Toxic Foods

Weight!  What an evil word.  Weight gain, those two words are even more dreadful to speak and hear especially for those of us who are desperate to kick the gain away.  For me, my disdain for the little devil has fluctuated back and forth, much like my weight has since having children.  In my younger years, I was loathe to lose weight.   I was picked on for being too skinny, and my six feet frame only seemed to exacerbate my low weight.   Back then metabolism was also my enemy.  I could easily devour a large supreme pizza, a bag of Doritos and a 2 liter Pepsi and my weight would actually DROP!   Huh!?!?!?  Imagine that.  Growing up in the South, with some of the best cooking in the country, I didn’t exactly eat healthy.   We were a meat and potatoes family, with the occasional green beans (my favorite) and corn thrown in for good measure.   The food was fried and super delectable, and, boy, could my mama cook!

As the years went by, metabolism continued to remain my enemy just in an adverse way.  I found myself having to eat less, although I didn’t necessarily eat healthier, and I started running.   Mind you, none of this happened until I was in college.   Damn you, Freshman 15!  Fortunately for me, since I was already super skinny, the Freshman 15 actually made me look good!  I went from 135 pounds, at 6 feet, to 150 at 6 feet!  I started to look like a buxom broad.    Well, maybe I’m going to far with that statement, but I started developing the appearance of a female, with the curves instead of the toothpick I was always compared to.

After college, I stayed in pretty decent shape, but of course metabolism started to unfriend me.   I suppose since I had treated him so poorly for so many years, then this was naturally payback.   Is it too late to make up and become friends again?  It seems so.

When I became pregnant with Davey, I was probably at the healthiest weight I’ve ever been, 175.  I was toned and capable of running a 5k race in 26 minutes.  I worked a lot, didn’t exactly eat well, and I was also a smoker.  Yes, yes, I picked up that terrible habit to impress a boy nearly 20 years ago, gave it up for another boy, and then picked it back up again just to have something to do.  Ridiculous, I know!  Don’t worry, I gave up smoking well before I became pregnant with Davey.

At the peak of my pregnancy with Davey, I weighed 200 pounds.  I gained 25 pounds.   I had girlfriends asking me if that was healthy and shouldn’t I weigh more.   My doctor assured me that there wasn’t a problem with my weight.   After Davey, the weight fell off pretty quickly.  I didn’t get back to 175, but I got close, fluctuating between 180 & 185.   Two years later, I became pregnant with Henry and at that point I weighed exactly 185.   At my peak with Henry, I weighed 206, that’s just a mere 21 pounds of weight gain and both of my boys were pushing the 9 pound mark when I gave birth to them.

After having the boys, I had a period of eating healthier since I was breast feeding.  I didn’t want whatever I was eating to osmosis its way some how into my milk and upset the boys, so I cut out some of the fried foods and starches, but not my beloved mayonnaise sandwiches (which by the way can only be made with the best – Dukes Mayonnaise).   I immediately began working out after both boys, but unfortunately all of that stubborn weight from Henry seemed to hug every square inch of my body like a leech.   I resorted to taking laxatives, increasing my fiber intake, and even starving myself.   I relished the days I had the stomach flu, because it was a guaranteed 5 pound weight loss, but it didn’t stay around for long.

Rocco DiSpirito’s Negative Calorie Diet

This summer, I’ve been miserable.  I started the summer weighing the exact same weight I did when I gave birth to Henry.   I cried myself to sleep at night.  I apologized to my husband for the fact that his beautiful wife was now resembling Jabba the Hutt.    I took more laxatives, exercised twice as much, and degraded myself in front of anyone who was around.   On top of that, I became Cruella DeVille to my two boys.   So, what was I going to do about this?

A sampling of the smoothies…cucumber strawberry.

