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Mama Phoenix

How I Lost 10 lbs in a Month on Keto

60 days ago, I embarked on a 100 Day Challenge with my cousin, who had just finished a 100 Day Challenge that resulted in a 63 lb weight loss.

When I first heard she was doing a low carb diet previously, I didn’t want annnnnything to do with it. I know my weakness is carbs, but I loooooove them and didn’t feel like starting another diet I couldn’t stick with long-term.

Then she added me to her Low Carb Misfits group on Facebook.

Suddenly, my Facebook feed was bombarded by all of these amazing weight-loss stories and low-carb food options! I started doing a little more research and found that it looked like a healthy way to lose fat and quickly.

So when my cousin asked if anyone wanted to join her on her next 100 Day Challenge, I signed up!

April 23rd was Day 1. I started out just trying to keep my carbs under 50 net grams. I tracked my food in MyFitnessPal and was amazed at just how many carbs are in the foods I enjoy eating!

Cutting carbs wasn’t as hard as I thought though (once I learned all the foods I could eat). I kept hearing amazing things about Keto, so I decided to give it a shot during my 2nd week into the challenge.

There are different forms of The Ketogenic Diet, but basically, it’s when you’re body goes into ketosis and starts using fat for fuel instead of carbs. For most people, that happens when they stick to 20g net carbs or less. For more detailed info, read THIS.

The macros for The Ketogenic Diet look like this:

Image result for keto chart

If you haven’t ever tracked your food before, macros can be confusing and overwhelming. But once you start tracking your food, you can see how things add up. Again, there are different forms of Keto. This is just the basic rule of thumb.

 

Image result for keto chart

This chart is more specific to individuals based on their sex, height, and weight. I’m a 5′ female, so I should try and eat 82 grams of protein per day, 20 grams or less net carbs, 61 to 143 grams of fat, and 962-1700 calories. Again, if you haven’t ever tracked your food, you might find the thought of having to figure out what you can eat to meet those requirements overwhelming.

What I did was something that was suggested in an article I read for Keto beginners (you can read it HERE), and it’s what I suggest others who are just starting out to do as well: Focus on nothing but eating 20g net carbs or less. Track your food in an app like MyFitnessPal so you can see how many calories, fat, and protein you are getting as well. Slowly but surely, you’ll learn what you can eat to reach your macro goals.

The best part about Keto for me has been how easy it is! Somehow, by eating the foods I eat and focusing really only on how many carbs I’m eating, the other macros just work themselves out! I almost never eat more than 1200 calories, which is my personal goal, but I don’t actually count my calories. I almost always get around 80-100 grams of fat. I do struggle getting enough protein, so I’ve recently started drinking my hubby’s protein powder in my coffee.

So what do I eat?

My typical day looks like this:

7-8am: 16 oz decaf coffee with 1/2 scoop Muscle Pharm Vanilla Protein Powder and 1 tbsp heavy whipping cream

11-12pm: Vitamin Water Zero; Meat, Cheese, and Veggies (beef burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and avocado; canned tuna fish with celery, boiled egg, mayo, and green olives; deli meat and cheese)

2-3pm: A snack and hot Cinnamon Apple herbal tea (pork rinds; mixed nuts; boiled eggs; pickles; olives; cheese stick; cucumbers and ranch dressing; guacamole and bacon; Halo Top ice cream; low-carb candy bar; berries and whipped cream)

5-6pm: Meat, Cheese, and Veggies (salmon with asparagus; taco meat with cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and black olives; chicken with homemade alfredo sauce, mushrooms, and broccoli; beef roast with cheese, mushrooms, and baby carrots; pizza made with almond flour and mozzarella cheese crust, pepperoni, mushrooms, bacon, and black olives; pulled pork with green beans and cauliflower mac and cheese; bratwurst with sauerkraut; spaghetti with zoodles)

8-10pm: A glass (or two) of red wine

Yes! You can eat cheese (although there is a strict form of Keto that abstains from dairy completely)! Yes! You can eat bacon (and sausage, and red meat)! Yes! You can eat sweets (so long as you use very little sugar or erythritol, stevia, sucralose, or aspartame- I try to stay away from the artificial sweeteners since they make me really tired, give me a headache, and hurt my stomach, but there is a little bit of sucralose in the protein powder I use, although I’m getting ready to try one made with stevia instead). Yes! You can drink alcohol (red wine is the best choice, and luckily it happens to be my favorite, but there are certain beers you can fit into your macros, and straight liquor is carb free!).

THIS is the reason I have been able to stick with Keto longer than any other diet I’ve ever tried (and I have tried many): There are enough of the foods I love and I can have occasional cheats! Plus, I can eat out (even fast food!), and it’s not expensive because you don’t have to buy all organic grass-fed stuff! I totally think that stuff is probably better for you, but we just can’t afford to eat like that. I only spend $150-$200/week eating this way, versus the $300-400/week I spent on the Whole30!

I did Whole30 (for 28 days) in January of this year. I lost 10 lbs in a month then as well, but I was miserable (I didn’t even last the full 30 days). I felt too deprived and eating all that fiber from all the fruits and veggies flared my Crohn’s really bad. I ended up having to go on steroids for 10 days to get my stomach right again! And within two weeks, I had gained 7 lbs back.

Speaking of fiber, don’t worry about it! I know you’ve probably heard that you need fiber, and lots of it. The truth is, you don’t. I only get around 10g a day and I am perfectly regular. Now, some people do experience constipation when they go low-carb or keto, but it’s usually because they are eating too many hard to digest foods like cheese and nuts. If you start to experience issues in that area, try cutting back on dairy and nuts. And don’t just take my word for it! Go HERE to read about the top 12 myths about fiber.

By Day 30, I had lost 10 lbs and a few inches! It doesn’t sound like much, but take a look!

I’m still wanting to slim my thunder thighs down, but I feel more confident than ever before! I’ve even been wearing a bikini OUT IN PUBLIC this summer! I am very close to my maintenance weight goal, so I didn’t lose a crazy amount of weight in a month. If you are very overweight, you could lose much more. There are 300+ lb people that have lost 50+ lbs in a month in my group! I think the most I’ve seen was a 500 lb woman who lost 250 lbs in less than 6 months! That is CRAZY!!! Crazy AWESOME!!!

Here are my Top 10 Tips to getting started on Keto:

  1. Make a meal plan. Input what you plan on eating into your tracking app (I use MyFitnessPalbefore you eat so you can adust if you need to. Use a scale to measure your food. Measure and track EVERYTHING (at least until you get the hang of things). You’d be surprised how much stuff can be even in one bite of something!
  2. Buy yourself some Ketone Strips. They will tell you if you are in ketosis or not. I knew I was in once I got in, but the strips are good reassurance. I was also able to figure out that I can go up to 30g carbs without getting kicked out of ketosis! Good to know! I got THESE.
  3. Eat when you are hungry, and eat as much as you want (so long as you are within your carb allowance)! Once your body goes into ketosis, you will not be hungry very often at all. Give your body time to adjust. It only takes a couple days, but those first couple of days can be kinda rough! Just focus on sticking to your carb limit!
  4. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)! Buy meat (chicken, pork, beef, bacon, sausage, frozen burgers, bratwurst, beef hot dogs, tuna, salmon, shrimp, etc.- the fattier the better! Stay away from turkey and too much chicken), cheese (deli, blocks, and cream cheese), nuts (stay away from pistachios and cashews though- read the carb counts on them and you’ll know why), pickles, chicken broth, Vitamin Water Zero (pickle juice, Vitamin Water Zero and chicken broth are great for getting through the “Keto Flu” those first couple days), heavy whipping cream (if you like creamy coffee, or try a vanilla protein powder! I’m very picky about how I take my coffee and it’s perfect to me!), avocados (I eat at least half of one a day!), green veggies (asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, spinach, peppers, zucchini, etc.), pork rinds (if you like chips), Halo Top (if you like ice cream), berries and whipped cream, low-carb candy bars (either Atkins or Aldi’s brand) if you have to have chocolate (like me!), and some red wine, low-carb beer or liquor (if you have to drink, which I DO, EVERY night!). Once you get the hang of things, you can start making “ketofied” waffles, pancakes, bread, cupcakes, cookies, pizza, biscuits, etc. They are really simple and surprisingly good, but it is best to focus on one thing at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  5. Drink LOTS of water! I have a 16 oz cup of coffee first thing in the morning, a 20 oz Vitamin Water Zero with lunch after I workout, an 8 oz hot tea in the afternoon, and 5-10 oz of red wine in the evening, but I STILL drink 8-16 cups of water a day!
  6. Eat the salt! Your body will flush sodium at a much quicker rate on this WOE (Way Of Eating), so you need to be mindful of your electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, and calcium). Go HERE for more info and follow the link to learn how to make a homemade Keto electrolyte drink!
  7. Take before pictures and measurements along with your weight! My cousin has been stuck at her current weight for a few weeks now, but has lost 9 inches! I was amazed when I looked at my before and after comparison shots!
  8. Get an accountability partner! My hubby is one of my biggest supporters, even though he just does low-carb and not Keto. I have my cousin, her 100 Day Challenge group, the Low Carb Misfits, and I post regularly on my personal Facebook page to keep myself motivated as well. You’d be surprised at how many messages I get DAILY either asking me more about this WOE, or for recipes, or for encouragement, or to congratulate/praise my efforts! There are a couple people who have negative things to say, but because I know they are just jealous, I let their hate roll right off my skinny shoulders 😉
  9. If you slip up, just forgive yourself and start again! I fell off the wagon for over a week recently, kinda just to see what would happen and kinda because that’s what I do! I do really good and then feel the need to mess up so I can get motivated to do good again! I gained 3 lbs, broke out all over my body, and felt bloated and tired. It actually made me miss this WOE! I missed tracking my food! I missed eating my easy-don’t-even-have-to-think-about-it-fat-melting foods! So I hopped back on the wagon a couple days ago and my skin’s already clearing up, my bloat’s disappearing, and I’ve already dropped two of the three pounds I gained. The pizza, donuts, beer, and cake I ate really weren’t that great either! I’m not saying I’ll never do it again, but I do know that this is a liftstyle choice for me now. #KetoForLife
  10. Do your own research! It’s taken me almost 2 months to get around to finally blogging about this diet, even though I’ve had people begging for my help each and every day. Life is just so busy (yes, even in the summer!). I love to help others and make things easy when I can, but don’t just take my experience or my research and run with it (I mean you can if that works for you)! Get educated so you can get excited about doing something amazing for yourself! This isn’t just a quick weight loss diet. I have seen countless people in my Misfits group come off their diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure meds, get pregnant when they couldn’t before, have their pain and other symptoms from autoimmune and other diseases disappear, and more! Now I’m no doctor, so don’t go jumping into this haphazardly either. If you have a health condition, you should always consult your physician before making any major changes. That goes for exercising as well! If you don’t exercise regularly, don’t start until you get used to this WOE. Take it one step at a time. Listen to your body! I recommend walking before you run ;).

