Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Thought Green Beans Weren't Paleo?!

I thought beans weren't paleo so why are green beans?
Is honey paleo?
Are potatoes paleo?
Are "paleo-fied" foods paleo?
Bacon isn't paleo, is it?

I come across questions like this frequently. I see them in the comments of other blog posts and I get asked them as well. In fact, a friend asked me today if wine is paleo.

Before I started this most recent Whole 30 I always identified myself as primal rather than paleo. The main reason was that I eat dairy. But, I also felt that the self-proclaimed primal folks, the Mark Sisson followers, were more laid back about the "rules" (they have that whole 80/20 principle after all) and that sits better with me. Paleo is supposed to be a lifestyle after all, not a diet where you count calories or struggle with feelings of deprivation constantly. As I've explored this paleo concept further this past month though, I've become more comfortable with calling myself paleo and living it in whatever way makes sense to me (I'll let you know that part when I figure it out).

And this is why I was really excited to stumble upon this article from Chris Kresser and his idea of moving from a paleo "diet" (which is a really misleading term to start with) to a paleo "template". I highly recommend you check out the article, it's a quick read, but here's the gist:

I suggest we stop trying to define the “Paleo diet” and start thinking about it instead as a “Paleo template”.

What’s the difference? A Paleo diet implies a particular approach with clearly defined parameters that all people should follow. There’s little room for individual variation or experimentation.

A Paleo template implies a more flexible and individualized approach. A template contains a basic format or set of general guidelines that can then be customized based on the unique needs and experience of each person.

But here’s the key difference between a Paleo diet and a Paleo template: following a diet doesn’t encourage the participant to think, experiment or consider his or her specific circumstances, while following a template does.

He goes on to give his general guidelines for a paleo template, but the main point is that you should "experiment and observe" to figure out what your "optimal diet" is. Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you Mr. Kresser for so eloquently speaking my mind and giving it clear terminology (part of my old college days in residence life and the discussions of the importance of our words stick with me to this day). I originally discovered Mr. Kresser's blog because of a great article on whether dairy can be part of an appropriate diet; he struck me as grounded in common sense. So now with the discovery of this article, I'm really excited to delve into more of his site.

Want to check it out at some point in the future? I did a little blog improvement earlier today and now you can conveniently find links to some of my favorite paleo blogs in the links section on the right. I've also added a fun little Widget from Daily Mile, which is the site that I use to track my workouts so you'll see my most recent workout every time you check my blog. If you're super curious what I've been up to (or want to see if I've been slacking so you can yell at me) you can click through to the site through the widget and see all of my workouts. I'm sure you guys will get right on that. :P

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whole 30 Wrap Up

Well let me start off by saying that I am horrified it's taken me so long to write this post. From my staycation with the girls to a work crisis that I returned to I really haven't had time. :( Let me also just apologize now for how long this post is likely going to be.

I realize that I haven't even given you a good idea of why I started this Whole 30/Crossfit challenge in the first place. There are many reasons, but the main ones were increased overall fitness, weight loss, increased energy and dealing with low blood sugar issues, and dealing with some gut issues I have. So let me just take them one by one:

1. Increased overall fitness - Check!

How does one really measure overall fitness? I think that's hard to say and unfortunately I didn't do anything like test my maximum weight for various exercises when I started Crossfit. What I can tell you is that I have vastly improved my upper body and leg strength and I see that both in not only the number of reps I can do in Crossfit (things like air squats, push-ups, pull-ups, etc.), but also in my flexibility when I do them. I also don't have the overwhelming soreness after each workout that I did for the first couple of weeks, despite the fact that I am doing a lot more in each workout. To give you some idea, here's the WOD I did in my second basics class:

25 pull-ups
25 push-ups
25 sit-ups
25 squats

It took me approximately 12 minutes to complete it. Today, in less than 15 minutes I completed this WOD:

1000m Row
50 Sit-ups
40 Squats
30 Push-ups
20 KB Swings (35lb)
10 Bear Crawls (10m each)

This was the first time I used the 35 lb kettleball (I had previously been using the 26 lb ball) and it killed me (as did the bear crawls) so my time would have been significantly faster had I stuck with the lower weight.

Finally (and perhaps most importantly?) I also notice a large difference when doing things in my every day life, like carrying 40-50 lb boxes of dog meat up the several flights of stairs into my condo. The proof is in the pudding as they say.

2. Weight Loss

Well, even while adding weight from muscle gain, I lost 8 1/2 pounds in these 4 weeks so definitely CHECK!! I also went down a couple of belt buckle sizes and managed to easily fit into a pair of jeans that previously left a sizeable muffin top, even with Spanx (yep, just admitted on the WWW to wearing Spanx and having a giant muffin top, awesome).

3. Increased energy/address blood sugar issues

There's no doubt that eating paleo addresses my blood sugar issues and leaves me with a lot more energy. That's also true of primal eating, which is why I've been doing it off and on for years. In the past, my blood sugar issues have been so bad (if I get overhungry I start to feel ill and turn very cranky) that a close friend of mine gave it a name, "hangry" (hungry + angry, get it?), lol. When I'm eating "cleanly" I can go much longer stretches without eating without feeling sick at all.

I've also had a ton more energy this past month, although I have to attribute that in part to my increased water consumption and better sleep. Of course, these are both parts of a paleo lifestyle as well and everything ties together. Replace coffee with a lot of water, work out really hard, fall into a deep sleep all night, nourish your body with good nutrient-dense food, repeat. It's a recipe for success for sure!