I read an article about Mediterranean diets one day, which led me to Rocco DiSpirito, which in turn led me to his Negative Calorie Diet book.   Not eager to waste any money on the purchase of a book that I may not stick with, I checked out a copy at the library.   I read through it, shared it with my husband, and determined that we could both do this, especially if we considered it a lifestyle change and not a diet.

This was the kale, red onion, and sundried tomato frittata made with egg whites. We actually had this for dinner one night. We’re big fans of breakfast for dinner at our house.

The first 10 days had us on a cleanse, which consisted of 3 smoothies a day and soup or salad from Rocco’s book for dinner.   We had to cut out coffee, dairy, breads, starches, and refined sugar.   And, oh yeah, those evening cocktails we had on the back porch after the boys went to bed, those had to go as well, at least for the first 10 days.   I thought, 10 days, why not?  I could do this.   Easier said than done.

dinner 1
This has easily been my favorite dinner, by far. Flank steak, with sautéed collard greens, onions, and mushrooms with horseradish.

The first two days were sheer misery for me.   I have spent the better part of my adult life thriving off of my coffee every morning.  It has always been the first thing I’ve started my day with, not to mention the fact that I’m a huge fan of Starbucks, and there’s just something about those mocha lattes that hit the spot.  I suffered debilitating headaches for two days, brought on by my caffeine cleanse.   It was as if caffeine had become my drug, and now I was detoxing.   Miserable is an understatement.  I was tired, cranky, and my kids drove me bonkers just by breathing.   The first two days were not for the faint of heart.

chef salad
Chef salad is phenomenal. I will be making his cranberry vinaigrette dressing for ALL of my salads moving forward. No more store bought dressing!

Of course, there was also the fact that I felt like I was starving because I’m not a huge fan of green veggies and all of the smoothies were calling for greens of some sort.  I wanted a bowl of pasta.  I wanted my mayonnaise sandwich.  I wanted those chocolate chip cookies, and while will power has always deserted me when I needed her most, she hung tight this time around.   By day three, I was feeling pretty good.

Another favorite has been the meatballs with the kale and mushroom “gravy”.

In the first week, I lost 8.6 pounds, and that had me really reviewing my past food intake and what was going on with my body.  Until this, I never really knew just how toxic certain foods are to the body, mind, and spirit.   I always thought as long as I kept my portions down, then I could eat anything I wanted.  Not true.   I found that once I was eating the whole fruits and veggies and cutting out the sugars and processed foods, I legitimately had more energy throughout the day.  I enjoyed doing things with my boys.  I wanted to go hiking with them, to go blackberry picking, to go to the pool.  I wanted to get out in the backyard with them, and I was able to focus more.   I was able to keep my patience more in check and I was able to sleep more fully at night.   So, all of this time, it wasn’t the quantity of food, but the QUALITY of what I was eating.

mustard chicken
This was last night’s dinner. Chicken with mustard greens, quinoa, and oranges.

We’re two and a half weeks into this lifestyle change and I’m down 13.5 pounds, my husband is down 18.6.   I’m happier, less hungry, and more focused.   We make our dinners at night, and while the boys are required to try everything, I always have a standby for the two of them.   We have; however, found that Henry is a huge fan of collard greens and mushrooms!   Another perk to this lifestyle change.

spinach pasta
And finally, I know how to make spinach pesto pasta. We didn’t follow Rocco’s tomato sauce recipe, but instead used my husband’s. We substituted Monk Fruit in the Raw for sugar.

Do yourselves a favor, my friends, and look at what you’re consuming every day.    Ask yourself is it really worth it?


I Do Want To Love Myself

I don’t enjoy feeling this way. I really loathe it. I want to be happy and I know I can be, I’m just not really sure how to get there. You see, I’m my own worst critic. I have probably the world’s greatest self-deprecating personality. I am NEVER good enough for myself, and I really want to move past this. I just don’t know how.

