Freckles in April

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: The Food Part

One of my fav reminers. Food is fuel and exercise is a celebration. [source]


I've spent several weeks writing various iterations of this post and then something would change and I'd delete the whole thing and start over. Here's the truth: I have not totally figured out the food part. I feel like I've got the gym down; I go 4-5 times a week, I follow my lifting plan, I know what I'm doing and I'm seeing slow-but-steady progress.

Food is more difficult for a lot of reasons:
  • I'm not the only one I'm feeding and my kids and husband are particular about their food. 
  • Unless you see a professional food coach or doctor (and even if you do) there's bound to be some trial and error finding the right balance. 
  • I'm kind of a picky eater and some of the staples of weight lifters (eggs, fish) make me gag. 
  • We generally eat Michael Pollan style and a lot of protein powders and supplements that people use to hit their goals have long, sketchy ingredient lists


Here's where I SHOULD have started (but didn't): figure out how many calories you should be eating and how many you actually are eating. 

I didn't think I needed to do that. I ate fairly clean and had trained myself to stop eating when I started to feel full. I figured following my body's cues was getting me what I needed.

Surprise! I was undereating by quite a bit. I'm an ectomorph, which means I don't carry a lot of extra body fat. And since I wasn't eating enough calories to sustain my activity levels, my body was basically metabolizing my muscles for energy, even as I tried to build them. I dropped 3 lbs and started to feel totally trashed the rest of the day after the gym. Not in a "that was a good workout!" way, but in a "am I coming down with something? I might be dying" way.

There are a LOT of great options for fueling your body for exercise. I started counting macros because the logic of it appeals to me and I follow a lot of people on IG who have gotten really great results. I calculated my macros and it spit out higher calories along with a high carb/protein and low fat ratio for me. It didn't take long for my energy to come back and I started building a little bit of muscle. I bumped my calories up a little higher to put me into a surplus based on the caloric burn I saw from my FitBit and I finally gained back the weight I lost and a little extra.

Left was May 2016, right was earlier this week. Also, if you don't follow me on IG you may have missed my big chop

I debated long and hard on whether or not to share these pictures (so awkward for me) BUT it was these kinds of side-by-sides that convinced me to revamp my eating and increase my calories.

It took me a long time and a lot of trial and error to get here. Counting macros initially drove me INSANE and made me food obsessed. I went back and forth with it for ages. Also, even though I knew I needed to eat more there was a big mental block that kept me from doing it consistently. Eating more is scary. I had to slowly work my way up, especially because I'm a pretty light eater and had to train myself to eat more food more often. I got to 1900 calories. Then 2000. Then finally bumped to 2200 a couple weeks ago and I'm feeling really good (if a little uncomfortably full some of the time).

Very sad realization I had after I hit 2200 calories- in order to hit my protein goal I was consuming a LOT of dairy. Whey protein powder, Fairlife Milk, greek yogurt, etc. And I broke out like whoa. I decided to go off dairy for 2 weeks and see what happened. Within 3 days my skin cleared up. This is seriously the saddest lightbulb moment I've had in my entire life. I've struggled with breakouts for like 15 years and apparently dairy wasn't helping anything. So I'm off dairy at the moment. In a month or two I'll slowly reintroduce and see if there's a level I can tolerate without breaking out. I really miss cereal and milk.

My biggest and best tip to macro counting success: plan your food out and log it in the morning. Initially I was eating what I felt like over the course of the day and adding it to My Fitness Pal and then getting SO FRUSTRATED at the end of the day when I'd still need like 50g of carbs or 27g of protein. Now I sit down in the morning and plan out my whole day of food. I start by inputting breakfast (my big post-workout meal) and dinner (the meal I share with my family that needs to be something they'll eat). Then I use lunch and snacks to fill in as needed to hit my goals. I can mess with the amounts and types of food until it fits my macros before I even start eating for the day. Also, it's really nice to know exactly what to eat when I get hungry. I used to get so hungry in the mid afternoon and it was always a scramble to figure out what to eat. Now I just check my food log for the day and go grab my snack. It makes life easy.

I'm not an expert. I barely know what I'm doing so I'm not going to give any more real direction but I AM going to give you a list of resources so you can decide if this is worth trying.

Some resources for other people who are also trying to figure out The Food Part:

Macro Counting 101: If you have no idea what I'm talking about, start here.

