Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Short Reprieve, Taking Steps

You guys, it's seriously the weather.

This weekend we had a really, really beautiful weekend.  On Saturday it stayed cloudy until well after lunchtime, then it rained for literally like 55 seconds late in the evening.  It was such that Eric yelled at me to come outside, and we were both cackling with joy.  Sunday it was sunny and in the 70's all day with a soft breeze.

It's like a switch got flipped, but back in the good direction.  I can't even explain it, but I got up Sunday feeling rested for the first time in a really long time.  I was able to spend extra time out in the yard with the shelter dogs, and found myself feeling antsy at the thought of spending time inside.  When I got home I told Eric that I didn't want to waste the day, and he was totally on the same page, so we went and walked for probably 45 minutes or so at the nature park by our house.  As soon as we got home I went straight upstairs and did my upper body lifting routine I had planned.  I felt like I had endless energy all day.  I made a normal dinner, with my oven no less, and was so excited to cook.  I also prepped all the meals and snacks for the next day.  It was the first time in a really long time that I was enthusiastic about cooking.  Just overall, I felt like myself.  No anxiety, no worrying, just living.  Things felt easy again and I didn't feel that hopeless feeling that I've just come to accept over the last couple of months.

Yesterday it was hot as blazes again (above 90 degrees if you can believe it), and I felt my energy tank and felt anxious for most of the day.  Again, switch flip.  I did power through a workout and made dinner/prepped for the next day, but it felt a lot more forced and difficult.  At this point I don't know if it's 100% mental or if my body is really having a reverse SAD type reaction, but either way it's clear that the weather is having a horrible effect on me.  I just need to ovary up and talk to my doctor about it, because I don't exactly fancy going through this again next time we have a heat wave.

Regardless, I have been sticking to my plan for the week and getting back on track.  It's felt really good, my stomach already feels so much better physically, and my pants are just the tiniest bit more comfortable.  I haven't weighed yet, I just really don't want to be concerned about the number on the scale, and would rather make feeling good and getting back into good habits the priority.  I'm just going meal by meal, day by day and trying to not stress too hard about things.  Just to give you guys a peek at the workouts for this week, this is my workout schedule (links are not autoplay videos):

Saturday:  Lower Body HIIT and Strength Training  (done)
Sunday:  Upper Body Strength & Cardio  (done)
Monday:  Abs & Lower Back  (done)
Tuesday:  Lower Body Strength Training & Pilates (done)
Wednesday:  Upper Body Strength Training
Thursday:  Dynamic & Static Stretching Challenges
Friday:  Rest Day
Saturday:  Lower Body HIIT, Hike at Hagg Lake
Sunday:  Upper Body Cardio & Strength

Honestly, I don't like HIIT or cardio very much, but acknowledge that I need to mix it up and also focus on burning fat, so I've been trying to make it a point to mix it in.  The workouts are going well so far, I've definitely lost some strength, but not a terrible amount.

As you can see by the schedule, we're going for a hike at Hagg Lake, which is this really beautiful park close to the house.  The wildfire made me really take a hard look at the fact that I don't appreciate the beautiful areas around us nearly as much as they deserve, and I don't take advantage of the amazing hiking opportunities we have either.  I'd really like to start going for hikes more and making sure that I get more time outside.  Hagg Lake is a pretty easy one and fairly flat, so I'm looking forward to it.

The forecast going forward looks like it's going to be in the 70s and we're supposedly getting rain on Sunday and Monday.  I...am...so...excited!!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Awful, No Good Summer

I'm sorry guys, truly.  I feel like all I do is not post for awhile, then when I do it's a bitch sesh.  In fact there is no "feel like", that's 100% what I'm doing.  I know I shouldn't say sorry for posting my feelings/experiences on my own blog.  Honestly like 10 people read it, I don't know why I freak out so much.  I get stuck between hoping I'm not annoying someone, but also hoping me being real helps people?  Like, I hate when you read a profile on someone who has lost weight and it sounds like, "I just started eating chicken salads overnight like the easy switch went on and lost 40 pounds.  No big!" I think we all know it ain't that easy and linear.