Perhaps I put too much into my physical appearance, but it’s been almost a year since Henry’s birth and I can’t seem to get my body back into shape. I have a gut, hips, and thighs that are larger than they’ve ever been. I have a butt! When I was younger (high school) and was 120 pounds (70 pounds lighter than I am now), I would have killed for some curves. At 6 feet tall, I was the butt (pun intended) of every joke around for being such a stick. Now? I would just love to lose 20 pounds.

I’ve never had an issue with losing weight or being thin, so I suppose this is why I’m angered so much. I envy my younger self. I envy those on television and in magazines who are older than me, are not stick thin, but can own it and be the most beautiful women in the world. I envy their abilities to let it go and embrace themselves. I’m 8 months shy of hitting that 40 year old mark and I don’t want to go into my 40s being sad and depressed.

Tuesday night, I had a Christmas party to attend. I spent an hour trying on clothes, before finally settling on what I felt to be the frumpiest outfit ever created. I started crying and of course my husband tells me I’m not fat and that I’m beautiful. He’s suppose to say that so how can I really trust him? “Who are you?” I thought as I looked at myself in the mirror. I was once the envy of so many others, and now? Well, now, I’m just average, and my personality has never allowed me to settle with average.

I told my husband it was great that I didn’t work because it would cost us too much money for me to go back to work. All of my old clothing from my Corporate America days no longer fit! I would need to buy a whole new wardrobe and that would pretty much negate the reasons for returning to work…needing more money.

I genuinely wish that I could happily look at myself in the mirror and be proud of how I look. These curves and stretch marks are thanks to two of the greatest gifts in this world…my sons. If I had my old body, then it’s likely I wouldn’t have them. They are totally worth it and I’m grateful that at least they’re the reason for my body metamorphosis. I work hard to try to relieve myself of some of this added weight, but nothing is working.

I trained for two triathlons and a half marathon over the past year! I can do more than I did before having kids, but I can’t seem to get rid of the weight. I actually shaved 20 minutes off my overall time on my last half marathon, and yet I’m still 20 pounds heavier than I was from the first one. It’s not muscle, folks, so don’t start down that path.

I know what my issue is, at least within the weight loss arena, and it’s my inability to get rid of the sugar and flour in my diet. I wrote a post a few weeks back about the harmful effects of sugar, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot expunge it from my life. I want to have my cups of coffee. I want to have the occasional treat. I don’t buy any sort of candies or cookies because I don’t want to deal with that temptation, but I can’t give up my coffee. I just can’t.

Five years ago, when I was at my thinnest and healthiest since high school, I was working at a corporation that provided lunches and snacks on a daily basis. These snacks consisted of ice cream, chips and dip, and even some of the yummiest cupcakes I’ve ever had. I only ran 3 miles a day back then (way less than I do now) and I was a size 10! Perfect for my 6 foot frame. I was even drinking a Starbucks venti mocha TWICE a day. These days? I treat myself once a week to a mocha and I ask for it to be skinny, and my coffee no longer has sugar, but instead splenda and I drink way less of it now than I did back then. I don’t drink sodas (which I did then) and I drink more water. So what gives? Really, what gives?

I would love to be one of those women who is able to name her stretch marks and rolls of fat. I’d love to be able to say, “Regina Roll,” while pointing at my belly, “you’re here because of Davey and for that I love you.” It’s just not going to happen and I don’t know what to do.

Part of me says it’s a losing battle especially around the holidays, but I can’t give in. I can’t let all the yummy and unhealthy foods readily available right now push me over the edge.

Maybe one of these days, I’ll be happy with how I look. Maybe one of these days I won’t “believe” I’m feeling the stares of other people around me for being fat. Maybe one of these days I’ll just accept that this is a part of life. Maybe one of these days, I’ll just destroy every mirror in my house. Or maybe one of these days, I’ll learn to love myself the way God does.