And now…a little food porn to get you excited for all the delicious things you can eat! (Many of these recipes are on my “Low-CarbPinterest Board, so check it out if you need some inspiration!)

 

 

 

 

 

Fun At The Mall On Spring Break

It’s been a while since I actually sat down to blog about our family activities! Life’s just so busy all the time that when I do finally have a moment to relax, I use that time to catch up with friends on Facebook or #NetflixAndChill. But this week is Spring Break for us, so I have a little extra time on my hands. I really should be catching up on dishes and laundry today, but I’m being a rebel and blogging instead. Yesterday was such an amazingly fun day for us, full of little moments I want to treasure forever!

Tristyn and Taylor just celebrated their 7th and 11th birthdays last month. Both girls enjoyed their joint slumber party. Some of their friends gave them super cute, fun gifts, but between the friends and family that gave them cash, they ended up with $150 and $200 to spend! So naturally, a trip to the mall was in order!

My favorite thing about the weekends and breaks is SLEEPING IN! I normally get up at 6am, so even sleeping til 8:30am is a TREAT! Joe Daddy had an errand to run, so I got to take my time taking a shower, shaving my legs, and getting dressed. And not in gym clothes for a change!

I even got to paint my nails! I recently painted my toe nails for the first time since last summer, but I can’t remember the last time I painted my finger nails, let alone had them coordinate! LOL!

#ObligatoryIGotDressedTodaySelfie

We didn’t hit the road til after noon so we could eat lunch at home and save dinner for the food court.

Doesn’t Jules look thrilled? LOL!

He says he hates having his picture taken, but this picture tells me otherwise 😉

He’s pretty good at pretending though!

NOT! LOL! #Teenagers

Our first stop was Toys R Us. I think Toys R Us is just an over-priced toy store, but despite my suggestion to skip it, the kids (and Joe Daddy) insisted we go.

Of course, Ty found all the Poppies!

And the lovies! My girls are OBSESSED with stuffed animals!

Since Taylor and Tristyn were the only ones with money to spend, but their daddy is a sucker and felt like the other little girls needed to be able to get something, he gave Trini and Ty each $20 to spend at either Toys R Us or the mall. The first thing they picked out were Power Puff dolls for $10.

Then we found the clearanced stuff animal aisle…

Yes, even the tween is obsessed with stuffed animals.

They rode…

…sat on…

…and loved on every. single. stuffed animal in sight!

Taylor ended up getting a big Beanie Boo knock-off unicorn for $9.99!

Ty got the fox for the same price!

Trini’s wasn’t a clearance item (it was $9.99 as well), but her sisters both got Barbie dogs at the store recently with their allowance, but Walmart only had two options, this one not being one of them. Now they all have their own Barbie dog, which means less fighting! 🙂

I was really proud of Tristyn! She was the only one of her sisters who didn’t get something at Toys R Us.

She wasn’t thrilled about it.

But she didn’t pitch a fit!

We stopped for a selfie while we waiting for Taylor to check out.

Then she jumped in! LOL!

Notice how Joe Daddy wanted nothing to do with that! LOL!

After Toys R Us, we headed to the mall! We always take a trip to the local mall on Black Friday weekend so we can take pictures with Santa at Bass Pro and catch all the great deals on Christmas gifts. The kids even love eating in the food court! For this mall trip, the girls wanted to go to the one with the American Girl Bistro and Boutique, which is an hour away versus 30 minutes. It’s a much nicer mall with different stores, so it was worth the extra drive time. We even managed to avoid crazy traffic with I85 out of commission after it caught on fire and collapsed a couple days ago!

This store is the devil, but even I LOVE it!

They have these cute new smaller dolls that we hadn’t seen before!

They had a cute little playhouse set up near them that the girls adored.

We’ve gone to the AGB&B at least once every year for the past 3 years and there is always something new to see!

I’m such a sucker for the cute little set-ups they have with the dolls!

I’m not big enough of a sucker to go into debt buying it all, but I do take the time to take pictures of them!

These oldies ones were my favorite this visit! How stinkin’ cute are they???

I also really liked the new boy doll (Logan) and the country girl (Tenney)!

Image result for tenney doll

Tenney has the cutest freckles! If she had blue eyes, she’d look just like Trini!

How totes adorbs are her outfits too?!

Speaking of totes adorbs…I know they hate me for this now, but they are gonna love it one day! LOL!

You know they just had to be thrilled to be in this doll store! LOL!

His look says it all! “Mom, you are such a psycho. Kill me now.” Hahahaha! Carolyn’s more like: “Why do I keep agreeing to hang out with this lady???”

As usual, we had to get a picture with the American Girl of the Year (Gabriela)! Is it sad that I know so much about these dolls? (I’m gonna go with NO! LOL!)

The Littles have regular American Girl dolls but showed a particular interest in the baby dolls this go round.

They love pretending they’re mommies, which is the sweetest thing ever! They already know exactly how many and what kind of babies they want when they grow up (despite my efforts to inform them that it’ll be a joint desicion between them and whoever they marry, LOL!).

Of course, they wanted all the babies and all the baby stuff, so we had to remind them that Tristyn was the only one with money and if she wanted a baby doll from American Girl, she was gonna have to spend almost half of her money on it, and another $30 for an outfit. She was adamant that that’s what she wanted, but we told her we’d come back after we visited the rest of the mall, just in case.

The escalator is exciting business, which should tell you how often we get out! LOL!

I normally walk really fast while avoiding eye contact with the little side vendors, but this one was really cool! We were {this} close to going home with a few of these!

We walked around the mall together for a bit before splitting up. Joe Daddy went off with Jules and Carolyn while the girls and I visited some “girly” stores.

First, we went into Claire’s, where Taylor found the most adorable mermaid friendship necklaces (she’s real into mermaids right now)!

Imagine my surprise when she gave it to me!!! She really is my bestie! This confirms it!

Tristyn also got friendship necklaces, floral owls! One’s for her friend Layla, her bestie in class this year who wasn’t able to come to her party and get one of the friendship necklaces she gave out then. They had a special where you buy 2 items get a 3rd free, which we didn’t know about til we checked out, so Tristyn ended up getting a $6 hand sanitizer and holder for free!

Then we went in Justice, where Tristyn got a little dog (Ellie) for $10, and Taylor got a pair of althetic shorts for $7!

Then we went into Bath and Body Works, where Tristyn agreed to buy her little sisters their very own hand sanitizer and holder! They had a special Buy 5 for $6, and the holders were $1, so she spent less than $10 and got to keep 3 of the hand sanitizers (something else they are obsessed with). Plus, she made her sisters the happiest girls in the whole wide world! The cashier was so sweet and gave them each their very own bag. They plopped down while Taylor checked out with her ten hand sanitizers and two cases, and divied up their loot. Several workers and customers came over to oooh and ahhh at how adorable they were, especially with their dolls on their backs! LOL! Trini and Ty thanked Tristyn several times, hugged her, and told her she was the best sister ever! It was such a sweet moment to witness!

