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I have a confession. More accurately, I made a confession in my last post, and now it’s time to do some ‘splaining.

As my initial two weeks of food logs might lead you to believe, I wasn’t super-strict about my eating from the get-go. I am actually fine with that, as I was able to hop right back in line without giving up completely or going on a multi-day bender of soda/cookies/pizzas/burritos…(seriously this list could go on and on, so let’s just say “etcetera”). This loose approach to this eating lifestyle was not at all useful in improving my symptoms in a timely manner.

Honestly, my very first experience eating like a caveman produced a drastic improvement in a matter of 5 days. My sinuses felt free and clear as they had never been before. I didn’t even realize I’d had sinus problems until those issues were gone. I’ve mentioned before all of the miraculous improvements in the painful skin rashes on my face (I know, awful!), sleep, mental clarity, digestion and more. Anyway, my point is that this time was clearly different. Nothing was so drastic as a smack upside the head like the first round. I kept waiting for an obvious sign of improvement, a threshold of success to be met for any of my symptoms. Nothing. It was sincerely disappointing.

Let me tell you, that is not very motivating.

I did persevere for about 4 weeks, though not in strict adherence. Then the wheels fell right off the bus. It was a conscious decision that toppled me and my dedication for over a week.

We took a trip to Austin, Texas for a Warrior Dash 5K race with JP’s family. I caved at the airport on the way out for a disgusting sandwich I couldn’t even take 3 bites from, a gigantic oatmeal raisin cookie, and a soda that was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

It did not stop there. I took full advantage of the weekend trip to drink Shock Top beers at Warrior Dash, stuff my face with Texas barbecue and extra sauce, more soda, and JP’s niece and nephew’s birthday cake.

Warrior Dash!

Warrior Dash!

I’m not proud, but it didn’t stop there. We got home from Austin and went directly to a 30th birthday party at local restaurant. There were crab cakes, sliders, drinks, and an incredible plethora of mini-desserts that I piled proudly on to a plate and shoved into my pie hole. That week also include JP’s promotion dinner at a swanky Italian restaurant, a farewell happy hour and dinner for a coworker, and a 38th birthday party. I was powerless against the temptation that week and gave myself permission to go nuts. I should mention that we didn’t have any food at home since we hadn’t gone grocery shopping since the week before our trip to Austin. That was the real dagger, I think.

The interesting thing is that those symptoms that I had been to waiting for to disappear…came back! I had no idea that they had gone because it had occurred subtly over the course of 4 weeks instead of in a big-bang in the first week as I was expecting. Sure enough, I was feeling sinus pressure and my congestion returned; my digestion was off; a dry rash appeared on my face (hot!); and my sleep was restless, at best. That was it. That was the motivation that I needed. I wanted to take back control of my health.

I made a list, went grocery shopping, and have been back on the wagon and stronger than ever for just over a week and a half. I have not strayed, even once, from the plan. I won’t lie though, I was in a pissy mood for almost a full week when I got back on board and I almost threw my hands up in defeat after 6 days. I was emotional, and feeling unsupported and deprived- an unfortunate combination. I pushed through with JP’s support and some creative menu planning, and I’m feeling better that ever.

I’m not expecting miracles this time. I am, however, trying to listen to my body and appreciate the tiny steps toward wellness and real health. I feel fantastic. I’m happy to have my energy back and my brain working at full capacity again. I even managed to make it through a potluck celebration and a separate birthday celebration at work this week. I brought a fantastic homemade, Paleo pulled-pork to the potluck and an apple to the birthday cake-cutting. I rocked it!

I, one day, hope to be able to indulge a bit sporadically, but for now, I need to focus on my health, conquering my sugar and simple carbohydrate addictions, and figuring out how to make this a long-term lifestyle change.

Cheers to taking control of my own health!

Have you ever tried to do something, health-related or not, and fallen flat on your face?? Do you have any triumphs to share??

