Whole30 Time!

dragonflyIt’s been a long time since I’ve done a Whole30 and I think it’s about time to take on the challenge again. I love the new year and I’ve already been making lists and goals and setting intentions like I do every year. I really love the exercise of looking back at where I’ve been and dreaming about where I’d like to go. There have been many years when I haven’t even come close to attaining all the things on my list, but for me, that’s not the point. It’s more about putting the intention out there and watching it evolve.

Let me give you an example. Two years ago, I kind of wanted to do a handstand push-up, so I put it on my list. I did a few things that year in line with that, like working on my shoulder strength and learning to do a yoga pose that approaches it. No handstand push-up, though. I didn’t get discouraged. Instead I looked at the goal and thought about it and decided that maybe just learning to do a handstand was a better start. That was this year. Still no handstand yet, but I did take a yoga seminar that spent an hour working on handstands. While I didn’t get into a free-standing one, I did one up against the wall and held it with assistance. I also learned a few strategies to work on. Did I fail for the second year in a row? I don’t think so. I haven’t decided if it will make the list this year or not, but what I do know is that I learned some things about handstands, and about myself, that I didn’t know before. I am not disappointed that I didn’t reach my goal, instead I’m pretty pleased that I did things I never thought I would.

That’s where the lists come in. I have to keep all the floating ideas and dreams somewhere so that I can look at them on New Year’s Eve and decide what I want to focus on. And who knows? I might wind up doing a handstand without it even making the list – because it’s already out there and you never know when it might all come together. I have three (or five, or maybe even more) different journals going right now. Reflections on past years are near the top of my mind as I start to envision the next year. I love it – this time is special to me. I relish the planning, the dreaming, the peace that comes with sitting in solitude and allowing visions to arise and take shape.

As I have been looking back on the past couple of years in terms of food, a few things come to mind. My Paleo life was exciting and solid and I felt great in 2014, but this entire last year has been out of balance in terms of eating for my health. And I’m not talking about weight here, although for me that is a big part of how I define myself. (Not that it’s the best way; I’m a work in progress.) I’ve been holding on, barely, to a body that still fits in my jeans, but it’s been far from perfect. What has struck me over and over this year, though, is how I feel. My energy and moods have varied far more than the year before, my love of cooking took a back seat as I went for the easy option of grabbing whatever was around, and my heart felt dissatisfied, reminding me that I wasn’t doing the right thing for me.

Change is so hard. Even when you know that you feel better, live better, think better, and play better. Change is still hard. But just because it’s hard, just because I might not have achieved the things that I wanted to last year, that doesn’t mean I’m a failure or that it isn’t worth tackling again. So I’m in!

Another Whole30 is on the calendar so that I can reset my health, my hormones, my sugar cravings, and my connection to myself. What I know from past experience is that I’ll learn something about what works for me, and I might even discover a new recipe or something that I’d like to share.

It starts on January 2 and I’ll be chronicling the journey in daily (I hope!) posts that will look at a few different parameters. I’ll keep track of how I feel about the food, what my mood is from day to day, how my sleep is, what my activity looks like, and then I’ll probably have a special focus each week to keep me engaged.

If you’d like to come along, I’d love to have the company and support. Let me know in the comments if you’re doing your own challenge and if you’ve ever done one before. Here’s to an amazing, healthy, happy, and fulfilling 2016!

 

 

Believe

Believe stoneThere’s a saying I’m sure you’ve all heard – Believe it to achieve it. It’s cliché and trite, but I keep thinking about it because I also find it to be true. I see so often that the people I deeply wish could find their reason, their faith in themselves, and their success are wonderful people who, deep down inside, don’t believe they can reach their goals. This makes me sad. Perhaps even more so because far too often I am one of them too.

I wish that I could say I’d found the definitive solution or some secret mantra that would provide everyone with the self-confidence and knowledge that they have everything they need inside, right now, to achieve whatever they set their mind to. Unfortunately, this area is one that I continue to struggle with all the time. My dear friend over at Rising Tide Triathlon Coaching broached the topic the other day and it got me thinking about my own recent experience with it.