After that, we hopped back on the escalator.

Weeeee!

At the bottom of the escalator, we spotted the Easter Bunny! He (she?) was so cute and started playing peek-a-boo with the girls!

They all know the Easter Bunny is just a person in a costume, just like the cow at Chick-fil-A, but they get excited all the same.

Then we spotted Hot Topic, one of the few stores Jules and Carolyn wanted to go into (they said no to Spencer’s because it’s too “cringy,” whatever that means, LOL). Jules found a t-shirt he liked but didn’t want his dad to spend $22 on it, so he ended up getting nothing.

The girls had fun trying on headbands! LOL!

Then we headed into Build-A-Bear, the place we used to have their grandfather take them for their birthdays. I think they each have 5 BABs! Maybe more!

BAB is another one of those stores that is just TOO CUTE!

Every time we’ve gotten the kids a bear from there, I couldn’t resist getting an outfit and some accessories too!

On her 4th birthday, Trini got the purple pony on the right (Twilight Sparkle) from her grandfather. He also bought her an outfit, including a shirt, skirt, shoes, and roller skates! It only cost him $60!!! Trini dragged that pony around everywhere! It was the cutest thing! We also have the Elsa and Anna outfits, including the wigs (among a bunch of other stuff)! Why does all the cute stuff have to be so expensive???

I mean, come on! Chewbacca in bunny ears! #ICantEven

You know these have to be flying off the shelf right now! I’ve heard the new movie is AWESOME! #GoGoPowerRangers

Of course, you know which ones we loved the most!

Ty is really hoping they still have Poppy when it’s her birthday!

I couldn’t resist! Haha! The resemblance is striking! LOL!

He claims he can no longer smile without twitching. I think he’s a #DramaQueen!

When we went into BAB, I wasn’t expecting anyone to get anything. I thought we were just looking around, but Taylor found a super soft cuddly panda (which Ty is slightly obsessed with at the moment after getting one from her teacher at church and another from her grandfather’s basement treasure trove). She was so sweet and let Ty be the one to press the pedal to stuff it!

Then the girl helping put the bear together gave all 3 of The Littles their own heart to put inside it! Taylor just watched (and recorded) them loving on the hearts…

…making a wish…

…and putting them into the bear…

…one by one.

She even let them help her name it!

Meet Poppy Panda!

She even let Ty carry Poppy around for a while!

The love these girls show for one another AMAZES me! I wish I could say it’s because I’m such an awesome mom, but I know I can’t take all the credit. They are their own people. I’m thankful to have them in my life, but mostly I’m thankful they have each other! My sisters are my very best friends! I hope they are just as close when they grow up! (And hopefully, their brother will come around too ;)).

After BAB, we ventured into the Disney Store. Tristyn was eager to get back to American Girl to get her baby doll, so we ran through quickly.

We started to leave when we realized we were short a couple and found them hiding out, LOL!

On the way back to AG, we found a cute toy store we had to stop in. They had the cutest puppets!

Joe Daddy has a thing for puppets, so he was extra excited 😉

Back at AG, Tristyn had a tough choice to make! Both babies looked a lot like her! One was more like winter her, and one was more like summer her! LOL!

She ended up getting a Bitty Baby and one outfit for $90 (shew! Glad it was her money and not mine! LOL)!

Her sisters helped her make the best choice.

She was soooo excited to show her daddy what she got!

So which one did she choose???

Don’t ask these guys. They have NO clue! LOL!

The more like winter her one! LOL!

She named her after herself: Mikaela 🙂

And here she is in her new outfit!

Then, after 2 hours of shopping, we finally sat down to eat!

After scouring the food court for the most economical choice, we decided on Farmer’s Market since they had a deal for 2 meats and 2 sides for $6.70. Joe Daddy and I wanted to get something somewhat healthy, so we chose grilled chicken, BBQ chicken, green beans, and potatoes. It was actually pretty good!

Jules and Carolyn split a meal…

…and each of the girls shared with one of their sisters. We brought our own waters in, so we only paid $28 for 4 meals for 8 people! Not bad!

After a trip to the bathroom…

We headed home! We were pooped!

Look at him smiling! I think he secretly likes me taking his picture 😉

Ty was so excited to get back to her fox! We didn’t go straight home though. Joe Daddy and Jules wanted to go to Fry’s Electronics, so we made a pit-stop at another mall about half an hour away from home (not the usual one we frequent, but one we’ve been to before).

While the boys (and Carolyn) were geeking out, the girls and I went to Dollar General down the street. Tristyn had bought her friend one of these lip gloss phones for her birthday, and I guess she told her friend how much she wished she had one, so her friend bought her one for her birthday. Well, Trini and Ty found some in the mall they wanted, but they were $10! So I promised them we’d find a Dollar General and get them the $2 option. (Thank goodness they still had them!) Because I thought they were $3, I let them each get a $1 notebook as well.

Taylor found a cute little glitter-in-a-bottle necklace-making kit for $1! She made the necklace today 🙂

She also found a really cute Vera Bradley knock-off wallet and super cute rubber pig coin pouch (she adores pigs)! The price tags said $5 and $3, but they rang up $1.50 and $0.90!

Tristyn had $2 left, so she bought a wallet for $1.50 as well.

I managed to get through Toys R Us and the mall without buying anything, but I couldn’t resist these little $3 fake succulents!

My 2nd batch of cacti have been looking pretty awful (I’m a terrible plant keeper). I’ve managed to keep these alive for over a year, but in all honestly, I don’t really care for growing things. Maybe it’s because I’m just too forgetful and have too much other stuff going on so I suck at it. I’ve decided to give myself a pass and stop trying for a while. Maybe when life slows down I’ll give it another go.

I love plants. I just don’t take care of them very well! LOL! These fake ones will do just fine 😉

By the time we got home after dropping Carolyn off, it was after 9pm. The girls made videos of their haul and passed right out. Joe Daddy and I watched a couple episodes of 13 Reasons Why (which is so friggin’ good!) and went to bed ourselves so we could get up early for the gym.

Today was a pretty yucky day, but Joe Daddy and I still made it to the gym (although he went with a friend to his gym). The girls have played with all of their new stuff non-stop. Taylor even made Mikaela some felt diapers (out of felt leftover from Christmas projects, so they’re all red and green, LOL!).

I’m so glad these kids can be happy with so little! Joe Daddy and I are beyond broke right now after having to shell out so much extra money for birthdays (we had to buy for 6 kids in addition to our own this month!), 3 field trips, 3 Field Day shirts, buying 4 new iPhones, getting a few summer items like shorts, swimsuits, and sandals, Easter outfits (a $7 dress for Taylor and a $12 shirt for Joe; I bought all the other stuff a while ago), Easter basket stuff (which I tried to keep to a minimum), and paying our income tax ($850, ouch!), among other things. Living without credit cards is totally new to us (although this is our 6th consecutive month of doing it since we paid them all off), and I’m not gonna lie and say it’s been easy. The only way I’ve been able to cut back at this point (since we’ve cut back on every other bill I can think of), is through our groceries. For the past month, I’ve been buying the cheapest stuff possible. I’ve bought very little organic stuff, and we’ve had lots of sandwich or salad nights. We’ve even had nights where we’ve eaten cereal for dinner! We have never eaten like this, but in doing so, we’ve cut our $400 a week grocery budget down to $150, which has helped, but money’s still been tight. Had it not been for Joe Daddy selling so much of his junk pile, we wouldn’t be able to do anything for Spring Break. Trini and Ty each spent under $14, I spent under $7, Tristyn and Taylor spent only their own money, and we ate out for less than $30, so with what we spent in gas, we spent around $55 for the day. I know we could have spent less, but I’m pretty proud of how well we did! And because money still going to be tight next month with my first car payment on the new van coming up, as well as filling up the pool, and needing to pay off a couple doctor’s bills we’ve gotten recently, Taylor’s offered to spend the last $60 of her birthday money on summer clothes for herself (she’s outgrown most of her shorts from last year)! I’m pretty thankful for kids who understand the value of money and that you can’t always get what you want (although they still struggle when they can’t get something, just like I do). We’ve tried to teach them how to use their money wisely, but in all honesty, we got into all of our debt by NOT doing the same with ours and saying yes to too many things, mostly things for them. I still want to be able to do fun stuff as a family, and since Joe Daddy took this week off as well, we’re spending more than we want, but considerably less than we have spent in the past. We have 3 more fun-filled outings planned for this week together which should only add up to another $100. I say 4 family days together for $155 for a family of 7 is pretty frugal!

