CHIP: Complete Health Improvement Plan

fruitsStarting next week, J and I are kicking off 2015 by participating in an 8-week health improvement plan through our company.  The idea behind the program is to reverse the effects of unhealthy habits and create a lasting, healthy lifestyle.  The program has three meetings a week, all during lunch, and food is catered in that meets the program guidelines.  I’m actually really excited about it, though also nervous because it’ll be introducing some foods I’m not used to, and removing some of my staple items!  The idea is that a large portion of health issues in the US are lifestyle related.  By removing some of those unhealthy lifestyle actions, you can help mitigate the effects, and sometimes even start to reverse them.  Personally, I think that’s pretty cool!

So, starting Monday, I’ll move to a strict diet for a week.  It’s plant-based, so pretty much vegan.  I’ve never tried a vegan diet before, but I’m willing to give it a whirl.  Luckily, the program includes a cookbook, so there are a ton of recipes to follow, which makes it much easier.  If I had to come up with these recipes on my own, I’d be sunk.  After the first week’s strict diet, it starts to ease up and gradually reintroduce some items.  It still suggests that you give up dairy (which I already don’t eat), and wants you to heavily limit animal proteins, but encourages more fruits and vegetables and whole grains/legumes/beans.  Overall, it seems doable, and I am excited to see how it goes, so hopefully it’ll be a good experience.

Before the program starts, we had to have biometric screening done through our health service at our company.  They ran blood work and looked at body fat %, BMI, waist to height ratio, and other health factors.  I was really pleased that, after the past year and a half of weight loss and a healthier lifestyle, my numbers were all really good!!!  It’s always nice to see numbers and science to back up all the changes that you’ve made, that you really are doing the right thing for yourself and your health.  So, hopefully, at the end of this, it’ll be even better!  Time to kick off the 2015 year the right way!

Much love,

30 Days of Blogging: The Body Perspective

weight lossA year ago, if you would have asked me my opinion of my body and how I felt about it, I would have had a very different answer than I do today.  A year ago, I absolutely hated my body.  HATED.  I was overweight and at the heavies I had ever been, and feeling really depressed about it.  Nothing fit, I was out of shape, and even simple activities were harder for me than they used to be.  This was especially upsetting because, during high school and college, I had been very active in sports and was always in shape.  However, living abroad and the move process back home had not been kind (or maybe too kind, in the form of pastries, breads and cheeses), and I was paying for it in a big way.

However, after we moved home from Europe, around mid-way through the summer, I decided that I needed to make a change.  I was eating horribly, and I really wanted to get a grip on things and make a change for the better.  I jumped on MyFitnessPal and started tracking everything that went into my mouth.  I had done this before while we were in the NL (J and I did a “Biggest Loser” contest), but had gained back everything I had lost, plus another 10 pounds, when I quit tracking.  It has been a very long (and oftentimes difficult) road, but I’m happy to say that, as of now, I’ve lost 60 pounds!

So, sitting here and typing this over a year later, I can honestly say that I am really happy with my body and quite comfortable in my own skin.  I really never thought I’d be at this point again in my life, and there are a few things I’d like to change (mainly get stronger), but overall…I’m happy!

Much love,

Friday Favorites: Vegetables

Early last year, I decided to give a vegetarian diet a try.  I’ve always struggled with the moral issues around eating meat, and felt that moving away from an animal based diet, to one of a plant-based diet, would be best for me.  I was a vegetarian for over a year, and then slowly started introducing meat back into my diet.  I still rarely eat meat, and plan to continue a primarily vegetable based diet, but every now and then I do enjoy a meat dish.  I still feel bad about eating animals, so I try really hard to make sure that the meat that I do eat is sustainably and ethically sourced.  However, since becoming a vegetarian, I have found a new appreciation for vegetables, so I thought I’d do a Friday Favorites post on my favorite vegetables!