Two more successful weeks under my belt with only minimal deviation from the Paleo/Anti-fungal/Sugar detox adventure. The week that followed those successful weeks (last week) was a disaster, but more on that in a separate post. I decided to skip the daily diet play-by-play and get down to the good stuff- the best of the best recipes that keep the taste buds sated and the motivation revved up to maintain this eating lifestyle.

On the menu for today: Ginger Chicken Soup!

My new favorite soup!

My new favorite soup!


I found this recipe on a search for Paleo-friendly soups. I love chicken noodle soup. I haven’t made it much in the past, but this lingering winter weather necessitated a hearty, warm, savory dish. Obviously, the noodles had to go, but my search took me to a simple, yet fabulously satisfying chicken soup with ginger, scallions and veggies.

The only change that I made was to pan sauté and hand shred chicken breasts instead of using store-bought rotisserie chicken. Unfortunately, I’ve found that many grocery stores add sugar or grain-based additives to flavor the chickens- boo! I guess that explains why they are so delicious. I think JP is missing the rotisserie chicken from Harris Teeter more than anything else since I’ve taken the Paleo challenge…poor guy.

Anyway, I found a super simple way to cook tender, juicy chicken breasts. Until I found this step-by-step tutorial at The Kitchn, I struggled with dry, over-cooked (or seriously under-cooked) chicken breasts. It was pathetic, really, but I have finally graduated beyond destroyer of chicken breast status.

I did have to take out a few ingredients (and therefore, a couple of steps) for Paleo compliance, but the end result is still quite delicious! My version:

No-Fail Chicken Breast, Paleo-style
2 or 3 boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper, just a pinch of each
Olive oil

    Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
    Lightly salt and pepper the chicken.
    Add olive oil once pan is hot.
    Add chicken breasts to the pan and cook for about a minute on each side until just golden.
    Turn the heat to low and cover with a fitted lid for 10 minutes (exactly!)
    After 10 minutes, turn the stove top heat off, but leave the pan where it is and keep the lid on for 10 more minutes.

That’s it! Once your 20 minutes are up, you have juicy, anything-but-boring, chicken breasts. The trick is that you CANNOT peek, poke or mess with it at all once you put the lid on. Check for doneness and enjoy. If you’re going to use this chicken for the Chicken Ginger Soup, try shredding with a fork while it’s still warm- just try not to burn your finger tips…not that I did that or anything. Who am I kidding? I am the clumsiest person in the kitchen and I just need to own that…now you know. And knowing is half the battle!

So using whatever chicken you select, here is the soup recipe that I found at lachapstickfanatique:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
64 oz of chicken broth (I found that Imagine makes an organic broth without sugar, yeast, or gluten)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 chicken breasts, cooked
4 scallion stalks, thinly sliced (The scallions totally make the soup!)

    Heat olive oil in a stock pot. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes or so.
    Add the broth, carrots, and celery and bring to a boil.
    Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.
    Shred the chicken while the soup is cooking and add to the pot.
    Add the scallions now if you plan to eat the soup in the next couple of days. (If you plan to freeze the soup, add the scallions when you reheat to get the full flavor of the scallions since they aren’t the most robust herbs.)
    Continue cooking for a few minutes and serve!

It is so delicious that I scarfed down a huge bowl and went back for seconds. I also ate my lunch the next day at 11:00 am because I just couldn’t wait to have more soup! Enjoy!

And because I just love Murphy’s photo bomb…

Can you tell how bummed he is that I ate it all?

Can you tell how bummed he is that I ate it all?


Let me know if you try this and what you think! If you have any other suggestions, I would love to hear about them!

This is a recap of my second week- technically my first full week- of clean, Paleo, sugar detox, anti-fungal eating! Good lord, I’m high maintenance ;)

Day 1- Monday

I woke up sleepy, but with decent energy. My skin felt great, but I did experience some sinus pain, a headache in the afternoon, and some intense craving for nothing specific.

Breakfast: Rooibos tea, almonds and blueberries

Lunch: Chicken with broccoli- plain but good, just not enough of it.