I hope you are enjoying your week, wherever you are, whether you’re on break or not!

 

Blindsided

After Jules’ therapist suggested I take him to see a psychiatrist for medication, I called the one he recommended immediately. Everyone at their office was booked for 3 weeks. I didn’t want to wait that long, so I called another place that takes his insurance. They had an appointment a week away, so I took it.

Yesterday, we went to that appointment. When they called his name, I went back with him. I figured they’d go over his symptoms and pick a med to start with.

Instead, she just started asking questions. Questions about our family. Questions about his feelings.

The next thing I know, we’re knee deep in a therapy session.

At first, I didn’t mind. Jules was telling her things I already knew, but I did worry that he was uncomfortable because he was shaking his foot uncontrollably the entire time.

When we saw his other therapist, he specifically asked to speak with him alone. I knew he was hiding something. I just didn’t know what.

Well, the next thing I know Jules is talking about cutting himself.

The therapist doesn’t bat an eye. She keeps scribbling on her notepad as she asks, “And how many times have you cut yourself over the past year?”

He doesn’t look at me and answers frankly, “Maybe 40 times.”

“Where do you cut yourself?”

“My arms, and sometimes my sides.”

I’m in such disbelief. When? How? WHY???

Then she asks to see it.

He pulls up his sleeve, and they they are. Scars and fresh cuts all over his arm. One looks so bad, he probably should have gotten stitches.

I can’t breathe. My chest is tight and it feels like my heart might beat right out of my chest.

I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to grab my boy and hug him so tight that all the sadness will just squeeze out of him.

But I just sit there, unable to move, unable to speak.

The therapist asks him when was the last time he cut himself.

He tells her 2 weeks ago when he decided he couldn’t do it anymore because he has friends who started doing it too.

He says he’s trying to fix his friends and he can’t get them to quit if he’s still doing it himself.

I’m still in shock that he’s been able to keep so much from me.

She asks him about his suicidal thoughts.

He claims he hasn’t made any plans to kill himself since November of last year.

She asks him how he planned to kill himself and he tells her a few of the options he’s thought about: homemade cyanide, hanging himself with his belt from his bed, and using one of our guns.

I immediately feel relieved that we got a gun safe for Christmas and chose not to give him access even though he stays home alone and could need it one day.

Then I realize there’s not much I could have done about the others. I mean, I guess I could ban fruit and belts from the house, but then he’d just find something else to use.

He tells her that his girlfriend is the reason he hasn’t made any plans since then.

Thank God for her!

At least he’s had someone to go to.

At the end of the session she tells us that she thinks Jules needs to see the psychiatrist and get on meds as soon as possible (Yeah, that’s what I thought this appointment was for!).

She also tells Jules that if he has any more suicidal thoughts he has to tell me so I can bring him to the mental hospital. He promises to do so.

I make an appointment with the actual psychiatrist for next week and apologize to Jules. I honestly didn’t know all of that was going to happen.

But he tells me he’s glad that I know and it was easier for him to tell me through the therapist.

I ask him if he wants to get something to eat with me.

“Sure, how about Hardee’s? We haven’t been there in a while.”

So we go to Hardee’s and eat our emotions with bacon, onion, and cheese covered burgers and fries.

I go to pick up my girls from my best friend’s house and we talk for a couple hours.

It feels good to be able to vent to someone, someone who has dealt with even more crazy in her life than I have.

But I’m still so sad. I want to believe that it’s hereditary, that it’s hormonal, that it isn’t somehow all my fault, but I’m having such a hard time.

I keep thinking about every time I’ve lost my cool, acted irrational, let my anger or frustration get the best of me. Did I push him too hard? Did I not push hard enough? Did I nurture him enough? Did I abandon him to care for his sisters? Did I not show him how very much I love him???

Because truthfully, when he tells me he loves me, it doesn’t sound sincere. And when I look into his eyes, I don’t see the happy little boy who loved me more than anything in the world.

He sounds dead inside. He looks dead inside.

And all I can think is: I’m going to lose him.

I hope, more than anything in this world, I don’t.

I hope that he’s on the road to recovery, that the medication is going to make everything better.

But I’m so sad and so scared.

And I know what he would say. The very thing I always tell him:

“Don’t worry about something until you have to. Don’t grieve for things you haven’t lost.”

So I’ve cried my tears and wiped my face.

It’s time to be strong.

Not to fall apart.

The meds WILL help. He WILL get better. He WILL find joy again. He WILL live.

And he WILL know how much he is loved.

 

No, We Haven’t Won The Lottery

This week has been like Christmas for us!

Last Thursday I posted pics of my family at the circus.

Tuesday I posted pictures of my BRAND NEW 2017 Toyota Sienna SE!

And by pictures, I mean alllll the pictures! LOL!

My sister said, “I can’t think of anyone else in my entire facebook friends list that managed to post 30 + pics of a new car 😆 #OnlyYou!”

#AintNoShameInMyGame

Then yesterday, I posted a pic of 4 new iPhone SE’s!

And last night, I posted pics from mine and Joe Daddy’s Date Night to Outback for steak and lobster and drinks at Ovation where we saw Get Out. 

Now, only one person mentioned something about me coming into some serious cash, and one other person at work asked Joe Daddy, “How the heck can you afford that?” when he saw our new car, but I know there have to be more people wondering:

Did they win the lottery? Did someone die? Did they get a huge income tax return???

And don’t get me wrong, I don’t owe anyone an explanation. I can spend my husband’s hard earned (or randomly won) money however I damn well please! But there’s one thing I’ve learned about sharing things like this on social media: You can let people make assumptions, or you can just tell them the truth. Sometimes, I let people make assumptions, but I find that there’s more to gain in being transparent.

So to answer those questions: No. NO. And unfortunately, nope :(.

First of all, I don’t play the lottery, so it’d be pretty hard for me to win. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with playing. I just don’t care to waste my money on it (not that I don’t waste it on plenty else).

Secondly, I don’t have any wealthy relatives (at least none that I know of), and I barely have any extended family left that could die and leave me any money (but if you are related to me, have money, are getting ready to die, and have nowhere else to pass your wealth along, please amend your will NOW!).

And lastly, we actually OWE on our income taxes for the first time ever this year thanks to the repayment of our First Time Homebuyer’s Credit we took out in 2008 (the year before Obama gave out the ones that don’t have to be paid back) and penalties for not having insurance on the kids for 3 months (which was out of our control). We also had less taken out of our paychecks so we could have more money throughout the year, knowing we’d get a smaller return, but Joe Daddy ended up getting more 1099 commissions than ever before, which doesn’t get any taxes taken out of it. So instead of getting back $1,000 like last year, we owe $850. Since we weren’t expecting to have to pay that, Joe Daddy sold some of his junk (a couple cars, some car parts, and even his 4-wheeler) and got enough money to not only pay our tax bill, but buy himself a camper to go hunting in, and take me out on a date last night (which I helped pay for with a gift card to Outback, who just so happened to be running their $15 steak and lobster special, that I got from my friends for my birthday a couple months ago).

As for the new car, our old van was just too big for us. There’s only 7 of us. It sat 12. I used to like having the extra seating for all my nieces and nephews, but I hardly ever have all the kids in there now that they’ve started growing up and doing their own thing. I hardly ever even have my entire family in there anymore! With Ty starting school this year, I just didn’t want to be driving that big gas guzzler all over town by myself! We looked into slightly used vans, but the financing is just so much better on a brand new one, so we ended up getting a much better deal going new. My husband works for Toyota, so we got a super amazing deal on a 2017 Toyota Sienna Sports Edition, so I was able to get one with heated leather seats and some extra bells and whistles for almost $10,000 less than sticker price (including the equity we had in our old van). Our monthly payment is $100 more than before (and we’ve lengthened the time we’ll have a car payment by three years), but the gas mileage on this van is an average of 7 miles more to the gallon than my old one, so I’m hoping to save around $80 per month in gas! And luckily, our car insurance only went up $3 per month!

We’ve made some recent changes to our budget that should help as well! First, we cut off the cable. Comcast was gouging us for $250 every month up until a few months ago. We downgraded our service to just high speed internet and home phone for just $80 per month (including taxes and fees)! We bought an antenna for $22 and stream Hulu and Netflix for $18 per month on the 3 Rokus we got for $70. We absolutely love watching TV this way! I wish I would have done it much sooner! Absolutely worth the $150 we’re saving each month!

We were also fortunate enough to have a health care option other than Obamacare this year! My husband’s employer had a similar option to our old plan that is $130 cheaper than what we were paying (which was still over $100 cheaper than our options through the Marketplace this year) for even better coverage! Our copayments are the same, but our deductible is half as much!

