew something needed to change. I went home that night and started reading the book, and the next day I started following the plan. While I only followed it halfheartedly through Christmas, I dove in for real on January 1.

To my surprise, it worked!

From December 2014 through August of this year, I lost 41 pounds! Then I started following the AIP diet to try to heal some thyroid issues, and the weight loss slowed down. 

Still, I have lost 50 pounds in one year.

That number is nearly incomprehensible. When I look in the mirror, I still see the same Becky ... though the size 10 pants and medium tops confirm that I am much smaller than I used to be (16/18 pants and 18/20 tops).

Never before did I understand how an anorexic could see herself as fat, but now I do. When I was obese, I saw myself as much smaller than I really was. Now that I'm on the low end of overweight (yes, according to the charts, I'm still overweight), I still see the 206 pounds in the mirror (or at least the 206 pounds as I saw them at the time). It's bizarre, really. Only when I see photographs do I really believe the truth. So here's a look at me through the year.

Christmas 2014. My face absolutely cracks me up ... but see how much fat there is around my face and on my forearm? Weight: 204

March 2015. With Charissa, the head speech coach, at our last regular season meet. Weight: 185

July 2015. With Mom (who had been on THM for three months at this point) visiting my sister over the 4th of July. Weight: 170

September 2015. Blue & White Day during Homecoming week--we're recreating a photo we took several years before. Weight: 160

November 2015. Pretty much the only full body shot I have, and Isis the cat is obscuring it! Weight: 156.

December 2015. With Mom on an unseasonably warm Sunday. Weight: 154.

Honestly, I thought I'd always be fat ... so I'm very grateful to Serene and Pearl for the Trim Healthy Mama diet! While I only strictly followed the diet for about two months, I've applied the principles throughout the year--and Mom (who has lost 30 pounds) and I are proof that it works!

Several people have asked me for tips on implementing the diet, and I'm working on a post about that now. I hope to have it up by this weekend.

To those of you who have been following along on my weight loss journey, thank you for the encouragement you've given me along the way! A simple "You look great!" goes a long way ... even when I don't quite know how to respond. I especially am thankful for the support I've received from my parents--who never tried to get me to "cheat" and have always encouraged me to keep up the hard work--and from my sister Val, my biggest cheerleader. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission or referral bonus. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

November 10, 2015

california through photos

Late Monday night, I got home from a weekend trip with my parents to visit my uncle (my mom's brother). He has had some health issues, and I hadn't seen him since his last trip to Nebraska over Christmas 2013, so it was great to see him again! Here's a glimpse at our trip through photos ...

We left around 9:30 on Friday morning. Fortunately, we had time built into our schedule, as we encountered an unexpected detour. We still arrived in plenty of time.
On the shuttle to the airport. I forgot to alert Dad that we were taking a picture.

We ran into some of Steph's friends at the airport, and they ended up sitting right behind us on our Southwest flight to Vegas. Please excuse my wild selfie eyes.

As we neared Vegas, I couldn't help but take picture after picture after picture of the topography. So pretty, and these pics don't do it justice.

From my previous visit to the Las Vegas airport, I knew there would be a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, so we had to get hot drinks. I had hot tea, as I wasn't sure how my system would react to coffee after being on the AIP diet for eight weeks.

And then the fun part ... our first celebrity sighting! After boarding the flight from Vegas to Burbank, we got all settled, I turned off my phone (which was dying--my battery has the shortest life), and I looked up to see Nick Carter searching for a place to put his carry on. In case you've been living under a rock (or you weren't a teenage girl in the 90's), Nick Carter is a member of the Backstreet Boys and a current contestant on Dancing with the Stars. His partner, Sharna, was also on the flight. He ended up sitting about three rows behind us. Absolutely no one even let on that they knew who he was, and I played it cool, too ... until we landed and went to baggage claim. Mom noticed a man holding a sign that said "N. Carter" and told me to get a picture. So I did--not of the sign but of N. Carter himself.
Unfortunately, the picture was blurry, and there wasn't time to snap another. But I swear that this is Nick Carter!

Our friends Lee & Jean picked us up at the airport. Our first stop? In-N-Out, where I had my first fries in two months. And one very sorry "protein style" burger.

California is beautiful. I know that's general knowledge, but it's different when you're experiencing it for yourself! The weather was so fantastic--and there were practically no bugs! We spent most of our morning relaxing--and I spent a considerable amount of time in Lee & Jean's backyard.
Mom wanted to get a new Facebook cover photo. I think this one will do nicely.

My uncle is very protective of his privacy, so I cropped him out of the photos, but you can see that Mom and I enjoyed being with him! We spent much of the day at the assisted living place where he lives.