Snack: Homemade butternut squash soup

Dinner: Steak with Brussels sprouts, bacon and walnuts

Dessert: Strawberries with almond butter

So amazingly good dipped in guacamole

So amazingly good dipped in guacamole

On a side note, we are going through food so fast! Not only did I commit to this dietary change, but I also decided to challenge myself to NOT spend any money on food at work. We have a big cafeteria, a convenience store, and vending machines in my office building, all of which offer two star processed food at four star prices. Combining those two efforts mean that I need to go back to the grocery store again. I found some new recipes to try this week, so the I had to pick up some fun ingredients like ground bison, fresh ginger, coconut flour, and coconut aminos.

Day 2- Tuesday

Breakfast: Rooibos tea, blueberries and almonds

Lunch: Steak with Brussels sprouts, bacon and walnuts

Dinner: Almond flour-crusted tilapia with broccoli and carrots

Dessert: Strawberries and almond butter

 

Day 3- Wednesday

Breakfast: Rooibos tea, scrambled eggs and bacon

Lunch: Chicken with broccoli and carrots

Dinner: Zucchini fritters (minus the cheese)

 

Day 4- Thursday

Breakfast: Rooibos tea, blueberries and almonds

Lunch: Chicken and green beans

Snack: Green apple and almond butter

Dinner: Salmon and broccoli

Dinner: Strawberries and almond butter

 

Day 5- Friday

Breakfast: Rooibos tea, scrambled eggs and bacon

Lunch: Chicken and green beans

Snack: Green apple

My friend and I got a deal on 6 weeks of barre classes, so we met up after work to get our butts kicked by our instructor, Laura. Awesome class! Definitely worth it for the introductory deal that we got, but I’m not sure it’d be worth full price. We’ll keep going, and I’ll give a more thorough review in a future post.

Dinner: Pork tenderloin (minus the mustard) and green beans

Day 6- Saturday

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and bacon

Snack: Strawberries with almond butter

Lunch: Butternut squash soup

Dinner: Chicken drumsticks with salad, olive oil, and salt plus Elk Cove Condor Pinot Noir- We had dinner at our friend’s house, and she graciously planned a menu to accommodate my dramatic eating requirements. We brought our Pinot Noir bottle that we bought at the Elk Cove vineyard outside of Portland, Oregon. I only had one big glass, and it was glorious!

Day 7- Sunday

Murphy was a whiny brat in the morning, just like I am when I need exercise. So, we went for a 2 mile run that did not go very well. I got slightly dizzy and a bit nauseous at about 3/4 of a mile which made the fact that I saw a man riding down the middle of the residential street on a gigantic unicycle a bit surreal. I did question my sanity or a minute, but it was real- a dude on a freaking unicycle with a wheel that was almost 5 feet in diameter. I am so pissed at myself for not getting a picture! It was fantastic.

Breakfast: Bison scramble with red pepper and onion

>

They look so pretty before I get a hold of them.

They look so pretty before I get a hold of them.

The next few hours were a kitchen-related blur of activity during which I got excited about making root vegetable chip, ran out to buy a mandolin slicer, made probably the best guacamole that have ever had, the worst beet chips you could possible imagine (how can something be soggy and burnt at the same time?!?!) and mouth-watering bison meatballs.

I reiterate that I am not being paid, compensated, or sponsored in anyway for this post. The links are to actual recipes that I have used successfully (or not so successfully!). Further, I am not a doctor, so the information that I post here is strictly for entertainment and educational purposes.

So at the end of the first week in my attempt to clean up my eating and bring back some equilibrium to this unbalanced body of mine, I’d like to regale you with the gory details. You, my friend, are very welcome.