This week marks the end of our 18 month cell phone lease through T-Mobile. 18 months ago, they were offering a 4 line unlimited family plan for only $120. We were told our new leased iPhones would only be $15 with trade-in, but our trade-ins weren’t the specific ones they wanted (which we didn’t find out until well after we gave them our phones, so we didn’t even get to try and sell them!), so we ended up having to pay $30 per month, making our bill $240 (which meant we were paying more for the phones than the service)! We were super ticked that our salesperson ripped us off, and T-Mobile did nothing to rectify it, so we decided long ago that we would not be continuing to use their service. We had Boost for years before and absolutely loved it (we only switched to get iPhones), but we wanted to stick with iPhones, so we took a look at Sprint (since it’s the same network Boost uses, which worked better than T-Mobile, IMO). They had a pretty good deal on the new iPhone SE’s ($450, which is $300 cheaper than the price of the iPhone 6’s we leased) and 4 lines (unlimited) for $90 for the first year! Unfortunately, that price would go up to $160 during the 2nd year. Out of curiosity, we checked out what Boost had to offer. They had the same iPhone SE’s for $230! And their unlimited family plan for 4 people is only $95 (if you are a new customer and sign up for Autopay, which I always do anyway)! It was $704 cheaper per year to go with Boost over Sprint! If you haven’t heard of the iPhone SE, check it out here! We went with the 64 g. You can get the 16 g for $50 less ($180), but we’ve had 16 g for the past 18 months and that was the only thing I didn’t like about my old iPhone, I couldn’t keep all the apps on there that I wanted. With this new plan, we’ll be saving $107 per month (if you include the cost of the phone; $145 if you don’t)!

Unfortunately, my husband’s Civic died late last year so we just purchased him a new car as well. He got a super good deal on a 2017 Toyota Prius 2. That second car payment pretty much eats up a lot of the savings I mentioned above, but add the $80 per month we save in gas with the Prius, the $16 per month we save in not needing roadside assistance (since it came with both of the new cars), and $100 per year we are saving in not renewing our Amazon Prime membership, and we are still saving over $100 per month! I’ll take anything I can get though! Plus, now we have two new cars that get way better gas mileage, better TV watching options, and better cell phones and service for less money!

I know money is one of those subjects people don’t like to talk about. I used to be one! My husband and I just had to take out a ginormous personal loan (we’re talking a monthly payment larger than our mortgage!) to pay off our mountain of credit card debt a few months ago. It was not a good feeling seeing how much our thoughtless spending is going to cost us in the long run, but talking about my weaknesses and getting advice from people who have successfully pulled themselves out of debt is what has helped me stopped using the credit cards (for 5 months now! Wahoo!), start sticking to my budget, and having regular conversations with my family about the things we need verse want and whether or not we can actually afford certain things, like the circus, which was definitely a want, but we just couldn’t pass up the chance to take our kids to the last presentation of the Greatest Show on Earth! Some things are worth spending money you should be putting elsewhere (like paying down the debt)! We still have a ways to go before we can celebrate a debt-free victory (5 years unless we can pay it off sooner), but we are finally moving in the right direction, so I am celebrating that!

And maybe by being transparent with you on where I’ve failed and succeeded will help you reach your financial goals as well! Or at least maybe you can read about my struggles and know that you either aren’t alone or you’re doing a much better job than me! LOL!

 

If You Wanna Spend Time With Me

As I sit here typing this, in my pajamas, slippers, deep pore cleaning face mask, and mom bun, sipping my coffee, listening to my favorite radio station, I feel… peaceful.

This is one of my happy places. No one is talking to me, no one is asking anything of me. I can just BE. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have other happy places that invoke feelings other than peacefulness.

I love going to the gym (heck, I better love it if I’m gonna spend up to 12 hours a week there!). When I’m at the gym, I feel energized, motivated, accomplished. 

I love spending time with my children. They make me feel love, hope, purpose. 

I love spending time with my husband. He makes me feel desired, sexy, grounded. 

I love spending time with my friends. They make me feel adventurous, connected, young, wild and free.

But if I’m being honest, each of these happy places, which involve spending time doing things with others, also drain me. 

After a while, they invoke feelings of exhaustion, and if I’m not careful, I can become quite overwhelmed.

have to decompress…and I have to do it alone…and it’s best if I do it every day.

I used to think being introvert was a nice way to tell people that I’m just not that social, but I don’t think that’s true.

I am very social! I love people (albeit certain ones)! I just have to have time between seeing them to recharge my social batteries.

Funny thing is, all social interactions drain me, not just the ones with family and friends.

On a typical, non-eventful day I will wake up at 6am, get myself ready, wake up the kids, help the Littles get ready and eat breakfast, take 4 of them to school, come home for 30 minutes to start a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, and see my husband off to work, hit the gym for 2 hours, come home for lunch at 11:30am, veg-out on the computer for an hour while Ty watches TV, do more laundry, wash dishes, sweep and mop the floors, vacuum, wipe down a few surfaces, start dinner, pick up the girls from the bus stop, have dinner with the kids at 4pm, clean up after dinner, help the Littles with their homework, do more laundry, get the Littles to clean up their play mess, help them take a bath, help them get ready for bed, and read a book to each of them before tucking them in, say goodnight to the Bigs, and settle down on the couch with my hubby and a drink from 8-10pm.

So, on a typical non-eventful day, I get one hour to decompress by myself in the middle of the day and two to unwind before bed. Some people might not need that, but I really, really do!

Now, add in my Tuesday night Zumba class, Wednesday grocery shopping and tumbling for Taylor, doctor’s/dentist’s appointments, things like pre-k and high school registration or fun family trips to the circus, and birthday parties on the weekends, and you can see why I end up spending an entire day vegging out from time to time!

It’s also the reason I struggle to keep my kids in extra-curriculars and am really choosy in how many play dates and Girls’ Nights I plan.

Regular life is pretty exhausting for someone like me.

But I love my life! I love my family and friends! I love going on adventures and trying new things!

I just can’t do it ALL THE TIME.

I need a break here and there.

Actually, I need a break pretty often.

So if you wanna spend time with me, invite me to something! Just don’t expect to see me too often. And don’t hold your breath waiting for ME to make a plan to spend time with you.

It’s not you.

The only thing I ever really make a plan to do outside of the things I have to do is decompress.

It’s not because I don’t want to see you.

I just need a break from EVERYTHING more.

Love, Your Friendly Introvert Who Really Is Social

Life After The Whole30 Challenge

It’s been 20 days since I ended my Whole30 Challenge. I wrote about my final thoughts of the challenge in this post, but I have a new perspective now that it’s been a couple weeks.

First of all, I miss the way I felt during the challenge! Not the stomach issues, obviously, which have subsided thanks to my good friend Prednisone, but the ENERGY and CLEAR MINDEDNESS!

That first week after the challenge, I went crazy. Aunt Flo was coming to visit, and anytime she does, I feel the need to eat my weight in sugar. Mission accomplished! I felt horrible. Sugar is clearly my arch nemesis.

Now that Aunt Flo has left, I have been able to reign in my cravings and start thinking about what healthy eating looks like for me now. 

know that I can’t realistically eat Paleo 100% of the time. Heck, I’m not sure I could even eat Paleo for a day at this point. I mean, I could, I just don’t want to.

After my Crohn’s went into remission last year, I thought grains, dairy, and all the other inflammatory foods were my problem. Now I know, Crohn’s is a fickle beast. It flares up, for reasons unknown, and cutting out certain foods can help, but it isn’t an exact science.

When I eliminated all those inflammatory foods, my Crohn’s still flared up and the only thing that helped was medicine. Ever since I took the meds, the same inflammatory foods haven’t bothered me.

I have gained back 5 of the 10 lbs I lost during the challenge. Maybe it’s from eating all that sugar. Maybe it’s from eating more calories. Maybe I’ve gained more muscle from my new lifting routine. WHO KNOWS?

All I know is, I’m sick of looking at the scale and feeling defeated!

The other day, I happened upon this article that shows one mom’s weight loss journey, and it was so inspiring!

If you only looked at the number on the scale, you’d be less than impressed. 2 lbs? Yeah, that’s it!

But look at how many inches she’s lost!

And she claims she did it mostly by lifting weights! She didn’t go on any crazy diet, but she did do intermittent fasting.

What’s intermittent fasting? Go here to read more!

Basically, you skip a meal so that you have a period of fasting for 14-16 hours each day. You could eat breakfast at 8am then lunch at 3pm and skip dinner, not eating again until breakfast the next day, OR you could skip breakfast, eat lunch at 12pm and dinner at 8pm, OR any 2 meals 8 hours apart, so long as you are fasting for 14-16 hours. Apparently, it is a great way to get lean, which is the whole reason I started my new weight lifting routine, so I’m gonna give it a try!

Because I work out Monday-Saturday 9-11am (or at least try to), I plan on eating my first meal at 12pm and my 2nd at 8pm. I’ll still sit down with my kids for dinner at 4pm, I just won’t eat with them. I might even get to eat dinner with my husband for a change eating so late!