Musings From a Rivalry Football Game

My husband and I awoke this morning a little earlier than normal. For me, I couldn’t sleep. Today was the day of the Palmetto Bowl, the biggest rivalry game in the state of South Carolina. My beloved Clemson Tigers were home and squaring off against our rival, the Carolina Gamecocks. We’ve lost to the Cocks for the past five years and I told my husband that this couldn’t go on forever. So, I refrained from my normal trash talking, as I was a little nervous about rocking the boat.

As we got on the road this morning, I noticed how much things have changed for us when it comes to tailgating and going to a football game. Before our boys, we’d eagerly go to Clemson just to tailgate even if we didn’t have tickets to the game. We’d prepare food the night before, get the coolers packed with beer, and head out at 6 am for a 12 noon game. Today? We got on the road at 9 am.

On our way to see the Tigers play!
On our way to see the Tigers play!

The first real thing to change for me is the choice of breakfast and breakfast drinks. Back in the olden days, it was a mimosa or bloody mary. These days it’s Starbucks and one of their breakfast sandwiches. My oh my how times have changed. Don’t get in the way of me and my coffee, or more specifically my venti mocha latte light!

Don't get in the way of me and my Starbucks!
Don’t get in the way of me and my Starbucks!

We slowly crawled through Easley before finally being able to hit the open road of Hwy 123. About 5 miles out from campus, we hit a dead standstill in traffic. Eventually, the inside lane began to move faster than us and my husband and I watched as an SUV passed by with a grill on the back trailer. Were they nuts? Why would you wait this late in the morning to come to Clemson for a 12 noon game with a grill? My husband commented that they may just be tailgating and didn’t have tickets for the game, which is even crazier to me.

5 miles from campus.  Horrendous.
5 miles from campus. Horrendous.

Look, there was a time in my life, pre kids, when I would gladly tailgate for a game I had no intention of going into. These days, it’s going to take a lot to tear me away from my boys. I’m not wasting my energy or time to tailgate at a game of which I’m not going in.

We met our crew at their tailgating spot 45 minutes prior to kick off. It took us 2 hours from the time we left our house until the time we got to Clemson. We live 45 minutes away. I know. Ridiculous. And once we arrived at the tailgating spot, I wanted one beer, nothing more. So very strange. I was once able to chug beers like it was my job. I could actually beat the majority of the boys. Why do I seem proud about this? I’m not.

We entered the game just in time to see my Tigers run down the hill, otherwise known as the 25 most exciting seconds in college football. We stayed until halftime, when we then left and I had another beer. Again, so very odd. Before kids and when I wasn’t quite so mature, I would have snuck in my liquor or even bypassed the rest of the game just to have beer and party. Not so much these days. I anxiously paced back and forth while looking at my watch, in the hopes my husband would see how eager I was to return to the game.

25 Most Exciting Seconds in College Football
25 Most Exciting Seconds in College Football

I found that this time around I down swear while watching the game. I don’t call the refs evil names, and I can actually stomach some of the fans from the bad team. I legitimately watched the game. Again, my oh my how times have changed.

Going to the Esso Club afterwards no longer holds the same appeal as it did 5 years ago. Getting drunk and dancing isn’t exactly my forte, but stopping at Dunkin Donuts on the way out and getting another large coffee is the way to go.

I had a wonderful time today and I’m so thankful my husband and I had this opportunity. I’m just amazed at how much I’ve changed or the experience for me has changed.

Any oh, by the way…my Tigers broke their losing streak with USC. We won 35-17. Next to the birth of my two boys, this is probably the greatest thing in the past 6 years.

Be Gone, You Terrible Beast

I’ve been awake since 5 this morning. I’m a stay at home mom, who doesn’t have to punch a time clock in the corporate world, so you’re asking me, “why, oh why, are you awake at 5 am?” Well, it’s because of this blog which has started growing profusely and I find myself excited and worried about what I’ll post next. So, this morning I tip-toed downstairs, made my cup of coffee, and high-tailed it straight to my computer where I began to peruse Twitter, my email, and Flipboard for anything of substance I could post this morning. What did I find? Well, quite the interesting article on sugar intake and its effect on your waist line.

photo courtesy of IStock/ThinkStock
photo courtesy of IStock/ThinkStock

I type this as I’m eating my fat free brownie (but not sugar free) and drinking my sweetened coffee. And I’m the type of person who complains about my baby bump (no I’m not pregnant, but I have a pooch I will never be free from), degrades myself for not being able to slim my hips back down to my pre-pregnancy form, and just all around feels bad about my physical appearance. And yet, I’m eating sugar.