1.  Brussel Sprouts

brussel sproutsI know what most of you are thinking about brussel sprouts.  They’re bitter, and small cabbages, and really tasteless.  And, for the longest time, I would have agreed with you.  But then, I came across some good recipes, and learned how to cook brussel sprouts, and now they’re my absolute FAVORITE vegetable of all time!  Roasted brussel sprouts with shallots, salt and pepper, are fantastic in so many ways.  They’re a great side dish, they’re fantastic cut up in cold salads, and I even use them as the main toppings for one of my favorite pizzas (roasted brussel sprout pizza with potatoes and goat cheese…YUM).  Sure, they get a bad rap, but I’d encourage you all to go out there and try them again, because they really can be amazing!

2.  Eggplant

eggplantEggplant, or aubergine, is another highly overlooked vegetable (in my opinion).  Eggplant parmesan sandwiches were a huge staple in our house during my year of meat-free living, and we still enjoy the vegetable regularly.  I really enjoy it breaded and baked (never fried), with spicy marinara and fresh mozzarella melted on top, but it’s also fantastic just grilled with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  I also use eggplant quite often in my Couscous with Seven Vegetables recipe which I got from the cook of our riad in Morocco.  J and I will also eat leftovers that were grilled and put into the fridge, as a topping for pizza or cold salads.  Another favorite is a roasted vegetable sandwich, in which eggplant plays a starring role, along with onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and feta cheese!

3.  Asparagus

asparagusIn the Netherlands, people anxiously await the spring because it brings with it “aspergeseizoen” or asparagus season.  Both green and white varieties are celebrated there, and they even have specific recipes that include asparagus.  One staple recipe is the asparagus soup (which is divine) and another is its chlorophyl-free counterpart, white asparagus served with thinly sliced ham and soft-boiled eggs, with a lemon butter sauce.  Here in the US, we still eat a ton of asparagus, and it isn’t quite as seasonal as it is there, though we do eat the most of it in the summer.  Grilling the asparagus stalks or roasting them in the oven are our two primary ways of cooking it, though each Easter I do make the Dutch white asparagus, complete with soft-boiled eggs and roasted potatoes, and that delicious butter and lemon sauce.  It’s quite a special treat, and one that we look forward to every year, especially because it brings back such fond memories of our lives in the Netherlands.

4.  Avocado

avacadoOk, this one is cheating, because technically it’s a fruit.  I don’t care, I still love it.  It’s creamy, it’s got fiber, and it tastes amazing with some salt and lemon juice.  Avocado is a go-to adder for a lot of our recipes at home.  We’ll dice it up and add it to salads, we’ll smash it onto toast with an egg for a quick breakfast, and I’ll even eat it plain for a snack (either topped with lemon juice or some balsamic vinegar).  The healthy fats in the avocado add to heart and brain health, and it also improves the absorption of certain nutrients by up to 400%.  Another way we eat them at home is to add them to our protein shakes in the morning.  The velvety texture really adds smoothness to the shakes, plus you can’t really taste the avocado if you are adding other ingredients.  I only started eating avocado a few years ago, prior to that I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor, but I’m so glad I gave it a second try.  Now, it’s one of our go-to snacks in the house and we always have one or two of them ready to eat!

5.  Artichokes

artichokesLast, but surely not least, is my love affair with artichokes.  These are another staple in our house, either raw or in their jarred variety.  I’ll put them on anything: pizzas, salads, couscous or quinoa…pretty much, if I’m making something that has any sort of mediterranean flavor to it, I’ll add artichokes.  My favorite is my Mediterranean couscous salad, which I make with whole wheat couscous, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, garlic, and feta.  It’s basically a “chop everything and add together” type of salad, and it keeps in the fridge well for next day’s lunch.  We’ve also really liked them lightly steamed and then grilled for a side addition to our main meal.  I’ve come across a few stuffed artichoke recipes that I’d love to try, but haven’t given them a whirl yet.  Once I do, I’ll be sure to post back here in a recipe post, because I’m sure that we’ll love it!  While we really enjoy the marinated variety, I’ve found that some of the jarred, marinated artichokes have a high sodium content, and lots of additional fat from the oils, so you should be careful if you’re buying the jarred artichokes.  Be sure to read the label, because you never know what else is in the jar if you don’t look at the ingredients!