This time last year, I had been consistently eating 95% (or maybe even 98%) Paleo for several months. I was working out more regularly than ever before and was very focused on my health. I’ll admit that there was an element of wanting to look and feel good in my clothes, but once I got truly settled into eating the right food for my body, it became much more than that. I could really feel that my mind and body were working together towards the same goal and it was more than just the size of my jeans. There was a sense of rhythm to my energy – I ate when I needed fuel, I had zero desire to eat things that didn’t make me feel vibrant, I was in tune with what worked and what didn’t. It felt so good that when I look back from where I sit today, I wonder why I ever changed what I was doing.

I feel like I was better able to face life’s challenges when I was in that space, so why stop doing what was working? I guess life isn’t a straight line or a series of successes, though. At least it isn’t for me. It seems that it is more like a wave with ups and downs, over and over again. Sometimes I am riding on top with a clear line of site to wherever it is I’m headed, and then other times I’m at the bottom of the wave, just trying to figure my way out.

There was one other distinct difference, though. I also firmly believed that I could be successful. I didn’t doubt my choices, my reasons, my self. I just acted with clear intention – give my body what it needs to feel great. It seems so simple and easy when I look at it like that. But for me, for so many people that I know, doing what’s right for my body is utterly entangled with my past. My ability to make good choices in any particular moment seems hi-jacked by my emotional state, leaving me feeling helpless. This isn’t true; I am not helpless, of course. I always have a choice.

Lately, like for the past 6 months, I’ve been making a different choice. In some ways, it has definitely been a learning experience. I am still trying to figure out how to balance a love of all foods, the pleasure of enjoying a cocktail, and the slippery slope that indulgence is for me, with the strength and confidence that I derive from following a stricter Paleo lifestyle. It feels like it shouldn’t be difficult, but for me it still is. I thought I was handling it, and I’ve balanced it better than in the past, but here I am at the end of the summer wishing I had done things differently. That’s somewhere that I don’t want to spend much time. I would like to live my life with confidence, proud of my choices, happy with my days and nights. With that, it’s time to take a look at the old habits that have crept back in and do a bit of course correction.

A few friends and I have embarked on 21 days of squeaky-clean whatever. For me it’s Paleo, for others it is what makes them feel their best. We’re a few days in and doing it together so that we can support and motivate each other. Like I said in the beginning, though, believing in myself and what I want to achieve is fundamental to my success. What I want is to feel strong, confident, healthy, beautiful, energetic, and whole.

My friend at Rising Tide also said, “The brain knows the difference between lip service and your deepest feelings.” I guess that means I have some work to do to figure out where the obstacles to my success lie and what I need to do to overcome them. It also means I need to look a little more deeply to figure out what keeps me from believing that I deserve balance and ease and health. On to the next lesson…

Listening

swirling-clouds-above-the-ocean-beach-wallpaper-3111It’s funny how the Universe works. I have this idea, and I know I’m not alone in it, that if you want or need something or perhaps are seeking some truth or answer, and you put that idea energetically into the world, then the Universe will lift that up and begin to answer. The key, though, is that you have to listen. You have to be ready to say, “Yes,” when an opportunity or an idea comes along. You have to be open.

Sometimes the messages that are sent are quite apparent, but sometimes they are far more subtle and you need to find some silence and space to process what may be the tiniest of thoughts or yearnings that begin to surface in your mind and heart. A slight whisper that nudges you to take a risk, try something new, or just a moment shared with another person where something they say triggers something in you.

These moments are precious, but I find that the more I listen for them and to them, the more excited that I get because they often are the manifestation of something that is deep within me that might not have even been fully realized yet. In those moments, it seems the Universe takes over and urges me to try. To grow. To experience. To live.

As an example, yoga is an important part of my life. While I came to it fairly late, dabbling with videos for a few years and then finally discovering what it could be like to do yoga in a studio with an amazing instructor, it transformed me in more ways than I can count. Quite recently I stumbled upon an instructor certification that was attainable for me, and I decided to do it. I didn’t have any specific plans for how or when I would use it, but I went to the training and I was on fire with love and desire for the practice.

