The End of an Era

My run streak has come to an end.

That probably sounds a little dramatic, but it’s how I feel right now. I finally went to see a chiropractor to find out if they could do anything to help with the shoulder pain I’ve been dealing with for over a year now. Turns out, my shoulder pain is probably the result of some neck problems, which were probably the result of one or more concussions I had in high school and college.

So the chiropractor is going to start working on my neck, which should relieve my shoulder pain and will probably help quite a few other issues I’ve had over the years. Unfortunately, that means ending my run streak. I asked him twice, just to make sure I actually had to end it. [And I thought briefly about continuing it anyway, but decided I’d rather be pain free and re-start my run streak at a later date.]

Not only do I have to end my run streak, but I can’t do many other physical activities either. He said I could still go to the gym and do things like the stationary bike or elliptical as long as I’m not moving my arms and I’m not hunched over. Those sound worse than the treadmill, to be honest. After about a week or two of adjustments, I should be able to start running again, but it will be a while before I’m doing upper-body work again (not that I was doing much to begin with).

So my 4.5 mile run on Tuesday was my last for a while. I made it 218 days and ran over 370 miles. That run streak pulled me out of a depression that had lasted most of last summer. It showed me just how strong I am. And it reminded me how much I love running. Over those 218 days and 370 miles, I got faster and ran farther.

Now I have to let it go and put my goals on hold. It’s frustrating to say the least. I’m trying to remind myself that a healthy, pain-free shoulder will be a good thing. Because eventually I’ll be able to do other exercises I haven’t done in over a year. Like yoga and lifting weights. I’ll eventually have some upper body strength again, which I completely lost over the past year. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally be able to achieve my goal of doing a headstand.

It was hard starting the past two days without a run. I’ve started the majority of the last 218 days that way and it’s been amazing. I’ve seen a lot of sunrises. I’ve run in the heat and freezing cold; in the snow and rain. I’ve put a lot of miles on my two pairs of running shoes, which are in dire need of retirement. I’ve found money on my runs and seen a car accident. I’ve run on vacations and overcame my hatred of the treadmill. I’ve run through soreness and head colds and on holidays and weekends. I’ve run through every possible excuse to not run.

It’s hard to let it go, even though it’s only for a week or two. But I know when I come back, I’ll make even bigger gains in my training. Once my shoulder is feeling better and I can start doing upper-body exercises again, I’ll be able to cross-train properly, which will make a huge difference in my endurance, speed, and overall strength.

Doing what’s right for your body isn’t always easy, but I’m choosing to take this time to rest and regroup so I can come back better than ever, even if I am starting over at day 1.

200 Days of Running!

Last Friday was a milestone: My run streak made it to day 200. As of today, I’m on day 206.

To be honest, there were times in the weeks leading up to that day I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I was having random pains. I was tired. I felt sluggish. But I pushed through to the other side, and here I am on day 206 feeling great again (and in need of new shoes!).

I’ve done things in last 200+ days I never thought I could. I’ve run at least a mile each day (though lately it’s at least 1.5 – 3 miles). I ran while I was on vacation. I ran 2 5ks and PR’d the second. My speed has improved. I’m training for a 10k (and eventually a half marathon!). I’ve been harassed.

I ran in single-digit temperatures. I ran in the snow on Christmas Eve. I ran on the treadmill at the gym when I could. not. take. the cold anymore. I’ve lost weight and I’ve got some definite muscle definition in my legs (eating Whole30 for the first 45 days of the year definitely helped in this department).

More important than the physical gains, however, is the mental strength I’ve gained. I’ve learned I can push through and keep going, even when things are hard, even when it hurts. I can do hard things and I can do them with confidence.

That strength and confidence has spilled over into other areas of my life. I’ve finally made both my mental and physical health a priority.  I’m asking for what I want. I have a more positive outlook, despite facing some serious obstacles and hardships. I know I’ll survive because I already know I can do hard things and I can keep going, even when it hurts.

