Handful of Health

Holy Cow! Whole30 (or, How To Lose 10lbs in 30 Days)

Reading over past blog entries, I hadn’t realized how much I’ve changed since I started this blog two years ago. I went from an aspiring vegetarian and marathon-hopeful with worsening digestive issues, mood and skin problems to an aspiring cavewoman and black-belt hopeful with ever-increasing energy, well-being and self esteem.

I intend on explaining this transition in more detail in subsequent posts, but I’d like to start today off with a huge success!

As of yesterday, I have successfully completed my first Whole30 program, which is basically a 30-day, strict introduction to the wide range of paleo, primal, or ancestral styles of eating. If you’ve never heard those terms before, let me summarize it by saying it feels like the opposite of being a vegetarian. I have to laugh sometimes reading Facebook, since it seems like half my friends are trying to eat fewer animals, where the other half are trying to eat more.

I’ve been flirting with this way of eating for about a year now, but this is the first time I really stuck with a strict program that cut out the last few “gray area” foods I was having trouble doing without. It is the beginning of a journey of health discovery for me as I finally resolve or control some lifelong issues I had considered to be normal (eczema, depression, asthma, indigestion, fatigue, bloating, to name a few).

That said… how about some numbers?! If all y’all are half as geeky as I remember you being, you’ll love this shizz.

Before and After

Height: 5’8″
Weight: 160lbs
Body Fat*:  30.5%
Bust: 35″
Waist: 29″
Hips: 37″
Thigh: 24″
Height: 5’8″ (same, duh)
Weight: 150lbs (-10lbs)
Body Fat*:  30% (-0.5%)
Bust: 35″ (same — hooray!)
Waist: 27.75″ (-2.25″)
Hips: 35″ (-2″)
Thigh: 22.5″ (-1.5″)

*measured via bioimpedance

As a point of reference, here are photos comparing what I looked like in 2011 (at a weight of only 155lbs), looking sad and distended, vs. my fourth week of Whole30, feeling awesome enough to track my progress in a bikini top. ;)

Quite a difference, yeah?

So what exactly does this Whole30 “gig” (as Robb Wolf would say) look like? Did I cheat? Is it hard? Did it suck?

No, I did not have a “perfect” Whole30. Although I have never had a full-on eating disorder, I did spent many years with disordered eating habits, and I know that being too strict could trigger me to swing back 180 degrees out of the program. I had a few paleo treats and several alcoholic drinks during the program.

Did the food taste good? YES! Oh man, yes. I avoided “low fat” items like the plague, had all sorts of delicious dressings and sauces, enjoyed deviled eggs, and tried all sorts of new recipes that I totally loved. After making a couple meal planning tweaks halfway through the program (such as eating a real breakfast rather than subsisting on iced coffee), I got my appetite under control, and only was hungry a couple times a day before mealtime.

Was it hard? Yes, and no. The hardest part for me was the cooking portion, as I only ate three meals out during the entire program. Melissa from The Clothes Make The Girl summarizes my feelings about cooking pretty well:

I love Cooking and hate making dinner […]. Cooking is art and love and experimentation and relaxation and fun. Making dinner is “If I don’t get that food from its ingredient state into dinner state and into my mouth soon, I’m going to murder someone.”

I navigated my Whole30 using the detailed kitchen management and meal planning section of her great cookbook, Well Fed. Since I’m still pretty new to cooking, this translated to around 10 hours per weekend putzing around the kitchen prepping veggies, pre-cooking several kinds of meat, mixing up homemade sauces, and basically getting everything ready for a week of hassle-free breakfasts, lunches and dinners. However, I’m starting to really get the hang of it, so I don’t think it will be this time consuming for long.

The other hard thing for me was battling the Sugar Monster. Sugar — even natural sugars like honey and maple syrup — is delicious, deceitful, and does not agree with me at all. It’s also very addicting and difficult to kick. It takes me about two weeks to stop getting sugar cravings if I haven’t been careful about avoiding added sugars.