This summer has truly been the worst.  I preface this by saying that I have total white girl problems, and acknowledge that.  But yeah, I've struggled and it feels like one hit after another.  The weather, some personal family stuff, work, and a million other little things that I worry about and feel down about.  My list is vague just because some things are private, some things are topics I don't like to discuss on the blog like politics and some things are just difficult to explain in general.  But I feel anxious as a baseline anymore.  And the big hit this week has been the big Eagle Creek fire that's been raging in Oregon.  There hasn't been much national news about it, but we've had this horrible wildfire happening started by snot nosed teenagers with fireworks.  And just oh my GOD don't get me started on how much I despise fireworks as it is but...anyway, it's been so difficult.  It's burned down 30,000+ acres of the Columbia River Gorge, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world and nature's version of church.  I think all of Oregon is in a state of grief right now.

On a health note, it ties in because the smoke has been so bad that not only have we not seen the sun for a week, but you can't breathe basically.  Even in the house and office we've struggled to breathe, and my throat has been killing me.  The sneezing and coughing we've all been doing at work would be comical under any other circumstance.  We had a team meeting yesterday and when any one of us would speak, we'd start losing our voice or coughing.  It's insane and I've never experienced anything like it.  We've skipped our work walk for 2 days because of the air quality, and I haven't worked out at all.

There is a positive note as there always is to these things, but it has been awe inspiring to see the community come together to provide aid to those who had to evacuate.  It's been even more inspiring to watch firefighters go above and beyond to save the Gorge.  I'm sure even outsiders know of Multnomah Falls, which is truly one of the most breathtaking places in Oregon.  At the foot of it there is a historic almost 100 year old lodge, which seemed inevitable to succumb to the fire since the falls were surrounded.  Instead, firefighters stayed overnight with their backs literally against the lodge, fighting off the fire.  They did indeed manage to save it, and even thinking about it makes me emotional all over again.  They saved something beautiful and old that we all enjoyed as children, and now many more generations will be able to fall in love with it too.  It's the little things sometimes.

But anyway, that's kind of been my deal.  It's summer, there's been a parade of depressing stuff and it's miserable.

I don't know if anyone watched the revival of Twin Peaks (it feels like basically Eric and I are the only two people who watched it), but there is a character on there who rants constantly about "shoveling yourself out of the shit".  I was annoyed by the character at first but as the season went on I must of drunk the kool-aid because that phrase has been on repeat in my head.  I just feel stuck.  My pants feel so uncomfortable.  I don't feel good about my body.  My stomach feels utterly awful.  I have zero energy and honestly don't care.  I just find myself going through these cycles.  I know that I need to shovel myself out of the shit but I really don't know how.

For me, the most miserable and difficult part of weight loss and sticking to a healthy lifestyle has never been portion control, exercising or making healthy choices.  It's always, always, always that initial push to get back and stay on track.  I don't know why it's so hard for me.  I know what being healthy feels like.  I know how good it feels.  There is literally NOTHING good that comes out of backsliding into eating like shit and not being active.  I felt on top of the world at the end of spring, and now I look in the mirror and feel disgust, which I haven't really felt about myself in a long time.  The bitch of it is, this isn't even coming from a place of enjoying eating poorly.  Every meal I just feel eh about.  I don't even feel that hungry at meals, I just eat easy, crappy food out of sheer apathy.  

And of course the simple answer is, well bitch, get it together then.  It's not rocket science.  I get and acknowledge that.  Yet here I sit.  I just honestly feel like this summer has broken my brain and my spirit.  I know I need to care.  I know that only I can do that for myself.  I keep clinging to the fact that it's September, and summer officially ends on the 22nd.  I don't know why that seems like the be all end all, other than the fact that summer is just representing misery to me.  I don't mean to be dramatic, it's just what it is.

It is reaching a crisis point though.  My jeans are at a stage where a choice needs to be made.  Either I buy bigger pairs or shovel myself out of the shit and go back down a better path.  As tired and as apathetic as I feel, I brought in one of the weeks I liked the most on our Fitness Blender meal plan and set it up in my calendar.  I'm going to go shopping on Saturday and start trying to white knuckle my way back to where I was.  I've got to at this point, because admitting defeat and buying bigger pants isn't really an option.



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Space Oddity

Unless you live under a rock, you know that yesterday was the big fancy solar eclipse!  I hope that you were able to get out and see it in some way, shape or form.  We were incredibly lucky, because Oregon was in the path of totality.  Where I live got about 99% totality as opposed to places like Madras (central Oregon) and the coast, which both got 100%.  Regardless of the 1% difference, it was an incredible, amazing day and I'm so thankful we got to see it!