Back at Lee & Jean's, we started to watch the Husker game, but then it was supper time, so we went to Souplantation, where I neglected to take any photos. The food was good, though :-)
A photo posted by Becky Ritta (@beckyritta) on
After supper, we went to Walmart to get some things for my uncle. I'd been following the game on my phone, and, as we were standing in the checkout, I saw that we were up by one with 17 seconds left. I began obsessively hitting "refresh" on my Twitter feed ... and when I saw that we won, I yelled. In the checkout. The Californians though I was nuts.

We went to Lee & Jean's church on Sunday, and it was so nice to finally meet the people who were so helpful when my uncle had his health crisis. It was also, once again, nice outside ... so we walked home from church.
A photo posted by Becky Ritta (@beckyritta) on

While the others went to pick up my uncle for lunch, Mom and I relaxed in the back yard.

We had a wonderful time eating (outside!) and visiting with my uncle and Lee & Jean. Then Mom and I spent time with my uncle in his room.
While my uncle went to supper, Mom and I waited on a bench in the hallway. One cute little lady was so concerned about us because there was a fan on, and surely we were cold. I wasn't at all :-)

On Monday, it was time to head home. Pretty uneventful, except that we did have another celebrity sighting (though celeb might be pushing it a bit). "It's that guy from Spin City!" I exclaimed to Mom. No, not Michael J. Fox. Richard Kind. So not too exciting, but still fun to spot an actor.

We had a very long layover in Denver, and we ended up eating at McDonald's for lunch--because it was the ONLY fast food we spotted, and no way was Dad going to pay for a sit down meal. But then we found this, and all was right in the world.
This time, I took a chance on a latte made with coconut almond milk, and it tasted so good! Also, my body didn't rebel, which I appreciated.

A short flight to Omaha, supper with Blendy, and we headed home. I was greeted by these goobers, who didn't seem too excited to see me at first but have been very clingy in the last two days.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and I'm very grateful that I was able to go along with my parents. Also, I somehow managed to lose a pound--maybe I should disregard my diet more often!

October 21, 2015

eating for health? it's not all sunshine and rainbows

I started AIP a month and a half ago. In the first month, I saw an incredible change for the better in how I felt, and I really didn't feel deprived. I told one of my friends that the hardest part of AIP was not what I could and could not eat, but the loss of the social aspect of food. Going out to eat was not an option, which meant I couldn't go out for lunch with friends after church like I normally do. (Well, I guess I could have gone and just bought some iced tea, but that would have been really hard to do.)

Foodwise, though, it was all good. I even posted optimistic pictures of my food on Instagram. Like this.

And this.
Because I was feeling better than I had in months, sticking to the protocol was fairly easy.

Then I started reintroductions, and everything got hard. Really hard.

Most of it is psychological. When I can't have any of the forbidden things, I can get by. But when I can have some things and not others, that's where I struggle. And I'll be honest--it is so difficult to decide what to reintro when, and that messes with me, too. (There is a recommended order, but I'm not following it, which I'll get to in a minute.)

There's also a physical component. Overall, I haven't felt as good since I started reintroductions. I readily admit that I'm rushing the reintroduction process, simply because I don't know what else I can do. I'm going on a trip in early November, and I don't see how it will be possible for me to eat AIP. So I'm trying to test as many foods as I can, which means fudging on the amount of time between reintroductions. Some things are going well (cocoa), other things aren't (egg whites).

I know that I might be getting false positives and negatives because I'm not following the recommended (well tested) reintroduction format.

I know that I may have to go back to strict AIP when I get home, and I'm pretty prepared mentally for that. I'm actually kind of looking forward to it, as I'll be able to wait longer to start reintros and take my time with them.

But tonight? I'm struggling. I'm so tired of chicken, pork, coconut, and tea (and I love me some tea). The smell of coffee in the office nearly drove me over the brink this afternoon, and I wanted to eat (and drink) ALL OF THE THINGS. Hence the Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi pictured at the top of this post. My first pop in a month. It's a big cheat, but I justify it by the fact that Pepsi has removed aspartame, which I quit years ago. (Nevermind that all artificial sweeteners are no-nos. I'm justifying, remember?)

Will I pay for it tomorrow? Maybe.

But right now, as I'm savoring the taste, it seems worth it.

October 16, 2015

recipe: molasses cookies (aip)

In my last Friday Favorites, I told you I was adapting a recipe to make molasses cookies. I think I have it just about perfected!

These cookies are AIP compliant, which also makes them gluten-, egg-, nut- and dairy-free. (So my egg and dairy allergic brother-in-law could eat these!)

Basically, they're so good that I have to pop the extras in the freezer so I don't eat the whole batch in one sitting!