However, it was not hard in that, from around Day 3 on, I realized I prefer eating this way. I feel better, I look better, I perform better, and I like the food much better than I ever liked vegan grilled cheese sandwiches. I’ll slave in the kitchen for a day or two a week to maintain that, no complaints.

A Day In The Life: Whole30 Version

Last but not least, here’s the day-by-day experience of my last 30 days. I hope it helps reassure the current crop of August Whole30-ers. I also hope that maybe it will convince the fence sitters to dig in and give it a try.

It’s only 30 days, what could you possibly lose?

Day 1
: OMG. So. TIRED. Brain doesn’t want to work. (“Carb flu”…) The fiance is still wondering what I was babbling about tonight before I went to bed and passed out. I made no sense at all.
Day 2: Decent energy for kardio kickboxing. For some reason my hands were shaking badly during my afternoon henna gig. Thankfully, henna is a very forgiving art form. Down 3.4 pounds in water weight, my dress pants finally fit comfortably in the waist again.
Day 3: I’ve slept like crap all week (keep having to get up to pee in the middle of the night, plus I was sore from kickboxing), but my energy levels and mood were fantastic in the afternoon. Did my weekly shopping list and literally spent all day in the kitchen. Will pay off in easy lunches and dinners all week.
Day 4: Still getting up several times a night to pee. My ring is really loose this morning, indicating that my fingers aren’t bloated anymore. Feeling marginally more mentally capable today, haha.
Day 5: Didn’t sleep well last night due to stress. Might take magnesium tonight and see if that helps. My Sunday Cook-a-Thon paid off; I’ve had plenty of homemade food to eat and take to work with me. Good thing, too, because I am HUNGRY today!
Day 6: Noticed today that my lips aren’t as chapped as usual (harsh desert climate makes it hard to avoid). I’m not drinking gallons of water, but I am drinking more than usual. All the veg must help too!
Day 7: I’d say my first week has been a success! My BodyShot iPhone app says I’m down 6lbs (!) and 2.75″ (!!!). Still figuring out the food volume thing. I’m hungry a lot, but not “hangry,” which I think is an important distinction. I was so relaxed today that it felt like it should be illegal, being a work day and all.
Day 8: Objectively, I can’t tell if I look any different, but my attitude towards my appearance has gotten a definite upgrade! I guess it helps when your tummy isn’t bloated and sore all the time. My fiance told me this morning that I’m lookin’ good. :)
Day 9: Ran a 5K today. I don’t think I have my fueling down quite yet, because my legs (and arms?!) were incredibly fatigued by the end. Got a good deal on Fallon cantaloupe from Lattin Farms at the farmers market, so this week is going to be a little higher carb!
Day 10: Sleep is still interrupted as I apparently have to get up every two hours to pee. WTF? My fridge is BURSTING with food after today’s cook-a-thon, but I definitely need to get more efficient. It took all day. For the first time since I started the Whole 30, I felt pleasantly full** after a meal (roasted organic, local chicken — what a treat! — plus roasted carrots and mashed yams). Wondering if the extra carb helped.
Day 11: Had a couple meal flops, which increased my cravings for non-Whole 30 fare.
Day 12: Caved in and fed the sugar monster today with a package of Hail Merry macaroons. The ingredients are all paleo, but they still contain added sugars. :) Feeling good, though, and Eat Different tells me I’ve avoided grains, legumes, dairy and processed food for 12 days straight.
Day 13: My schedule dictated a rather late lunch today, but I felt pretty good on my usual coffee plus a snack of raw nuts and berries until mid-afternoon. My energy levels must be stabilizing.