And that’s when the Universe stepped in. Suddenly, I received an email and had a conversation with someone about a local gym that was looking for an instructor. I decided to go for it, still feeling nervous but realizing that I was living one of those moments that I needed to listen to. Then, before I even began and quite surprisingly to many, that gym closed. I didn’t dwell on it too much and instead just figured the time wasn’t right. Within weeks, my own instructor, an amazing soul who is the very definition of yoga, asked me to sub for her class. I was deeply honored. Less than a week after that, I received a call from a different yoga studio looking for an instructor, willing to take however much time I could give. I don’t know whether this will work out, I only know that doors are opening so that I might try.

This doesn’t just apply to yoga, either. I see instances of this time and time again. Not only in my life, but also while listening to the experiences of others. Life is full of many unexpected twists and situations that we simply cannot predict, but I think that if we spend some time listening to our hearts and observing the opportunities that come before us, we might see that the Universe is always working for us, helping us to grow and evolve and learn. Sometimes we are learning very specific, factual data that can help us answer questions or complete a task, and that’s all well and good. But sometimes we are learning those things which change our hearts, fuel our passions, and transform us forever. Those are the moments that are really worth listening for.

Reach. Try. Change. Grow. Live.

No Regrets

dandelion 2014Back in November, a friend asked me what my favorite holiday was. I said Thanksgiving because I love the food, of course, but also the gathering and the gratitude. While I don’t always practice these as well or as often as I’d like, I aspire to and I sense that there is something for me to do there. I don’t know exactly what shape it will take, but I have been feeling a pull to somehow find a way to manifest these things in my life. So yes…I love Thanksgiving.

But as the days and weeks passed and the next round of holidays approached, I realized something. Actually, my favorite holiday is New Year’s Eve. If you know me well, you know I make lists. Constantly. I make them to stay organized, to calm a scattered mind, to plan the food and shopping for the week, and sometimes just to plan my day. Many years ago my college roommate would tease me about including even shower on my list but I like the structure of knowing the steps necessary to accomplish something. I make them all year round and I’d be willing to bet that although my husband is gracious enough not to say, the many post-its, scraps of paper, white boards, notebooks and journals that are strategically placed (or some might say scattered) around the house can be a bit annoying. But I guess it’s my thing, and we all have a thing, don’t we?

Sometime after Thanksgiving, my lists start to evolve. I don’t know what prompts it – some internal clock, maybe, or gentle shift towards the future – but my lists begin to include dreams, wishes, hopes, goals and resolutions. One of my favorite things is to have a fire or candles, some music, wine or champagne, a journal and a few pens or pencils. Quiet, reflective time to look to the past and consider changes I might make and envision the future and how I’d like it to be. With this framework in place, I begin to fill in the steps one by one until I have a picture to live. Some years that picture has sharper edges, cleaner lines, things that are clearly attainable, even if it takes me some time to do them. Other years the picture is more like a water color, fluid and dream-like. What I like most about those more ethereal years is that they often have change and direction that I can’t quite express in words, it’s more of a sensation. Something I want to become or develop but I can’t quite describe. Maybe that sounds crazy. I don’t know. I’ve just learned that amidst all my lists and structured plans, sometimes the softer edges are where the deepest growth is found.

In a book I was reading the other night, the main character said this: “I’ve never regretted doing anything more than I regretted not doing something.” For some reason, that really struck me. It’s not a new concept or anything, in fact it’s something I’ve thought about many times in my life. Growing up overweight and insecure kept me from doing a lot of things with the passion and joy they deserved.  I was afraid to look or act or say something stupid. Some of that insecurity is still with me, but I’m working on it because I occasionally see it in my son too and I wish for him a different story.

2014 has been a year with several changes and experiences that I didn’t put in my resolutions, some I couldn’t have even begun to predict or imagine, and it wasn’t all bliss and daisies. But I’ve loved and laughed with passion, I’ve let myself feel with a depth that has frightened me at times, I’ve taken risks, and I have tried to predict outcomes only to be surprised. I’ve had one of those water-color years where the growth and change continue to be nebulous. I’ve written from time-to-time on this blog about my shifting balance and that continues to influence my outlook on the next year. I try to imagine how all the pieces of life work together best – and then when I pause in all of that planning, I have to laugh at myself and let go and just live.

