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Category: Health

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!)

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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?

 

The Supplements That Changed My Life

I started working out consistently a couple months before my 5th child turned a year old (August 2013). I had joined the gym that January, but only lasted the month. It was exhausting trying to get my big kids to school, Scouts, church, and sports, clean the house with two toddlers at home, breast-feed an infant, and exercise every (or even every other) day. I remember the first time I hopped on the elliptical. I lasted two minutes before I had to stop because I couldn’t feel my legs. 

That was 3 years and 30 lbs ago. A lot has changed. Now, 4 of the kids are in school, we aren’t doing hardly any extra-curricular activities (I just have to drop one kid off at gymnastics for an hour and a half each week), the kids help me keep the house fairly clean, and I’m not breast-feeding or changing any diapers so I’m able to go to the gym every day (sometimes twice a day) during the week. I’ve lost 10 dress sizes and 30 lbs! I’ve been able to squeeze into clothes I hadn’t worn in 6 years!

But up until a year ago, I really struggled to work out without being in extreme pain. I started running a couple years ago and ended up with shin splints (after running half a mile all at once), which I didn’t know were shin splints at the time, so I just kept running until I literally couldn’t run anymore. It took an entire year for my legs to heal well enough for me to start running again, and my shins still get sore if I try to run more than a mile or two. I also started lifting weights in a couple of my fitness classes. I would burn out long before anyone else, and I’d end up so sore I could barely move, let alone make it to my other classes for sometimes as long as 5 days!

When I’d ask my friends at the gym for their advice, they’d tell me to stretch really good, make sure I was eating enough protein, and drink plenty of water. Those were all things I made sure to do before they even told me, so I was at a loss.

One day, my husband brought home a giant box of supplements that his workout buddy had given him. Some of the stuff was to make protein shakes. I looked at the ingredients. They were full of artificial sugars and flavors, which I not only have a sensitivity to, but don’t believe are healthy. Some of the other stuff I hadn’t heard of, so I did a little research and discovered there are natural supplements out there that actually help with things like muscle repair and endurance, which was exactly what I needed!

Since I started taking these supplements, I have been able to work out longer and harder than ever without being in excruciating pain! Sure, I still get sore, but it’s a dull sore that tells me I worked hard, not the kind of sore that leaves me unable to sit on the toilet without assistance.

I also have more energy all around! I gave up caffeine 9 months ago, which had been my primary source of energy for nearly 20 years! Just cutting out the caffeine helped boost my energy levels (which is crazy sounding, I know, but it’s true!), but I also cut way back on added sugar around the same time, which I believe is imperative if you’re gonna give up caffeine. Sugar and caffeine both make you feel incredible when they hit your blood stream, but they don’t last long and you end up crashing and craving more, which produces a roller coaster effect on your mood and energy levels. After I got through the withdrawal stage (which lasted 5 long miserable days for me), I felt amazing. The cravings were gone and I felt stable, not too energetic, but not sluggish either.

Of course, life can drain you. I do pretty well getting enough sleep, but having to wake up early every morning at 6am to get my middle schooler on the bus, followed by my elementary kids, then working out for 1-2 hours, cleaning or running errands, cooking dinner, doing homework, giving baths, and tucking kids in bed just exhausts me. Taking these supplements has really made a difference though!

So here they are, the supplements that have changed my life!

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Probiotics

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Most of us have heard of probiotics. Yogurt companies put great emphasis on them, but the truth is, you’re probably not getting any of the benefits of them if you only eat yogurt. Most yogurt is processed in a way that actually kills the live cultures so that they can’t thrive in your body. Kefir is a better option than yogurt, but taking a probiotic supplement is the best way to go. To find a good probiotic, look for the number of strains (you want at least 7) and the number of live cultures (you want at least 15 billion). I found these on sale at Kroger, buy one get one half off, making them $30 for a two month supply.

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I tried a different probiotic that didn’t have the specific strains listed, and I noticed a big difference when I switched to one that did. If you have digestive issues (or Crohn’s like me), you really need to give probiotics a try! Your stomach will thank you!

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I’m almost out of the probiotics I’ve been taking, so I went searching on Amazon and found this one! 16 strains and 50 billion cultures!

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I hope they are amazing because they were $20 for a one month supply on Amazon (which isn’t as good as the deal I got at Kroger).

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They are the same brand as the chewables I buy for my kids, which I think have helped reduce Tristyn’s herpes outbreaks and keep them from getting as sick as often. I found these on Amazon for $20 for a month’s supply as well.

Multivitamin/multimineral

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I think this Armor-V multivitamin/mineral supplement from Muscle Pharm might be the best one out there!

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Not only does it have all of the typical vitamins and minerals you would find in a multivitamin/mineral, but a lot of other great stuff too! It’s got Omega-3, 6, and 9, greens, veggies, and fruits, antioxidants, 3 billion active cultures of 10 different strains, turmeric, and a bunch of other stuff too! You can find it on Amazon for $22 for 120 capsules, which would be a 60 day supply if you only take 2 like me. I read that if your pee neon green you’re taking too much and it’s getting flushed out of your system, so I went from taking 3 to 2. 6 is ridiculous. They either want you to over buy or there are extreme athletes that need that much.

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I bought a double pack of Vitamin B12 after I gave up caffeine to help boost my energy levels for working out. I didn’t really do any research on it. Since starting the Armor-V, which only has 130mcg (and states that is 2167% of the daily value needed), I decided to read up on it a bit. Apparently, anyone over the ago of 14 only needs a very small amount of Vitamin B12, but since I don’t like to waste things and I also read that there is no maximum limit on the amount of B12 you can safely take, I’m still taking these every morning, until they’re gone. I guess we’ll see how much of an effect they’ve had on me once I quit taking them!

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This nighttime vitamin/mineral combination is supposed to promote sleep, muscle repair and growth, and hormone production (which is supposed to help with libido). I haven’t been good about taking this one consistently, so I haven’t really noticed any of the benefits it claims to give. I’m gonna try putting it next to my alarm clock so I can remember to take it! A 2 month supply is $14 on Amazon.

Amino Acids

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Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are a combination of 3 amino acids (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine) that help with endurance and recovery.