In this article I read from Women’s Health Magazine, it throws out some statistics about sugar intake, along with the effects, and some ways to possibly beat down this terrible sugar beast! So, here are a couple of statistical facts you may or may not have been aware of.

The American Heart Association suggests that a woman should intake no more than 25 grams of a sugar a day, but that the average American takes in 92 grams per day! What!?!?!? 25 grams seems like a lot to me, so I’m sure that I’m staying within those boundaries, but let me check just in case. I bake my own bread, so that lowers the amount of sugar, but not down as low as I need. I do love my pastas and while I choose the hidden veggie pastas by Muellers, they still contain 32 grams in one box! Are you kidding me? And that doesn’t count the processed pasta sauces I buy in the can for convenience. And like I said when I started this post, there’s also the multiple cups of coffee which I sweeten with Splenda and French Vanilla creamer, or the occasional mocha latte I treat myself to at Starbucks. On the plus side, I don’t consume sodas or energy drinks.

I suppose; however, the most interesting part of this article is that I can indeed beat down this dreaded beast and actually “train” my brain to not crave sugar. According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, sugar can affect the brain much the same way as cocaine and alcohol. It is seen as an addiction, and like with most addictions you can find a way to not crave it. How do you train your brain to not crave the sugary foods, you ask.

Stop the cravings before they hit is the key. You need to maintain your hunger level to a near minimal existence by keeping your belly full of proteins and fibers and free of the refined carbs we all seem to love. Eat good tasting foods that digest more slowly and keep that steady stream of healthy foods coming. Sounds simple enough, right, but can it truly be done? So in an effort to try out this theory of preventing my brain from going gaga for the bad stuff and trimming down those final few inches, I’m going to blog about my progress. And as with anything, I’m going to go out with a bang and in a blaze of glory. This weekend I will allow myself one final swan song in the sugar treats ballet, before going strong on Monday.

Follow my progress and help keep me accountable. I’d love suggestions on foods, things I can make for my family, but things that also won’t break the bank. We’re operating off of one salary in this household, so we don’t have the luxury of spending hundreds of dollars a week on groceries. Our monthly budget is $300. Share ways that have helped you.

And with that, let me enjoy my brownie and coffee breakfast!

Enjoying my three splenda, two French vanilla coffee.
Enjoying my three splenda, two French vanilla coffee.
Fat free brownie.  Yum!
Fat free brownie. Yum!

Sew Interesting

If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ll see I have a board entitled, “Sew Interesting”. It’s little pins with helpful hints and tips, along with patterns for the beginning to intermediate to advanced sewer or seamstress. Last Christmas, at the age of 38, I got my very first sewing machine. You would think I’d have won the lottery. It was my greatest gift. Here’s the problem…while I’ve practiced on it some, I have yet to really use it until last night.

First off, let me preface this by saying that I purposely NEVER took Home Economics in high school. I didn’t want to learn how to cook or sew or be a good parent. When I saw my future, it was corporate America with business suits and high heels, board meetings and Starbucks lunches, last minute flights overseas and big deals being closed. I was to be nothing more than a career woman, and I hung true to that until my mid thirties when something happened and that dreaded maternal clock started ticking.

I became a first time parent at 36, as many of you know, and that completely changed my outlook and priorities in life. No longer was it important to be that more likable version of Hillary Clinton (better dressed as well), but it was important for me to be a mother, to raise the next generation of brilliant people. With all of that also came a desire to learn so many domesticated things that I had run screaming from for practically my entire life.