So back to that quote – I don’t regret the doing or the trying. We don’t always get it right, but that’s a part of life. I’d rather kiss than not, I’d rather laugh uncontrollably or let the tears of sadness roll down my cheeks than be numb, and I’d rather keep reaching and seeking and living and loving. Even when it’s scary.

This I Know for Sure: I am grateful for you

branches at dawnI lost my balance for a bit. I wish I had something profound to say about why it happened or how to prevent it from happening again, but the truth of it is that I don’t exactly know. Still. So many years of back and forth with food, fun, and trying to figure it all out. What I CAN say, though, is that this time was definitely different than before. Shorter. Healthier. More balanced. Not perfectly balanced, just more balanced. And that’s a start.

It wasn’t just about food either. Something shifted inside of me and I have spent some time over the past few months trying to figure out how all of the pieces of my life fit together. One of those pieces is this blog and it has been a struggle for me to put into words what transpired. Last month was actually my one-year anniversary of sharing recipes and the occasional musings with all of you. That should have been reason for celebration, at least a special recipe or something, but instead I closed up and haven’t posted in ages. Then each time I wanted to post, or thought I should post, I felt guilty for neglecting Balancing Paleo and you(!) for so long. I wanted to apologize, explain, fix it, take it back…something. And that in turn made me stay quiet, because you see, I don’t usually put things out there that easily. My thoughts, my reasons, these are things that I tend to keep quite private and ever since beginning this blog it has been an interesting experience for me. It has stretched me and made me look at things differently. But to say everything, to put it all out there, is still so hard.

My cooking shifted too. Rather than creating my own recipes, I’ve been spending time in my cookbooks. Or if I do cook creatively, I haven’t been writing anything down, instead just going by taste and feel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I recognize it for what it is here – a desire to stay safe, a fear of being vulnerable, exposed. There have been days, too, when I simply haven’t felt like cooking, and many of those days have spiraled out of control, reminding me sharply of the interconnectivity of food and my mind.

Then a friend gave me a book: What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey. It is a compilation of short essays about those things, experiences, thoughts that Oprah knows for sure. She explores joy, resilience, awe, connection, gratitude, and possibility. It is introspective, touching, and inspiring. It, in fact, inspired this post. I started reading it a few days ago, and then I went to yoga, another gift in my life that I have neglected lately. Fittingly, we did Tree pose which always reminds me of what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog. Balancing Paleo is a place for growth, not perfection. It is my attempt to share things which delight me – food or otherwise – and it is okay if that isn’t perfect. If I am not perfect.

So this I know for sure: I am grateful for all of you who read my blog, try my recipes, comment here, or just stop by. Your presence allows me the place and space to continue this journey and work towards balance. You ground me in my search towards better and let me reach towards the sky, fluidly, not locked into any expectation. You let me bend and stretch and become.

Thank you.

Approaching Balance

balancing stones 2A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease and it got me thinking about where I am in my journey and how other people have found their way to gluten-free or Paleo. It also reminded me of something that my dad asked shortly after I started this blog…”When does the balancing come in?” When he asked about it, I think I was probably in the middle of a Whole30 which, admittedly, is not balancing. It’s eliminating and experimenting and learning. I found it helpful to get me started and I learned many things about myself and my eating habits which serve me today, but it certainly wasn’t about navigating the many different circumstances of life.

I questioned for a while how much to share on this blog about what it’s really like for me to try to live Paleo. Even though I fundamentally believe perfection is unattainable – and over-rated – a little part of me would still like to be perfect. If you’re looking for a Paleo blog, do you really want to know that the woman behind it drank too much, ate a ton of smoked almonds, and then collapsed before a couple of s’mores? Because that happened – and it was only a month ago. A few days after that, I ate some amazing sourdough bread and shared a towering slice of chocolate cake with my son. (Incidentally, that night I slept horribly and learned a lesson…). Both of those instances were while I was on vacation, sharing special moments with dear friends, and in retrospect, I don’t regret them. What I’ve been trying to figure out lately is why? Or maybe it’s how? How was I able to off-road so considerably while on vacation and then get right back to eating the way my body functions best? That’s generally not how it goes for me.