TDEE calculator: "Total Daily Energy Expenditure" aka how many calories you burn in a day. This is also where my FitBit came in super handy- I adjusted my calories upward based on the average it charted over the course of several weeks.

Macros calculator: Useful even if you don't want to count macros because you can adjust for your goals and how aggressively you want to pursue them and it will tell you calories as well as macros.

My Fitness Pal: Use the free version to keep track of how much you eat. It's a pain at first and there's a learning curve as you figure out how to eat and track but I swear it gets easier. You'll need measuring cups and a food scale though.

Body type quiz: May or may not be useful to you, depending on if you fall heavily toward one body type or are more of a balance of the three. But if you're strongly one over the others then it may influence how you eat and train. I actually switched my lifting program, increased my rest periods, upped my carbs and changed my ultimate goals and expectations based on my body type and the recommendations I found.

Eating for your body type: related to the quiz above, I found this article and the graphics super useful on days I need a break from tracking my food. Some days I just do this:

From Body Type Eating

Some foods that make life easier
(I wrote most of this before I figured out my dairy thing. So there's a lot of dairy in here that I'm not eating right now)

Costco rotisserie chicken: I buy a chicken, shred it up, then stick measured portions into tupperware containers and keep them in the freezer. I'm chronically struggling to hit my protein goal so it's really nice to have a source of lean protein ready to roll at meal time.

Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes mix: This is a pancake and waffle mix that's pretty clean and high in protein. If you mix it with Fairlife milk and eggs you can get even more protein in. They're a little bland on their own but I kind of feel that way about most pancakes. The toppings make it for me- I like plain greek yogurt (more protein!) and berry compote (I use my frozen berry mix from Costco. Reduce on the stove, mash up, pour over pancakes) with a small drizzle of maple syrup to sweeten it all up. My Costco currently carries this for cheaper than Amazon!

Fairlife milk: I'm picky about milk. For years I've exclusively bought organic whole milk BUT, again, I have to work to hit my protein goals and I have trouble keeping the fat down so we've been doing Fairlife instead. It's filtered in such a way that increases protein and calcium but reduces sugar and lactose. I get 2% and chocolate (can't talk myself into skim. Maybe someday). The chocolate is mostly for Aaron but the other day we were out of other options so I used the chocolate milk in my Kodiak cakes and made chocolate pancakes and it was awesome.

Protein Powder: I was really reluctant to add protein powder to my diet because of the sketchy ingredient lists but the truth is that I can't consistently hit my protein macros without it. A girl can only eat so much chicken, you know? I found some yummy-ish flavored options but turns out all that fake sugar really upsets my stomach. I switched to plain whey for a while and my tummy handled it but my skin didn't. Now I'm doing brown rice protein (which tastes and smells exactly like brown rice. I actually really like it but it's still higher in sugar than I'd like and I'll be looking at other options when this canister is gone).

Greek Yogurt: I mix it into oatmeal, throw it on pancakes, and blend it into smoothies.

Halo Top: Not everyone likes this but, for me, the Chocolate and Oatmeal Cookie flavors are totally worth eating. If you're unfamiliar, it's a low-fat, low-sugar, higher-protein ice cream. An entire pint of chocolate is 240 calories. A pint of regular chocolate ice cream is just under 1000 calories. Tip: let it soften for a few minutes before you dig in. It'll go from sort of weird and crumbly to creamy. Although, confession: I like it weird and crumbly.

Quinoa and lentils: High in carbs and protein and low in fat, which is exactly what I need. I keep these stocked as well as whole grains like brown rice and barley.


Instagrammers who are better at this than I am and worth following:

@laurenbhealth - esp her IG stories. She does a lot of how-tos and good tips
@butteryourmacros
@thatmacromomlife
@iheartmacros
@caligirlgetsfit
@biceps.after.babies



If you made it this far, imagine me patting you on the back. This post was a beast.


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Friday, March 24, 2017

A Few Links

Just a few things I enjoyed reading on the internet this week and you might as well.

How to be happier according to the world's happiest man (who is, apparently, a Tibetan Monk originally from France).


How our perception of Harry Truman changed. I saw this graph this week charting presidential popularity. It's about Trump obviously but the most interesting line, to me, was Harry Truman's.