I only wish I had started this run streak sooner. I feel like I have grown so much in the past 200 days. I’m physically and mentally stronger. I’m taking more risks and trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone. Running has done so much for me already. I can’t wait to see what the next 100 days bring.

Happy running!

Mindset Shift

I’ve been working on shifting my mindset a lot lately. I spend a lot of time worrying about horrible what-ifs and areas where things are lacking (ie I don’t have enough; I don’t make enough; etc.). To maintain a more positive mindset, I’ve been repeating a few mantras to myself lately:

  • Believe good things will happen and they will. 
  • I am enough. I have enough. 
  • Keep going. 

It’s an awful thing to believe you’re not good enough, and I’ve spent so much time believing that about myself. I’m choosing to focus on the good that could happen and I’m choosing to believe that I am enough.

Last week, thanks to this Instagram post, I added a new one to the rotation:

  • What do I have to lose? What’s the worst that could happen? 

It’s been a great reminder to take risks, particularly when I have nothing to lose and the worst that could happen is someone says “no”.

I’ve been looking for full-time jobs lately (and regular freelance work in the meantime). After applying for a full-time job with a company I was excited about working for, they unexpectedly asked if I’d be willing to start in a contract (ie freelance) position first. I immediately said yes because I’m excited about the company and position.

I didn’t negotiate rates at all. I just accepted the range they gave me. The last time I did that, things didn’t turn out well, and I’ve always regretted not negotiating for higher pay. So when they sent over the contract for this freelance position, there were a few concerning items, in addition to the low pay I had initially agreed to.

I felt a little strange negotiating rates after already verbally agreeing to what they offered. But I thought to myself, I have nothing to lose here. The worst that can happen is they say they can’t go any higher and won’t make changes to the contract, at which point I walk away. Sure, I’d be missing out on the possibility of it turning into a full-time position, but I wouldn’t be any worse off. I still have some steady freelance work and I’m still looking for other full-time jobs. 

So I went for it and asked for a higher hourly rate that better reflected my experience and what my target salary would be for a full-time position, in addition to the other changes I wanted to see in the contract. I didn’t hear back for over a week, so I assumed the “worst” had happened. I let it go and refocused my energy into looking for other jobs. Yesterday I finally got a response from them and they agreed to the higher rate and the other changes I had proposed.

Now I’m just waiting to see the final draft of the contract so I can sign it and get to work. I feel so great for “leaning in” and asking for what I wanted and needed. This time last year (heck even just a few months ago), I might not have had the guts to do that. I’ve been working really hard to have a more positive attitude about life in general and I’ve been taking more risks, both personally and professionally. Hopefully this is the start of all that hard work paying off!

Have you taken any risks lately? Did they pay off? How do you maintain a positive attitude—or is that something you struggle with like me?

My Whole45(ish) Recap & Food Freedom Forever Review

I finished Food Freedom Forever a couple weeks ago. I also ended my Whole30 last week. I lost track of what day I was on, but it was day 45-ish. I just wanted something easy, so I decided on Chipotle. I ordered a chicken bowl (the chicken is cooked in rice bran oil, so it’s not compliant) with lettuce, mild and medium salsa, and—of course—guac (which apparently costs more now—ugh). I also got a bag of tortilla chips, because their chips are delicious (it’s the lime juice + salt).

It was good and 100% worth it. I didn’t notice any negative effects from the non-gluten grains, and the next day I went right back to eating Whole30. So far the slow-roll reintroduction method is working well for me. I’m only reintroducing foods I really want/miss and I’m only doing it when I’m ready. In addition to non-gluten grains like corn and rice, I’ve also reintroduced sugar. Not because I miss desserts (I don’t, and I’ve had just one brownie since my Whole30 ended), but because I really miss my egg-free mayo and it has sugar in it. I also tried some new maple blueberry breakfast sausages, which were also delicious.