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The first BCAA I took were by Muscle Pharm. The recommended dosage was eight capsules one to three times daily. Um, hellll noooo! So I found these “On” brand on Amazon. Later, I did the math and realized that the Muscle Pharm ones had more of each amino acid per capsule, they just like to tell you to take a lot more than you probably need. Once I did the math, the Muscle Pharm ones end up being a much better deal at $15 for 240 rather than $24 for 400 (see here). They come out to be the same price per capsule, but you get a good bit more of the amino acids in each capsule. I still have an entire unopened bottle of the Muscle Pharm ones to go through (glad I didn’t throw them out!). There’s also a powder that has a BUNCH more amino acids per serving that I may try in the future so I don’t have to take as many pills every morning (at least on the days I drink a protein shake). It’s $18 for a 2 month supply on Amazon.

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L-Glutamine is another amino acid that plays a role in muscle protein development. Glutamine levels can deplete faster than the body can replenish them during intense exercise and can cause muscle breakdown. These On caps come out to be the same price per serving (if you get the 240 count) compared to the powder that Muscle Pharm sells, but the powder has 1.7 grams per serving, whereas the capsules have 1 gram. I will probably go for the powder when I run out of the capsules. Amazon has it for $14 for a 6 month supply!

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On the days that I work out in the morning, I make a protein smoothie out of frozen fruit (one banana and a handful of another frozen fruit like strawberries, mangoes, blueberries, or a combination), fresh spinach, 3 Tbsp flax seeds, 2 Tbsp chia seeds, 4 Tbsp brown rice protein powder, 1 cup of 100% pineapple juice (not from concentrate; sometimes I use Simply Orange juice too), and a cup of plain fat free Fage Greek yogurt (although I’m going to try switching it out for kefir soon). I mix it in my Ninja, and split it with Joe Daddy (yeah, that’s not all just for me! LOL!).  On the days where I use weights (Tuesday and Friday), I add a scoop of Muscle Pharm’s creatine to my smoothie.

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Creatine is an amino acid that increases energy and stamina, but apparently, it can cause weight gain (I haven’t found that to be true, but then again, I’m only taking it twice a week). Go here for more info. From what I understand, it’s good for lifting and does little for aerobic exercise (which is why I don’t take it before Zumba or Yoga). I have noticed a difference in how much I can lift and how hard I can train, but who’s to say if it’s from the creatine or one of the other things I’m taking? LOL! You can find this powder on Amazon for $12 for 60 servings (which lasts me 7-8 months).

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These are the newest set of amino acids I’ve added to my collection!

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This Nitric Oxide Fuel contains L-Arganine HCL, L-Arganine AKG, L-Citrulline Malate, and Pine Bark Extract (which is considered one of nature’s super antioxidants! Read more about it’s amazingness here). For 6 vein popping reasons to use this supplement, go here! I found it on Amazon for $29 for 60 servings (since I only take 2). I have only started using it this week and I can tell you, it’s amazing! I can’t wait to see my muscles grow!

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

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CLA is a fatty acid found in meat and dairy products (apparently, more so in grass-fed cows, according to this interesting article here). Among the benefits of this fatty acid is the reduction of body fat while increasing lean muscle mass!

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The recommended dosage is 1-2 capsules with every meal. I only take 1 with breakfast and 1 with dinner, so this $21 bottle (on Amazon) lasts me a month.

Allergy Meds

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No, these aren’t supplements, but I do want to mention them, because they too have changed my life! This year was definitely the worst for me as far as allergy symptoms go. My allergies caused a bunch of fluid to get stuck behind my ears causing really bad ear infections and major vertigo. I couldn’t even walk without feeling like I was going to fall over for two days! The doc hooked me up with antibiotics and told me to take an expectorant as well as some seasonal allergy meds. Well, we already keep Flonase and generic Zyrtec (Cetirizine) at the house for Jules, so I started taking his stuff. The difference has been night and day. It reminds me of when I got glasses when I was 12 and discovered I hadn’t been able to see clearly in God knows how long. I had no idea everything was so blurry until I put those frames on and saw clearly for the first time! I had no idea my allergy symptoms were so bad until I started living without them!

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So yeah, I’m up to 12-13 pills a day now! Thankfully, I can take a pill like a champ, but I am interested in getting some of the amino acids in powder form so I can just drink them down in my smoothie (which will reduce that number to 8-9 once I’m done with the B12). I’m no expert, so don’t just take my advice and go load up on all of this stuff, especially if you don’t eat healthy, drink plenty of water, or exercise regularly. Do your research and try adding one thing at a time even if you do all of that! That’s what I did and I’m so thankful for the difference these supplements and meds have made in my life! I’m no body builder, but compared to how I felt a year ago to now is vastly different. I have a feeling this is going to be the year I see the most changes in my muscle tone!

*Please note that the prices I’ve mentioned may change over time. It’s Amazon after all!

My Small Bowel Series Experience

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Yesterday, I had a “small bowel series” done. I originally had a capsule endoscopy scheduled for this month, but my insurance (Humana) required this procedure in order to authorize the other. I’m sure it’s just their way of ensuring they get as much money as possible out of me. Well, played Humana. Well, played. I had no idea what to expect going into it. No one told me anything other than what it was called, what time to show up and not to eat or drink anything after midnight. I Googled it and saw that it was a series of X-rays, so I thought I was going to have a few pictures taken of my abdomen. Easy peasy. I dropped Ty off at my sister’s and took her boys to school with my girls so I could head straight to my appointment from there. I got to the hospital at 9am, got registered, and went back to the radiology department, where I waited til just after 9:30am. Then they took me to “Radiology Room 1.”

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Then I got to put on two very fashionable gowns, one opening to the back and one to the front so I could stay full covered. Not only were they fashionable, but it was like they were tailored to fit my body! LOL! I hope you can sense the sarcasm here. Those things were huge and hideous…but they did keep me covered!

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Once I was dressed in my hospital finest, I was instructed to get on this metal table covered in a sheet. The radiology techs (there was one in training so I got to witness her being educated) felt for my pelvis (and called me skinny! BONUS!), lined me up under the machine, tagged me, and then stepped off into a side room with a window. “Hold your breath. [click] Breathe.” This was the first x-ray they took.