I’ve worked out without eating breakfast before hand, so I know that part won’t be hard, but I am a bit worried about having to watch my kids eat food I’ve prepared and will have to reheat later.

The good news is, I can pretty much stuff my face when I do eat, which has been something I’ve never really been able to stop. I like eating until I’m stuffed, like til it almost hurts.

I also like sugar, which is probably my biggest weight loss setback, so I’m going to do my best to reign in my addiction.

I’ll be sure to post my findings from this whole intermittent fasting challenge! My goal is no longer to lose weight. I’ve gone so far as to take the scale out of my house. I’m THAT serious about how unimportant that number is to me now. My new goal is to cut back on sugar and load up on veggies and fruit while allowing myself some whole grains and dairy (and wine, of course)! I’ve been struggling to find balance, hopefully this will help me get there!

Battling Depression

Depression. Ugh. I hate that word.

Depression reminds me of my father’s suicide and my mother’s substance abuse.

Depression is the last thing I thought I’d have to worry about when my son became a teenager.

I was expecting for him to want more time to himself.

I was expecting he might not care about the same things he cared about before.

I was expecting mood swings and a stinky room.

I was expecting him to eat like a garbage truck.

I wasn’t expecting him to stop eating and lose weight.

I wasn’t expecting him to stop showering or leaving the house.

I wasn’t expecting for him to lose interest in life itself.

At first, I thought: It’s just the hormones. It’s just a phase. He’s still happy…

Then I started noticing: He doesn’t ever seem happy at all, about anything, like ever.

I went from teasing him and calling him Eeyore to wondering if I had done something to make him hate me.

I tried not to take it personal. I just cried alone in my bathroom.

Then I thought about my father.

I wondered if my son might be depressed.

So I asked him.

Much to my surprise, he said YES.

He’s always been open and honest with me, he’s just never been good about going out of his way to clue me in.

I asked him if he wanted to talk to someone.

He said YES.

So I took him to a psychologist.

He said things went well, but he didn’t tell me what they talked about, and that’s ok.

The therapist believes my son is suffering from depression.

So he gave me a referral to a psychiatrist.

He will still continue counselling him though.

We don’t know if he’ll have to go on medication, but medication sounds better than suicide.

Depression makes my son feel hopeless.

It makes me feel helpless.

I asked him if there was anything that happened to make him feel this way.

He said NO. He just feels sad all the time for no real reason.

I asked him if there is anything I can do to make him feel better.

He said NO, but he’s thankful I’m getting him some professional help.

I feel hopeful that by noticing his symptoms and getting him help that he can overcome this.

I still worry that he won’t.

I know so many don’t.

He looks so much like my father.

It terrifies me.

But I can’t become depressed myself.

He needs me.

And I really need him.

 

Final Thoughts on the Whole30 Challenge

4 weeks ago, I embarked on a journey to better my health: The Whole30 Challenge. I committed to go 30 days without grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugar, or alcohol. I assumed it would be difficult, but I was hoping it would change the way I thought about food, and break some of my bad habits. You might be surprised by what I learned about myself and food during this process!

I didn’t find the challenge nearly as challenging as I thought it would be! I was shocked that I didn’t go through serious sugar or alcohol withdrawal during the first week and feel all tired and crappy like most people claim they do. I actual felt pretty incredible the first two weeks. I had more energy and a lot of my bloat shrank down.

I didn’t even find prepping as difficult as I assumed it would be. I guess I was just so excited to be doing something so wonderful for my body, I was jacked up on endorphins or something! LOL!

After week 2, I started experiencing flare symptoms from my Crohn’s Disease. The bloat came back with a vengeance, bringing with it indigestion. My stomach was constantly grumbling, but not in hunger. I call it, “Angry Stomach Syndrome” or “ASS” for short.

So I decided to cut out some of the high FODMAP foods (apples, nuts, garlic, onions, etc.). I didn’t do as well with that as I should have, but I did manage to cut out garlic and onions for an entire week, which seemed to help.

Then the gas cramps started, and then the constant burning, and then the diarrhea. I got a cold during Week 4 as well, which seemed to exacerbate everything.

Today is Day 30. I decided to end my Whole30 journey two days ago, on Day 28. I was ready to throw in the towel on Day 27, and now I wish I would have so I could have enjoyed a cup of coffee (something I’m only going to allow myself to do on the weekend), but I decided I should just stick to my commitment and ride out the next 4 days.

The next day, I decided I didn’t care after all. I was in Dollar Tree getting plastic tiaras for my daughters for the upcoming Father-Daughter Dance (“Ties and Tiaras”) when I just decided, “I want cheese on my burger tonight…and I want a glass of wine…oh, and chocolate too!” I grabbed a 16 oz. Sprite, a little bag of fun sized York Peppermint Patties, and Reese’s Cups on my way to check out. I opened the Reese’s as soon as I got into the car and devoured them as slowly as I possibly could, savoring every sweet chocolate peanut-buttery bite. Then I washed it down with a couple gulps of Sprite. It. Was. Heavenly. I’ve given up soda for MONTHS before, and every time, they just don’t taste as good when I have them again. That was true this time too, but they never taste bad, just not as good. It’ll come back. And yes, I want it to.

The main thing I learned during this challenge is: I don’t want to give up the foods I love, not entirely at least. I know that I was eating far too much fast food before this challenge and that absolutely has to stop. I have fitness goals I want to reach and all that junk has definitely been holding me back. I want to continue drinking mostly water and eating mostly fruits, veggies, and lean meat or fish. So during the week, when I workout real hard, I’ll be eating super healthy. Then on the weekends, I’ll give myself a break. I don’t plan on going crazy on the weekends, but I plan on having that coffee (with cream and sugar/honey), some wine, some chocolate, maybe even a donut or some pizza and soda!

I didn’t make it to Day 30. I just didn’t care to. I have no intention of cutting out all grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugar, or alcohol. I know I said before that I wanted to go Paleo after this challenge, but I changed my mind. I like cheese and I really don’t eat that much of it. I like lactose free milk in my coffee. I like Greek yogurt. I like the occasional grilled cheese, pb&j, or bagel with cream cheese. I like chili WITH beans. I like peanut butter (yes, even after all the horrible things I’ve read about it). I like ice cream, cake, brownies, and donuts. I like LOVE wine. I just can’t imagine a life where those things don’t exist. I’d honestly rather die sooner than later than give those things up. I never ever thought I would say something like that, but having gone through this challenge, I can say: that’s my truth.

Who really knows what’s healthy anyway? One article says coffee’s bad, another says it’ll make you live longer. Add in my health issues which pretty much says all food is going to bother me and I’m left with feeling like I’m f*$&ed no matter what I eat. I’ve always struggled with moderation. I’m either eating super healthy or like total crap. I really think this challenge has at least given me the confidence to eat a more balanced diet, at least what I think is balanced.

I woke up this morning only 7 lbs lighter than when I started the challenge (all that indulgence was totally worth gaining back a couple extra pounds temporarily…oh, did I mention I ate a cashew butter and fruit spread sandwich on organic grain bread for lunch when I got home on Sunday, had cheese on my burger bites, ketchup with my potato wedges, another soda, 2 fun sized York Peppermint Patties, and large glass of wine that night, and then ice cream, pizza, and another soda on Day 29? Yeaaaah. Hey, at least I’ve been good today!). Surprisingly, after all the junk I let myself have over the last two days, I don’t feel horrible today!

Overall, I’m happy that I did this challenge, even if I didn’t quite complete it like I was supposed to. I didn’t have some drastic change from Day 1 to Day 30, but I did lose 7 lbs, 2.5″ around my waist, an inch around my chest, and half an inch around my hips. You have to look pretty close at my before and after pics, but I can see a bit of a difference. Can you?

The Befores are on the left, in case you can’t tell, LOL!

Of course, I wouldn’t notice that my bottom was messed up until after I took these (in case you’re wondering why my right cheek is hanging out more). I think I can see the most difference in these pictures.

I also didn’t pay attention to the fact that my legs were spread apart in my before pics, so my legs actually look bigger in my afters! LOL! If my legs changed at all, that change didn’t show up on the measuring tape. Same for my arms. I feel like I may have toned up a tiny bit more, but I really don’t think much changed in my arms or legs at all.

Like I said, you can barely even tell I made any progress at all, but progress is progress, and as long as I’m improving, I’m getting closer to my goals.

Every time I post a picture of myself in a bikini, people are shocked that I refuse to wear one in public. Well, besides the fact that it looks like my children clawed their way out of me (and then slashed my butt and legs once they got out), my naval is all jacked up, and everything jiggles so much, not to mention how bad my skin spills out when I bend over. High fives to all the women who just don’t give a flying f$%& and let it all hang where it falls, but I’m just not there yet. I don’t know if I ever will be. I have plans to have a tummy tuck and a boob job by the time I’m 40. Call me vain or superficial, but I know exercise and diet are only going to get me so far. All these stretch marks, loose skin, and floppy breasts aren’t going to improve by anything I can do on my own.