Day 14: You’re not supposed to weigh yourself during the Whole 30, but I was really curious. I’m down another 1.2lbs this week, and another overall 1in.
Day 15: So tired. Went to bed super early and was exhausted by early evening again tonight.
Day 16: This may be TMI, but yesterday’s fatigue appears to be related to my cycle (light spotting today) — which is unusual, as I have used hormonal birth control for 10 years. On a partially related note, I’ve been reading at Paleo for Women that intermittent fasting (e.g., skipping breakfast) has the potential to be as unhealthy for women as it is healthy for men, so this week I’m going back to having protein with my iced coffee in the a.m.
Day 17: Cooking day! Had an easier time in the kitchen. Perhaps because I cooked more familiar dishes than brand-new ones. Over the last few days I’ve noticed my digestion has gotten a lot better, although I think there is still room for improvement.
Day 18: Adding in breakfast has helped exponentially! I had tuna salad to go this morning and have had steady energy all day long, with no hangriness as the afternoon wore on.
Day 19: Got kimchee and umeboshi (pickled plums) at the Asian market for a hit of flavor and probiotics. Meals will be fun this week!
Day 20: Lost another pound this week, plus my thighs magically shrunk by half an inch! Wonder if it’s related to estrogen regulation? My shorts all fit so much better now.
Day 21: I am on FIRE today!!! My self-esteem is super high. Attended Run Club for the first time in a few weeks. Surprisingly, I LOVE speed days and sprint workouts! Who knew! Plus, my MMA instructor who leads run club told me I’m getting definition in my thighs. To celebrate, I am wearing short shorts. :)
Day 22: Loving life today. Enjoying work, my relationships, my pets, my garden, and very much looking forward to what the future will bring!
Day 23: Need to make sure and keep more protein snacks around, especially at the end of the week when supplies are getting low and I need to go grocery shopping. I went a little crazy with the nuts/seeds/dried fruit after working out because I was starving and didn’t have any quick, “real” food. Suffice to say it didn’t give me the energy I needed to make a healthier meal. :(
Day 24: Starting to finally feel creative with cooking! This is HUGE. I’ve always had a hard time intuitively throwing dishes together.
Day 25: Sugary sweets do NOT agree with me. I had dairy and gluten free watermelon sorbet twice in the last few days, and I feel hungry and bloated today. Also, coffee with too much fat in it (whether cream or coconut milk) appears to be a bad idea for me first thing in the morning.
Day 26: Did I reset my carb burner?? Last night I was super tired, and this morning I was really groggy. However, I do feel better after a couple days without added sugar. And my tummy looks good again, too.
Day 27: Down another 1.8lbs and 2in! That makes for a total of 10lbs and 5.75in, with a few days left to go!
Day 28: I was super lazy last night and skipped making myself dinner, eating a plumb instead. That was a bad idea since Run Club was this morning! We did 400m sprints and I was having a really rough time, despite having a bit of tuna salad beforehand for breakfast. Lesson learned.
Day 29: Had a wonderful night out with friends! Cheated with alcohol, but kept the rest of my intake on-plan. I’m starting to dislike eating at restaurants. The paleo-friendly menu items always leave me hungry.
Day 30: Suffering from some Vitamin S deficiency today (SLEEP!), but overall feeling great!! Weekends are tough, and today I ended my Whole30 with a fizzle rather than a BANG! since I’m out of food and we attended a big picnic this afternoon. However, I’ve got my list ready to go for tomorrow. Looking forward to another Sunday cook-a-thon and another week of awesome paleo meals!
** Previously, I’d eat, and then I wouldn’t exactly be hungry, but I wouldn’t be full, either. My stomach just felt confused.