In fact, this sense of actual balance is new and I’ll readily admit to loving it. All my life I’ve considered balance to be some elusive, magical theory or maybe something that only truly enlightened people can attain, because quite honestly, I’m a bit of an all-or-nothing kind of girl. I’m either working towards a goal or totally not. But this time feels different. I am still working towards a goal, but I am far more relaxed about it than I typically would be. I’m focused on feeling healthy and strong and giving my body what it needs. This also seems to be what my mind needs. The two are so often interconnected that it’s no wonder some of my close friends can tell how I’m eating based on my mood and energy.

What’s the secret then? Nothing really fantastic or revelatory, I guess. I think the main thing that has brought me here is time and patience. I’ve been eating Paleo more or less for two years now. I initially began with a Whole30 in October 2012, realized that my mind and body were better when I ate that way, and then floated around with long stretches of eating Paleo or NOT eating Paleo. A lot of that had to do with holidays and trying to figure out how to stay Paleo when it was a little harder to do it, but bit by bit, my stretches of Paleo became longer and it simply became the way that I eat.

It wasn’t until this year, actually, when it occurred to me that I eat Paleo nearly all the time. And for the past several months, I’m pretty clean Paleo too (meaning very little alcohol, dairy, Paleo baked goods or treats). I’m just eating meat, veggies, fats, fruits, and nuts. Within that framework, I don’t feel limited or restricted at all. The food I eat is delicious and satisfying. I’ll happily make rice or lentils or toast or whatever my family needs to supplement their meal, but I just don’t eat it, and I can tell you, I don’t miss it. I believe that really has to do with time in this lifestyle. I’ll put just about anything on a salad or use any possible veggie as a wrap. Trust me – today I used a roasted chile pepper as a burger bun and it was awesome.

Change can take a while under any circumstances, and when you’ve grown up unhappy with your body, frustrated with your inability to control your eating habits, and uncertain that you are actually capable of becoming the person you see in your mind, well…then change is also scary and there’s a lot of one-step-forward, two-steps-back involved. At least there is for me. I feel lucky that I was actually given the gift of time. My friends who have autoimmune issues, Celiac disease, and actual intolerances might not have that luxury. For them, it’s critical to make the change immediately and I just want to say to them that it gets better. It gets easier.

I have some thoughts that I want to share in another post about how I make eating Paleo easier, especially when I don’t have time to spend in the kitchen. I also have some ideas about eating out or making things to take on the go. I’ll definitely share those, but for now I’ll stop here and feel grateful for the balance that I’ve attained.

I want to live my life with passion and love and pleasure. For me, that includes sharing good food, a glass of wine, and lively conversation with people that I care about. My goal is to do that in a way that allows me to stay true to what makes me feel good inside and out and if that includes a little ice cream from time to time, I consider that an indulgence worth having and I definitely want a few of those in my life. But I’ve also learned that indulging feels a lot better when it’s followed closely by health.

Ripples

Ripple effectCalifornia is beautiful. Amazingly, stunningly, unequivocally beautiful. It’s no secret why so many people want to live there and every time I go back, I am stricken and inspired by its many gifts. I grew up in Southern California and have lived as far south as Carlsbad and as far north as the San Francisco Bay Area. Each region has its treasures and I still love them and miss them. This past week, my husband, son and I went there for vacation and we were lucky enough to splash in the ocean and take in the wonder of the giant sequoia trees, all in the same day. Each is a majestic celebration of earth and water, endless time, and the infinitesimally small part we play in this universe.

Sadly, California is in the midst of a severe drought and during our time we were reminded of this on many occasions. We took care during our mountain stay to shower quickly, spare dishes where we could, and treat water as the limited resource that it is. In more populated places, restaurants serve water only upon request and locals restrict their usage regularly. While the immensity of the mountains and the sea caused my thoughts to go in one direction, the importance of each tiny act led me in another.

This dichotomy of simultaneously being such a small component of the universe and yet having the ability to greatly impact a situation is an interesting place to be. If we only examine our actions on an individual basis and fail to see them as a part of the greater whole, we miss the opportunity to bring good to the world, to inspire change, or perhaps to experience greatness.