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Then they handed me a styrofoam cup full of barium sulfate, a thick white liquid that lines the insides of the small intestine to create contrast in x-rays. I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to drink anything for this procedure, but once I accepted my fate, I asked, “How fast do I have to drink this?” They told me I could take up to 10 minutes but that I had another cup waiting for me. I decided to just chug it as fast as I could. With the two of them standing there watching me, I got motivated and drank both cups in under 2 minutes. I didn’t even have to hold my nose! I was shaking by the end of the second cup, feeling a bit like all that barium contrast might not stay down, but thankfully, it did! The techs were very impressed. One said she had never seen anyone do it that fast! LOL!

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Then I got back up on the cold metal table and held my breath for another X-ray.

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I was then instructed to roam the halls nearby for 20 minutes, to help the barium sulfate work it’s way through.

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So, I walked. I actually didn’t mind walking since I had to miss my strength class to be there. I walked, I checked my emails, and I browsed Facebook.

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Every. Single. Person. that passed me looked at me like I had just escaped the psych ward. I guess they don’t see too many patients walking up and down the halls looking at their cell phones. Several people actually stopped to ask me if I was ok, or lost. When I told my nurses, they just laughed and said, “Don’t worry. They know the mental patients are in the purple robes.” Hahahaha!

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After 17 minutes of walking the long hall near my room, I headed back to use the restroom. Just as I was coming out, they told me it was time for my next X-ray, so back onto the metal table I got. I heard ooooh’s and ahhhhh’s coming from behind the little side room. The nurse actually showed me my X-rays. She showed me how there was nothing to see on the first one, then just a white blob on the second where all the barium sulfate had gone to my stomach after drinking it, then how it had traveled nearly all the way through my small intestines on the third. She said I was moving on the faster end, which was good news since I had to go grocery shopping afterwards!

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I walked the hallway for another 17 minutes, used the bathroom again and then laid on the metal table for another X-ray. This time, the barium sulfate had made it’s way entirely through my small intestines, so I got moved to another room to see the radiologist. This obviously isn’t a picture of me during my experience, but it does look similar to the machinery they used. I was on my back, didn’t have to drink anything (thank GOD!), and my radiologist was a man. The cool thing about this X-ray was it was live. I could see my contrasted intestines on a screen as he pressed on my abdomen to move them around as I rolled from side to side. He took several pictures and then said he was done. He said he would send the results to my doctor, but everything looked NORMAL!

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This is me leaving the hospital super stoked! I know that there’s a chance they can find something during the capsule endoscopy, but I’m still happy nothing showed up on the X-rays. If they don’t find anything during the capsule endoscopy, then my Crohn’s is mild and has a better chance of going into and staying in remission. That’s my prayer right now.

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It was 11:30am by the time I walked out of the hospital. I was starving. I’d been eyeing this cute little colorful restaurant for a while, but figured even though it had a drive-thru it was probably more money than I wanted to spend on food. Yesterday, I was alone and decided to treat myself.

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I got the 2 piece chicken with one side and a roll for $5.09 and then got a side of fried plantains for $2.29, so it wasn’t expensive, I just don’t typically spend that kind of money on a meal! The chicken was sooo tasty, as were the beans and rice (which counted for one side!), but the roll wasn’t anything special and the fried plantains were not what I was expecting and were a bit dry. They were kinda like potato cakes. They had regular plantains. I have a feeling they were more of what I had in mind when I placed my order. It was definitely better than fast food (even though it came out really fast). I could see myself taking my whole family there to eat one day. We rarely eat out anymore, but it’s nice to find a place that sells restaurant quality food that’s fresh, convenient and cheap!

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Next to Pollo Tropical is this new shopping center. There’s a Home Goods and The Fresh Market. I have never been in either, but I have heard great things about Home Goods, so I can’t wait to visit there…when I have a little more time to look around. I needed to get groceries so I figured I’d check out The Fresh Market. It was a really neat little store, full of some stuff you can’t find anywhere else, but there was nothing there that I needed that wasn’t cheaper than where I normally go. They were pretty pricey (more so than Sprouts), but they do have sales each week so I plan on signing up for their emails.

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I picked Ty up from my sister’s on my way home, unloaded and put away the groceries, and had just enough time to make myself a chocolate peanut butter smoothie before Jules got home from school.

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You may have seen my friend Amanda over at GoatandLuLuBlog.com post her recipe for a similar smoothie recently. Well, you should know by now that I’m not very good at following recipes. I ended up using regular milk, a frozen banana, way more yogurt, peanut butter and cocoa powder…and then I added sugar, chocolate chips and whipped cream (shhhh!). I am totally one of those people who rewards myself with food. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying #GUILTY.

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I rewarded myself with lemon garlic butter chicken and Zoodle goodness topped with Parmesan cheese for dinner.

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Then I rewarded myself with a glass of wine while I watched The Last Witch Hunter with my sick hubby (he missed an entire day of work yesterday due to a stomach virus…he came home early and went straight to bed today too 🙁 Poor guy!).

So the small bowel series was not really what I was expecting, but it turned out not to be too terrible. And I didn’t get bad news, which is always good. Thank you to everyone who knew about it ahead of time and was praying for me! Thank you for all the messages and texts asking me how it went and then celebrating along with me that it came out normal! I’ll be sure to update again once I have my capsule endoscopy next month!

8 Changes I Made to Lose Weight

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I Cut Out Soda

I drank pretty much soda exclusively for almost 20 years! Wanna know how I finally gave it up? Read here.

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I Cut Out Caffeine

I know you think you can’t live without your cup (or three) of coffee every morning, but what if I told you that you could wake up feeling just as good as you do after you’ve had your coffee (or any caffeinated beverage for that matter)? I took the plunge 3 months ago, and I am so thankful I did! Some sources claim that caffeine assists in weight loss. I have found the opposite to be true. I dropped 15 lbs in just a few weeks after I gave it up. Read more about that here.

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I Started Drinking Lots of Water

It’s pretty amazing to me that once I started drinking water, and almost nothing else, I started to actually enjoy it! I fill my 9 cup jug every morning and take it everywhere I go. There are plenty of days that I drink more than 9 cups!

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I Started Drinking Herbal Teas

Because I was so used to having a hot cup of coffee in the morning and a hot cup of green tea in the afternoon before I gave up caffeine, I decided to give herbal teas a try. They have been the perfect substitution! They are hot and refreshing, but don’t give me that rise and fall like the caffeinated drinks did. I have about 20 different boxes in my pantry. I love them all!