And now its time to start… Day 31!

Have you ever done a Whole30, or are you doing one now?
What is your experience with paleo?
Leave your comments and questions below! 

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What has 24 legs and runs all night long?

Why, a Reno-Tahoe Odyssey team, of course! Twelve runners per team, two days, and 178 miles from Reno, around Lake Tahoe, and back again (the long way).

This is by far my favorite running event ever. It kept me from giving up on running when I was having knee issues, and it reminds me that running is about more than burning calories or preventing heart disease. Despite all those solitary miles we run, in the end it’s about coming together with friends and strangers to have fun and push your limits. And sometimes it’s about wearing silly hats and screaming gleefully at strangers sprinting away in prison outfits. Or even about remembering someone special who is gone.

This will be my fourth year running the Odyssey, and it’s bound to be totally epic. You should follow our team (Fight or Flight) on Friday and Saturday morning at our live-updating website. (We anticipate running from 10am Friday through 2pm Saturday.) Get this, we’re so awesome that not only are we sponsored by a kick-ass Tahoe company called Corporate Visions — we’re also fundraising through the Corporate Visions Power Foundation to help kids with cancer in Northern Nevada.

Do you like kids? Do you hate cancer?! Do you have $10??!! JACKPOT!

–> Donate here <–


Of course, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll be bombarded with Odyssey babble whether you check our team website or not. You can feel free to give us a shoutout at #cvifightorflight if you’re a Twittaholic, too.

And now to travel back in time.

The year was 2010. Year of the monkey. Er, year of the Trunk Monkeys. When you run an adventure relay, you can count on your support vehicle providing you with water, encouragement, and occasionally a spirit tunnel. (I like to throw in some jazz hands during tunnel moments.)

The year 2009 will live in infamy as the year a a movie with a $300 million dollar budget used the font Papyrus for its fake language subtitles. (cough AVATAR cough) It will also be heralded by cute, furry creatures and Al Gore* as the year the Project Green Star Runners completely offset their team’s carbon footprint. We obviously took ourselves very seriously.

*Ok, maybe not Al Gore.

This was the first year of a team cohesive in spirit if not in name; the same core Green Star runners I shared a sweaty van with in 2009 ran with me as Trunk Monkeys in 2010 and are running with me again as Fight or Flighters this year.

And who can forget good old 2008? The very first year I ran the Odyssey, where I was welcomed into veteran team Scrambled Legs ‘n’ Achin. Which is pretty descriptive synopsis of the event, except it leaves out meeting hilarious teams from Houston who all wore fake afros.

So now you know what I’m going to be doing this weekend! If you’re in the Reno-Tahoe area, I urge you to cheer on runners you see on the road Friday and Saturday. If you’re not, maybe you should check out these other adventure relay races held elsewhere in the United States.

And no matter what, you really should consider donating to those cancer kids. Just sayin’.

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How Not to Train for a Marathon

The Big Sur International Marathon has come and gone, and I remain a 26.2 virgin. Nobody ever said “first time’s a charm,” so I’m taking the past six months as a learning experience.

The Theory

I can’t be too upset, because I didn’t follow a standard marathon training plan. Back in December, I recalled how cross-training maintained my ability to run 10K early in 2010. All I knew is that I wanted to include cross-training, but I had a really hectic schedule. Since the long run rules as arguably the most important aspect of a distance training program, I thought that perhaps one long run a week plus four days of cross-training would work. My chosen method of cross-training was martial arts, which is quite different from the bootcamp-style cross training that helped my 10K last year. For my long runs, I went by time rather than distance, pulled from a training program I downloaded on my iPhone.

The Practice

Surprisingly, my plan worked well through the half-marathon distance. Combined with awesome home-cooked meals and plenty of sleep, my running was going great. In February, I accomplished a training PR: 3 miles at a sub-10-minute-mile pace!

That was an epic run. I never thought I’d average a single-digit pace in my running career. I was hopeful that this meant my training would go well all the way through race day.

Things Fall Apart

The problem with running once a week is that your one run becomes incredibly important. You can’t skip it due to weather or scheduling surprises. And that the less time you spend pounding the pavement, the less conditioned your feet are for long distances. By the time my long runs ramped up to 13-15 miles, I started having foot problems. Specifically, blisters all over the balls of both feet and the outsides of my big toes. Missing a long run due to some crazy work deadlines didn’t help.

In April, a month out from marathon day, my longest run was 15 miles and I had one particular blister that prevented me from running more than 2 miles at a time. My hopes for a successful marathon began to dwindle. I experimented with taping my feet and did it wrong, causing an even worse blister that was so pernicious that I strained the pinky-toe side of the same foot from favoring the blistered area.