This was a short week since I started once we got back from Portland (what up, p-town!? wait, what? oh, they don’t call it that? lame-never mind then)

Okay then:

Day 1- Wednesday
Back home and back to work
After a late night stop at McDonald’s on the way home from the airport, I had no appetite for breakfast. Normally, I am a religious breakfast-eater.
Lunch: Braised beef over mixed greens with pico de gallo and lime juice- This was what I could pull together at a restaurant for a going away lunch gathering for a coworker- it was refreshingly fresh.
Snack: Homemade butternut squash soup
Dinned: Ground beef with diced zucchini, carrots, broccoli and spices

Day 2- Thursday
Let’s call this circular saw to the head day! I woke up with, what I can only imagine was, a caffeine headache that lasted all damn day.
Breakfast: Rooibos tea, almonds and blueberries
Lunch: Leftover ground beef and veggie mix
Snack: Homemade butternut squash soup- from the freezer
Dinner: Salmon and Brussels sprouts, bacon and walnuts
Dessert: Almond butter with strawberries (I should note that I am also a religious dessert-eater- which may explain how I got here)

Day 3- Friday
Though the brutal headache continued in to the early afternoon, I definitely noticed a bit of relief from the intense and consistent sinus pressure that I’ve been feeling for months (years??).
Breaskfast: Eggs and bacon
Snack: Almonds and blueberries
Lunch: Chicken breast with zucchini, carrots, onion and garlic with almond butter and coconut milk sauce
Snack: Couple of cashews
Dinner: Tilapia with almond meal crust and lemon juice (holy crap, I made something quick, easy, AND delicious!) and Brussels sprouts, bacon and walnuts
We went to a late night movie and obviously I had a laser-focus on avoiding popcorn, soda, and Reese’s pieces (oh man, so good!) because I decided that sneaking in some cut-up, bite-sized pieces of pineapple was the perfect solution! It only occurred to me when I woke up that pineapple is banned substance for the time being. Moron!

Day 4- Saturday
My skin is feeling less dry, but I’m still a bit lethargic. Also, thanks to the pineapple (I think!), my sinus pressure is back. We bummed around watching Pitbulls and Parolees (a new guilty pleasure of mine apparently). In the afternoon I took Murphy for a 2 mile run to shake off the sluggishness.

Murphy

Good boy!


Breakfast: Eggs and bacon
Snack: Smoothie with almond milk, spinach, blueberries, strawberries and cinnamon (this wasn’t very good, bland and thin)
Sooooo, as a belated Valentine’s Day dinner, we went to Chima, a Brazilian steakhouse in our area, that is known for being a carnivore’s happy place. Waiting for our table, I got a glass of fantastic Chianti at the bar (totally worth it, by the way). My go-to would have been a Crown Royal and Coke, so straying from the corn whiskey and soda felt like a small achievement that I could celebrate. Servers with spears of beef, chicken wrapped in bacon, beef ribs, and pork ribs passed by, dropping their delectable delights onto our plates. I was feeling good about my trip to salad bar to get the beets and some arugula salad with sundried tomato and fresh mozzarella. I could have done without the dairy, but I am not even have worried about that because the wheels fell completely off of the bus once I got back to the table to see small plates of polenta fries, cheese bread, fried plantains, and mashed potatoes. I dug in like it was my last meal as an inmate on death row. What a sucker!? Needless to say, at that point I simply decided that the detox would begin anew in the morning because KEY LIME PIE! (nom nom nom)

Day 5- Sunday, fun day
Oh, not good. Welcome back sinus pressure, dark circles under my eyes, and a slight headache that wore off quickly. Ready for a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese for a 6 year old boy. Did you know that they serve beer there? And pizza? I’ve had the honor of being invited to quite a few CEC birthday celebrations on the last three years. So, yeah, I knew…but I nailed it!
Breakfast: Almond and blueberries in a container to go (I’m so smart!)
Lunch: Leftover almond coconut milk chicken and veggies
Dinner: Spinach salad with chicken, blueberries, walnuts, lime juice and an olive oil drizzle
Cashews to munch on
Dessert: Almond butter on strawberries

Back on the wagon, amigos. Here we go!