Have you done the Whole30 Challenge? How’d you do?

 

My Whole30 Shopping Experience at Aldi and Walmart

Last week, I posted about my Whole30 Shopping Experience at Trader Joe’s. Well, this week I’m gonna share with you some of my finds (and disappointments) at Aldi, their sister store, and the store I need to avoid at all costs if I wanna get out of debt: Walmart.

Prosciutto

I recently tried prosciutto for the first time ever, and I am happy to report that it is DELICIOUS! I could totally swap it out for bacon in just about any meal. At $2.99 for about 6 strips, it’s about the same price as the uncured bacon I was buying anyway. I’m still on the hunt for decently priced bacon or pork belly though!

Here’s Walmart’s prosciutto options, for comparison.

Organic Grass Fed Beef

Even with 15% fat, you don’t have to drain the grease when you cook this meat! It is wonderfully priced as well! Thank you Aldi!

Fresh Chicken

Aldi has great prices on all of their fresh meats. Chicken is no exclusion. They even have an all natural, though not organic, option. All chicken is raised without hormones (due to Federal regulations), and most are raised without the use of antibiotics (unless they get sick), so I tend to just focus on the price tag and get whatever’s the best deal. Don’t be fooled by those “Never Any” labels. Do your research on what they mean! And if you check the weekly ads before you shop, you can make sure Aldi is offering the best price. They aren’t always the cheapest.

Organic Cage Free Brown Eggs

Remember when looking for the best eggs you want: pastured, Omega-3, organic, cage free, then conventional. The organic cage free eggs are a little cheaper than the ones you can find at Walmart, but I still think the Omega-3 cage free eggs at Trader Joe’s for $2.39 are a much better deal! I have seen pastured eggs at Kroger, but they are $5+ per dozen.

For comparison, here are Walmart’s egg options.

Frozen Salmon

Salmon is really healthy (and one of my most favorite foods). I personally prefer fresh(er) fish and watch for Sprouts or Kroger to mark their fresh salmon to $5.99/lb, but I have tried all of the frozen fish at Aldi, and they’re NOT BAD, especially for the price. They do all come from China though, so if you’re funny about that, steer clear. Most nutritionists agree that wild Alaskan salmon is the best fish to eat.

Yes, even the super cheap frozen salmon is doable! I have heard too many negative things about tilapia, so I haven’t bought any of it in a long time, but again, it tastes fine and is very affordable.

They have great prices on shrimp as well. Shrimp is another one of those things you should try to avoid if imported. Shrimp from the Gulf is best.

Just do a little research, check your labels, shop around, and decide what’s best for you! (Walmart has similar options at a higher price.)

Did I mention Aldi has cold smoked salmon?

Tuna

As mentioned, there were a few disappointing revelations made during my Aldi trip. I was surprised to find that some of the items I normally buy (and assumed I would be able to continue buying) have crazy stuff in them making them incompliant! The white albacore canned tuna has SOY in it! Boo! Same goes for the regular canned tuna.

However, they now have a new tuna that doesn’t have soy in it, although it does have vegetable broth made with yellow pea. I’m assuming that if I drain the liquid, I’m technically only left with tuna and salt. I’m still hoping to find an affordable canned tuna without anything on the no list.

Hot Dogs

My kids love hot dogs, but I’m not much of a fan. I was buying these uncured angus beef ones from Walmart, but they have DEXTROSE in them, which is sugar in case you didn’t know.

They do have another option for $1 more that does not have sugar in them! These are even from grass fed cows! You won’t see me eating them, but at least the kids can still enjoy one of their favorite foods!

Chicken Apple Smoked Sausage

It turns out that Aidell’s is not the only option for Whole30 sausage! Walmart’s is actually cheaper too!

Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Just look at that price! Need I say more?

The olive oil in a spray can has soy in it, so it’s no good. Wanna know a tip? Take a cooking brush and dip it in olive oil to coat pans or foods! Works just as well and you don’t have to buy another product!

Organic Coconut Oil

I buy a lot of this stuff! I like to use it in certain dishes were the coconut taste doesn’t come through, but my dog is addicted to it as well! She gets a spoonful with every meal, and she loves it! She won’t eat until I put her scoop of coconut oil on top of her food! It’s been great for her skin issues. You can even use it on your skin, or hair! I have a friend who puts it in her coffee too! Can’t beat Aldi’s price on it!

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Aldi has a great price on organic apple cider vinegar! A bottle of Bragg’s (which is slightly larger) is almost $6!

Dried Fruit

Almost all of Aldi’s dried fruit has sugar in it (with the exception of the apricots), but the freeze dried fruit is does not! This is another food that you aren’t going to just sit and eat, but you can add it to your grain free oatmeal, and other dishes. It would be great in trail mix as well, which would be a great on-the-go breakfast!

The prunes (dried plums) are [added] sugar free!

The raisins have no added sugar in them either!

Fruit Strips

While these fruit strips from Aldi are Whole30 compliant, they are another snacky food you really shouldn’t eat. They are however, a great alternative to fruit snacks if your kids are going Paleo like mine! They’re pretty easy to make on your own, but sometimes it’s nice to have something pre-packaged and ready to throw in their lunch box!

Medjool Dates

I don’t expect to find a better price on dates! These babies are used as a sweetener or thickening agent in a lot of Whole30/Paleo recipes! I don’t think they are a regular item at Aldi though, so you may wanna grab them while they have them!

In case you were wondering, these Aldi dates have rice flour in them.

Salsa

Salsa is not hard to make, but it is pretty convenient to be able to get a jar of it for less than $3! The organic one on the left (that I used to buy from Aldi) has sugar in it. The one on the right, which I started buying as soon as they started carrying it, does NOT!

Sweet Potato Chips

Technically, you’re supposed to stay away from things like chips, but I figure these sweet potato chips from Aldi will be good to have on hand in case of emergency. I also will be converting my children to a Paleo diet, and let’s be honest: a life without chips is just no life at all! We won’t be eating them all the time, but we won’t be giving them up altogether either.

Seeds and Nuts

Aldi has fantastic prices on nuts and seeds, but you have to be careful and read the labels!

Most of them are perfectly fine, although remember nuts are supposed to be used sparingly (no eating a whole bag in one sitting anymore!).

Do not get these though! I can’t remember what they have in them (I think it may be peanut oil), but like I said, READ THE INGREDIENTS. Don’t just assume to know what’s in a product!

Almost all of Aldi’s seasonings have filler ingredients making them incompliant. They do have organic options for $2 that are compliant! And check Walmart for spices as well! I just got a bottle of organic chili powder for $1.50!

Same goes for their flax and chia seeds. So disappointing!

I was excited to see bone broth for such a good price at Walmart…until I read the ingredients and saw dextrose, BOO!

Aldi’s organic broths have sugar in them too.

Image result for dirty dozen clean 15 2016

Aldi and Walmart both have great prices on produce as well! They even have a few organic selections! I typically try to stick to the Dirty Dozen/15 Clean rule, but again, it depends on what I can find and what’s most affordable.

I hope this helps in your shopping efforts! As you can see, I didn’t do too thorough of a job at Walmart because I really am going to try and stay out of there as much as possible (I have a slight problem leaving there without buying something I don’t need, mainly clothes). I know that I can get everything I need elsewhere, it’ll just take some getting used to. I’ll be sure to share what I find at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Kroger later this week! If you find a good deal on something, please share on the Facebook page!

Whole30 Challenge: Shopping Trip to Trader Joe’s

Ok, so as promised, here’s my shopping experience from Trader Joe’s! If you don’t have one close to you, I’m sorry [insert crying emoji]. It’s an incredible little store! The closest one to me is in Athens. It’s about 35 minutes from my house, so probably not too much closer than the one in Atlanta, but it’s less than 20 minutes from my church, which I’m at 4 days a week (although not any more after this week). That’s still round trip time of nearly an hour, so it obviously isn’t a regular stop for me. In fact, the last time I went was over the summer. I just wanted to share some of the things they had there that excited me or that I bought in preparation for our challenge. I wasn’t able to get any fresh food since we were still 3 weeks away from our kick off, so I’ll most likely be making another trip, unless I find better deals at Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Kroger.

Peas

Remember the ONLY peas you can eat during the challenge are snow peas or sugar snap peas! This was the selection at TJ’s.

Mushrooms

I love mushrooms! Look at all those glorious shrooms!

Herbs

Wanna know how to keep your food tasting interesting? Use fresh herbs! These are great prices, if you don’t grow your own!

Pre-cut Veggies

I actually enjoy chopping veggies when I cook, but sometimes it is quicker and easier if they’re already chopped, especially when it comes to potatoes since you have to peel them, and if you’ve never cut a butternut squash before, prepare to work.  Those suckers are tough! They have pre-cut butternut squash at Walmart for about $3, but it’s not nearly this big of a bag.