This is also when I picked up an awesome book called Fixing Your Feet. Unfortunately, the book agreed that it was probably too late. I could tape to prevent blisters, but the fact was that although I hadn’t under-trained, I had not properly conditioned my feet. The good news is that I finally learned how to properly tape my feet, which allowed that darn blister to start healing, which started to ease the strain on the outside of my foot.

What really happened on race day?

Well, I certainly didn’t drop out of the marathon completely! What I did do was transfer my registration from the 26.2 to a 10.6 event, which I walked with my “sponsor” (my boyfriend’s mom) and two friends.

Honestly, the weekend was super awesome, which made it hard to be depressed about my marathon fail. We hung out in Carmel, had our morning coffee on the beach and spent a fun night with friends. And the race expo was incredible! I got to see Bart Yasso’s “world-famous PowerPoint,” with pictures and stories from a lot of the events he describes in his book (which I loved). He is incredibly inspiring! And it was fun to introduce my boyfriend’s mom to some of the run-geekery described by Yasso. And, of course, the expo retailers were fantastic. I’m looking forward to giving the ladies a review of Sweaty Bands, because — just like their tagline says — “OMG, they don’t slip!”

I am glad I only walked. My foot was sore by the 2-mile mark, and at the end, they ached as much as if I had run the 10.6. Great views, epic on-course entertainment and good company made it fly by.

Future Goals

I had almost as much fun watching the marathon runners pass us walkers towards the finish, and cheering them on, as I did participating in the walking event, so I left the weekend as stoked to run a marathon as I was six months ago. I’m definitely aiming for a marathon in 2012. However, I’m going to do it differently this time by adding at least two midweek runs to my once-a-week long run and cross-training. I’m also going to use an ultra (longer than 26.2-mile) training plan, since most training plans don’t have you running the full distance before race day, which never fails to stress me out.

For a half marathon I have coming up in September, I’m currently using the Run Coach Pro iPhone app “couch to marathon” program. I really like it so far. And I think that the half marathon is quickly becoming my favorite distance. However, I really, really want to run at least one marathon in my life! Hopefully, that will be the Big Sur 2012.

Have you ever had to drop out of an event?
How did it affect your training?

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Running in the Cold

I think I’ve finally hit on a combo I like for running in dry, not too windy conditions between 20-40 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a mix of stuff I’ve had in my closet (fleece tops from Christmases past, a summer running tank, a spring/fall running long sleeve) and a couple extras I had to get for colder conditions (breathable gloves, something to cover my ears).

Base layer: My favorite running bra; a long, sweat-wicking tank top; sweat-wicking running tights; Balaga socks; running shoes with enough tread to handle patches of snow.

A little extra warmth layer: A wicking, long-sleeved running shirt (preferably with thumb holes to keep the sleeves down over my wrists); baggy athletic pants (you know, the generic kind with the three stripes down the side).

Toasting toppings layer: A lightweight, long-sleeved fleece with a collar.

Warm accessories: Gloves that keep my hands warm but don’t get soggy with sweat (I got the Under Armour variety from Scheel’s on Saturday); a baseball-style running hat; a headband with a fleecy interior to cover my ears that still fits over my hat. A beanie with a brim could probably substitute for the hat plus ear warmers.

Gadgetry: An iFitness belt so I can easily carry my phone — which has pretty much replaced my Garmin thanks to the RunKeeper Pro app — and some chapstick.

If I got overheated in any of that stuff, it would have been pretty easy to peel off one layer at a time and tie it around my waist. I get cold easier than I overheat, so on my long run on Sunday I felt fine the whole time in that get-up, especially considering that all my technical base layers wicked the sweat away before it could make my clothes soggy and cold. It was in the low 30s.

If you do overheat, and you do loops, you could always drop each layer off at your point of origin (e.g. your car, your house) and it will be waiting there for you when you’re finished with all your laps.