4. Gut Issues

I'm going to spare you the details, but in short, I've had IBS issues for some time, and they seem to have become more problematic as I age. The bigger issue is that about 3-4 years ago I started having these strange periods of excruciating gut pain that would wake me up in the middle of the night and last into the following day. After lots of testing and multiple visits to my GI Dr, he eventually just threw his hands up and chalked it up to my IBS. For a while I thought the episodes were stress related, but when I started having them occasionally during stress free periods of my life, I realized that wasn't entirely true (although there is absolutely a connection). Certainly my IBS is another main reason that I've generally tried to eat primally in the past.

If I needed any further convincing, over the Christmas holiday and into my birthday mid-January, I went totally off the rails. I knew I would be doing the Whole 30 soon so I gave myself permission to not only not be primal, but to have whatever the heck I wanted, which included a lot of crap I wouldn't typically eat - things like chips and french onion dip, store bought desserts, etc. By the time I started my Whole 30 my stomach was a mess. I had several of the really painful overnight episodes, I was having all of my usual "daily" problems and a new symptom had arrived, heartburn.

It took a few weeks, but by the end of the Whole 30, I was feeling pretty good. I was still supplementing with fiber, but considering what I had done to myself and knowing it would take a while to heal, I felt good. Then this weekend I had a lot of things I hadn't had for a while and the result was the reappearance of every single issue aside from the major overnight episodes.

The overwhelming reccurrence is likely a function of a few things, including overindulging on quite a few things in a small timespan, but if I needed any convincing that eating paleo is right for me (I didn't), this weekend was certainly it.

And that my friends is that - I think I can say that I've safely achieved my goals. Yay me! :)

Okay, so if you've stuck it out this long, I did mention before & after pictures. I cannot believe I'm going to post these here, but what the heck. And I figure if I'm going to do it, go big or go home so I'm giving you some of the most ridiculous poses ever. Please feel free to make fun of them, my body, the looks on my face, or anything else you see fit. I absolutely deserve it for publishing these on the web! You can click on them to enlarge if you dare.


(BTW, this was about 9 days before I started my Whole 30, 9 days of continued crappy eating so I was actually even a bit flabbier when I started.)


Obviously I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm on the right track. On that note, for the indefinite future (at least the next month or two so I can get my gut back in order), I plan to stay strict paleo (pretty much Whole 30 strict as much as possible) during the week and "regular" paleo on the weekends although I will make exceptions for the occasional dinner club or night out with friends. I am also totally sucked into Crossfit so I'll be sticking to a combination of that, swimming, and cycling as I have been.

So have I convinced any of you to give paleo eating or Crossfit a try? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Whole 30...Check!

Holy crap my abs are sore!!

Now that we've got that out of the way, today is the big day. The last day of my Whole 30 and the final reveal of how much improvement I made. Sadly, I've run out of time to give you the rundown. I know, I suck. :(

I could just give you the numbers, but to be honest, while losing weight was certainly part of the motivation for my doing this, there was so much more to it and it doesn't seem fair to share one part without the others so my pets, you'll just have to wait. And while I might get to it by tomorrow, it's more likely gonna' be a few days as I have a friend in town from CA and we've got a FUN-filled 3-day weekend planned.

So sit tight, and check back in a day or two. Until then, let me just say this:

I DID IT!!!! 


Thursday, February 21, 2013

One More Day To Go!

Only one more day to go in my Whole 30 and first month of Crossfit!! In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should let you know that technically Saturday morning would be my first non-Whole 30 day, but since I have a friend in town from CA who I'm getting together with for dinner tomorrow night (to commence a fun filled weekend!) I will not be totally abstaining from about 7 pm on. I still plan to eat paleo and limit my alcohol consumption to a drink or two, but basically the Whole 30 is ending about 5 hours early. Hey, what can I say? Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for your friends.

Some other random tidbits. First off, I was really on a roll with my kitchen reorganization and a friend had me thinking about how much I hated the 2 plastic "bendy" cutting boards that have become totally worn and warped from the dishwasher so I went trolling at my favorite place to get kitchen supplies...get ready to be surprised....Ross Dress for Less. Seriously, no joke, check out what I scored for $50!

-That's a large plastic cutting board on the bottom left that just happens to match a smaller one that I own and that is my most frequently used cutting board. Good bye bendy boards -they went in the recycling bin yesterday.
-The little gadgets are a kitchen timer so I stop tuning out my microwave timer and burning things and an oven thermometer (turns out my oven does run about 25 degrees hot).
-A set of drying mats, towels and washclothes
-A basket to store all of the dog/cat/human supplements that had been cluttering my kitchen counter. Seriously, that basket, which now sits on top of my fridge is full. Please picture the counter space I was wasting, thanks.
-A set of 4 placemats that go with the 4 I previously purchased at RDFL
-A bag of organic coconut palm sugar. I know, random, right?
-And the piece de resistance, the thing I absolutely had no business spending money on except that now that I got those magnetic boards hung, I'm on a roll (and it was only $10 :P) - a magnetic dry-erase board for keeping tabs on my grocery list and what's in my freezer!

To say I love that store would be an understatement. I've gotten so much good stuff there over the years including a giant bamboo cutting board, my current drinking glasses, wine glasses and champagne flutes, the list goes on. I've also scored some great shoes and boots there ladies.

What else do you need to know? Oh, I tried 2 new recipes from Michelle at Nom Nom. The first were her Kale Chips. I've made kale chips before, but it had been a while so I followed her instructions. I had about a 1/2 a lb of chopped kale leftover from when I made that cacciatore so I tossed those with some walnut oil (didn't have the avocado oil she called for):

and popped them in the oven. Her timing was spot on and in 12 minutes I had a delicious and healthy snack. They're crispy, savory, and nutty - everything you could want in a snack - except that they're ridiculously good for you, win!