Molasses Cookies
adapted from AIP Chewy "Chocolate" Chunk Cookies on Flame to Fork
makes approximately 15 cookies

2/3 cup (3 oz) tapioca starch
scant 1/4 cup (1 oz) coconut flour
1 T gelatin (I use Great Lakes red can, but you can use Knox if you want)
1/4 cup coconut sugar (I buy mine in bulk at Sam's Club)
1 t baking soda
1/2 t sea salt
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/8 t mace (you can use 1/2 t nutmeg if not AIP)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 T maple syrup (I get mine from Trader Joe's--they have the cheapest price that I've found)
2 T molasses
2 t water, if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. (You're not making a gelatin egg here; just mix the dry gelatin in with the other dry ingredients.) Add all of the wet ingredients except the water, and mix well. The dough will not be as cohesive as regular cookie dough, but it should hold together. If it's too dry, add water one teaspoon at a time.
Your dough should look something like this.
Using a cookie scoop or your hands, form dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place two inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat. Flatten slightly with your hand, as these will not spread much in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on tray for five minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Some helpful hints:
  • I nearly always double the recipe--these are so good that they won't stick around long!
  • These cookies will start to get stale after about four days, but they freeze beautifully. I always store mine in the freezer.
  • When I'm making the recipe as printed, I just mix it up by hand. When making a double batch, I use my stand mixer.
  • Feel free to adjust the spices to your taste. Just know that the spices mellow and blend in the baking process--the dough always tastes much spicier than the baked cookies do.
  • I haven't played with alternate sweeteners at all. I'd imagine you could probably substitute honey for the maple syrup, but I haven't tried it.
  • My gas oven is pretty spastic and hard to regulate, so you may need to adjust your baking time slightly.
  • If you don't already have some of these ingredients (like the gelatin or the tapioca starch), shop around. The links I've provided go to Amazon, but I've found better deals at Vitacost and Thrive Market at times. It totally depends on the product. (Thrive Market is a membership site, but you can check prices without signing up. Also, they offer a free 30 day trial membership and 25% off your first order. You can check it out here.)
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission or referral bonus. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

October 9, 2015

five friday favorites #19: week of oct. 9, 2015 (aip edition)

This week's Friday Favorites is going to look a little different than usual--I have a theme: AIP.

Just before Labor Day, I talked about how I was going to embark on the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet in an effort to feel better. Today marks my 30th AIP day. In these 30 days, I've had only one truly bad "thyroidy" day (more on that later). I'm still tired all the time, and I've had other minor symptoms at times, but I have also seen an uptick in energy and stamina. I'm not ready to shout "I'm healed!" from the rooftops, but I'm definitely seeing improvement.

AIP is incredibly restrictive, but fortunately we have a little thing called the internet where bloggers share their AIP recipes! I have spent a ton of time in the kitchen over the last month, and I'm running my dishwasher every other day, whereas before, I'd run it maybe once a week. But I've found some absolutely amazing recipes ... and some duds, too. So today, I want to share my five favorite AIP foods. (These are mainly sweets or snack items--because those are the things I miss most.)

1. Molasses Cookies
I finally got that recipe I was telling you about last time perfected. (I was calling them ginger cookies then, but the molasses is what stands out, so that's the name I'm going with now!) I'd hoped to post the recipe tonight, but then a friend who's home from college for the weekend wanted to get together, and she's more important than any recipe! I'll be sure to link to it once it's up. I absolutely adore these cookies!

Update: Here is the recipe!

2. "Buttery" Baked Pita Crisps (from Eat Heal Thrive)
These little crisps are so incredibly simple to make, and they taste great! I didn't particularly think they tasted buttery, but they definitely reminded me of pretzels ... and that's a win in my book! They go perfectly with soup--they don't get soggy at all, which is what I always hated about putting crackers in my soup back in my gluten-filled days.

3. Sweet Potato Chips
I always thought I hated sweet potatoes. Their sweetness is what turned me off ... practically the only way I ever saw sweet potatoes was in sweet potato casserole, which just seemed disgusting to me. Why would you want to make sweet potatoes even sweeter? I didn't want them sweet in the first place! I tried sweet potato fries a few times and didn't like them, either. But now that regular potatoes are off the table (please, Lord, let it only be for a time!), I decided to give sweet potatoes another go. I started with sweet potato chips. I bought a bag for like $4 at the grocery store, and it wasn't even completely "legal"--it used the wrong kind of oil. But the chips grew on me, and I decided to try to make my own.
My homemade chips were fantastic! I found a recipe for making them in the oven, but I got impatient, so I fried the rest up in a skillet with coconut oil. I didn't feel so great the next day (but not terrible), and my sister suggested that maybe it had more to do with the excess oil than it did with the sweet potato itself.