There you have it, my top five favorite vegetables (ok…four vegetables and a fruit)!  What are your favorites?  Also, if you have some recipes that include my vegetables above that I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear about them!

Much love,

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Like many out there (this has spread like wildfire) I was challenged yesterday to the ice bucket challenge to raise money for ALS. I was actually complaining to J the other day about how I didn’t like the premise of the challenge…the idea is to either a) donate money, or b) if you don’t want to donate, douse yourself with a bucket of freezing cold water. And then post about it on social media…as though the world should post more about how they’re not willing to donate to worthy causes. But, sure enough, as it usually happens when I complain about something, I get called to do it by a friend, and all good sense goes out the door.

Each day, 15 new cases of ALS are diagnosed in the US. This disease affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing degeneration of the motor neurons leading from your brain to your muscles. As muscles no longer receive signals for movement, the muscles weaken and eventually atrophy, which in turns leads to death.

Today, there is no cure or treatment that halts or reverses ALS, though there are drugs that help slow the progression. Donations help fund the research for life saving drugs and therapies that can treat the disease, and hopefully one day fund a cure. Please consider donating to this worthy cause at the ALS Association’s website.


Much love,

Eagle Creek Trail Run – Quarter Marathon

This past Saturday, I completed my second quarter marathon trail run, the Eagle Creek Trail Marathon.  I am absolutely in love with trail running!  This time around, I even managed to cut off 23 minutes from my last run’s time!  Last trail run, I zoned out around mile 4.5, and missed the turn off for the trail we were running.  I didn’t realize it until about half a mile in, and then I had to backtrack, which definitely didn’t help my time.  This trail was much better marked, so I didn’t have that issue.  Also, this was a much “faster” trail, for some reason, even though there was a lot more elevation gain and tons of hills.  I really enjoyed myself though, and now I’m on the hunt for the next one to run!

J mentioned that he’d like to run the next one with me, so that’ll be a lot of fun.  We’ll need to train, but thankfully there’s a state park about 20 minutes away, so we can go after work or on the weekends.  The ones I’ve been running are also half and full marathons, so it would be really awesome if I could do the half at some point.  10552404_10104473410336689_83737202650760666_nThe quarter, right now, is a good distance for me.  I’m sore, but not terribly so…mainly just my knee (the right one, which is the one that has most recently had surgery) and my hip area.  I’m sure it probably has something to do with my stride, or my stabilizer muscles are weak in that leg due to surgery.  Either way, more training should help with that, and I’d like to do a half at some point (with J, preferably).

Here is a photo of me, after the race, with my medal.  I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my medals…probably a shadow box of some sort in my craft room (once we remodel it, because right now it’s a hot mess in there).  Or, I might do a cork board of some sort…not really sure yet.  I’m sure Pinterest has a blue million ideas, so I’ll probably start looking there to get some thoughts together.

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

Much love,

30 Days…Day 30!

Wow, I can’t believe the end of the challenge is here!  It actually went by incredibly quickly, which was surprising to me (as I thought I’d be miserable the entire 30 days, which wasn’t the case at all).  It’s almost like a mini-Lent, in a way.  I guess it sets the stage for Lent next year, and I can do this again for 40 days this time.  I’ll finish up today strong, so it will be a full 30 days, but tomorrow starts a new day.  I think I’d like to do another challenge like this (though I might not post daily on it, who knows), so if anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear there!


Day 30:  I did it!  30 full days with zero soda!  I also significantly cut down on my caffeine intake, as the only caffeinated beverage I drank was iced team (and not daily).  Overall, I’m pretty pleased and proud that I was able to stick to it!


Much love,

30 Days…Day 29. End of challenge eve!

Holy crap, I can’t believe tomorrow is the end of my 30 day challenge!  This month has flown by!  I know J (and my coworkers) is surprised I lasted this long, especially considering the sheer amount of soda I’d drink on a daily basis, but after the first few days it wasn’t hard at all!  That said, I’ll probably be having a Diet Mountain Dew as a celebratory drink, on Wednesday!


Day 29:  Only one more day!


Much love,