I also made a Garbage Stir Fry for the first time so I'd have a few days worth of healthy lunch to get me through the last days of my Whole 30. I had just cooked off a pound of sage breakfast sausage links so I sauteed some spring onions to the fat in the pan (waste not, want not, right?), then added some sliced cremini mushrooms and cooked them until they had some color. Then I added a pound of Polyface ground beef and about 1 1/2T of Savory Spice's Mt. Elbert all-purpose seasoning. Finally I added a bag of broccoli slaw from Trader Joe's and a bit more salt. It took me all of about 10 minutes and the result was delicious:

The best thing about this recipe is that it's really just a guideline. You can use any combination of fat, protein, veggies and spice that you think will work well together and it's an excellent way to use up leftovers from your fridge.

Time for me to head to the pool. Stay tuned for the big reveal tomorrow. How much weight have I lost. How many inches? Will I share my before and after photos? Does anyone actually want to see them? Only time will tell. ;)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pork! Pork! Pork!

I know large numbers of you are dying to know what that meal was that I posted a picture of yesterday. It was actually a dish I was recipe testing for Stacy from Paleo Parents, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently at a paleo potluck and who has a new cookbook coming out shortly called Beyond Bacon (you can pre-order it on Amazon now).

The recipe called for both lard and pork stock, neither of which I had on hand. I did however have 5 lbs of pork fat from Polyface that had been sitting in my freezer waiting to be made into lard for quite some time so this gave me the perfect excuse! I'd never made lard before, but it's incredibly simple to do using a crockpot.

Before I got that going, I did some prep for my pork stock. Thankfully Lynne (from Ferguson Family Farm) had bones and trotters available so I asked her to add them to my order for the drop on Sunday. I put about 2 1/2 lbs of those bones and 1 trotter on a roasting pan lined with heavy duty foil:

and roasted them at 450 degrees for about 45 minutes, turning them over about 30 minutes through:

By the way, I consulted two of my favorite resources for making stock, Michael Ruhlman's The Elements of Cooking and Judy Roger's The Zuni Cafe Cookbook and determined that in this case roasting the bones to get rid of the "gunk" beforehand, rather than having to skim the stock part way through cooking made more sense. The bones then went into my stockpot along with a bay leaf and a few black peppercorns and were covered with water (about 10 cups) and set in the oven, which was preheated to about 250 degrees.

The pork fat then went into the crockpot and because mine tends to run hot, I set it at warm. Once I doublechecked, about an hour in, that the stock was at a good temperature (according to Ruhlman ~180 degrees is the ideal temperature for making stock), I went to bed and let my crockpot and oven do the work for me. In the morning I added some roughly chopped onion, celery, and carrots to the stock and let it simmer for about an hour longer, then I strained it through cheesecloth. The leftover chunks of fat got pulled out of the crockpot (those got frozen in small pieces to be fed to my dogs later) and the lard got strained as well. With minimal work on my part, I now had a nice stockpile of lard and pork stock:

Look at this beautiful white creaminess once the lard was chilled:

At that point, I was ready to start on the Beyond Bacon dish, a pork bucco. While I can't share the recipe with you (you'll have to order the cookbook to get that), I can tell you that the recipe followed a fairly traditional recipe for braising meats, but with the twist of using fresh pork hocks (also known as shanks), a very under-utilized cut of meat. I had planned to serve it alongside cauliflower parsnip puree, but parsnips were nowhere to be found so instead I made a cauliflower celeriac puree. The celeriac got chopped and cooked in boiling salted water while the cauliflower got steamed (I did this in the same pot using my stockpot and steaming basket, brilliant!). While those were draining in a colander, I melted some ghee in the pot and added some crushed garlic. Then the veg got dumped back in with some of the cooking water, salt, and white pepper and I pureed it using my stick blender until smooth. And that was that, pork bucco with cauliflower-celeriac puree:

By the way, I'm testing another recipe from the cookbook, maple pecan lard scones. Stacy made these for the paleo potluck where I met her, but because they weren't Whole 30 compliant I couldn't taste them, which pretty much killed me! So I'm super excited to make them in just a few short days. I am dreaming of having one with my first cup of coffee. I'll be sure to let you know how they are. ;)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Double Whammy

I did a lot of cooking this weekend and most of it involved pork. Fatty delicious pastured heritage pork. I want so badly to tell you all about it and show you pretty pictures, but today I decided in addition to my scheduled cycling class it would also be a good idea to go to Crossfit, which is exactly what I did. I took a quick power nap in between and I'm still so darn tired that I think I'm just going to go to bed. A 10 pm bedtime, that's saying something.

To tide you over until tomorrow, here's a photo of my dinner tonight:

Anyone want to guess what it is? Both the meat dish and the puree?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Out With the Old, In With...the Old

Right around the time I started my Whole 30 I did something major...I got rid of my toaster! Okay, that may not seem major, but I had been thinking about doing it for a long time, but couldn't pull the trigger. Even though it's not technically paleo, I do occasionally like to eat a piece of toasted rice bread with butter and sugar-free jam, especially if my stomach is upset, but I don't think it was just that. I think there was some sort of emotional attachment involved, as if the toaster were symbolic of an irreversible change. When I stopped to actually think about it, I recognized that it's just a freaking toaster! Worst case, I could always buy a new one, but of course so far I haven't missed it at all.