However, the day before my one truly bad day since I've started AIP, I baked myself a sweet potato for supper. That was the only "out of the ordinary" food I ate that day, and it was more sweet potato at once than I'd ever before had. I know my bad day could have just been my thyroid deciding to act up for the fun of it, but I really feel like the sweet potato was connected. So I'm guessing that while sweet potatoes are OK for AIP, I need to be careful about them.

This revelation, of course, comes after I dropped something like $15 on a few bags of Jackson's Honest Sweet Potato Chips. These chips are phenomenal, and the only ingredients are sweet potatoes, organic coconut oil, and sea salt. I'm hoping that in moderation, these sweet potato chips will be OK. I'm definitely going to try to make them work!

4. Salted Caramel Ice Cream (from AIP Lifestyle)
I bought myself an ice cream maker last summer. Shortly thereafter, I began to suspect that dairy and I didn't get along as well as I wanted us to. So I started experimenting with coconut-based ice cream. I made a coffee version that was delightful, but coffee is a no-go on AIP. I made a lemon that was decent and a pumpkin that was WAY overpowering--and neither of those really seemed like ice cream. But this salted caramel? It's wonderful! Somehow, the combination of coconut milk, maple syrup, coconut manna (I used creamed coconut), and sea salt really comes out tasting like salted caramel! I did make a tiny change to the recipe--I added 1/2 tablespoon gelatin.

5. Waffles (from Tasty Yummies) with "Butter" (from He Won't Know It's Paleo)
These are hands down the tastiest waffles I've had since going gluten free a year and a half ago! They're made with cassava flour, which is uber-expensive, but in this case, it's worth it. I should mention that my waffles turned out a bit gummy in the middle, as has everything I've made with cassava. But the outside is so crispy, and the flavor is delightful, so I can overlook that. Plus, these waffles freeze and reheat beautifully.

The "butter" reminds me of the oleo my grandma used to buy and put on the treat she gave us every time we visited: juicy toast. (Kind of a gross name, right? But the toast was oh so good, due to the copious amount of oleo that Gram used.) The flavor combination with the waffles is so great--it makes me feel like I'm cheating, but I'm not!

Those are my five (or six) favorite AIP finds so far. If you want to know more about AIP, I'd recommend The Paleo Mom and Phoenix Helix. I've gotten a wealth of information from them!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

September 25, 2015

five friday favorites #18: week of sept. 25, 2015

Four months. That's how long it's been since I've done a Friday Favorites! But I'm back, people, and I hope to not take so long of a break again. So let's dive into the things that are making me happy this week...

1. Chuck
I swear to you, I am half in love with Chuck Bartowski. Or Zachary Levi. Or a combination of the two. Whatever.
When my sister was home a few weeks ago, she suggested that our mom start watching Chuck. So we watched the pilot and the next couple episodes (because Netflix). Then I went home and watched another. And another. I probably shouldn't tell you where I am in the series right now because that would reveal just how much time I've spent on Chuck in the last couple weeks.

Here's what I love about Chuck: It's absolutely hilarious, it's full of pop culture references from when I was still fully in tune with pop culture, and it often features the Casey (Adam Baldwin) & Morgan (Joshua Gomez) show--those two are comedy gold, I tell you! I don't think I've watched an episode yet where I didn't laugh out loud at some point. Really, John Casey is one of the funniest TV characters I've ever seen—credit to both the writers and Baldwin for that! Just last night I was watching an episode ("Chuck vs. the Couch Lock") where he makes a crack about the Clintons that had me dying. The whole episode was Casey comedy perfection.

If you weren't already convinced to watch Chuck, check out the supporting actors. It's like an 80's-90's child's dream: Rachel from Saved by the Bell: The New Class is Chuck's sister. Dr. Sam Beckett is Chuck's dad. Sarah Connor is Chuck's mom. Cory Matthews and Carl Winslow are guest stars. And I'm sure I'm forgetting others!

If you haven't watched Chuck before, or if you just want to revisit it, you should definitely check it out on Netflix!

2. Satsuma Street
Remember For the Love? (Of course you do; goodness knows I've talked about it enough!) Well, even though the book is launched, our Facebook group is still going strong. Recently, one of the girls asked if any of us cross-stitched and linked to her favorite cross-stitch designer, Jody at Satsuma Street.

I used to cross-stitch--like that one time I spent half my life cross-stitching a sampler for my cousin's first baby. (You can see a picture of it at the bottom of this post.) Said baby is now almost seven, and I haven't done much cross-stitching since then.

I couldn't resist checking out the designs on Satsuma Street, and I fell completely in love. By the end of the day, I'd purchased two patterns: Joy and Autumn Bird. I decided to stitch Joy first because maybe I can get it done by the time I decorate for Christmas.