Those brownies didn’t stir my sugar dragon, and incorporating a little added sugar makes my life so. much. easier. So while it’s unbelievably annoying that sugar is added to things like mayo, I’m willing to make it part of my diet occasionally to enjoy some convenience foods (chicken salad for the win!).

That’s what food freedom is all about. Finding what works for you and in the right amounts. I miss dairy the most, so I know I need to wait longer to reintroduce it. I also know from past Whole30s and allergy testing that dairy causes stomach and skin issues for me. And while my shoulder is still not doing any better, I’m pretty sure it feels worse when I go and eat a whole cheese pizza, so I’m going to stay dairy-free for a while longer.

My food freedom will change, and that’s kind of the point. Right now, I’m eating mostly Whole30, while incorporating non-gluten grains and a little added sugar with certain meals. Eventually I’ll reintroduce gluten and dairy, but not until I’m ready.

What I loved about Food Freedom Forever is Melissa Hartwig stresses that eating Whole30 100% of the time is not food freedom. Instead she gives you a plan to break the cycle of yo-yo dieting, bingeing, and “cheat days”. You start with a reset (ie the Whole30). Then you reintroduce and evaluate how those foods make you feel. The ones that don’t affect you negatively become part of your regular diet.

She also stresses to evaluate foods in the moment. So before eating something—particularly if it’s a food that might cause digestive distress, skin breakouts, and the like—ask yourself two questions: 1. Do I really want this? 2. Is it really worth it? If the answer to both of those is “yes”, then you eat the food and deal with whatever consequences there are. If the answer to either is “no”, you skip it.

Another point she makes is that you will slowly slide back into your old habits. Eating dessert every night after dinner whether you really want it or not. Having a glass of wine as soon as you get home from work every day. Bingeing on certain foods because “it’s the weekend” (which is not a special occasion). Fortunately, she emphasizes that this isn’t failure. It’s normal and happens to just about everyone. All you have to do is go back to your reset. You may or may not need a full 30 days depending on how long you’ve been sliding and how many resets you’ve done in the past.

After your reset, you reintroduce and redefine your food freedom. And that’s it. You go back to your reset as needed. You keep asking yourself if you really want it and if it’s worth it. What I love most about this is it transformed how I viewed my past Whole30s. My most recent one was my eighth (I think), and I felt a bit like a failure for having done it so many times. In reality, every time I do a round of Whole30, I’m reaffirming my commitment to my health. That’s a non-scale victory.

There’s a ton of great information in Food Freedom Forever. It will help you transform not just how you eat, but how you talk about food (and maybe even how you talk to/about yourself). I highly recommend reading it before or during your next Whole30 so you can start implementing the strategies immediately. It is by far the one book I wish I would have had from day 1.

Have you read Food Freedom Forever? What did you think? What does food freedom look like for you?

 

I Finished the January Whole30 But…

I’m not stopping at 30 days!

FFC47689-CEF1-4C6C-8E10-193496F631AC-19105-0000117502365E44.jpgAs of today, I’m on day 32, and I’m going to keep going for a while. The past 30 days have been pretty great (I’ll get to my non-scale victories shortly), but it’s just not enough this time. My primary motivation for this round was to see how it would affect my shoulder. And while it has eliminated that 24/7 chronic pain I was dealing with, I think it could be better.

So I’m going to keep on keepin’ on for another 10-15 days at least to see just how much better my shoulder can feel. I also didn’t see as much improvement in my sleep and energy as I’d hoped I would (I mostly blame this on stress), so I’d like to see if those get any better as well.

IMG_2863.jpgMy experience wasn’t all negative, though! Before I get to all my amazing NSVs, I want to talk about the two books that were total game changers for this round of my Whole30. First, The Whole30 Day by Day is the journal I wanted to keep during my first several rounds but was too lazy to do so. I was able to keep track of how I was doing and feeling, the NSVs I was seeing, and it offered tips and tricks to help get me through those “kill all the things” days.

For those 30 days, I read and journaled in that book every morning and night. It became a familiar ritual (which I’m now replacing with journaling and meditation) that gave me some perspective on the day ahead and allowed me to reflect on what I learned. I’m not saying I couldn’t do another round without this book, but man, it would be hard.