I knew he'd been unpopular at the time but didn't realize he'd had such a crazy fall from grace (his highs and lows are comparable to Bush 43 but he did it in 400 days vs W's 2000ish). It send me down the rabbit hole of reading about Harry Truman and here we are.


Reality contestants spent a year cut off from the world. Buuut turns out their show barely aired. (h/t Katie)


This girl planned her wedding in 5 days. On the one hand: good for her. Way to focus on your relationship and not the extra fluff of wedding planning. You don't need it! On the other hand: it may not have been stressful for her but I'd imagine it was for a lot of other people who had to scramble to make it work (the caterer, friends and family who dropped everything at the last minute to be there, etc). Mixed feelings!

Painful, horrible, terrible things most girls have experienced. Buzzfeed, man. Never not relateable.




Also relateable: Chris Pratt's IG series "What's my snack?"  I'm working on a (very long, probably useless) post about food for my gym series and I snort laughed watching his videos. I've been there.


Have you read anything good this week? Share!

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

We went to Barnes and Noble on a family date night a few weeks ago and right there on the "new releases" shelf was THIS.

Ok, I generally feel like I know about stuff. Even as a person who hasn't blogged in a while, I usually hear about upcoming things- promising new brands, interesting restaurants, new releases by famous authors. It's part of being in the blogging network- you just hear about stuff. But I had *no idea* The Chemist was coming out.

I hopped onto my library app and apparently I was the only one who didn't know about The Chemist because the waistlist was like 300 people long.

A few weeks later Janssen texted me and offered to share her audiobook version with me. There were still like 250 people between me and any copy from my library so I took her up on it and binge listened to it over the next few days.

Let me begin by admitting that I have a very weird relationship with Stephenie Meyer. I can't put her books down but I also know they're kind of terrible. I hate that I love them. When I bought one of the Twilight books I hid it under a pile of clothing in my closet because I felt so conflicted about owning it.

I do think her writing is getting better. The Chemist is maybe her least terrible in terms of writing style (although I haven't read The Host in ages so I can't say for sure. But it's def better than Twilight with its endless descriptions of Edward's marble torso). And I have to give her props for trying out different genres- The Chemist is a kind of black-ops thriller. She dedicated it to Aaron Cross and Jason Bourne and you can see their influence.

I quite liked the heroine. She's smart and capable which does my feminist heart good. Wimpy, moony Bella drove me bonkers through much of the Twilight series and Alex is kind of the anti-Bella. She can take care of herself and that was really refreshing coming from Stephenie Meyer.

Downside: this is still a very Stephenie Meyer love story.

They've known each other less than a week before someone utters the L-word. There's an assumption from early on that they're going to be together forever which would be reeeal creepy if they had just met on Tinder like normal people. Some of the love interest's dialogue made me a bit gaggy. LET IT BREATHE, MEYER. They can get together later in the book without these constant declarations of undying affection; why rush it??

Romantic tension just isn't her strong suit. She's more of the "throw them together and get it over with" type.

Fortunately, the rest of the plot is really fun with a secret government agency and torture and revenge and awesome dogs so I enjoyed it. I have no idea how much of it would hold up under scrutiny but you can tell she did her research and tried to make it as plausible as possible.

If you're a Stephenie Meyer hater, I doubt this one will sway you. But if you've enjoyed her other stuff then you should go grab this one.

Then come back and talk to me about it because no one I know has read it yet and I want to discuss.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Getting That Last Bit of Product

I kind of thought most people knew this trick but I just explained it to a friend and blew her mind. SO, here are some really ugly pictures I took in my husband's lab just now to explain how to get as much as possible out of makeup tubes with that annoying packaging that leaves a lot left at the top and bottom.


I LOVE my Wunderbrow but the packaging is so annoying. Fortunately, there's a way to get at ALL that product left at the top and at least a little bit from the bottom.



Products like this have a rubber gasket at the top to scrape excess product off the brush when you pull it out. I suspect it also helps keep the product from drying out since it limits airflow into the tube, so don't do this until you're pretty much at the end of what you can reach with the brush. It serves a purpose but it also limits how much you can get out.


Take a pair of needle nosed pliers and force the edge between the gasket and the edge of the makeup tube. Remove, rotate the tube and do it again. Work your way around the perimeter and the gasket should start to pop out a little bit.



Push the edge of the pliers under the lip and push the gasket up. Remove it from the tube.