So I'm redeeming some of the many, many hours spent watching Chuck by cross-stitching while I watch! I've stitched three nights so far, and I'm, well, not very far along ... but I'm having fun! I can't wait until I get to the part where I can use more colors.

3. AIP cookies
I am just over two weeks into my AIP journey. (I talked about the diet here.) Honestly, it feels like I've been doing this way longer than 16 days! Really, one thing is getting me through: cookies. Namely, these AIP Chewy "Chocolate" Chunk Cookies from Flame to Fork. The first time around, I followed the recipe exactly, except I subbed coconut oil for the palm shortening. They were tasty, if a bit "spready."
I'm not a huge fan of carob, though it does work when you can't have chocolate. Still, I thought I would enjoy the cookies more without the carob, so for my next batch, I decided to make snickerdoodles. I just left out the carob chunks and rolled the dough in coconut sugar and cinnamon that I ground up in my Magic Bullet. These are SOOOO good! And, I'm sure they're largely responsible for my lack of weight loss since beginning the diet.
Tonight, I decided to take the basic dough and make it into ginger cookies. This may be my favorite variation yet! Once I get it perfected, I'll share the recipe ... and I can tell that I'm really going to enjoy the trial and error process!

4. Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey
I wouldn't be aware of  half of the podcasts I listen to without my sister Val's recommendations. I don't even check out the podcasts first anymore--if Val says to listen, then I subscribe. Her latest recommendation, Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, just might be her best yet. Each week, Jamie interviews a woman she knows, and they talk about such a wide variety of topics, but everything is interesting. This has become my new "listen to while getting ready" podcast, and I'm totally loving it.

5. The Lost Garden
Because I haven't done a Friday Favorites in months, I have lots of books to choose from for my recommendation, but this one was easily one of my favorite reads over the summer. Here's an excerpt from my review:
The Lost Garden is not a particularly fast read—it's not one of those novels that moves at breakneck pace or is full of passionate romance. But it is a beautiful novel—one that you read slowly so as to savor the experience as the story unfolds. 
The Lost Garden is a beautiful, unique read, and I highly recommend it! See the rest of my review on my book review blog.

Those are my favorites. What things are you enjoying this week?

September 3, 2015

let's get real for a minute

You may have recently seen me posting about Jen Hatmaker's new book For the Love. (I say that tongue in cheek, as if you're my Facebook friend, you know For the Love and Jen are just about all I've been posting about recently!) I posted my review a couple weeks ago, and I'd love it if you'd go check it out.

If you've been following me very long, you know that I have an autoimmune disease: Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

Note: Those two paragraphs are connected. I promise. Just keep reading. 

I've been fairly open on the blog about my struggles with the disease, but usually I've been writing from a place of hope: I'm doing x, and I hope it will help. I've been feeling better, and I'm thankful.

But today's post is all about realism: This is where I am, this is how I feel, and this is why I'm frustrated.

One of my friends recently shared this article on Facebook. (Please, if you haven't read it, go do so now. I'll wait.) The author has Lupus, but it really could apply to anyone who struggles with a chronic condition. My sister texted me to tell me that she had read the article, and it helped her to understand what I'm going through. "And you definitely don't have the spoons to mow your lawn." So true, sister ... yet I also don't have the funds to hire someone to mow my lawn, so I do it anyway--and sometimes I pay the price later. (If you don't know what she means by "spoons," then go back and read that article I just linked to.)

Here's one small example to give you a glimpse at how Hashimoto's affects my life. For the last seven or so years, I've been attending a church in a town 20 miles away. It takes me exactly 30 minutes to travel from my house to my church. At first, I was involved in several things--choir, women's Bible study, an English-language tutoring program. Depending on the time of year, I made the drive to church between two and four times per week. But as Hashimoto's has reared its ugly head, the extra things have dropped off, and I now struggle just to make it to church on a Sunday morning.

I know that part of this, rightly or wrongly, is because I don't have to go to church. I have to go to work. I have to go to Saturday speech meets. But, as much as I love seeing my friends, as much as I'm challenged by my pastor's sermons, I don't have to go to church. And when I'm struggling with fatigue and just generally not feeling well, sometimes I don't possess the energy for that 30 minute drive.

I've made diet and lifestyle changes that have me feeling better than I did a year ago. But I still have bad days--days where I close the door to my office and lay on the floor for 20 minutes. Days where I can barely muster the energy to scramble some eggs for supper. Days where I hit the couch as soon as I get home from work and barely move until it's time for bed.

I'm tired of being tired. I'm tired of a simple thing like walking across campus making me exhausted one day and energized the next. I'm tired of never knowing from one hour to the next how I'm going to feel. I'm tired of missing out on things because they happen at the end of the day when I have no spoons left. And I'm tired of the extra limitations I have because I'm doing this alone.