If it was colder, windier, or wetter, I’d probably want to get a full-on balaclava (you know, like what bank robbers wear — keeps your face from going numb) and some wind- and water-proof pants and jacket, and substitute the the baggy athletic pants with a heavy pair of sweats that are nice and fleecy inside. You can also find warmer base layers than tights and a tank top if it routinely drops below 20 degrees where you live.

Of course, there’s always the treadmill! All you need are shorts and a t-shirt all year long. :)

Stay warm, friends!

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Eye of the Tiger

I spent two hours last night tearing through every bit of pack-rat nonsense I’ve hung onto since grade school. I found everything from my middle school BFF’s only squeaky-clean discipline card to my award-winning 4th grade short story about a poet and a dragon.

Why did I submit myself to dust, belly button lint and mouse droppings for two hours?

To find my inner tiger!

My senior year of high school, I decided that I wanted to get fit, learn some self defense and have a little fun. I joined what was then called Tiger Kung-Fu Academy (now Zai Martial Arts Academy). It was a huge part of my life until I started college the next year. I joined a leadership program that involved advanced classes, assisting instructors in beginner classes, and even teaching after-school programs for elementary school kids.

Kids are so awesome. I mean seriously, check out the horse stance on that kung-fu bunny rabbit!

I also did Chinese Lion Dancing (mostly the cymbals, but sometimes I got to be the lion’s butt) and weapons demos, such as the Golden Dragon Fan form.

I'm the only girl in the lineup. If you still can't tell -- I'm to the right of the drummer ;)

Yeah, that’s 18-year-old me in 2001. That was me ten years ago.

I’ve missed martial arts, so I decided to sign back up. It’s part of my quest for mastery, which is the same reason I’m training for a marathon. In a few years, I’m going to be 30, and I want to stick with something long enough to get really good at it. My brother used to say, “If I had spent half the time I wasted on World of Warcraft doing something productive, I could have a black belt by now.” (I think he’s redeemed himself, by the way — he’s a pretty kick-ass sheriff’s deputy with a beautiful family.)

Besides, who can argue with functional fitness — strength, flexibility and self defense?

I walked in today as they were starting their Little Tigers kids’ class, intending to sign my ass up for a white sash, start over from scratch.

“So, have you done martial arts before?” the instructor at the counter asked.

“Actually, I used to be a student here. Like, ten years ago.”

“Oh really? That’s pretty neat. What rank were you?”

“I think I had just started my purple sash*.” (Actually, I was about halfway through it — that’s why I had to dig through all my crap yesterday, I couldn’t remember for sure what rank I was!)

*Purple is like 3/8ths of the way to black, so it’s not terribly advanced or anything. In the words of the instructor at the counter, “That’s when you’re starting to think you know something about kung fu!”

I didn’t feel very purple at the time. I stuttered, and my hands were cold, and I was anxious about whether any of these guys were instructors 10 years ago and if they’d be offended if I didn’t remember their names. I couldn’t even remember what the first basic form was called, let alone how to do it.

It’s Ng Lun Ma, by the way. This is the feet-only version:

Anyway, an awkward chat with Sifu (sifu is to Chinese martial arts what sensei is to Japanese ones; he’s the head instructor and owner of the school) and a few pages of paperwork later, and we’re pulling my uniform from the wall.

Sifu grabbed a purple sash.

“Uh, Sifu,” I protested, “it’s been ten years. I feel like a beginner. I don’t know if I deserve this.”

“You earned it,” he said. “Next week, let’s schedule some private lessons to get you up to speed. You’ll pick it back up fast.”

All I can say is, I’m glad I found my notes. I might spend most of this weekend practicing on my own so I don’t look like a total noob next week.

Also, how weird is it that I can refer to stuff I did 10 years ago, and I’m still more or less referring to my adult life? Getting older is strange.

PS, I got an email today saying that the RunKeeper Pro app (iPhone and Android) is free through January. It has a lot of useful features, and can be a fun way to stay motivated with any running-related resolutions you’ve planned for 2011.

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