With it went my old 12-cup coffeemaker since I always make my coffee in the Aeropress these days (thanks to Freecycle both went to a good home, along with my old crock pot as well) and ever since I have been hoping to do some major kitchen reorganization. What started as taking out the trash quickly turned into that (don't ask, I have no idea how) and soon the space where the toaster and coffeemaker had been held my new crockpot and my food processor:

I cannot tell you how many times I have muttered strings of expletives as I wrangled the food processor in or out of its spot in my cabinet to the point that I opt for not using it if possible so I am really excited that it now sits on my counter!

I also pulled all of the flour type products out of my cabinet and put them in a bin that went into the closet on my deck for storage:

That created a lot of room in my very limited cabinet space so I could clear clutter from my counters, which left moving my cooking oils (canola, grapeseed, etc. have been replaced with healthier nut oils, coconut oil, and ghee) to a more accessible (and cooler) place:

I also freed up some room for my meat grinder and my finishing salts!

And since I was on a roll, I even hung the magnetic board and dry-erase calendar that I ordered back in September!

The magnetic board will be used for dog training stuff to keep me motivated. I just need to order the custom magnets I want so I expect that will be done in another 6 months or so.

This kept me from accomplishing many of the more boring cleaning tasks that were on my to do list, and I didn't get any cooking done either, but I am SO happy to have some room to work in my kitchen again. Loving to cook - and having to do a lot of it to stick to a paleo diet - in a tiny galley kitchen really stinks so every little thing helps.

Today won't be a total cooking lost though. I defrosted 5 lbs of Polyface pork fat and scored a 5 lb bag of pork bones and some trotters from Ferguson Family Farm* that I picked up at a drop-off today. The former will be going in the crockpot overnight to be turned into lard and the latter will be going in the oven overnight to make stock. Both are going to be used tomorrow to make that pork bucco I mentioned with the shank I also picked up today. It's a porky kind of weekend!

*Incidentally, Ferguson Family Farm is the farm that I recruited to vend at my local farmers market since the previous vendor seemed to have some questionable practices. She follows Polyface's models for raising chickens, beef, and heritage breed pork and her meat is delicious and in most cases, reasonably priced. I'm lucky to have regular access to her product, even in the winter!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Team WOD

Today is the first day that I felt like I didn't get as good of a workout as I could have at Crossfit. Saturday is Team WOD day, which can come in a few different forms, but generally means you and a partner alternate the reps in the workout. The idea is to do as many reps as you can, as fast as you can until the point at which you just begin to fatigue, then your partner takes over, back and forth, back and forth until the time is up. You score a point for each rep and at the end, the teams post their scores on the board to see how everyone compared.

Our WOD today was an AMRAP (AsManyRoundsAsPossible) in 12 minutes of:

50 Air squats
30 Push-ups
15 Pull-ups

Unfortunately my partner didn't get the concept of doing reps just until you start to fatigue (ie. as soon as you start to slow down, switch) so I'd stand around while she slowly eeked out a few more squats or push-ups.

The upside was that when we were done I decided to practice my kipping pull-ups. An "official" pull-up in Crossfit is a kipping pull-up where - as in everything in Crossfit as much as possible - you use your entire body to move yourself into the pull-up position rather than just hanging from the bar and using specific arm muscles:

There are a few scaled versions. The one I started with is standing (standing is a misnomer as your legs are quite bent) on a box and using a bit of a jumping motion to assist me in getting my chin above the bar, while still practicing the kipping motion. You can also do a straight jumping pull-up or you can use gymnastic rings.

The next step up is to use a resistance band to give yourself some assistance, but otherwise do the exact same movement as a kipping pull-up. You can see that and the jumping pull-up here:

This is what I decided to practice today and I surprised myself by getting the motion pretty well. I'm going to try to practice these more frequently in the hopes of being able to switch from the box version, which is really very awkward, to these soon!

I also threw in 30 sit-ups, just for fun :P and then I came home, ate a couple of lettuce wraps with this Asian Almond Chicken Salad from Nom Nom and took a nice long nap. Hey, Crossfit takes it out of you. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

3 Day Weekend

Today I finally got a decent workout at the pool. It's been weeks since I could do anything more than slowly claw my way through what felt like mud, swimming from as little as a measly 500 yards to a piddly 1000 yards. These were my supposed "recovery" swims where I basically convinced myself to get in the pool despite the incredible muscle fatigue and soreness from Crossfit with the promise of sitting in the hot tub for as long as I wanted afterward.

That's not to say that I wasn't sore today. Yesterday's "Fight Gone Bad" workout was intense and aside from the usual whole body soreness, my hammies and thighs were killing me. But I forced myself through the warm up and by the actual swim set I fell into a rhythm and felt pretty good. 1600 yards would typically be an easy workout for me, but today I was thrilled with it.

I was also thrilled that I took a few minutes this morning to throw dinner in the crockpot so I didn't have to cook when I got home from the pool. I'm Polish and grew up in Pittsburgh so when I got back into town late Wednesday evening and was rooting through my freezer looking for something that would be simple to cook until I did some meal planning, I was excited to find some fresh kielbasa from the local Polish store. I pulled it out to defrost and this morning I cut the kielbasa into sausage-sized pieces and threw them in a pan to brown.

While the sausages were browning, I chopped a sweet onion and a small peeled apple and threw those in a bowl. Then I chopped 3/4 of a large head of cabbage and mixed that with the onion and apple. That got seasoned with salt and pepper and I added some unpasteurized apple cider and a healthy dose of apple cider vinegar. The best part of prepping food in the morning? You can dump the fat left from cooking your bacon into your dish. That went into the bowl as well and everything got mixed together. I dumped the cabbage mixture into my 6 qt crockpot, put the seared kielbasa on top, and left the crockpot on low:

When I got home, I quickly sliced some zucchini and tossed the slices with evoo, s & p, and crushed aleppo pepper flakes, lined them up in rows on a baking sheet covered with heavy duty aluminum foil, and broiled them for a few minutes on each side.