I will start working in links to the recipes for the meals that required them. And, for the record, I am not cool enough to write sponsored posts or use affiliate links. Anything that I link to is simply worthy enough to share with you all.

Time to go shopping

…for paleo and sugar-detox friendly groceries!

Seriously…Why aren’t you as excited as I am?

I really needed to go shopping. Since we’d been out of town for almost five days, our refrigerator was in a very pathetic state: no fresh fruits or veggies, no fresh meats, and short on eggs. We did have, however, plenty of soda and Reese’s peanut butter cups. The detox that I’m working on is intended to be a jump start in to a lifestyle shift. I’m combining a standard Paleo diet with a sugar detox and the Anti-Fungal diet that worked so well for me years ago. To explain, I needed to cut out grains, dairy, refined or process sugary foods, and anything that contributes to a sugar imbalance in my body (like my beloved potatoes and bananas).

The hope is that I can achieve a comfortable, healthy balance that allows for some indulgence on rare occasions, but leaves me feeling satiated and content. I’d like to be able to add in foods that don’t provoke a negative response as time goes on, and identify the foods that really trigger my health issues.

So my acceptable foods list includes:

Groceries Fail

Not in my house!

  • Chicken stock
  • Almond meal
  • Almond milk
  • Coconut oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut flour
  • Coconut aminos
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Steak
  • Ground bison
  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Pork tenderloin
  • Tilapia
  • Salmon
  • Chicken for roasting
  • Chicken breasts
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Granny smith apples
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Avocado
  • Flax seeds
  • Zucchini
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Snow peas
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Butternut squash

Time to get creative! Next post will be an update of week 1 with my diet log for you all to judge. It’s okay…I don’t mind.

We spent a long weekend in Portland, Oregon visiting friends. My first trip to the Pacific Northwest was everything that I had dreamed it would be and so much more. Everyone that I know from the PNW gets this dreamy nostalgic look in their eyes when they talk about their hometowns or even the region and how somehow, someday they’ll move back. I was skeptical (that’s normal for me though), but I have to say that now that I’ve been for a visit- I get it. It was pouring the entire time we were there, except for the times we decided to find indoor activities to get out of the rain (that sounds about right). They say that it’s normally just a drizzle for most of the winter, but somehow we managed to show up during a monsoon-esque storm that followed a spectacularly warm and sunny January. Anyway, despite my bitterness about our weather-related luck, or lack thereof, the rain was not a deterrent at all. We had so much fun!

Schnitzer Concert Hall

Schnitzer Concert Hall

We took a very early flight out on Saturday morning with a layover in Chicago and final arrival in Portland before noon- I love the East to West travel time-change bonus! Our hosts immediately whisked us to a microbrewery for midday beer, lunch and the most amazing pretzels sticks (think bread sticks, but infinitely better) served in a pint glass with extra sides of a delectable beer-cheese dipping sauce. The BF ordered the extra-meaty calzone that could have fed a small village in Guatemala… Good stuff. There were two exercise bikes set up outside that patrons could use to generate electricity for the restaurant and savings for themselves! Just a 15 minute bike ride saves a buck on your tab- what a bunch of crazy hippies! I love it!

We went to visit Pacific University so that my friend could recount the good ole days from over a decade ago (oh man are we old…). We took a detour to Elk Cove Vineyard and had a tasting of some phenomenal wines. We bought three bottles! We also bought a pair of adorable wine glass that were a poorly planned purchase given the long flight home, BUT totally worth it. I had my first Jack-in-the-Box, a locally-sourced cherry chocolate Burgerville milkshake, and a saucy, unique treasure of a breakfast burrito from The Big Egg (my first food truck pod experience! Oh you didn’t know that a grouping of food trucks in one location is a called a pod? Me neither- now we are both in the know with the other cool kids). We covered a big item on the tourist list: Wait in line for Voodoo Doughnuts. The doughnuts were unreal and hilarious…just check out the menu- some of it is X-rated.

Delicious doughnuts

Delicious!