We requested to work from home since the traffic was predicted to be pretty much apocalyptic, and I'm so glad that we did.  I originally was like 'whatever' about the eclipse, mainly because I just had major fatigue from hearing about it on the news for months on end (as you can imagine, the coverage here was nonstop since last year).  As things drew closer, we both became pretty pumped about it and decided to go whole hog yesterday to celebrate.  I started the day by making us some Eclipse pancakes with Kodiak chocolate pancake mix and Bisquick.



We did have the correct viewing glasses ahead of time, Eric thankfully prompted me over a month ago with some links to the fancy ISO approved glasses so I ordered them from Amazon and we had them ready to go.  Good thing I did, because everywhere around here either sold out of glasses or had to recall faulty glasses.  Yikes!  No one likes a burned eyeball.  The smallest pack I could get was a three pack, so I gave the 3rd pair to my boss.  They are...not fashionable exactly, but eyesight is better than looking cute.



On Saturday we went out around the time the eclipse was supposed to happen so that we could see where the sun was at and if we could view the eclipse from our yard, or if we'd have to move down the street to view it.  We were stoked to see that we'd have a perfect view in our own backyard, so yesterday morning Eric got our chairs all set up and ready for prime time.  And because we are horrible people, we cracked the two eclipse themed beers we bought just for the occasion.  It was really good!


I love making playlists for things, so I set up a really good one for the eclipse viewing.  The track list went as follows:

1.  "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden
2.  "Brain Damage/Eclipse" by Pink Floyd
3.  "The Moonbeam Song" by Harry Nilsson
4.  "Moonbeam Levels" by Prince
5.  "Space Oddity" by David Bowie


We got all set up...


And we got a hell of a show.  I seriously have never experienced anything like that in my life, and I can see why people become eclipse chasers.  It was weird, eerie, beautiful and completely surreal.  Since we didn't get 100% totality it didn't go fully dark, but was this weird dusky vibe, as though we were looking at our yard through a greyish blue film or something.  I didn't bother trying to take pictures of the actual eclipse since I wanted to be truly present for it, and since no one wants to see my crappy Android pics of it, lol.  Eric and I held hands and just experienced it for the 20 minutes or so that it took to get to 99%.  It was truly special and something I'll never forget.

The rest of the day was pretty anticlimactic since I had to go back upstairs to my office and work.  For her part, my "coworker" didn't understand the fuss, slept through the eclipse, and was very happy when it was all over so we could go back upstairs and she could supervise me again.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Getting Better

I know that I'm well overdue for an update, especially after my last post!  Things are looking up a little, I know I was really glum last time, but it was just how I was (and somewhat still am) feeling.  I'm kind of starting to pull out of it though thankfully.

I know one should never self diagnose really, but I can pretty much say with confidence after the last month that I think I have reverse seasonal affective disorder.  It's something I've joked about over the years and I've always, always hated heat/summer, but this year really kind of brought home that 1) it's serious and 2) it's a pattern.  I realized that historically during the summer I get depressed, have difficulty coping with the most minor of stuff and experience a lot of lethargy and a feeling of hopelessness.  We had a heatwave the last two weeks that just about did me in (one day it got to 108).  Nothing got done.  I didn't cook, I didn't sleep well, and felt like an utter zombie at work.  The least little thing made me feel overwhelmed and tearful, and the sound of the AC and fans running constantly was beginning to really grate on me.  I could barely pull my shit together to prep for my SIL's visit last week.  (And if I wasn't depressed before, I definitely was after I got my electric bill for July, ouch.)  Inwardly I was screaming at myself to get it together and was so frustrated that I went from being so organized and on top of my health to being whiny bitch Mary from 2007.  And 2008.  And 2009.  You get the picture.

This week the heat broke, and it's like a switch got flipped back again.  I made a weekly menu for us the way I always do, I set up my workout calendar, I've been prepping meals, eating right, I'm sleeping well and feel a bit more like myself.  I've worked out every day and have felt great afterwards. Things haven't felt like such a struggle this week and I feel more level.  Knowing that fall is around the corner is making life bearable again.  It's made me realize the difference in my attitude and that clearly I am affected deeply by the weather.  It's been a bit of a mind f**k and made me have the "maybe this isn't funny" kind of epiphany.