In no time at all, dinner was served!

It's a 3 day weekend for me and I have a LOT on the agenda. Lots of cleaning unfortunately, some work for my actual job (even more unfortunate), but also a lot of cooking to get me through the last week of my Whole 30. On the agenda are: making lard for the first time (!), pork stock, mayo, kale chips, asian beef lettuce cups, a twist on cauliflower puree, asian chicken salad from Nom Nom, and - if my farmer comes through for me with shanks - a pork bucco! Feel free to check back and hold me accountable because typing that all out, it seems like a lot to get done!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Week 3 Report

Happy Valentine's Day loves of my life (yes, if you are bothering to read my blog you certainly qualify as a love of my life)!

I'm finally back in town and settling back into my routine. For anyone who's wondering Zuri recovered from his dental like a champ (although minus 6 small incisors) and his pathology report came back benign today, yay!

The trip was a little more challenging for me. Less so because of temptations being out and about - I managed to do well and only make one concession, which is that I had sweet potato fries (sweet potatoes are paleo) that were fried in peanut oil (peanuts are not) - but more so because of not being able to eat on a schedule. I'm going to see how the next few days go, but there were a couple of days where I was a bottomless pit and I worried that I was eating not just too much, but especially too much fruit and nuts. It may have in part been due to "hormonal changes" as a friend put it, but I also think a large part was not being able to always eat my larger meals on my usual schedule. Then I was sort of trying to "make up for it" later in the day and just couldn't. The one day I wasn't in transit at all and was able to eat on a normal schedule (including a big breakfast of bacon and eggs) things were a lot better for me. I do also hold a tiny bit of hope that a part of it, even if it's a small one, is that my metabolism has increased from all of the Crossfitting.

Still, I managed to avoid temptation across the board, including some very tempting chocolates that looked like pieces of art and coffee from a cool shop in Columbus called One Line Coffee that does their own sourcing and roasting. I also got in a Crossfit workout at a box near my mom's house, Crossfit South Hills on Tuesday. Despite that, I was concerned about my weigh in today and decided that if I came out having not gained any weight back, I would be happy (I also missed a couple of workouts because of the travel). So when I saw that I had actually lost another pound, I was very happy. Definitely considering that a win!

Waiting for me when I got back was a body fat caliper and an awesome tape measure called a Myotape for measuring, well, body parts. Wishing I had ordered these before I started the Whole 30, but I retook all of my measurements with both my old measuring tape and the new Myotape to see how things compared and I recorded my body fat. I'll be using these to track my progress moving forward since weight is such an unreliable measure of increased fitness, but no, I am not revealing my body fat measurement today!

So now I'm in the home stretch. Only one more week (and a day) to go and I am planning to really tighten up and finish strong. Mostly that means trying to reduce the amount of fruit and nuts I'm eating and increase my vegetable intake even further. My plan to accomplish that is to only eat fruit or nuts if they are incorporated into a dish containing veggies and to replace evening snacks of fruit with better options like these kale chips from Nom Nom Paleo. The end is in sight my friends! And while this Whole 30 hasn't been that challenging aside from these past few days, I will be happy when it's over!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Brazilian Fish Stew

Hi there and hello from Columbus, OH! I'm here for my greyhound, Zuri to get a dental and a little lump on his neck removed and biopsied. Why on earth would I drive all of the way to Ohio for that you ask? Because OSU has an awesome Greyhound Health & Wellness Program, and one of my former vets is actually practicing here now and will be doing Zuri's dental. Plus tomorrow I get to see a friend of mine who is driving up from Cincinnati to see me! And by see me, I mean keep me sane while Zuri is under anesthesia. To say I am going to be a nervous wreck tomorrow is an understatement. So if you could all send some good thoughts our way from about 7:30 on, that would be great. :) Here's a photo of the handsome patient, who unfortunately is likely going to lose 4 toofers :(

So travel obviously has its challenges when doing a Whole 30. My plan to counter this was to come prepared with plenty of food to eat, both snacks and meals, so I upgraded my room to a "suite" that would have a mini-fridge and microwave and on Friday and Saturday I cooked up 2 dishes that I knew would leave me with enough leftovers to bring along.

The first dish was a fish stew. I tend to keep fish on hand for "emergency" meals since it's easy to pull from the freezer and defrost quickly in a bowl of cold water. When I do that, I usually just bake it in the oven with a drizzle of EVOO, a squirt of lemon juice and some s&p and serve it with some veggies on the side. But since I wanted to have a one dish meal I could reheat, I went looking on Epicurious for a recipe that would use the hake I had in my freezer and I stumbled on this Brazilian Fish Stew recipe. I had intended to halve the recipe since I only had 3 pieces of fish, but when I got down to making it I didn't think the proportions would be right so I only halved the shrimp, herbs, and plantain and left the remaining quantities "as is". I also subbed aleppo pepper flakes for the marinade and used coconut oil instead of EVOO (no brainer in this dish!).

The flavor in this dish was impressive given its simplicity. You literally marinate the seafood, chop a few things, and then layer everything in the pot and let it simmer until cooked. The result is a slightly sour flavorful broth without a strong fishy flavor that's nicely balanced by the sweetness of the onion and plantain. Incidentally, you could leave the plantain out if you're concerned about the higher carb content, but I think it provides a nice contrast to the acidic broth so I wouldn't. If you have a dutch oven, it would make a very pretty presentation to serve it tableside in the pot. Here's what mine looked like:

But, it's also beautiful plated so if you're stuck with a basic stock pot like me, no worries!