My mother made my clothes growing up. She made curtains and pillows, cushions and blankets. I’d love going with her to pick out a new pattern for a dress and shopping for the fabric from which it would be made. That was some of the greatest times of my life. And the things I once saw as great accomplishments…being the number one sales rep, having three degrees, and making tons of money, are no longer as cool as being able to sew.

Last night, I decided to sit down with my sewing machine after the boys went to bed. I took an old t-shirt of my husband’s, an XXL, and decided to do some alterations to make it into a shirt I could wear. I actually have a stack of old long sleeve and short sleeve t-shirts from my husband, along with dress shirts, he no longer wears, items originally to be donated. Why shouldn’t I just repurpose them into something I can wear?

It took me no time at all. I took a t-shirt of mine, did the measurements, cut the sides of my husband’s old shirt, measured and pinned it and then did a few quick stitches all the way up to the arm. I was shocked at how surprisingly easy this was. Here’s the finished product:

My new t-shirt for game days.
My new t-shirt for game days.

And like with most new things, this has become an addiction. I’ve even found ways to alter jeans to fit my “mommy” curves that I can’t seem to get rid of.

Corporate America Welcoming Me Back

I rose much later this morning than I originally intended. My plan was to rise at 5, go to the Y, come home, shower, get dressed, feed my boys (including my husband), and then make my way back into the corporate world. There are always flaws in the best laid plans. I actually rose at 6:30, sleepily stumbled into the shower, cranked it to hot and rubbed the last little remnants of my restless night from my eyes. Why is it that television makes this look so easy? Oh! That’s right, they live in a bubble with Gwyneth Paltrow as their Queen.

Henry’s fighting a nasty cold, one that has him crying any time he coughs. He’s been running an off and on fever for the past 24 hours and really only wants to sleep cuddled in my arms. While I would love that, I desperately need some sleep as well in order to function. Last night he woke me at 1:30 and I ended up attempting to catch some sleep on his floor with his hand gripped tightly to my finger through the bars of his bed. When I finally made it back to my bed around 3, I had already scratched the early rising to get to the Y off of my list. I just needed sleep so I could make it through my day.

After two cups of coffee, I dusted off the old black business suit. I held it up in front of me and took in a deep breath. Time to see if all of this exercising was going to pay off. It’s been three years since I last wore this suit. Would it fit again? Thankfully, there was no sucking in or holding of the breath. I didn’t need to lie down on the bed with a set of pliers hooked to the zipper as I tried to compress all of that baby fat from the past three years. It fit me just like the good ole days.

So, I waited for my aunt to arrive to watch the boys before hopping in my car and checking my hair and make up in the rearview mirror. I stopped at Starbucks along the way and got my old staple of a Venti non fat no whip mocha and I was off. Man, did it feel like the old days of being a working mom or even just a career gal. With my briefcase in hand, I sashayed into Michelin’s headquarters and set up my booth for the employee health fair, all the while unsure if I was going to be able to do this. The only thing crossing my mind was Henry and whether he was alright.

Thankfully I made it through my first day back into the corporate world. These days will be few and far between as the majority of my work can be done comfortably within my home. Truthfully I was torn. I enjoyed having the excuse to not wear yoga pants and t-shirts. I was all giddy about putting on make up and fixing my hair. For the first time in a long while, I actually felt pretty, attractive, and even intelligent. It was nice to converse with adults and not talk about Handy Manny or Dusty Crophopper. It was even better to go use a bathroom and not have incessant knocking on the door, but in the end I really missed my boys.

As I drove home, I was gratefully to have the opportunity to dip my toes back into the corporate waters, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it every day. It’s a lot harder to focus when you feel torn in so many directions. Corporate America can survive without me and I’m ok with that. My boys can’t, and with that I’m not okay. So, I’ve had my fill for now, enough to quench my thirst for a little while longer. See you in another year or so, Corporate America.