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I Started Eating Healthier

When I set out to eat better, I was a little confused on what exactly that meant. There are so many articles out there about what you should and shouldn’t eat. There are just as many articles on why you shouldn’t drink wine as there are why you should. The more I read, the more questions I had! Is organic really better? What the heck’s a GMO? Should I cut out carbs? Fat? Sugar? All of the above??? It’s enough to make a person crazy! I finally settled on my own idea of healthy eating: mostly whole foods (single ingredient foods on their own or combined with others), as much organic as I can find and afford (I may not be able to cut out all pesticides and chemicals, but less has to be better, right?), and as little sugar and artificial flavors and colors as I can possibly limit myself to (I think everyone agrees that those things aren’t good for us). I have Crohn’s, so I also loosely follow The Low FODMAP Diet. Because I did so well with it in the beginning, I’m able to eat more of fruits and veggies that are on the “avoid list,” but I still try to limit them and avoid wheat/gluten and lactose. Do I still allow myself to have foods I know aren’t healthy? YES! You can be sure to find me eating birthday cake and ice cream at every birthday party I attend! There are some things that I won’t ever give up, whether they’re healthy or not.

I Started A Food Diary

This is something I still do to this day (albeit, not every single day). Keeping a record of what I’m putting in my mouth helps me keep how much I’m eating and how healthy I’m eating in check. It feels good when I can look at what I’ve eaten for the day and see that I’ve gotten plenty of protein, fruits, veggies and water. And on the days where I’ve strayed, I get that extra kick in the butt to do better the next day. It has been especially helpful in determining which foods do not agree with my Crohn’s. Last April, I even kept track of how many calories I was eating, which helped me lose 5 lbs! I’m thinking of doing that again to see if it doesn’t help the number on the scale budge again. I lost 15 lbs over November and December and I’ve been stuck ever since. I still have 15 lbs I’d like to lose. I’ve been working on increasing my strength training, but so far it’s not helping me lose any weight. I do feel stronger though, so that’s a plus!

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I Started Planning

Nothing kills eating healthy like poor planning. Every week, I sit down and make a meal plan and a grocery list before I go shopping. I come up with 7 meals to cook for dinner each night of the week because I like to eat leftovers for lunch, unless there happens to be enough for another entire meal for all 7 of us. I don’t make a specific meal plan for breakfast and snacks because I typically eat the same foods for those meals. If you’d like to know exactly what I eat, go here. And if you need some inspiration for dinner, check out one of my What’s For Dinner posts or my Recipes I Love board on Pinterest. I try to make sure that if I know I’m going to be away from home, I pack something to take with me. Like I said, nothing kills eating healthy like being unprepared. If I don’t have something healthy with me to eat while I’m away from home, I’m likely to choose cheap convenience over health (which is why I used to often find myself in the McDonald’s drive-thru…it’s not like I loved their food, they just happened to be the cheapest and quickest place to get food no matter where I went!).

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I Started Exercising

I have found the saying, “Weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise,” to be true. “You can’t out-train a bad diet,” but you still need to exercise. When I began my weight loss journey three years ago, exercising was tough. I remember the first time I got on the elliptical machine at my gym. I lasted two whole minutes before I had to stop, and I had really pushed myself to do even that! It was painful. It was not a stress-reliever like so many people claim. In fact, I was more stressed from being so exhausted and sore! But I soon discovered why avid exercisers praise it so much. It’s addictive! The more I exercised, the stronger I felt, the less sore I got and the more I craved it. Instead of exhausting me, it energized me! It took a lot of pushing myself through not wanting to do it to get there though, and I was not able to do it on my own from the comfort of my home. Now, I workout every day except for Sunday (although I occasionally workout on Sunday too if I do yard work, go on a hike with the fam or I had to miss another day for some crazy reason, like being sick…or having a colonoscopy). I do an hour of Zumba, 45 mintues of Spin, and 15 minutes of Abs on Monday; an hour of Boot Camp (cardio and strength) and an hour of Zumba on Tuesday; a 20 minute Bikini Body Mommy strength video, 20 minutes on the elliptical and an hour of yoga on Wednesday; an hour of Zumba on Thursday; an hour of Pump It Up class (weights) on Friday; an hour of either Zumba or Chisel (weights) on Saturday; and I’ve just recently started trying to run again. That’s 9 hours if I make it to all of my classes! If you would have told me in the beginning that I would enjoy working out enough to do it for an hour or two nearly every day, I would have laughed at you…or given you a death stare. It is something I have built up to over the past 3 years. I started out walking, then tried running, then went back to walking after I got shin splints that never fully healed, then tried one class, then added another, and another, until I ran out of days to add classes to, so I added some more to do at home. It’s only been 6 months since I went full throttle like this, but it’s made all the difference. I’ve never felt healthier or stronger, and I’m not even at my full potential yet! That’s exciting!

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So if you find yourself freshly embarking on a weight loss journey, be encouraged! It can be very overwhelming to try and make all of these changes at once, so just take it one step at a time. Don’t feel bad for where you are when you start out! Everyone starts at the beginning, and the beginning is hard for everyone. Anytime you feel discouraged, remind yourself that every little step you take in the right direction brings you one step closer to your goal. It might take way more steps than you could ever imagine, but as long as you don’t give up, you’ll get there eventually. The only way to ensure failure is to stop trying. My journey has been long and slow, much more than I could have ever imagined it could be. There are days when I let how far I still have to go get me down. On those days, I take a look at how far I’ve come, and I instantly feel better. If you’d like to read about my entire journey so far, go here.

Are you ready to get serious about losing weight? What changes are you ready to make?

 

 

 

How I Gave Up Soda

For most of my life, I drank almost nothing but soda. Before I met my husband, my favorites were Dr. Pepper and Barq’s Rootbeer. Then he introduced me to Coke and I was hooked.  I shudder now to think how much sugar I’ve consumed in my 34 years. I literally drank coffee, soda, alcohol and nothing else for almost 20 years of my life (yes, even through all 5 of my pregnancies).

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It wasn’t until after I had my 5th child and was having difficulty losing weight that I started to think about kicking my soda habit. I started exercising regularly, so I started drinking water, but only while I was working out. I’d grab a soda right after. It wasn’t until I got frustrated with the number on the scale not moving despite all the exercising I was doing that I decided to give it up completely. 3 months later, the number on the scale had started to go down, so I decided to allow myself to have an occasional soda. Occasional turned into all the time again pretty quickly. The number on the scale went right back up.