When I was growing up, I never would have believed you if you'd told me I'd still be single at age 34. Honestly, though, I generally don't mind being single. Would I like to be married? Yes. But singleness isn't something I dwell on ... most of the time. I find that I'm least content with my singleness on the days when I'm physically feeling the worst. Here's my train of thought on those days: If I had a husband, he could drive us to church--I wouldn't have to expend precious energy on driving. He could mow the lawn, or at least do the push mowing part that so wears me out. He could do the yardwork that I don't know if I will ever have the energy to do. Pretty selfish reasons for wanting a man, but I'm being real here!

I don't want you to think I'm an invalid: I'm not. I have a full time job. I take walks with my mom. I sing in a community choir. I get together with friends. I help coach a high school speech team (for now!). Some days, I feel pretty good, and I can do lots of things--it's just that I often need ample recovery time afterwards. That may mean that I skip out on an event or I take a day off work or I don't even attempt to get ready for church.

The really frustrating part, though? I can never tell when I'm going to have a good or bad day. Overall, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to how I feel. (I mean, if I've stayed up late the night before or eaten total junk or been incredibly stressed, I can predict that I won't feel great. But often, when I feel bad, it's for no apparent reason. Same for when I feel good.)

The other frustrating part is that I don't look sick. In fact, with my 43-pound-and-counting weight loss, I look better than I've ever looked. So if you ran into me on the street or even know me casually, you'd have no idea there's anything wrong. Really, you'd only have a clue if you read my blog or are one of my close friends...because it's not something I like talking about.

Now, this is where Jen Hatmaker and For the Love come in. I've dealt with a decent amount of guilt over my illness. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense at first, but look at it this way: I am constantly missing out on things. I have a friend who faithfully invites me to a monthly Ladies' Night at her house, and I have yet to make it because by the time the weekend rolls around, I'm done. Church choir friends ask me when I'm going to rejoin the choir, and I put them off. Someone asks me how church was, and I have to admit I didn't go. Just a few hours ago, I made the decision to skip tonight's Newsboys concert at the State Fair, where I was planning to meet up with a friend I haven't seen in two years. I feel guilty about all those things.

I also feel guilty about the state of my lawn.

In For the Love, Jen talks about how women try to balance a zillion things--often things they don't need to be doing, be it for a season or forever. She talks about how we shouldn't look at other women to decide what we should be doing. I found that to be so freeing! At this particular stage, getting healthy is what needs to be "on the beam." I chucked church choir off the beam a year ago, and I don't see it ever returning! And I shouldn't feel guilty about that. I'm not shirking my duty to God or my church by prioritizing my health.

Graphic: Jenny Garwood
In an effort to keep fighting for health, I'm preparing myself to begin the Autoimmune Paleo Diet right after Labor Day. This is an incredibly restrictive diet for the first 30-60 days, and my hope is that following this diet will allow my gut to heal and will help me learn which foods I should avoid. I mean, it can't hurt, and I'm at the point now where I'm ready to try.

I don't know if this diet is the magic pill I'm looking for, and if it's not, I'll keep looking. I may wish that Hashimoto's wasn't part of my journey, but it is, and I think part of coming to terms with it and, eventually, healing, is being real about my struggles. In fact, I was feeling pretty down about everything when I started writing, and now, after putting everything out there, I'm feeling hopeful again, so we're already making progress!

I tell you all this not to make you feel sorry for me but to help you understand where I'm coming from. And can I ask you a favor? If you are healthy, don't take your health for granted. Live your life to the fullest, and thank God every day for the health He's given you.

August 13, 2015

happy birthday to me!

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was an exceptionally good day. Here's a look back through pictures:

I arrived at work to find this on my desk, courtesy of my mom:
Dark chocolate always makes me happy, as does my Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea! Then I got a text from my sister-in-law, who wished me a happy birthday filled with Vietnamese coffee. I adore G7, but it can't be good for me, so I've been avoiding it. But I decided that it was my birthday, so why not have some?

Also note: I'm wearing my For the Love launch team t-shirt. Jen Hatmaker's For the Love releases next Tuesday, and it's so, so good! If you haven't preordered yet, you should. Or you could just walk into your local Barnes & Noble and pick one up, as they already have them on the shelf. Also, one of the things we did as a launch team was write endorsements for the book. Mine wasn't chosen for the printed book, but they did include all of them on the website. If you want to scroll, scroll, scroll, you'll eventually find mine!

Unfortunately, the G7 wasn't the greatest idea on earth--the rush of caffeine and sugar caused me to get a bit jittery around lunchtime. As my friend Steph suggested, perhaps I should just have a sip of someone else's G7 next time!