I knew between Crossfit and packing that I wouldn't have much time on Saturday for cooking so I asked around for suggestions for a quick and easy "one pot" meal and settled on making a Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore inspired by a fellow paleo greyhound owner. To make it, I first seared a half a pound each of mild and hot Italian sausage that I sliced. Once they had some good color, I removed the sliced sausage from the pan and seared some quartered white button mushrooms in the fat. Once those had some color as well, I deglazed the pan with a little red wine vinegar and added a roughly chopped onion and green pepper and a few smashed garlic gloves and sauteed until softened. I tossed the sausage back in and mixed it all up:

I put all of that into my 6 qt crock pot and put a layer of boneless skinless seasoned chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lbs) on top and sprinkled those with chopped fresh parsley:

 Then I dumped a jar of paleo-friendly marinara sauce (lots of jarred sauce has bad oil or added sugar so it pays to check the labels) on top and turned the crockpot on high. After about an hour, I turned it down to low and let it cook for another 3 hours or so. Shortly before I was ready to eat, I added about 1/2 lb of chopped kale of different varieties and let that cook down. About 30 minutes later, I had a simple and satisfying dinner:

Tomorrow I'll be having lunch with the friend that I mentioned. It will be my first and likely only time eating out while on my Whole 30. I hope it's relatively easy for me to find a Whole 30 compliant option that is not a salad. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I'm a Filthy Beast

It's never a good sign when you walk into your box and in place of the strength/skill portion of your workout it says "Don't die!". If I hadn't already been thinking about scaling down the number of reps, I was at that point, but I decided to just give it my best shot and see what happened and...

I did it! I completed the filthy 50! WOOOOOOO!!!

It wasn't easy, and by the time I got about half-way through the burpees I actually started to question whether I would finish, but I pushed on at my snail's pace and at about 30 reps I pulled something out of me I didn't know I had and knocked the last 20 out in 2 sets of 10. That only left some jumping rope, which at that point wasn't going to stop me. 38 minutes and 30 seconds later, I was done! Here's what I did:

50 Box jumps (24/20) - scaled to step up/down
50 Jumping pull-ups
50 Kettlebell swings (70/53) - scaled to 26 lbs
Walking Lunge, 50 steps - knee has to touch the floor, damn that makes it harder!
50 Knees to elbows - scaled to v-ups
50 Push press (45/35)- Rx!!
50 Back extensions (on the GHD machine)
50 Wall ball shots (20/14) - scaled to 10 lbs
50 Burpees
50 Double unders - scaled to regular jump roping, which meant I got to do 150 reps

That's 600 reps of challenging stuff by the way, 600!

Tomorrow is an easy recovery swim day and I am going to have absolutely no qualms about doing as little as I want, even if it's just 500 yards and then sitting in the hot tub for as long as I can stand it GUILT FREE.

I've officially been doing Crossfit for 2 weeks now and I can say that nothing has ever led to so much pain, so often in such a short period of time (my WODs often take 10-11 minutes, not nearly 40). It's astonishing to me how hard I thought I was working in Body Pump and my other workouts. What a wake up call. To me, more than anything else, this is evidence that this is what I need to be doing to see the best results. Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser agrees. He does a nice job of summarizing my feelings and it's really encouraging to see that it's true for someone at a much higher beginning fitness level than me. 

Week 2 Report

Well I knew the time would come when I would regret having been unable to find my tape measure to better gauge my progress rather than using the scale, but I didn't think it would come so soon. I was really excited to weigh myself this morning (not letting myself do it in between Thursday check-ins) because of the physical changes I can see in the mirror and what does the scale tell me? I've lost one measly pound.

I'm honestly not upset in the least. On the contrary, the changes I can see in my body over these 2 weeks are dramatic, the biggest one being that my good old friend the muffin top is nearly gone! I'm starting to see signs of an actual waist, which is impressive given my boyish figure. :P My legs and arms also look leaner and I can see noticeable muscle growth in my legs. I wish I had numbers to illustrate it for all of you because frankly, I'm shocked, but you'll just have to take my word for it instead.

(Wouldn't it be awesome if I were making this all up, sitting over here on my ass eating Cheetos and getting fatter by the word? Yeah, no, it really wouldn't. Getting in shape is so much better!)

On that note, I had a moment last night when I realized I am officially into Crossfit. It was when my initial reaction of "Holy shit!" and a few minutes of maniacal laughter in response to today's WOD being posted on Facebook was followed by "I really hope I'm not so sore that I can't go tomorrow". Here's the WOD:

"Filthy Fifty"
For time:
50 Box jumps (24/20)
50 Jumping pull-ups
50 Kettlebell swings (70/53)
Walking Lunge, 50 steps
50 Knees to elbows
50 Push press (45/35)
50 Back extensions
50 Wall ball shots (20/14)
50 Burpees
50 Double unders

That's right my friends, I WANT to try to do this. Sucked. In. 