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Four months ago, I started having severe bloating, gas and diarrhea. If you haven’t read the back story, go here. Soda was one of the first things I eliminated in an effort to ease my discomfort. I couldn’t even drink a sip without my setting my stomach on fire. It wasn’t nearly as hard to give up the second time around, but there are still some things I did both times that helped me give it up. If you’re thinking about giving up soda, here’s some tips I recommend:

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Make a Plan

I do this with almost anything I’m starting in life. Sitting down to decide what I want, even from myself, is such a motivation booster. I wrote down my goal: to stop drinking soda. I wrote down why I wanted to stop: to lose weight, be healthier, and save money. I wrote down the things I felt could help me get there: drinking at least 8 cups of water per day, and allowing myself to drink nothing else but juice and tea occasionally.

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Don’t Buy It

This seems obvious, but trust me when I say, you will have to remind yourself not to buy it anymore! Sure, I might have been able to remember not to get it at the grocery store, but if we went out to eat and my meal came with a drink, I would often forget not to order a soda to go with it! It was a huge adjustment for me! Once I started eating most of my meals at home, I really didn’t have to worry about it anymore, but there were occasions where I would take the kids to Chick-fil-A or McDonald’s to play and eat and have to remind myself to get a lemonade, Gatorade, juice, or water. Now that I’ve been doing it for four months, it’s become a habit.

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Set Yourself Up For Success

I start every day by filling up my 9 cup water bottle. I love my jug-o-water. It has all the water I need for the day, and a straw that somehow makes me drink more water easily. Ever since I cut out caffeine, the only thing I really can drink is water, so there are plenty of days where I drink more than 9 cups. I take it with me every where I go, so I always have something to drink. I also keep a bottle of water in my purse, just in case I run out or eat somewhere that charges for water (what can I say, I like to save money too!). Take it from someone who used to never drink any water, the more you drink it, the more you will want to drink it. I never used to feel thirsty when I drank coffee, soda and alcohol every day. You would think the opposite would be true. Strangely enough, I’m thirsty all the time now that I drink water!

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Track Your Progress

Mark the day you kick your habit on the calendar! Nothing feels better than when you’re able to say, “I’ve been soda free for ___ days!” At first, you’ll be grateful you made it ONE whole day! Then you’ll hit the week mark…then the month…then the year!

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Don’t Give Up

If you slip and have a soda after you’ve decided to give it up, forgive yourself and keep moving forward! One soda here and there is probably not going to kill you. A daily habit like the one I had, probably will, and not quickly. Too much sugar is linked to all kinds of scary things you can live with.

Honestly, my best advice is to give up caffeine entirely and cut out as much sugar as you possibly can. I can’t tell you how much better I feel since I gave it up 3 months ago! If you’d like to hear more about how I gave up caffeine and why I think you should too, go here.

Are you ready to give up soda? I’d love to hear your progress as you go along! There’s no greater motivation than having an accountability partner!

 

7 Things I Do To Get Through A Stomach Bug

After I finished my fitness classes yesterday, I was heading to my sister’s to drop Ty off so I could go grocery shopping when I got a call from Tristyn’s teacher. She informed me that my sweet baby was sent to the clinic for stomach pains. Her teacher said she went really pale, couldn’t eat her lunch and had tears rolling down her face as she held her tummy. I went straight to the school to pick up my pitiful girl and decided to just hit up Walmart for the grocery items we couldn’t live without for the next few days. I was hoping that this particular bug would be mild and short-lived since Tristyn hadn’t thrown up, but then she started puking at midnight and hasn’t stopped for very long since. Since I couldn’t make it to class this morning, I decided to write a post on what I do to get through these tough times instead. I just saw another friend complaining that the bug hit her household yesterday as well, so I have a feeling there are a few of us suffering together. I’ve been dealing with this stuff for 13 years now, so I kinda feel like an old pro. Wanna know what I do to get through it? Well, here ya go!

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Quarantine the Child

I don’t mean put them in a room and wrap the doorway in cling wrap and caution tape and slip food under the door. I just mean separate the child from the common areas of the house. My 4 girls share a bed, so when one of them gets sick, they have to sleep somewhere else. I like to make a little pallet out of a comforter and put it near my room. This way, if they puke in the middle of the night, I can hear them, they won’t puke all over someone else, and if they miss their bucket, it’ll only dirty up one comforter and the hard floor, which is easy to clean.

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Get a Bucket

One year for Christmas, my kids all got these huge cups filled with cotton candy. The cups were big and thick, so I kept them. Somehow, they became our “Puke Buckets.” I keep one in the car and several in the house. As soon as someone gets sick, they get their pallet and a cup to puke in.

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Put a Cold Wet Rag on Their Head

My husband is the king of the cold wet rag. It’s the first thing he turns to anytime he feels under the weather, and for good reason. Even if you aren’t running a fever, a cold wet rag to the head is really quite soothing.

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Stock Up on Essentials

I like to keep chicken noodle soup, chicken broth, saltine crackers, applesauce, bananas, bread, hot tea, Jell-O, Gatorade, Pepto-Bismol, Loperamide (Immodium), ibuprofen, and acetaminophen on hand for when stomach bugs hit. Oh, and bleach, Lysol and hydrogen peroxide cleaners.

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Keep Them Hydrated

This one is hard to do when everything you put in your child’s mouth seems to keep coming out. My sister follows a rule where you don’t give them anything to eat or drink until 2 hours after they last puked. I don’t follow that rule because more often than not, they are puking more than every 2 hours. I give my kids Gatorade and water to sip on. I don’t let them drink too fast or too much, but I let them drink as long as they want to. Sure, it might come right back up, but in my experience, it’s better to puke up a little liquid than dry heave.

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Watch What They Eat

My go-to foods for anyone in my house who has had a stomach bug are chicken noodle soup (or just chicken broth, depending on how ill they feel), saltine crackers, banana, applesauce, Jell-O, Gatorade, hot tea, and toast. I typically don’t let them eat anything until they haven’t puked for a couple of hours, and I don’t let them resume normal food until they feel better. My best advice is let your kid listen to their body. If they feel like they can’t eat, don’t force it. If they feel like they’re ready to eat normally, let them. If it doesn’t work out, go back to smaller amounts of bland foods.