After work, my mom and I headed to Grand Island. I had two main goals in mind: 1. Find a chair for my reading nook in my newly-rearranged bedroom. 2. Find goodies for my mug swap girls.

Here are the details on the mug swaps: Someone in the For the Love launch team Facebook group posted about a mug swap hosted by @cuppakim. I clicked through, read about it, and thought it looked like loads of fun, so I signed up. Then some girls on the launch team decided we should have a mug swap just between us, and, well, I had to sign up for that one, too! I have had so much fun getting to know (aka Instagram stalking) my girls and picking out things for them. Because while it's technically about the mug, it's fun to find other goodies to send along, too!

Our first stop in GI was Qdoba. Love me some Qdoba!

Then we went to T.J. Maxx. I found a chair I loved, but it cost $50 more than I was willing to spend. I did find a few little goodies to throw in with the mugs, as well as a gift for my cousin whose college going away party is tomorrow night, so I consider it a win ... but Shopko provided the biggest win of the night when we found The. Perfect. Chair. It was exactly the price I was willing to pay, too! It's not the chair I thought I was looking for, but I absolutely love it ... and so do the cats.

The problem? We had my mom's old Cadillac, and the box the chair came in was huge. Fortunately, the furniture carryout guy knew some kind of magic and was able to wedge the box into the back seat. So then we headed for Topperz for some frozen yogurt.

We'd left my car at work, so we went there before heading home ... and when we were about a half mile away, we ran out of gas! That had never happened to either one of us before. We walked up to the school, got gas from my dad (who was, of course, back at work trying to get some last-minute stuff done before the beginning of school), and then headed home.

It was a very eventful and fun birthday--so far, 34 is looking pretty good!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

August 2, 2015

tobymac's new album "this is not a test" is here!

I don't usually talk much about my reviews on this blog--that was the whole point of having two blogs: one for reviews, one for life stuff.

But you guys.

I just reviewed TobyMac's new album ... and dcTalk appears on one track!

Take a moment to let that sink in. dcTalk!!!!!

Seeing dcTalk in concert is one of my as-yet unfulfilled dreams (see my 35 before 35 list), though I have seen each member individually (and I will be seeing Michael Tait again at the end of August at the Nebraska State Fair). So you know that the very first thing I did after downloading the album was to go to track 10 and blast it ... a couple of times!

It is just as wonderful as I'd hoped :-) It's like the best of dc Talk all rolled into one track.

The rest of the album is really good, too, as is to be expected of a TobyMac album. And here's the best part: I have a copy to give away! Click here to go to Christian Chick's Thoughts to enter. Good luck!

July 13, 2015

35 before 35: #12

#12: Release 35 pounds
One year ago and today.
When I stepped on the scale this morning, I saw a beautiful number: 169.0. That makes 35 pounds down since I started following Trim Healthy Mama and 37 pounds total. I am more than halfway to my goal of 140, but honestly, whether I get there or not isn't so important to me. What is important to me is that I feel good, and in order to do that, I've had to slow down the weight loss.

Let me explain.

When I started THM, the weight came off pretty easily. My rate of loss wasn't nearly as quick as many of the women posting in the THM Facebook groups, but for me, it was rapid. So I have no doubt that THM works. One of the basic principles of THM is separating your fats and carbs. If you're going to eat a meal with more fats (say, pot roast), then you severely limit your carbs. If you're going to eat a meal with more carbs (like chicken breast and brown rice), you severely limit your fat. And you eat every three hours. You can have a carb meal or a fat meal whenever you want, as long as you're waiting enough time between meals.

The problem for me was that I had a much easier time coming up with fat meals, so I hardly ever ate carbs. In essence, I was following Atkins by default. This was fine at first. I told my mom once that my body told me when I needed more carbs by making me crave them, and I think that was true at first. But in April, after getting slammed by the nastiest cold I've had in years, I started feeling pretty bad again. Not as bad as I felt before I went gluten free and found my endocrinologist who put me on a T3 medication in addition to the T4, but still pretty bad. (If you're not a thyroid patient, don't worry about the gobbledegook I just spewed forth. If you are, and you haven't checked into T3, do it! It's made a world of difference for me.)

I started doing thyroid research again, and I found several sources that talked about how Hashimoto's patients need good carbs. Then I did a little experiment and found that I feel much better if I have a good portion of carbs for lunch. (I also found that I feel better if I avoid carbs at breakfast--either having greek yogurt or eggs in some form.)