Of course that brings up, what the hell should I do about this long term since I shouldn't just suffer for 3-4 months of the year.  I know the logical answer is "go to the doctor", but I have an almost pathological resistance to this on many levels.  I fought harder than I've ever fought for myself medically over my stomach issues, and no telling how many co-pays, elimination diets and wasted hours away from work later, the doctors never took me seriously and my stomach is still as ridiculous as ever.  And that's something in my mind that's serious, so the thought of walking into a doctor's office and saying that summer makes me sad and having them take me seriously?  Yeah, that'll happen.  I know that's a shitty attitude, but I've been burned by so many doctors over the years that the thought of having to go through some round of trying to get diagnosed with something makes me feel tired and drained.  And then what?  Do I go on medication?  It just all seems crazy and overwhelming to me.

Anyway, I guess that's down the road stuff that I need to figure out.  For the present, I definitely feel like I'm crawling out of a hole.  Between my sporadic workouts and crappy eating, I've lost some of my strength gains, so I've been taking it slow this week and ramping up again.  Instead of doing workouts that are 45 minutes of one thing, I've been doing combinations of short workouts.  For instance on Monday I did 15 minutes of HIIT followed by 10 minutes of lower body strength training.  Yesterday I started with 10 minutes of upper body strength training and ended with 20 minutes of ab work.  Yesterday was 10 minutes of lower body strength training and finishing off with 20 minutes of Pilates.  I've been striking the right balance it seems, because I've been sore after, but not painfully so.  As odd as this sounds, it feels good to be sore.  It just means muscle tears, and when those repair, I'll be stronger.  Rinse and repeat.  I've also found that doing several shorter workouts has somehow been less overwhelming, even though cumulatively I'm still working out the same amount.  It's easy to get through a set of strength training and push yourself when you know it's only 10 minutes.  Then I click the next video and say to myself "Oh this is only 15 minutes, I can get through that."  Cue the song "Head Games" by Foreigner.

I haven't really set a goal for next month (though my ladies and I are talking about a new challenge for September) and I'm not really stressing too hard with  my weight for the moment.  When I weighed this morning I was 182, which is thankfully down from a couple weeks ago.  That's the thing, if I get back into what I know works I don't have to worry about my weight because it will start coming off again.

Anyway, that's kind of the deal with all of that.  I actually have a lot more positive stuff to update with, including my SIL's visit, but this post is already so long!  Will write more soon!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rambling

I've been trying to write this post (or any post really) on and off for two solid weeks.  I've been quietly riding the struggle bus for all of July, and it's been hard to find the motivation for much of anything, much less writing a post.  I'm forcing myself to do it today anyway though.

I don't really know what's up with me this month.  It's not like things are entirely off the rails and I'm binging or laying on the couch in the dark all day, but my spirit and a positive attitude really haven't been there at all.  It's hard to talk about and hard to explain, but things that usually are so easy for me feel like an absolute ordeal lately.  Putting together a simple salad for lunch feels like the equivalent of making a 6 course meal.  My 30 minute workouts that normally fly by and leave me feeling on top of the world have felt like never ending torture.  I wake up from a full 8 hours sleep and feel utterly exhausted.  I have zero interest in the blog, my music project or anything else that normally I'm all about.  It's been so frustrating, because at the end of the day I've got a great life and should be thankful.  But here I am, somehow mentally struggling.  Some days I constantly have a feeling of dread all day long, like something bad is going to happen at any second.  That's probably been the hardest because I feel like I have good instincts and intuition, so in my mind feeling like something bad will happen = 100% something bad will happen.  It's put me on edge and makes me feel like I'm in fight or flight a lot of the time, waiting for a shoe to drop that never does.  Other days its just been the exhaustion thing.  It's frustrating because it's felt so sudden.  Last month I felt like the love child of Wonder Woman and Arya Stark, this month I'm all Eeyore with a major tack in my ass.

It's not like there's some big bombshell horrible thing going on.  I mean, I've got stuff I'm dealing with, but it's things that normal people deal with like annoying work stuff, family stuff etc.  I'm not a special snowflake, it's all standard normal adult bs.  Yet I've just found myself kind of dragged down and feeling a bit defeated about tons a little things, death by a thousand cuts as it were.  I really hate it.  I don't even want to talk to anyone because I just feel like I'm not adding anything to the conversation other than crop dusting my shitty negativity all over the place.  It's why I haven't blogged either.  I did a gross amount of whining when I first started this thing.  Who wants to hear that nonsense?  No one, that's who.