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Sanitize and Talk About Prevention

Let’s be honest, stomach bugs are not 100% preventable. You can wash your hands religiously, Lysol everything you own every 30 seconds, quarantine your entire house and still get a stomach bug. The viruses that cause stomach bugs are like super viruses. They are hard to kill. It’s still a good idea to try. I recommend bleach, Lysol and hydrogen peroxide products, as I have heard they work the best at killing most viruses. Talk to your child about why it’s important to try and keep their germs to themselves. It is impossible to keep a child from sharing their germs completely, but early education really helps. Discuss what germs are and how they make us sick. Illustrate to them how germs may stick to their hands after they touch one thing and then can transfer after they touch something else. The goal in this is to make your child aware not scared. It’s good for them to not want to drink after someone because they don’t want to share germs, but it’s not so good for them to fear playing with their friends or using a public restroom. Teach them to cough/sneeze away from people and into their elbow (not in their hands), wash their hands frequently (especially before they eat and after they touch something that is known to have bad germs) and correctly (have them sing the Happy Birthday song so they wash them long enough), and to be mindful of what they put in their mouth (including their hands). Practice what you preach and be consistent in preaching it and I promise, your kids will have better habits when it comes to spreading germs.

So that’s what I do to get through a stomach bug. What do you do?

 

My Colonoscopy Experience

So I finally had my colonoscopy today. If you don’t know the back story, go here first.

The procedure itself wasn’t that big a deal. It was the prep that was a complete nightmare.

Starting 3 days before the procedure, I had to cut out raw veggies and seeds, including seeded fruit and popcorn. That wasn’t too terribly hard.

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Then I had to go on a clear liquid diet all day yesterday. I ate 4 cups of orange Jell-O and drank 4 cups of chicken broth, 2 cups of tea, 1 Sprite and 6 cups of water…til 5:30pm. At 5:30pm, I began drinking my gallon jug of “Lemon-Lime Flavor PEG-3350, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Bicarbonate, and Potassium Chloride.” It tasted just as appetizing as it sounds.

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Per the instructions, I began drinking one cup rapidly every 10 minutes. I swear I nearly barfed with every sip, and that was while holding my nose and taking a swig of Sprite before letting it go. It tasted like salt water with a hint of lemon, only not as good as I would imagine actual salt water with a hint of lemon to taste (and I’m sure that doesn’t taste great at all). By 6:30pm, I had drank 6 cups and was pooping clear liquid (is it really pooping if there’s no poop involved??? Just one of the things I pondered during my time on the pot…). After that, I stopped drinking so rapidly…or timing myself. The nausea was too much and my stomach felt so full. I didn’t have much solid stool come out, and the watery stool felt like nothing coming out, so my butthole wasn’t sore or anything, which I was pleasantly surprised about! My butt cheeks were a hole other story. That toilet seat was not comfy after being stuck to it for a couple of hours.

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By 9pm, I had drank over a third of the lemon salt water and 3 Sprites. I had been spewing clear liquid from my poop chute for two and a half hours. I couldn’t bear to take another sip.

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Of course, my husband and Taylor encouraged me to finish it all so I wouldn’t mess up my procedure, but the jug actually said, “Continue drinking until the watery stool is clear and free of solid matter.” You can’t argue with the directions on the bottle.

I was so thankful to be off the pot! I drank 2 glasses of water, brushed my teeth, put on my jams, set my alarm clock for 6am and passed out.

I hit the sleep timer when the alarm clock went off at 6am. I finally got up at 6:15am and called my mom to make sure she was up. Then I wet my hair, washed my face, brushed my teeth, threw on some sweat pants, a t-shirt, a slouch beanie, and my comfy slippers, and woke Joe Daddy up. My mom arrived at 6:45am (with her new puppy Gracie) just as I was starting the car to warm it up. We had a freezing rain warning the night before, so I was happy to see it didn’t stick around. Before we left, I went to give all the kids a kiss, just in case. Unfortunately, for my mom, I woke them up in doing so. It was nice for me to be able to get kissed back though. I know these kinds of procedures are done every day with little complications, but you just never know.

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We left at 7am to get to the endoscopy center 30 minutes away 45 minutes before my procedure was scheduled. We got there right at 7:45am thanks to traffic, signed in and sat down in the already crowded waiting room. They called me up to the window to make sure I had signed all the paperwork around 10 minutes after we got there, then they called me back to give me a bracelet at 8:20am. Then we waited…and waited…and waited. It seemed like everyone that came in before me and after me had been called back. They also came out four times and called people who weren’t there. I got worried that they had forgotten about me…which has happened to me before…multiple times. The lady behind the window assured me that they couldn’t have possibly forgotten about me. Oddly enough, shortly after she disappeared to the back, they finally called me back. It was 9am.

Joe Daddy wasn’t allowed to go back with me. He moved to another waiting room, taking my purse and glasses with him. I went to a curtained area with a bed where I was given a gown and told to take everything off except my bra and socks and put my belongings in a plastic bag. The one day I don’t wear socks! The nurse was nice enough to bring me some. After I changed into my gown, I waited a little while, staring at the curtains defining my “room.” I could hear the hustle and bustle of the nurses checking in other patients and wheeling others out. A few minutes later, a nurse and someone from anesthesia came through the curtains to start my IV and ask me the same questions they asked over the phone the day before. I will never understand why they have to do the same things so many times. Do they not have a system that everyone can access??? Anyway, after they left, I waited a few more minutes before another nurse came to take me to the procedure room. It was 9:30am.

In the procedure room, I was greeted by another nurse who introduced herself as my doctor’s assistant and a man who introduced himself as the anesthesiologist who would be administering my sedation meds and monitoring me during the procedure. He stuck some stickers on my chest, a cuff on my arm and had me turn onto my left side. The nurse stuck a dog pad underneath my butt. The doctor came in, said hi and made sure I remembered why I was there (as if I could forget, LOL!). Then the anesthesiologist told me I’d be asleep within a few seconds of him inserting the meds into my IV, my procedure would take about 15 minutes and I’d be at IHOP in 20 (I love a doc with a sense of humor!). Sure enough, he squeezed his syringe and I went right to sleep.