It got me thinking about a few small things that can make a big difference in the lives of others…

Smile more. This simplest of acts brings joy to the people around us. If we could each share a smile with a friend, a neighbor, and more importantly perhaps, a stranger, the lives of both people would be improved. Did you know that smiling reduces stress, boosts your immune system, is contagious, and is a universal sign of happiness? So smile away. A lot and without hesitation.

Forgive a little. I think that too often we get wrapped up in being angry or offended by someone else’s actions and, maybe, if we gave the benefit of the doubt on more occasions, we’d all be better off. I realize that there are true wrongs that need to be righted, but I also believe that harboring too much negativity can really take a toll. We can all be thoughtless or careless at times, but I truly believe that most of the time it isn’t intentional. People are busy, stressed out, overwhelmed, tired. Most of the time, we’re all just doing the best we can and if we could be a little more lenient at times, a little more forgiving, we might find our lives fill with more peace and more love.

Accept the differences. Sometimes I look around and wonder why people do the things they do or behave in a certain way. And then I catch myself. If we all did things the same way, life would not only be boring, but we would miss these moments of growth and learning, we could not treasure the unique. Differences are an opportunity to embrace, a chance to experience something from another perspective and subsequently get more out of this life. There is profound richness in the differences.

There is a concept in chaos theory called the butterfly effect, which is something I have always found beautiful and magical. Something seemingly insignificant – like the breath of wind generated by the wings of a butterfly – can change and magnify and eventually generate enough force to become a hurricane. A similar concept, the ripple effect, looks at how the smallest pebble when tossed into a pond can change circumstances and result in something completely unpredictable. The mystery – and greatness – of our smallest actions can have incredibly profound effects.

Therefore I smile. And forgive. And accept.

Do The Best You Can

Teddy Roosevelt quoteI’m a bit of an all-or-nothing kind of girl. My life, particularly where it relates to food and exercise, has been filled with periods of “good” and “bad”, “on” or “off”. It wasn’t until recently (like last week when I blogged about progress) that I realized I’ve actually found a semblance of balance. It turns out that my balance looks a lot like a teeter-totter, not something straight across and even but rather something that goes up and down. Still it’s fairly balanced. I don’t eat perfectly Paleo, but I get back to what nourishes my body pretty quickly, and I don’t workout with perfect intensity every time, but on most days I get my workout done. The thought that I’m finding some consistency in my habits, even if what is consistent is that there is variability, is one that I welcome. It feels good.

I remember when I first started eating Paleo and learning about what is best to put in our bodies. I wanted organic fruits and vegetables only, grass-fed meat and dairy only, everything the best that we could get. I was all-in for sure. I recognized the value of that and wanted to do everything that I could to help properly nourish my family. But it can get expensive and sometimes it can be difficult to adhere to all of the best principles. So what’s a person to do? Throw in the towel and eat cupcakes and pasta because they’re easy to get? I don’t think so.

In my opinion, the answer is to do the best with what you have! In general, choose the best quality fats and protein that you can afford. Coconut oil, ghee, olive oil, avocado oil – these are all great fat sources. Canola oil and processed vegetable oils? Not so much. In fact, I avoid these oils as best that I can and never use them at home. As for meat, if you are cooking with a fattier cut, it’s worth it to splurge on grass-fed or pasture-raised, especially if you plan on eating the fat (like chicken skin). Fat from these sources is actually healthy for you, but it’s a different story with conventional, feed-lot animals. If this is what you can afford or have access to, though, don’t despair and give up. Consider sticking to lean protein or removing the extra fat from other cuts. Here’s the thing: it’s better to go with the lean (conventionally produced) protein than to skip it all together and head to the pasta aisle. Your body gets abundant nourishment from protein and risks inflammation and leaky gut from grains.

The same goes for organic fruits and vegetables. I would love to eat homegrown all the time, but that’s not realistic for my family. I’d also like to eat locally and organically all the time, but even that isn’t practical for us all the time. That doesn’t mean I give up on the desire to support our local farmers and focus on organic produce, it just means that sometimes I have to make a different choice. As often as we can, we choose local, organic produce but in the end, I’d rather eat conventional zucchini than no zucchini at all. I have to have my zoodles!