I have tried my best to stay on track, and as I said, I'm not completely off the rails.  I'm like 80% staying with clean eating, so thankfully there's no junk in the house.  If binge eating happened, it would literally have to be with spinach, berries or rice cakes.  Honestly, I haven't even been that hungry and kind of have had to force myself to eat meals, so the danger for a binge hasn't really been there.  But I've gone from working out 6 days a week to maybe managing 2 days.  Too many treat meals, drinking and sweets are creeping back into our life.  None of it is to a crisis point, my weight is stable and maintaining, but I hate the feeling of not caring.  I really do.  Everything I do to stay on track is more out of obligation or faking it until I make it, not out of any enthusiasm or "Yay for health!"  I hate that too, because getting myself together with my workouts and eating was such a source of pride and happiness for me.  I've felt so good about my body the last few months.  I want to be genuinely happy and enthusiastic about it all again and put effort into it.

Anyway, I'm here.  I'm sure it will pass.  I'm still trucking along and doing my thing.  I promise the next post will be more positive!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

June Results, Plans for July

So June is almost over and my final weigh in for the month was this morning.  I forgot to take measurements and will do that tomorrow.  Anyway as of today, I am 180.2 pounds!!  This is my lowest yet, and I lost 5.8 pounds total in the month of June.

So some of the stuff I did differently:

1)  The eating plan:  No question that the clean eating plan really bumped things into high gear for me.  It's taken me years and years to get to this place, but I finally feel like I've kind of reached the point of enjoying nutritious food over really caloric food.  The plan ended last week, but I've still carried the recipes/principles into this week and am feeling amazing.

2)  I stopped tracking exercise calories:  So, I know a lot of people might disagree with this, but I decided to only track my intake this month and not attempt to track my calories burned at all.  For starters, I don't wear a FitBit or anything like that, so I really have no way of knowing even a rough estimate of what I burn.  And also, when I do make those rough estimates, I feel like I'm giving myself permission to overeat.  I decided to just roll with the 1600ish calories a day thing and see what happens, and what I found was that while I'm hungry when meal time comes, I didn't get insanely hungry or feel weak at any point.  I feel energetic during my workouts, and finally the scale is moving again.  I think when I was "eating back" calories, I was just honestly still eating too much because I was overestimating what I burn.  I'm just going to keep rolling with that, but keep things flexible.  If I'm shaky or about to gnaw my arm off, then I'll obviously have a little extra.

3)  My Powerblock weights:  Being able to easily go up on my lifting amounts has been a game changer.  I just simply wasn't lifting heavily enough to get the results I wanted before.  Steadily bumping my weights ever higher is really amping up the calorie burn for me as well as my muscle definition.  I'm already dipping a toe into the 60 pound deadlift world (I started at 20)!

4)  I cut way back on drinking.  It's really no secret, alcohol has tons of calories, and besides that I make poor food choices when I'm drinking.  I tend to throw caution to the wind and eat way more than I should, and also not pay attention to the "I'm full" signals.  And y'all know how crazy my stomach is, when I drink it tends to make my stomach feel swollen and crappy.  Cutting it out for the most part this month has resulted in my feeling physically SO much better.  The few times I have had some wine or beer have just been kinda meh for me.  It's made my head hurt and my stomach feel lousy.  I've noticed that now when I have a bad day, I'm thinking "God I need to go home and sling some weights around" as opposed to "God I need a glass of wine."  Definitely a healthier way of dealing with stress!

I just feel really happy.  It's been awhile since I felt like I've had my head screwed on 100% when it comes to my weight loss.  I've really just been maintaining and dicking around for several months, so it feels pretty wonderful to be losing again and feeling good.  I owe a lot of it to my ladies group since we all decided to reboot for the summer and issue some nutrition and workout challenges to each other.  It's been so motivating and encouraging having us all in it together.  We all do different workouts and eat different stuff, but the core values are the same.  Everyone had a great month of weight loss and I am so proud of all of them!



Before we talk about the "guns", can I just tell you how stupid excited I was to be able to pull my hair up into a ponytail this morning?  (We will ignore the fact that roughly 50 bobby pins are holding the rest of it up).  I want to make an effort to not just throw my hair into a ponytail all the time now that I've finally gotten it healthy, but it's nice to do it before a workout since I hate it being in my face!