Oh, by the way, food cravings still pretty much non-existent. Still REALLY missing coffee though. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rope Climbs and Clean & Jerks

You know, they say you can't prepare for Crossfit, but I think the thing I was least prepared for was how ripped up my hands would get. Thanks to a gajillion rope climbs (yes, a gajillion, technical Crossfit terminology right there) I have some really sore fingers, including one giant blister on my thumb as illustrated here:

Today's Crossfit workout meant tackling 2 things I had never done before, the rope climb and the clean & jerk. We had a warm-up that was basically a WOD in and of itself for me, followed by our strength portion, which was practicing our clean & jerks, then our actual WOD:

5 rope climbs/5 clean & jerks
4 rope climbs/4 clean & jerks
3 rope climbs/3 clean & jerks
2 rope climbs/2 clean & jerks
1 rope climbs/1 clean & jerks
with increasing weight with each set of clean & jerks of course

Since I won't be tackling an actual rope climb any time soon, I get to do the scaled down version, which is lowering yourself back while holding onto the rope until your close to parallel to the floor and then lowering yourself completely until your back is on the floor, then pulling yourself back up. Since it's scaled down, you get to do extra (yay!), 3 scaled down rope climbs for every regular one. There's that tricky math again. For those of you who are rusty, that means I did 15-12-9-6-3. I surprised myself by, well, doing it. And I've got the f'ed up hands to prove it. :P

The clean & jerk however moves up into the "one of my favorite moves in Crossfit" category. It's nearly identical to the clean & presses I've been doing in Body Pump, which I've always loved. The only issue is that I've apparently been doing them slightly wrong so I had to work a bit today to undo that bad habit.

All in all, this workout was a lot more about strength than stamina for me and I assure you that the result is going to be immovable arms tomorrow. Keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrows WOD is all about the air squats! :P

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Just a really quick post from me tonight. I have so much more energy on the Whole 30, but every night I am physically exhausted from the work I'm doing at Crossfit and in my other workouts. This is the second night in a row that I am opting to just veg in front of the TV before heading to bed.

Anyway, woke up very sore from the waist up from Crossfit, which was no surprise. What was a surprise was the fact that my lower back was the worst part. I am guessing it was the kettlebell swings that did me in. So I decided to give the upper body a break and go to my usual RPM class (in case anyone doesn't know, RPM is an interval-based cycling class from Les Mills, who also created Body Pump, Body Flow, etc.) with my favorite instructor, Tom. I was last at class only 2 weeks ago, 2 days before I took my first basics Crossfit class and I am stunned (stunned I tell ya'!) at the difference in my performance. There were a few tough hill workouts where I definitely felt the burn in my already tired legs, but cardiovascularly I was in such good shape. And despite being tired, I felt strong throughout. I was able to really push myself and still not feel like I was struggling horrifically. It borders on the bizarre.

I won't give the actual physical exercise I've been doing in Crossfit all of the credit. I am also incredibly well hydrated on my Whole 30, something I was not before. There was a mental aspect as well though. Nothing we did in that class was as horrible as what we do in Crossfit so there really wasn't any excuse to wuss out. Still, surprising (and pleasing!) amount of improvement.

Someone recently told me that it helps your recovery on off days to do some push-ups and sit-ups to get blood flowing to those areas so after class I did a couple of sets of 10 push-ups and 10 sit-ups and then did a few very gentle lower back extensions and stretched thoroughly. We'll see where that gets me tomorrow. My hope is to go to Crossfit Wednesday and Thursday, swim Friday for recovery and then participate in my first team WOD on Saturday. Lofty goals my friends.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Burpees Suck

Burpees are not my friend. Burpees are not anyone's friend. Burpees suck. A quick google image search proves it:

Specifically, me doing burpees sucks. And, must be comical. There's something to definition number 2 in that first t-shirt. I imagine my coaches had a hard time stifling their laughter as they watched me struggle through 45 of them today. Seriously, forget the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They should show those dying kids video of me doing burpees, it would have them laughing so hard they'd forget they had cancer.

There's something I'm learning about Crossfit and I think this is how you get sucked in. You can look at a WOD and think, "That doesn't look too bad". Then you do the WOD and it's hard. You're dying. You don't know how you're going to finish before the next class arrives in an hour. You don't know how you can physically make your body move in that way yet again. And then you finish, you chat a little and stretch, you drink some water, you've caught your breath, you've stopped sweating and you walk out of the door and you think...

"That wasn't so bad."

WTF?! Yes it was!

So yeah, today's workout, my first "real" Crossfit workout:

-Warm-up with a 300 m row and 10 reps each of push-ups, pull-ups, v-ups, and air squats-Strength portion: 3-3-3-3-3 chest press (meaning you do 3 reps per set and increase weight with each set. And don't screw up because if you do, you're treated to 30 burpees as punishment)
-And the WOD:
 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (reps) of:
 kettleball swings

Yeah, I know, looks easy, right? By sets 6 and 5 I was dying during the burpees. Even the kettleball swings afterward - potentially my favorite Crossfit move thus far - were HARD. By the set of 4 I was pretty much crawling in and out of the push-up portion of the burpees. I'm pretty sure I was also having an asthma attack even though I don't have asthma. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that the next set would be fewer reps (oh yeah, and sheer determination, let's not forget that). I managed to finish the WOD in 11 minutes and then got to treat myself to 25 GHD sit-ups as the "finisher".

So I survived. It wasn't pleasant, but it was still, somehow, fun. The only question now is, do I go back for more tomorrow?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Jerky & Ghee

Happy Super Bowl Sunday everyone and congrats to all of my friends who are Raven's fans! Today is the first Super Bowl that I can remember not spent stuffing my face with unhealthy food and drinking beer, but given the Whole 30 I didn't want to put myself amidst so much temptation. Plus, Sunday is my day to prep food for the week and today was no different. On the agenda for today were several things I had never made before - jerky, ghee, and egg muffins - along with, as always, a big meal that would get me through several lunches and dinners this week.