If you’re choosing when to buy organic, I recommend you shop judiciously. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen:

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Nectarines
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Snap peas
  12. Potatoes

If you can get these organic, do! If you can’t, though, these foods still offer valuable vitamins and minerals and are worth keeping on the menu. Just wash really well and peel when you can, but don’t stop eating vegetables because you can’t get organic.

Here are the Clean 15. These foods don’t have a lot of pesticide residue or have a thick peel so you can stick to conventional to meet your budget.

1. Avocadoes
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Sweet peas – frozen
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Papayas
10. Kiwis
11. Eggplant
12. Grapefruit
13. Cantaloupe
14. Cauliflower
15. Sweet potatoes

You don’t have to be perfect to nourish your body. Just remember to do the best that you can and never stop learning and striving to support your life with delicious, healthy food. It’s totally worth it!

P.S. If you have any questions you want to put out there, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to explain more!

A Step in the Healthy Direction

Ask yourself if what you are doing now

I write a Paleo-based blog and I’m a personal trainer at a gym. I wonder sometimes if these two parts of my life mean that I should have this whole Paleo thing figured out. I know what to eat and how to move to be my healthiest, but do I always do that? Heck no! I sure wish I did, but that just isn’t realistic for me at this time. When I decided to become a trainer and then again when I started this blog, I also decided that I wasn’t going to let that “failure” stop me. I believe we are all a work in progress and that it is in the striving that we become who we were meant to be.

My Oxford dictionary says “progress” is “forward or onward movement towards a destination.” I like that. I can honestly say that I am making progress in my journey towards health. I think about things that have changed in my life and can’t remember the last time I had jarred mayonnaise or Heinz ketchup. Meals at home are solidly in the realm of meat/loads of veg/healthy fat and I know what to look for on a restaurant menu. While I don’t always make that best choice, I often do, and if I’m feeling like a treat in the evening, almonds and raisins are insanely good together. I do have to watch that a bit though….

I’d secretly (or not so secretly now) love to be a Paleo Purist. There are a couple of champion bloggers and cookbook authors out there that seem to have the whole thing nailed. They eat healthy, delicious Paleo meals all the time and have reached a point where they only very rarely feel the need to indulge. And if they indulge, it’s with a Paleo-friendly treat. OK. That’s not me. I’d like it to be, but it’s really not. My balancing act is a little more wobbly.

The reason I yearn for that, though, is because I know that when my eating and hormonal response and sleep and life are aligned in that way, I am my healthiest version of me. Ant that is something worth striving for.

Unfortunately, I have decades of food issues and habits and desires that run incredibly deep and some of them are very difficult to untangle and resolve. While some people discover a path to health and it is straight and clear and uncluttered, my journey is a little more meandering. I am learning to come to grips with that, but it’s not easy.

In order for me to make progress in my Paleo life, I’ve begun practicing a sort of “crowding out” policy. Instead of actively removing foods that are less healthy, I just make sure there isn’t much room for them. I figure the more healthy foods fill my day, the better off I’ll be, so when a craving strikes, I’ll be less likely to reach for some sort of junk food and more likely to grab some veggies and guacamole or whip up a Paleo banana bread. And for me, that’s progress.

To support this crowding out philosophy, I am actively looking for new ways to bring greater health and more super-foods into my day. I recently made my first batch of sauerkraut and I’m really excited because it was on my list of things to learn this year and now I know that it’s shockingly simple. It is full of probiotics and is an incredibly healthy food that I happily have next to my eggs each morning. I’m also considering learning how to use grass-fed gelatin, another food with some wonderful healthy benefits. Learning new things is exciting and no matter where you are in your own journey, trying something new can breathe fresh life into it.

There’s a reason everyone knows the saying, “It’s about progress, not perfection.” If we allow ourselves to become crippled by the need to be perfect, then we don’t get to taste the joys that arise along the way. Instead of being blocked by what we might consider a slip, let’s celebrate the healthy steps we take each day! I am sure there are many!

Tell me: What progress have YOU made on YOUR journey?

P.S. Ice cream is one of my favorite non-Paleo foods. For Memorial Day, I plan to make one of these Paleo-friendly ones. I’m thinking Coffee Ice Cream with Salty-Sweet Almonds might be the winner! Let the crowding out begin!

Start Today!