Anyway, I am so happy about my arms.  I mean I'm happy about all the progress I've made, but my upper body is something I've really worked hard at the last couple of months, so I'm definitely pretty proud.  I make Eric touch my biceps and watch me flex all of the time, because I'm obnoxious.

So what's next?  I was initially up in the air of what my fitness focus will be in July, but after some hemming and hawing I decided to just restart FB Mass.  I enjoyed it so much this time around that I decided to keep rolling with what was making me happy.  I did hesitate because I didn't want to get bored, but whenever I thought about starting one of their more cardio/HIIT based videos, I just didn't feel very enthusiastic.  I decided that if I'm enjoying primarily lifting, then that's what I need to keep doing. I really like having those mini goals for the amount of weight I'm lifting, and hitting them is very motivating!

As far as eating goes, I'm not restarting the FB meal plan per say, but I decided to continuing to eat clean (God, I need to come up with a less pretentious way of saying that).  I feel really good eating this way, and I have a lot of things down to a science at this point when it comes to meals and snacks, so it's pretty much a no brainer to keep it up.

We have a long vacation coming up for the 4th of July, basically we're fireworks fugitives.  Since Molly goes so insane over them, we booked a place out in Bend, OR in the hopes of being somewhere more remote and not having to deal with a hysterical dog.  I really hope it's quiet there!  It should be really beautiful at the very least.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June Update Part 2: Fitness Blender Meal Plan

Okay, the last post was about my fitness in June, this one is all about the nutritional challenge I gave myself for June.  I've really been in a food rut lately and have been feeling a bit uninspired when it comes to menu planning and cooking.  Nutrition, in my own personal experience, has been the key between being successful or failing when it comes to weight loss.  I didn't feel I was doing as well as I needed to be, so I wanted some help.

I decided to invest in one of the Fitness Blender 4 week meal plans and for us to challenge ourselves to do it throughout June.  (Before I continue, Fitness Blender didn't ask me to write this post about their meal plan.  It was something I bought of my own volition and felt the need to review.  I don't get any benefit from talking about it.)

I just really felt that I needed a reset on my eating and also needed to not "think" for a bit if that makes sense.  For the last few months I've been putting together menus each week for us, and I just wanted a month where someone else planned meals for me and put it into a calendar so that I didn't have to think about it.  This meal plan is exactly that, 4 weeks of mapped out breakfast, lunch, dinner and 3 snacks a day with a shopping list each week.  And you guys remember how mad I was at Kelli awhile back for being weird about calorie counting?   Well guess what this meal plan is based on?  CALORIE COUNTING.  I mean I'm glad, I think any fitness person worth their salt will tell you that calories matter, I just found it amusing honestly since they've borderline vilified calorie counting in the past.  Anyway, you choose a calorie level based on your needs and it gives you the ingredient portions you need per recipe.  This is 100% what I wanted on every level.

I suppose you would call it a "clean eating" meal plan, though I'm loathe to label it that since people have so many interpretation of what clean eating means.  My definition of what it SHOULD be is wholesome, nutritious food cooked simply, and that thankfully seems to be what Daniel and Kelli's definition is as well.  I know some clean eater people are very extreme about everything having to be organic or plucked that morning from a mountain top in Tibet, but thankfully this meal plan is more like a basic lean meats, plant based proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts kind of a thing.  There is also plenty of "fun" stuff like cheese, bread and full fat dairy.  You can customize the plan a bit according to your needs, likes or dietary restrictions.

Hummus and Vegetable Wrap with Clementines

Mango & pineapple smoothie bowl topped with blueberries, coconut and granola

We're actually about to finish up Week 4, and I have to say that barring a couple of adjustment period things, I have learned more from this meal plan than I expected and it changed me a bit more than I thought it would. Here are some of my observations as this thing is wrapping up:

1)  I wasn't eating as many vegetables as I thought I was

I love vegetables (other than water chestnuts, those can go to hell) and I considered myself someone who eats a decent amount of them, but the plan actually showed me that I don't eat nearly as many as I could be.  I tend to gravitate towards oatmeal for breakfast, but many of the breakfasts on this were egg and veggie creations, and of course lunches/dinners were pretty veggie heavy.  I realized just how often I was missing opportunities to add vegetables to my meals, and going forward I want to keep up the trend of getting my veggies in!