Done! Now the brush can get at all the makeup stuck up at the top. It can also go slightly further into the tube without that gasket in the way so you can get a bit more out of the bottom. I'll get a couple more weeks out of my Wunderbrow now!
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Monday, March 13, 2017

On Having a Difficult Child

Stinky, aged 3


My oldest son was 6 weeks premature. He was a tiny little thing but he caught up quickly and became a healthy and strong toddler. He was my sidekick and we went everywhere together- library story time, the zoo, splash pads. He was sweet and funny and smart and I adored him.

And then he turned 3.

Here's what I wrote on my kids' private blog when he turned 3.5:

[Stinky] has become a big bowl full of sass and mean lately. Whenever I ask him to do anything he snaps, "NO Mom. STOP. Just stop talking." 
Um yeah. It infuriates me. 
He seems to be physically incapable of using a nice voice when talking to [Baby 2]. He's always yelling at him and just generally being mean. He refuses to share and has zero tolerance for when [Baby 2] is sad. It really upsets me and I've been at a bit of a loss as to how to handle it. At this point, [Stinky] just spends large amounts of his day in time out. 
This is probably the largest reason I haven't blogged here lately. I find it difficult to say nice things about [Stinky] and it makes me feel bad. He's my baby and I love him but I kind of want to send him to boarding school. I just have to keep reminding myself that it's a phase and it will pass! 

I could have written that exact same blog post at any point last year. It took six years to pass.

Part of the reason I decided in December that I wanted to blog again was because I had this incredibly difficult child that I just really needed to write about. I needed help. I needed suggestions. I needed commiseration. I needed to see if anyone else out there was dealing with this.

And then...we inadvertently figured it out.

Let me back up.

Stinky (now 9) became difficult at 3 and only got harder as he got older. The way in which he was difficult is always hard for me to define though- he could be really sweet and helpful at times (and he adores his little sister, thank heavens) but he could also be sneaky, manipulative and mean. He wasn't normal-kid-naughty; he was on a whole other level. I caught a lot of it but most of this ugly energy was turned toward his younger brother (almost 7). They were either best friends or Stinky hated his guts; there didn't seem to be much of an in-between. Aaron and I often wondered at what point a child's behavior should be considered abusive. We were always on eggshells.

One night over Christmas break I hid the baby monitor into their room. The way Stinky treated and talked to his brother while we were present was really awful and we were curious what he said when he thought we weren't listening. The things we heard terrified us. We immediately went back to their bedroom and removed him to the guest room.

Then I cried.

See, we'd tried everything. Over the years we'd offered incentives and given ever-increasing consequences. We'd given him more one-on-one time with each of us. We discouraged some friendships and encouraged others. We tried a couple different sports. We'd done therapy twice a month for a year at $100 per session. After his last meeting with his therapist she told me she didn't know what else she could do for him and recommended elevating him to a special clinic 45 minutes away to be "evaluated."

We were out of ideas. We loved him but he was hurting our family and he seemed so beyond reach. We didn't know what else to do except take him to the clinic and hope that labeling the problem would help more than it would hurt. We even considered taking him out of school, wondering if someone there was spurring his behavior in some way.

Then abruptly...he was better.

I mean, he's not a perfect child or anything, but his behavior is now more of what you would expect from the average 9 year old kid who doesn't like doing chores.

It's only been a couple months so I can't say with total certainty that he's moved on from the behavior we've dealt with for the past 6 years but I think I figured it out.

Stinky is a textbook introvert. His brother is an extrovert like whoa. We all find him a little exhausting, to be honest, but Stinky is the one who fields most of his energy because they're close in age, shared a room and are playmates. I think he simply kept hitting a wall where he was all-peopled-out and then his brother would just keep coming at him with all his energy and love and enthusiasm and he couldn't handle it and it turned into this big, ugly, behavioral problem.

He needed his own room.

After all those years, he just needed his own. damn. room.

When they shared a room he had nowhere to escape and have quiet and be alone. Now, he'll often disappear toward the end of the afternoon and go read a book with his door closed. He has a place where his loving-but-exhausting brother can't get to him without permission. He has a chance to rest and recharge and be by himself.

This might be a forever change or it might just be a small reprieve- whatever it is, I'll take it.

Moms with difficult children- I see you. I see how hard you're trying. I know the worries and the tears and the exhaustion and I want you to know that you're not alone.

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