And-the-day-came-when-the-risk-it-took-to-remain

Let’s say you’ve realized that by eating differently you can improve your health, your mind, and your quality of life. (By the way, it’s true!) What is the next question you might ask yourself?

HOW DO I START TODAY, RIGHT NOW, IMMEDIATELY??? WHAT EXACTLY DO I DO?

I think it’s a completely valid question because beginning anything new can be a bit overwhelming and often there is so much information available that it can create a kind of paralysis that keeps us from reaching our goals. We might look at all the new research available or have an inkling of how our pantry needs to be reordered, and it all might seem like it’s just too much.

I get it, I really do – but I want to remind you that you don’t have to do a complete overhaul of your life to begin seeing the benefits of eating healthier. In fact, taking smaller steps may even increase your chance of success because each small, incremental change will become an integral part of who you are. By making a lot of small changes, you might not even realize just how different your life has become – until you look back at where you were and where you are now.

When you look down your path to the future, if you start to feel a little panicky about all the changes that you want to make, then scale back. That anxious feeling is a sign that you’re trying to do too much at once. Instead, figure out what one small change you can make this week and then spend some time practicing it. You might surprise yourself after a few weeks when you see your own transformation.

That being said, some of us respond to change of a greater magnitude. I tend to fall into this category of all-or-nothing. I find that fresh start, that feeling of complete change, quite exhilarating. I’ve discovered, though, that when I take a step back and review those big changes, they’ve actually been incremental. For example, over 18 months ago I decided to complete a Whole 30 challenge. It completely altered how I look at food and what I now know to be healthy. (Previously I was all-in for the Standard American Diet (SAD) – except it wasn’t making me feel healthier.) I wish I could say that from that moment forward I was 100% Paleo because I KNOW it makes me healthier. But I wasn’t. I’m still a work in progress. So although I completely revised how I like to eat and how I strive to eat, it’s still baby steps for me. I still need to regroup periodically and evaluate where I am and then make progress from that point. It’s a little like 2 steps forward, 1 step back. But that’s totally OK. That’s how I make my own incremental changes. And when I look back to where I was then and what my nutrition looks like today, I am truly pleased and proud of the progress I’ve made. I’m not perfect, but I like where I’m going.

So back to that earlier question: How do you start? It’s easy! PLAN. PREP. ACT.

PLAN: Take some time to consider what change or changes you want to make first. When in doubt, go very small. Set a goal that you know you can reach. Make it easy! Make it a sure thing. Don’t worry about any other changes or even about actually doing this one. Just make a plan. Maybe it’s something like buy one new vegetable at the store or find one new recipe to cook. Simply start daydreaming about what you would like to do differently this week. The planning stage is quite creative and can be really relaxing. You’re visualizing a goal that you’d like to achieve – it’s quite powerful to spend some time visualizing yourself achieving that goal too so don’t be afraid to see your success!

PREP: Now it’s time to get a little more serious about your goal(s) so that you can get ready to make them a reality. Start gathering together the things that you need to make it a successful week. Do you need a new water bottle? Do you have some protein that needs to be defrosted? Have you searched the recipe page here or the internet or your bookshelves for some tasty recipes? Have you made a shopping list? This is where you start getting more concrete with your goal. Remember, the goal should be small so the prep will also be relatively easy.

ACT: Get moving! Whatever change you’ve decided to make this week is perfect! Don’t over think it, just do it! Sometimes we get bogged down in the details but there’s really no need. By taking those first steps, like swapping in eggs for your cereal on a single day or two or doubling your veggie serving on Mon-Wed-Fri, you will quickly see that each accomplishment creates a new opportunity to succeed. Before you know it, you’ll be celebrating your accomplishments every week. And that’s a good thing!

Don’t be afraid to start your transformation! Each day brings a new opportunity to start fresh, eat healthier, live more vibrantly. You deserve it!

Looking for a couple meal ideas? Try these:

Beef Pot Roast 2014

Spaghetti SauceCajun Chicken 2013

Roasted asparagusSpaghetti Squash - Shredding 2013 (2)Cilantro Cauliflower RicePot Roast with Asparagus

Easy Meat Sauce on Spaghetti Squash

Cajun Chicken on Cauliflower Rice