2)  I was being complacent about counting my calories

It's easy to get "comfortable" when you've been trying to lose weight for a million years and start slacking off on the little details that matter, which is exactly where I was at.  Yeah I was counting calories, but there were definitely times where I didn't measure or log a splash of oil while cooking, didn't level off a tablespoon of peanut butter, etc.  Those types of things do add up week to week.  I found that by using the measurements given and honestly tracking, the scale moved again pretty easily.

3)  It gave me cooking inspiration

Some of the meals were combinations of things I liked but wouldn't have necessarily put together, like a white bean and avocado wrap, or making a breakfast cereal with quinoa and apples but ended up really loving!  I also really loved some of the bean and vegetable salads on the menu and am excited to start incorporating more of those into my day to day.

One of the many filling, delicious chickpea salads
4)  I've come around on snacking

The biggest adjustment for me (besides eating a larger breakfast) was eating 3 snacks a day.  I am not really a snacker at all, and my attitude has always been that I'd rather have bigger meals than "waste" calories on snacks.  It was tough for me mentally to fit in all of these snacks initially, but at week 4 I have to say...I like having my snacks now!  It's not like they are mind-blowingly exciting, they are simple things like a clementine with string cheese, grapes and almonds or an apple with peanut butter.  But there is something about having that little something extra to tide you over that's really nice!  I'm finding that I'm less hungry between meals, stick to more reasonable at portions at meals and also eating a wider variety of foods as a result.

5)  My lifting performance is better

I've been amazed at the difference I've felt while being on this plan, which happened to run parallel to my FB Mass program.  I've had so much more energy during my lifting routines and have even hit some little PR type milestones.  Some of that is a result of me really committing to pushing myself, but I also believe the food I've been eating has really helped give me additional energy and dive.

Baked salmon with pineapple salsa, asparagus & quinoa
6)  It's made me smarter about "treat meals"

Our policy when beginning this plan was that we would designate one meal a week that would be a treat meal.  Not a day mind you, a meal.  That's worked out very well because it's kept us from feeling stressed about this plan, and also because it's realistic.  We go to concerts, we like checking out new places in Portland and caloric meals are just going to happen for us.  It's fun because these meals are a "to do" now and feel much more special since they only happen once a week.  But I've noticed that even with my treat meals, I've been gravitating towards things that are still on the healthy side.  Some recent treat meals have been a hummus and veggie wrap with a handful of fries, grilled fish tacos, and I *gasp* got a salad at happy hour the other night instead of a burger.  I've also strictly limited my drinks at these meals to two.  I can say that I 100% enjoyed myself just as much and didn't really feel sad about not picking the things I would normally have gotten.

7)  It's helped my nightly sugar cravings

It's no secret that I love my desserts.  If you commanded me to choose giving up alcohol or sugar, I would without hesitation never take a drink again, because chocolate is life.  I didn't realize how used I was to grabbing a small bit of ice cream or something every single night to the point of dependency until being on this plan.  Dessert isn't evil per say, but it's also not great to feel compulsive about "needing" a piece of cake at night or whatever.  It was really hard at first, but now I'm finding that I'm just as happy in the evenings with my evening snacks.  Some examples have been almonds and a piece of fruit, peanut butter on either a banana/apple or a rice cake and berries with yogurt.  It's not like I never want dessert ever again, trust me I do, but it's really good to not feel so compelled to have something like that every single night.  This ties in with treat meals, but when I've had dessert during our treat meals, it's felt a lot more special than when I was having it every single night!

8)  It's made me happy with less

The measurements on this plan were originally a bummer and seemed so little, like only a teaspoon of olive oil to cook with, or a half tablespoon of peanut butter.  As time has gone on, I've sort of shifted into being just as happy with the smaller amounts.  This is probably the biggest thing I struggle with in life and in my weight loss, so it was good to challenge myself to still eat things I like, but to limit them.  In my head, if half a tablespoon of peanut butter is awesome, then 2 tablespoons is super extra awesome!  But in reality, cutting back that portion allows me to 1) still have the thing I want 2) save calories for other things so that I can have a bigger variety of food all day.

Obviously overall, I really loved the plan and got a lot of value out of it.  I've definitely lost weight (when FB Mass and the plan officially wrap up, I'll post a wider results update), feel really great and feel like I've gained new knowledge about myself and improvements I could make.  Right now I'm marking the meals and snacks I liked the most and plan to continue the trend of "cleaner" eating.