Up first were the egg muffins, Nom Nom Paleo's Prosciutto-Wrapped Mini Frittata Muffins to be exact. These have been on the agenda for some time and I decided that buying a new Silicone muffin pan was just the motivation I needed. Who am I kidding? I just love to buy stuff off of Amazon. Thank you Amazon Prime! If you don't know this about me already, let me clue you in - I like to do RESEARCH before making a decision. Even a simple muffin pan requires research. What I learned during said research was that pans that are not 100% silicone often release a chemical smell at high heat. Yeah, no thanks. So I opted for this 100% silicone muffin pan.

I modified Michelle's recipe to leave out the coconut milk. I also added some leftover chopped sun-dried tomatoes and bacon to the mix because I had them and left off the cherry tomatoes because I didn't have them. Soon enough I had some beautiful mini-frittatas in their own crispy prosciutto shells:

These were meant to be frozen for emergency breakfasts, but I immediately ate two. Oops!

Next up was jerky. Did you know my mom bought me a dehydrator for Christmas? She gets bonus points as a mom for feeding into my love of cooking at Christmas time every year. Some of my favorite cooking items have come from her - my giant stainless pan that I use for braising meats, my Santoku knife, and this year both a crock pot and the dehydrator! Here it is, the kitchen appliance I am determined to conquer:

I also bought myself a jerky gun to go with it. After washing all of the parts I set to making a spice blend for the jerky using s&p and chili, onion, garlic, and ginger powders. I then split it in half and mixed one half with a pound of lean (95/5) grass-fed ground beef and the other half with ground bison since jerky made with leaner meat is less likely to go rancid when stored. The jerky gun came with a few attachments to make both strips and Slim Jim style jerky. Since I wanted to try both, I decided I'd use one for the beef and one for the bison, making them easier for me to identify later.

I loaded the gun with the bison first and set to making strips:

One thing I realized a little too late is that with the strip attachment you really need to push the meat all of the way in yourself to get rid of those air pockets so the jerky comes out in one piece. It did get easier once about half of the meat was gone. Then the beef got loaded in and soon I was ready to dehydrate:

While the jerky was dehydrating at the highest temp possible (160 degrees) I went on to the next task on my list. Ghee is clarified butter, or butter from which the milk solids have been removed. Many paleo folks are fine with using grassfed butter (as am I), but butter isn't technically Whole 30 approved while ghee is and I knew I'd want to use some butter in my turnip puree for dinner tonight so I set about making ghee with a half a pound of the Kerrygold grassfed butter I picked up at Trader Joe's and this recipe from Alton Brown. I got distracted pretty much exactly when I should have been pulling the pan off of the heat so I think I ventured a tiny bit into brown butter territory, but I'm not too concerned. Brown butter makes everything taste better anyway. Possibly the best thing about ghee? It will keep safely at room temp for a long time in its liquid form:

Once that was done, all I had left to make was dinner. On Sundays I like to make a dish, usually something braised or in the crock pot that will give me at least several meals worth of leftovers. This week for some reason I was craving meatloaf. Fine Cooking is one of my favorite cooking magazines and has these really cool "create your own" pages where they teach you the fundamentals of a certain dish, and then let you choose ingredients you have on hand to make a variation that works for you. And in fact they have one for meatloaf. This time I decided to use one of their existing combinations and modified this Double-Mushroom Meatloaf recipe to be paleo friendly by sauteeing the aromatics in bacon fat and leaving out the bread, milk, and ketchup. I also learned that Worcestershire is not paleo-friendly at all, but only after I put it in the mix, oops. I also subbed in 1/2 t of dried ground sage since my store was out of fresh.

While the meatloaves were resting, I quickly whipped up some turnip puree in place of mashed potatoes and put the second pan of braised cabbage I had made yesterday using this awesome recipe (the other pan was for the paleo potluck I went to, details on that in another post!) in the oven to brown. And viola, comfort food at it's paleo best:

By the time I had finished all of that (and potted around at my computer intermittently), 4 hours had passed and my jerky was done:

Surprisingly I like the taste and the texture of the bison strips better, but they're both delicious and the process was relatively easy and non time intensive, which makes me super excited because it's tough to find jerky with neither soy sauce (gluten) nor sugar that also tastes good (and doesn't cost an arm and a leg).  At some point I'm going to tackle fruit and dog treats as well, but for now I'm thrilled to have it just to have a stockpile of jerky on hand for snacking.

And that folks, is how I spent my Super Bowl Sunday. Off to bed - I need to be well rested for my first day of "real" Crossfit tomorrow!!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Crossfit Basics...check!!

This morning was my 4th and final Crossfit Basics class. It varies by box, but many, including Crossfit Revamped require you to attend a series of intro classes so you can familiarize yourself with the terminology and learn the proper form for the various exercises. Each class we would warm up together, learn and practice a few skills, and then do a shortened WOD. This morning they rounded out my education with front squats (squatting while holding a weighted bar on your collarbone essentially), rowing, kettleball swings, and sit-ups and back extensions on the GHD machine. I asked if that stood for something something of death and got a laugh, but no real answer. :P All you really need to know is it's a large contraption meant to make already painful exercises more painful.

So with those 4 classes under my belt, I can move on to playing with the big boys & girls on Monday! I'm pretty much scared shitless, but also excited. I finally feel like I'm at least starting to get the hang of the WOD - balancing pushing myself with keeping proper form - and the last 2 workouts haven't left me in such excruciating pain.

For anyone who's interested, here's today's WOD:

AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) in 10 minutes of:

5 burpees w/a plate jump
7 front squats
8 kettleball swings (I kind of like these!)
12 sit-ups

I was able to complete 5 cycles. Keep your fingers crossed for me on Monday!