IMG_2858.jpgThe second book that made a huge difference for this round was The Whole30 Fast & Easy cookbook. This book was full of new and exciting recipes to try, most of which involved few ingredients and minimal prep/cook time. I tried a bunch of them and they were all delicious (although many did not turn out nearly as pretty as the photos in the book!). I even got creative when I realized I was missing a few ingredients and/or bought the wrong things. Improvisation is not something I would have been comfortable with prior to this round.

And with that non-scale victory, let’s get into the list: IMG_2942.jpg

  • Tried one or more new recipes per week
  • Got really good at meal prepping
  • Relied on my allergy medicine less (I was taking one every night, now I’m taking it as-needed)
  • No more belly bloat
  • Fit back into my favorite pair of jeans
  • Tried beets again (still don’t like them, but I gave them another shot)
  • Clear skin
  • Lightened under-eye circles
  • Tried new Lacroix flavors and discovered I love the grapefruit one
  • Ran almost 55 miles over the month and started training for a 10k (more on that in a separate post to follow)
  • I met my goal of exercising every day during my Whole30
  • Created healthy rituals and routines that aren’t focused around food, like journaling each morning and reading before bed each night
  • Gained more confidence in my appearance and my abilities
  • Had the energy and courage to tackle hard things
  • Stopped waking up every morning with a headache
  • Fewer stomach aches
  • No more brain fog

I didn’t weight myself before starting and I didn’t take any “before” photos. The weight wasn’t that important to me—I just wanted my clothes to fit better, and they do! There are probably more that I’m forgetting, but that’s a pretty impressive list of NSVs if I do say so myself. Hopefully in another week or two I can say my shoulder is almost pain free and I’m sleeping better. Time will tell!

In the meantime, I’m reading Food Freedom Forever, which I started about half-way through my Whole30. It’s another game changer and I highly recommend it!

Did you do the January Whole30? How did it go? If you haven’t done a Whole30, but you’re curious, let me know how I can help!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links.

How I’m Managing Stress These Days

The one thing I did to better manage my stress.

Stress management has never been a strength of mine. I get overwhelmed and frustrated easily. Throw in a Whole30 where I have to cook nearly every day plus the chaos of being a freelancer and that’s a recipe for disaster.

A while back (I’m not even sure how long it’s been now) I turned off all social media notifications on my phone. I don’t get the little red dot letting me know someone liked a picture I posted anymore. My phone doesn’t buzz and light up when someone comments on a post. It’s nice.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough. As a freelancer, all my projects come through email. I felt like I needed to be notified of every email as they came through because of this. In reality, all that did was distract me from whatever I was working on. And sometimes, depending on who the email was from and what it said, it caused a great deal of stress and frustration.

I ended up spending more time trying to calm myself down and refocus on the task at hand than I actually spent writing the article I was working on. Which meant I had to work later to ensure I got all my assignments for the day turned in on time. It was a frustrating cycle, and it was affecting my sleep and making me insufferably cranky.

I’m not sure why it took me so long or what exactly flipped the switch in my mind, but the light bulb went on late last week. I realized I don’t need those notifications. I don’t have to read and respond to every email as soon as it comes in. I don’t need those distractions.

So I turned them all off. Now I check my email after I finish one assignment and before I move on to the next to make sure I’m not missing anything important, particularly if I’m waiting for a response to a question about an assignment.

In fact, I turned off nearly every type of notification I could possibly get on my phone. No social media, no email, no random apps. The only notifications I get are text messages (still working on how to keep those from being a distraction), phone calls, and score updates for the Blues and Cardinals (which are primarily night games and therefore not a work distraction anyway).

I even forgot to check my email over the weekend until pretty late last Saturday. Fortunately, I hadn’t missed anything important and it was so incredibly nice to essentially forget my email existed.