When I woke up, the first thing I saw was Joe Daddy sitting in a chair in my curtain room. The way they had explained it before the procedure made it sound like they were going to wait until I woke up to bring him into the room. I was happy he was already there. I asked what time it was. It was only 10am. The procedure took 15 minutes and it took me 15 minutes to wake up, just as they said. A second later, my doctor walked through the curtains and stood next to me smiling. I wasn’t feeling too out of it, but I had double vision and felt a little dizzy. As I tried to make the two of her merge back into one, she explained to me that my colonoscopy looked normal for the most part. She didn’t find any polyps, but she did find several small ulcers near the end of my colon closest to my small intestine. She took biopsies of them. She said the ulcers could be from the overuse of ibuprofen (thanks to chronic migraines in my teens and twenties) or Crohn’s Disease. She sent in another nurse to draw some blood to test for IBD (apparently it can’t be used alone to diagnose IBD, but can aide in diagnosis in conjunction with the biopsy results). She prescribed me two antibiotics that kill the bacteria that cause most ulcers. I wish now that I would have had my records from my primary care doctor sent over to her because my she did the bag test to see if I had that bacteria and it came back negative. I guess I’d rather be safe than sorry and just take the antibiotics in case my primary care doctor’s test was a false negative since some of her tests were false positives. When I go back to see her in a week for my results, I’m also going to have her redo the blood test for Celiac’s Disease since my primary care doctor did the test after I had given up gluten/wheat (even though I told her I had done so). I’ve been eating some gluten/wheat so I can have some in my system for the blood test. The blood test isn’t definitive, but I’m just curious to see if it will still be negative with gluten in my system. I don’t plan on eating gluten/wheat all the time regardless of the results, but if I test positive for it, I will definitely avoid it at all costs.

After my doctor left, the nurse drew some blood, took out my IV, bandaged me up and let me get dressed. When the nurse returned, she had me sit in a wheel chair while she wheeled me out to our car.

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 Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was eat. We were near a Folks, but they weren’t opening for another 30 minutes, so we ended up at Chick-fil-A. It was 10:25am, but I really wanted lunch, so we waited 5 minutes. I called my mom to let her know how everything went and see how the kids were doing. At 10:30am, I ordered an 8 piece grilled chicken nugget meal with fries and a lemonade with a superfood side salad. I was craving some fries, but I hadn’t tried the kale yet, so I got both! And you best believe, I ate both! LOL! I even ate the rest of Joe Daddy’s fries when he said he was full (shhhhhh!). It was the perfect first meal after over 24 hours without solid food.

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And I had the perfect person to share it with.

So I survived my colonoscopy. It was awful going through the prep, but the actual procedure wasn’t near as scary as I imagined it would be. I’m thankful to be so much closer to figuring out what’s going on with my insides! I’ll update y’all next week when I get my results!

Have you ever had a colonoscopy? What’d you think about the prep and/or procedure? 

How I Gave Up Caffeine…and Why I Think You Should Too

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For most of my adult life I started each morning with a hot fresh cup of delicious caffeine-packed coffee. I liked mine with several tablespoons of French Vanilla creamer, so much creamer that my husband often asked, “Would you like a little coffee with your creamer?” When I started eating healthier a couple years ago, I switched to honey and half and half, but my coffee was always a light beige color by the time I was through with it.

Each morning began with a cup (or three) of coffee. Then I’d follow up with some hot green tea. I wasn’t trying to be dependent on a substance to get through my days, I had just “heard” that caffeine was good for you. Of course, I had also heard the opposite, but I enjoyed my morning coffee and afternoon hot green tea. It picked me up in the morning and helped me to be productive throughout my day.

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And I’ve seen how many people out there feel the same way. You’d be hard pressed to go an entire day without seeing a coffee meme on Facebook. There are even t-shirts out there now that say things like, “Coffee is my life!” or “Don’t talk to me until I’ve finished my coffee!” I truly and honestly don’t care if you love or hate coffee or any caffeinated beverage. I’m just here to tell you, life is actually better without it.

That’s right. I dare to say that you can not only survive without caffeine, but be more awake and alert than when you’re drinking it. I can say all of this with absolute certainty because…I’ve been doing it for over two months!

I would have never in my wildest dreams imagined that I could have given up caffeine. I loved it. I lived by it. But when I started experiencing severe irritable bowel symptoms, I was forced to give it up. There’s simply no way I would have chosen to give it up on my own, but in doing so, my eyes were open to a whole other reality: I was living for caffeine. That substance that was assisting me in waking up and being productive was wreaking havoc on my insides. Not only was it controlling my moods, bringing me up and down throughout the day, but it was killing my gut.

I went to my primary care physician first. She told me I most likely had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) since the tests she ran showed nothing more serious going on, but also said I would have to see a gastroenterologist to investigate further. She suggested I give up caffeine, alcohol, dairy, gluten, and anything else I suspected was triggering my symptoms, including stress (very funny doc!). So I went home and did a little more research. Most of the studies I had come across made coffee and caffeine sound like health foods, claiming your risks for things like cancer and heart disease decrease with consumption, and the benefits far outweigh the risks, although they never really say what the risks are. Once I started looking into its effects on the digestive system, I saw plenty of risks. Apparently, caffeine causes the stomach to produce more gastric acid secretions than normal, which can lead to acid reflux and ulcers. It can also cause food and drinks to pass too quickly through the digestive tract, causing diarrhea, which can affect the absorption of nutrients, which can lead to dehydration, anemia, and malnutrition. Caffeine is also known to raise blood pressure and heart rate, which can make you irritable and fatigued after it lowers.

Due to my symptoms, I knew I had to give up caffeine, and not slowly, but immediately. So I did. I loaded up on herbal teas at the grocery store since I had read that some herbal teas could actually help with stomach issues, and I got rid of all of the green teas in my pantry.

The next day, I started my morning with a hot fresh cup of lemon ginseng tea, 1 tablespoon of honey and a quarter of a fresh squeezed lemon. It wasn’t coffee, but it was delicious and warm. By mid-afternoon I was exhausted and had a pounding headache. Moody is an understatement. I wanted to crawl in a hole and sleep forever. That night, I made myself a cup of nighttime herbal tea and went to bed early.