Pre-Cut Kale

Kale is super easy to cut, and you can get a BUNCH from Walmart for less than $1, but if cutting’s not your thang, here ya go! The pre-cut stuff at Aldi is almost $4, although it is a bigger bag, so it might work out to be cheaper, IDK.

Pre-Cut Cabbage and Slaw

Cabbage isn’t hard to cut, but it is a little more difficult to shred for things like coleslaw, so I will typically splurge a little and just get it pre-cut. I think bagged broccoli slaw is great because it has broccoli, cabbage, and carrots already shredded and mixed so you don’t have to buy and shred three different ingredients! Again, it’s up to you how much prep work you wanna do! I tend to take the help where I can since there’s plenty of prep work I either can’t get or don’t want help with (I’ll boil my own eggs, thank you very much).

They even have shredded Brussels sprouts! The only two ways I enjoy Brussels sprouts are roasted/sauteed with bacon or raw in salad.

Grass Fed Angus Beef Strip Loin Steak

I thought less than $10 was a pretty good price for a decent sized grass fed steak, but I don’t buy steak all that often. I’m not the greatest steak chef, so when I have steak, I like to leave it to the professionals ;). I will say that if you want to stretch your meat, and your dollars, don’t make meals with meat and sides. Try to make meals where the meat isn’t the star of the show. I actually prefer my food all mixed together, and I rarely cook anything separate so my kids have come to not be so picky about it as well. My 10 year old actually prefers her food mixed like her mama! Doing this allows me to cook 1 lb of beef or 3 chicken breasts and still fill all 7 of our tummies without even feeling like we’re being deprived! LOL! I love meat, I just don’t love buying so much of it!

Frozen Grass Fed Ground Angus Beef

I buy grass fed ground beef from Aldi for $5.99/lb. I love it! You don’t even have to drain the fat! I might give this one a try just to see what the difference, if any is, even though I don’t typically buy frozen meat (not that anything is wrong with that).

Ground Chicken

I thought this was a great price for ground chicken! I haven’t used it much before, but I plan on trying it in a couple recipes during the course of the challenge.

Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage

I know Adell’s Chicken and Apple Sausage is compliant, but I’m not sure about the price, so it’s good to know there’s another option!

Eggs

When looking for eggs, it’s best to buy pastured. If you can’t find or afford pastured, go for the Omega-3 eggs, or the organic, or the free range/cage free, in that order. If you just HAVE to get conventional eggs, they are still one of the healthiest foods you can eat. If you want more info on which eggs are the best and why, go here. $2.39 for a dozen cage-free large eggs with added Omega-3 is a deal, let me tell you!

Canned Mackerel

One of the things on my meal plan for Week 1 is mackerel lettuce wraps, so imagine my delight to find this!

Spices

Trader Joe’s has great prices on seasonings! I love their 21 Salute Seasoning, and I just ran out recently, so I restocked. I also got some garlic powder since the garlic salt I get from Aldi’s has SUGAR in it [insert angry red face emoji along with crying emoji here]. I will say that Walmart and Kroger have great prices on organic spices, so you may want to check there first!

Fruit Spread

I have no earthly idea what I’m gonna use these for yet, but I considered them rare finds! “Jelly” made from nothing but fruit and fruit juice has always come at a pretty price in my experience, so I went ahead and got 2 of these. I’m not a fan of raspberry (although I will eat it b/c I will eat just about anything), and the mango has sugar in it [more crying emojis here, mango is my favorite!]. I know I can use it with meatballs at least.

Hearts of Palm

Joe Daddy and I just went to Fogo de Chão and tried hearts of palm for the first time ever (at least we think we haven’t tried them before)! They reminded me of the taste of marinated artichoke hearts with the texture of a raw carrot. I had to look up what it was. They come from the inner core of certain palm trees! Neat, huh? Now, I don’t know if Trader Joe’s hearts of palm are as good as Fogo’s, but definitely worth a try, so I got some! They are great on salad!

Clarified Butter or Ghee

I don’t know how much ghee is elsewhere, but online it is astronomical! They have it on amazon.com for anywhere from$0.62/oz to $2.36/oz (maybe even higher, I didn’t price them all out! LOL)! Trader Joe’s option came out to $0.49/oz, which is obviously a much better deal. Remember that you can make your own clarified butter, but this is the only dairy you can have on Whole30! I might make my own someday, but I went ahead and got a jar to try.

Kerrygold Butter

If you do decide to make your own clarified butter, Kerrygold Butter is from grassfed cows and is pretty darn affordable! They even have it at Walmart!

Medjool Dates

These are the dates that are in a ton of the Whole30 recipes. They’re used as a binding agent in some and as a sweetener in others. I’ve seen them at Kroger, so I wanted to wait to get some til I checked prices, but then I found some at Aldi for $3.99 the day after I went to Trader Joe’s, so I ended up getting them there!

Almond Butter

Almond butter is one of those things you gotta watch for sugar with. These had two ingredients: almonds, sea salt. I was skeptical, but I bought both the crunchy and creamy on a whim, and I gotta say, I don’t really mind it without the sugar! Now, my kids, might be a harder sell. This is another item you can easily make yourself. Just grind up some roasted almonds in your food processor til creamy!

Cashew Butter

The cashew butter wasn’t much more, and I do intend on trying some eventually (I LOVE cashews, but I’ve never tried cashew butter), I just didn’t want to buy $20 worth of nut butters in one day! LOL!

Tahini

Tahini is ground up sesame seeds (again something you can totally make on your own). You can use it to make sauces and dressings, so it’s pretty versatile. I’ve never tried it, but I’m interested in trying it!

Red Boat Fish Sauce

I was equally surprised and excited to see this at TJ’s! Online it’s over $7 a bottle! I love fish sauce! I use it in a few of my Asian dishes so I had to have some!

Toasted Sesame Oil

This is another ingredient I use in a lot of my Asian dishes. Cold pressed oil is better for you. The one I bought from Sprouts was around $5, so I recommend getting it at TJ’s!

Rice Vinegar

This is yet another ingredient I use in a lot of my Asian dishes. The rice vinegar I had in my pantry had sugar in it. Luckily, the bottle was nearly empty! This one is sugar free and less than $2!

Coconut Cream

Coconut cream can be used to make whipped cream (although you’re really not supposed to make stuff like that during this challenge)! You can also use it to make sauces or for creamer in your coffee, although I will warn: it has a coconut taste. I am opting to give up coffee entirely during this challenge because even with some sort of creamer, I can’t do coffee without a sweetener, but I did try it in my coffee (which I still love even though I gave up the caffeinated stuff over a year ago) and it was doable, which is good news for me since I am planning on going Paleo after the challenge.

Coconut Milk

I’m pretty sure this is the best price I’ve seen on organic coconut milk, but I’ll let you know if I find it cheaper elsewhere. Coconut milk is in tons of Whole30 recipes. I needed 3 cans for my first meal plan alone!

Avocado Oil

I haven’t ever tried it (I can get a bottle of olive oil that size for half the price!), but I have heard it has a milder flavor that’s good for making mayo and dressings. I’m going to try olive oil first since it’s cheaper and the mayo I buy is made with olive oil, but I have a feeling TJ’s is going to have the best price on this stuff.

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Last time I went looking for sun dried tomatoes, I quickly said, “To hell with that!” Kroger wanted over $5 for a little jar! I know I won’t use them a lot, but I know one of the most important things about this challenge is finding ways to add flavor to foods to keep things interesting, so I splurged for the $3 jar.

Snacky Foods

Somehow, I deleted the rest of my shopping pictures without realizing they hadn’t uploaded to my album from my phone :(. TJ’s has a great section of nuts and dried fruits (without sugar) for pretty good prices. While these foods aren’t ideal for the challenge, I have to have something I can take with me to the gym so I can eat in the car on the way to the grocery store one day a week without having to go all the way home to eat. Of course, I could decide to go to Snellville to do my shopping each week (since they have a Sprouts, Aldi, Walmart, and Kroger nearby) and eat at Chipotle’s for lunch that day! Regardless, I wanted to have some snacky foods on hand for those moments when I’m close to failure. The good thing about chips and dried fruit is they don’t go bad fast (if they’re not opened). (Note: I got the sweet potato chips at Aldi, I just didn’t think about it when I took the picture. I also got dried apricots from Aldi, not pictured, which are the only compliant dried fruits they have.)

We found lots more, but these were the things I was most excited to share. I am still on the hunt for dijon mustard made without wine, compliant lunch meat, bacon, and sausage, and the best prices on fresh meat, produce, and herbs. I already visited Aldi, so I’ll be sharing what I found there soon. I’ll be visiting Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Kroger next week. Please share any deals or finds you come across!