Now that I’ve done this, I realize I need to set an email schedule for myself. Mostly so I can set client expectations and avoid missing any urgent emails because they didn’t know I wouldn’t be checking it after a certain time of day.

Of course, email is just one source of stress in my life. There’s a lot of other areas that still need work. But turning off those notifications has made a huge difference in less than a week’s time.

How do you manage your email? Do you check it immediately or do you have a set schedule for yourself?

Whole30: Halfway There

I’m halfway through my Whole30! Find out how it’s going:

Yesterday was day 15 of my Whole30, which means I’m halfway there! It’s amazing how even though this is my eighth round (I think), I’m still learning new things. It’s also funny how some things get easier, but it’s a pretty safe bet that no matter how many times I do this, some aspect of it will always be hard (and it’s rarely the same thing!).

This round I’ve had a lot of help from The Whole30 Fast & Easy Cookbook and The Whole30 Day by Day. The cookbook has tons of meals with short ingredient lists and fast cook and/or prep times. I’ve tried several so far and have enjoyed each and every one. That’s including the ones where I improvised because I forgot to buy something or didn’t read the recipe thoroughly so I bought the wrong thing.img_2858

I can tell you one thing. Improvising in the kitchen is not something I ever would have done during my first several rounds of Whole30. And certainly not before the Whole30. My kitchen skills have improved tremendously over these eight-ish rounds and it probably would not have happened if it weren’t for all the tips they provide on their social media and in their books.


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In addition to trying lots of new dishes to keep things from getting boring this round, I’m also tracking things in the Day by Day book. It’s got tips, motivational passages, hacks, and more to keep me feeling motivated and to reassure me about where I am in the process. It also has spots for me to write down my NSVs (non-scale victories) and reflect on how I think I’m doing.

It’s everything I wanted for my first several rounds of the program but I lacked the discipline to actually follow through with (changing your eating habits is hard ‘yo). I basically carry it around with me all day (I work from home, so this is slightly less weird than it sounds) and write down what I ate and how I’m feeling. I also start every morning by reading the tip, motivation, and FAQ pages for that day. And I end the day by journaling about how things went and actionable things I can do to ensure success tomorrow.

While these two books have made a huge difference in how well this round is going compared to past rounds I’ve completed, I know a lot just has to do with me and my own motivation. I’m more confident in the kitchen, so I’m less afraid to try new recipes and buy weird-sounding ingredients (nutritional yeast, aka “nooch”, anyone?). I’m also really motivated by the pain I’m in.

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I’ve been dealing with pain from a shoulder injury for almost a year now. After seeing two doctors, having two different sets of x-rays taken, physical therapy, and an MRI, I still have zero answers for what’s wrong with it. My sole motivation for this round of Whole30 was to eliminate inflammatory foods to see if it helps relieve some of my shoulder pain.

Guess what? It’s day 15 and I’m finally starting to notice a slight improvement. Enough so that I’ve started working in some light shoulder mobility exercises when I’m at the gym. That’s a HUGE NSV for me, and I hope I continue to see improvements throughout the next 15 days. I am fully prepared to extend the program if it’s improving but there’s still some pain at the end of the 30 days. Then I plant to tackle the reintroduction to figure out which foods are causing the inflammation.

Other NSVs I’ve experienced so far:
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  • I no longer wake up with a headache every morning
  • My skin is much clearer
  • My belly isn’t constantly bloated/uncomfortable
  • I fit into a pair of jeans I haven’t been able to wear in over a year
  • My energy levels are higher and more stable throughout the day (I mean, I’m writing a blog post after working all day. If that’s not energy, I don’t know what is)

I’m still waiting for my sleep to improve and get more consistent. Part of my sleep problems are related to stress, I’m sure (stay tuned for a post about how I’m managing it). I’m also still waiting to see improvements in my running. Right now I’m not running much faster or farther than I was before I started. I suspect that will change soon though, and I can’t wait!

Are you doing the Whole30? What day are you on and how’s it going? What NSVs have you experienced so far?