The next day I woke up with a headache. It was no longer the pounding one from the day before, but a new dull ache throughout my brain. I wasn’t much use that day. I did the bare minimum just to get through it. I had the same lemon ginseng tea in the morning, followed up with a couple other flavored herbal teas throughout the day, and ended my day early again with the nighttime tea.

This was my life for the next three days after that. Each day I woke up with a dull ache in my head (although it did ache a bit less each day); each night I went to bed early, wondering if I’d ever feel the same without caffeine.

On the 6th day, I woke up and the headache was gone. Hallelujah! I felt good. I felt alert. I actually felt better than before! And surprisingly, I started to watch the pounds drop on the scale. Who knows if it was from giving up the caffeine or the other foods and drinks I gave up (or perhaps a combination of everything), all I know is the pounds dropped, and quickly! I lost 14 lbs in a month! It took me 2 years to lose that much after I had my 5th baby!

I gave up caffeine two months ago and I am here to tell you: it was the best decision I ever got forced into making! I’m no longer on that rollercoaster of feeling peppy then crashing. I don’t crave caffeine. I’m able to wake up just as early and go to bed just as late as before, I just feel more refreshed throughout my entire day. I am able to work out just as hard (if not harder). I feel like I am able to deal with life overall better, which has to be good for my stress levels.

So why do I think everyone should go caffeine free? Because I believe it is a drug that is doing more harm than good. Ask yourself these questions:

Could you imagine going an entire day without coffee? Would you be tired, irritable, get less done?

Can you feel your heart race after you’ve consumed caffeine?

Do you ever have crazy mood swings or get irritable easily?

Do you get headaches when you haven’t had caffeine for a little while? Does caffeine help get rid of your headache?

Do you have trouble going to sleep at night?

Do you spend a lot of money on caffeinated beverages?

Do you just not feel like yourself until you have caffeine?

If you answered yes to any of these, you are probably addicted to caffeine. Addiction is a strong word, but the fact is that many people underestimate the effects of caffeine on their body. Caffeine meets all of the requirements to be labeled an addictive substance: it induces dependency, tolerance and withdrawal in those who consume it. Do you want to give that kind of control to a drug???

How would you feel if I told you that instead of having to have a cup of coffee, or an energy drink, or caffeinated tea in the morning to wake up, feel refreshed and be productive throughout your day, you could just wake up and already feel that way? You probably wouldn’t believe me, but it’s true. I dare you to try it.

Here are a few things I think can help the process of withdrawal (because you will go through withdrawal):

Prepare yourself for a bumpy ride. This won’t be a one day fix. It is going to hurt. You are going to want to give up. Don’t. Don’t let caffeine dictate how you feel or live your life. Believe that you will get past the uncomfortableness. The headaches and irritability will pass! It took 5 days for me to feel normal. It may take you longer. Pray that it takes less.

Write down the date that you started your caffeine free journey. Post it somewhere you can see it. Maybe write an encouraging quote near it like, “I am NOT caffeine’s bitch.” Look at it anytime you start to feel discouraged.

Replace your favorite caffeinated beverages with something else, but make sure you drink plenty of water. I start every day by filling up a 9 cup jug with water. I only drink water and caffeine free herbal teas on a daily basis. Caffeine free herbal teas aren’t actually from tea plants, they’re a combination of herbs, flowers, leaves, seeds, roots or bark steeped in hot water. Green tea, decaf teas (other than herbal teas, which are naturally decaffeinated) and even decaf coffees still have caffeine in them (although decaf coffee has a very small amount, so if you really just think you love the taste or “experience” of drinking coffee, switch to decaf). I tried switching to those a while back in an attempt to go caffeine free. I was miserable! After a month, I went back to my fully caffeinated beverages.

Figure out how much money you’ll save by giving up caffeine. After I stopped making coffee in the morning, my husband started making his at work. So now, I don’t even have to buy coffee or half and half for him anymore! I don’t make sweet tea anymore, so I don’t have to buy sugar or tea bags. I gave up sodas (although I do still indulge in a caffeine-free carbonated beverage from time-to-time). I do spend about $5 a month on herbal teas, but I figure I’m still saving at least $35 per month with all the other changes I’ve made. If you buy your coffee from a coffee shop/bar, you might save that much in a week! Saving money was never a deciding factor in giving up caffeine for me, and there’s no way I would have given it up just to save $35 a month, but it is a nice bonus! Now, had I been spending $100 a month on my addiction, saving money probably would have been a good reason to give it up!

Give yourself your best chance. I chose to go caffeine free during a hard time, a couple weeks before Christmas Break. I had to get up early and we had a lot going on. I didn’t really have the option to choose a better time. If I had, I would have waited until the week after Christmas when I could have slept in and was staying home with the kids instead of going to the gym and school parties and such. If you can, choose a time where you don’t have a lot going on, like a long weekend or a school break (unless of course you think you’d rather be miserable at work than at home with your kids).

If you fail, just try again. Like I said, I was forced into this. Caffeine was literally making me sick to my stomach. I know it would have been harder to do it without that side effect. If you cave into the beast, just start over. I promise, you will feel better once you get past the withdrawal phase. And the good news is, once you get past the withdrawal phase, if you try to drink caffeine, it will probably make you sick (or at least feel too energized) so you won’t want to go back to it.

Now, what happens if you get to the end of this post and you still want to drink your caffeine? That’s OK! You won’t receive any judgment from me! My sister went caffeine free 10 years ago and had tried to tell me countless times that it’s possible to live without it. Obviously, I didn’t listen. She didn’t present it in the way I’m presenting it to you though. She didn’t tell me the negative side effects of caffeine, give me helpful hints for going through the withdrawal process, or tell me how long it would possibly take. I’m hoping that the points I’ve made will be enough for you to try it. I’m hoping that once you see how miserable the initial withdrawal is, you’ll understand just how powerful this drug can be. I’m hoping that you’ll make it through the withdrawal process and come out happier and healthier without the dependency on a drug that can destroy you from the inside out. But I’m also a pursuer of happiness. I believe you should live your life in the way that makes you feel happiest.

Are you up for the challenge of giving up caffeine? I’d love to hear how it works out for you!

*I am not a medical professional, nor do I pretend to be an expert on health and nutrition. I can only relay what I’ve heard, read and experienced in my personal life. If you are concerned about your health or well-being, I suggest you seek professional advice before making any serious changes in your diet.