So here's how Trim Healthy Mama works for me. (I don't always follow this, but I feel better if I do.) I probably shouldn't even call it THM anymore ... but I don't have a better name for it.
  • I always have carbs with lunch. If I'm having a fat meal, like pork roast, I'll have a small portion of carbs. (I believe this puts it into S-Helper category for THM, but I could be wrong.) If I'm having a low-fat protein, then I'll have a larger portion of carbs.
  • I've stopped avoiding potatoes and white rice; I just monitor my portions. They're higher on the glycemic index, which is what makes them a THM no-no. 
  • I avoid refined sugar if at all possible.
  • The only non-caloric sweeteners I use are stevia (in very limited portions) and Splenda (which is in the delicious Breyer's Carb Smart ice cream I eat two or three times per week). Otherwise, I use coconut sugar, honey, and maple syrup in baked goods ... and I limit my portions to one piece (most of the time).
While I've been following this modified diet, I've still lost weight ... it's just that things are going slower. In the past two months, I've only lost seven pounds, but I feel a whole lot better, and that's what's important!

See all of my 35 before 35 posts, where you'll learn that I have a ways to go in 13 months!

July 8, 2015

a spectacular fourth!

I intended to post this yesterday, but then I got a speeding ticket and my day went to pot. Now on to happier things!

My mom and I just returned from a wonderful weekend in Indiana visiting my sister and brother-in-law. Val and Greg live in my college town, and it's always fun to go back, especially when we happen to be there on a Sunday and can go to the church I attended in college (which is also the church they attend).

We set out mid-morning on Thursday ... and it was just about the longest trip ever. From heavy rain to me not feeling well to my mom's shingles (which she came down with the week before), it felt like the trip that would never end! (This picture was obviously taken at the beginning of the trip.)

Finally, though, we made it. And we met this cutie:

Seriously, Miss Chloe is just about the cutest thing ever! Just like her "cousin" Skaara, she loves chasing pink fabric.

We slept in on Friday, and then we wandered around the shops in the Village at Winona for a while. We also hit the local T.J. Maxx, which is a bit, uh, classier than the one in Grand Island ... and there I bought some size 10 pants. Seriously? Size 10??? I haven't been a 10 since junior high! (I'm probably closer to a 12 normally, but the 10 of this particular brand is what fit.)

That evening, we ate at The Boathouse, where I longed to have my favorite dish, the chicken & bacon wrap ... but I was good, stuck to the gluten free thing, and had a cheeseburger with no bun. Then we girls saw Bye Bye Birdie at the Wagon Wheel Theatre. I'd heard all about the Wagon Wheel when I was at Grace, but this was the first show I saw there. It was fantastic! The acting was great, and the show was so fun. Bravo!

Saturday was super relaxing. I read this book for a while, we played Rummy (I lost ... but it wasn't a massacre like it sometimes is), and Greg grilled burgers for supper. Also, Val and Mom conspired to kill me--Val prayed for our meal, and she tacked on a quick "and please help us get good seats for the concert" onto the end. Mom proceeded to mock her, and I couldn't help but laugh ... with a mouthful of water. Basically, I ended up choking--I absolutely could not breathe. I did eventually recover :-)

Then we went down to Winona Lake for the Masterworks Patriotic Pops Concert and fireworks.

Lots of people were already there when we arrived, so we ended up sitting to the side of the orchestra. Val decided that, since we couldn't see very well anyway, we should face the lake, as that's where the fireworks after the concert would be.

So Mom spent the concert like this:
Something about her discomfort at being turned a different direction than everyone else was hilarious to Val and me. And when you think about it, Val's reasoning didn't make any sense, but we all went along with it.

Then, when it was time for fireworks, we moved--so Mom's discomfort was for nothing!

On Sunday, we went to Christ's Covenant (it's always so great to be back, even though I really don't know anyone there anymore) before heading to Fort Wayne for the afternoon: lunch at Granite City, shopping at Target, and watching Jurassic World.

We had to say goodbye to Greg, Val, and Chloe and head back to real life on Monday. This drive didn't feel quite as long as the first, though. Maybe because we stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel, and then we meandered through several stores at the Tanger Outlets in Iowa. Mom even found a deeply discounted dress and ridiculously cheap dress pants (something like $7)! And we had to get coffee and chocolate at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory before getting back on the road. (My selfie skills were not on point ...)

Really, we made great time! And then I came home to this:

It's not pretty; it's a $35 stove I got off a garage sale. It's not my dream stove by any means...but it is a GAS stove. For someone who learned to cook on gas and hasn't had a gas stove since moving out of her parents' house 10 years ago, this is a big deal! My dad, who stayed home to work on a variety of projects, made running a gas line and hooking up the stove one of those projects. Thanks, Dad! It's very much appreciated :-)

Overall, it was a fantastic way to spend the Fourth of July. I just wish the vacation could have lasted longer ...

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