Oh, and on top of that, my friend is a wonderful cook and hostess who served a homemade caramel pecan breakfast bread one morning and a walnut tortellini for dinner that occupies my dreams to this day. All of this is to say that I happily ate and drank my way through Portland.

And now the fun begins.

We got home very late Tuesday night and Wednesday began my sugar detox-Paleolithic eating adventure.

It’s time. Dry skin, red bumps, chronic sinusitis, stomach issues, fatigue, and other exciting symptoms are telling me that I’ve got an imbalance going on. I’ve cut out soda for a couple months, gone gluten-free for months, and all with no tangible relief. It is, therefore, time to go all in. The posts that follow will describe my food shopping, recipes, cooking, eating, symptoms, and experiences with this year’s attempt to achieve some balance within my body. Expect kitchen disasters galore!

Ah, the Paleo Diet, or what I called the caveman diet when I tried it for the first time two years ago. As a quick history, I was having these undeniable cravings for enormous quantities of fruit. A simple Google search provided two possible results: I was pregnant or had an imbalance of candida in my body. Ignoring the first option for various reasons, I started digging a bit deeper into this idea that my food choices were causing a microbial disruption within my digestive system that, in turn, caused me to crave more sugar. I guess we skipped that topic in my nutrition classes…

Anyway, I began reading about the various ailments that people were attributing to an overgrowth of candida, and I was shocked to learn that so many issues that I had been living with were being alleviated by others through dietary changes. I had never put these issues together as having the same root cause because they seemed so drastically unrelated and random: my brain fog, fatigue- even after plenty of sleep, sinus congestion, weird skin rashes, and more.

Now, I cannot vouch for the scientific validity of the candida anecdotes. I, myself, tried two forms of anti-fungal medications, since candida albicans is technically a fungus, with absolutely no improvement. Many healthcare professionals, including the ones I spoke with, are taught that yeast overgrowth is only found in folks with HIV or other immune system suppressing conditions. My guess is that some of us are walking around with somewhat suppressed immune systems stemming from unknown/unrecognized causes, but that’s just speculation. What I know is that, for me, the culmination of these unresolved health issues (and years of allergy meds, nutritional supplements, and topical creams) into one specific condition that could be controlled through my eating habits seemed beyond coincidence. I’d be stupid not to give it a try; the worse case scenario would be that it didn’t work and I was left right where I started…

I decided to try out a version of the Paleo diet, called the Anti-Fungal diet. Paleo hadn’t become the buzzword that it is now, but the ideas are very similar: cut out the processed foods, grains, sugars, and most dairy (in this case, I could keep butter and Greek yogurt). These are the things that fungi feed on, allowing candida to spread and, supposedly, wreak havoc on the system. To be completely honest, the first 4 days were horrific; I was cranky, sleepy, unable to concentrate, my skin got a bit more irritated, my stomach was not happy (I’ll spare you the details), and good God all I wanted was a damn soda! On that 5th day, however, I woke up without an alarm after 7 hours of sleep (SO not like me), and felt incredible. I was clear-headed, congestion-free, and 8 pounds lighter. Within a week, my skin had healed and was softer and less dry than it had been in years. I had to adjust to the diet, but the physical cravings disappeared and I felt good, really good. I lasted about 8 weeks, and tapered to a semi-Paleo diet for a few months after that. Then, I just got lazy. The benefits, however, lasted for over a year. It’s been quite some time since I gradually fell of the wagon, and I have noticed a recurrence of some symptoms. So, my goal here is to detail my transition back toward the Paleo lifestyle.

The truth is that this is a lifestyle, not just a diet. There really doesn’t need to be an end to healthier eating. And the results are not for weight loss in my case, though I do expect some. I will document the process regularly, including my feelings, symptoms, diet strategies and so on. I plan to do this in a more staggered, transitional approach than I did in the past. Hopefully, my experiences can offer some guidance to anyone attempting a transition of their own. I’d love to hear about your own stories with the Paleo lifestyle or any other transition that has made you healthier and/or happier.

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