Category Archives: challenges

Update on goals

I decided to kick my caffeine habit on Monday, May 24th and I am happy to say that so far, so good.

I still drink one cup of caffeinated tea per daybut that is significantly less caffeine than I was consuming (19 mg caffeine vs. 90). I have only had one minor breakdown where I was literally falling asleep at my desk and had to have a cup of the “real” stuff.

(Image Source)

But once in three weeks is pretty good, no?

I wish I could say it is helping me sleep better but that has actually taken a downturn (hence falling asleep sitting up). I’ve been up every night past 11 (sometimes 12) and then I’ve been waking up every morning at 5 or 5:30 to work out before work.

I can function well on 6-7 hours of sleep normally, but when I start going under the 6, it becomes a problem. I need to work on this soon because not getting enough sleep can cause a whole lot of problems! It seems like it’s hard to fit everything in and still get enough sleep but somehow I have to do it.

I also gave up drinking diet sodas and I think now that I have found enough other drinks to enjoy, it’s not so hard to resist them anymore. I haven’t had one since May 8th! Josh even has a 24 pack of Coke Zero in our house where I can see it and I’m still not tempted.

A diet soda here or there isn’t such a bad thing, but I have no moderation. I would drink that entire 24 pack in just a few days. Then the artificial sweeteners wreak their havoc on me. No good for me, so no thanks!

If you read my fitness blog, River City Fitness, then you know that I have been taking Body Pump classes regularly the past two weeks (this week is the 3rd). Since I am in a regular weight training program now, I am trying to pay more attention to what I eat after my workouts, including adding more protein to some of my meals and snacks.

I’m also learning a lot thanks to this summer “Nutrition in Athletic Performance” class that I’m constantly cramming for taking right now. I’m also having a lot of fun, eating healthy, hanging out with friends, not worrying about my weight and just enjoying life.

So that’s what’s going on right now. How about you?

Have you given up something recently? How is it going for you?

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I’m not ready

So, here we are. The 10th of May, right? Sigh.

I started a 30 day challenge on May 1st in order to eat as few processed foods as possible. While the organizer of the challenge said it shouldn’t be hard or impossible and if you need to “bend” it a bit you can, I still tried too hard to outdo myself.

Plus, I really miss hummus, chocolate chips, and pancakes. And organic ketchup, salad dressing and Smart Balance. I need to not overeat any of these things but I don’t want them out of my life totally either.

I was a little embarrassed to say this at first but to be totally truthful with you — I’m just not ready for this challenge!

May is a very busy month for me and I just came off of a week of Derby, birthday celebrations (mine), wedding, graduation parties and Mother’s day. These were challenges I realized ahead of time and I tried to plan around them but got a little overwhelmed too.

While the rest of the month won’t be quite as crazy as the past week, I just don’t think I am ready to take on this challenge fully. Perhaps in June? Or maybe never!

I just can’t handle the pressure of another challenge right now. I’m going to keep eating as few processed foods as possible and do a lot of reflecting on where I want to go next with my goals.

I learned quite a bit on this one week I participated in the challenge though:

  • I’ve been reading ingredients and labels like a mad woman! I should be doing this all the time.
  • I need to get back to meal planning so that I don’t get too repetitive and bored with what I make. I also need to keep trying new foods!
  • I need to check out restaurant menus ahead of time and see what vegan-friendly dishes seem the least processed and most nutritious for me.
  • I love fruit! I had been keeping fruit to a minimum due to sugar content but now I’m enjoying a few servings a day and getting more variety. Plus the natural sugars in fruit are so much better than those added in processed foods.
  • I can keep processed soy products (like tofu) to a minimum. I’ve really enjoyed focusing more on veggies and beans to bulk up my meals.
  • I won’t buy anything with ingredients I can’t pronounce or that should not be in a product (for instance, I just want “peanuts” in my peanut butter).
  • I want to make my own foods as much as possible (like homemade bread, nut butters, milks, salad dressing, etc).
  • I love drinking coffee and tea “black” or just using an unsweetened nut milk for “creamer” but I have a caffeine habit.
  • I don’t have to buy canned soup, frozen meals or burritos at all!

This one week of the challenge also helped me realize some goals I have as far as changes in my daily diet go. I think these are the changes I wanted to make originally and used the challenge to try and help me get there.

But let’s just take the challenge part out of it for a bit. Here are the Big 5:

  1. Break the caffeine addiction
    What started out as 1 cup of coffee a day at work has turned into 2 and that doesn’t count the weekends when I can have the equivalent of 4-6, thanks to the coffee maker and Starbucks iced coffee. I’m not sure how I’m going to do this yet.
  2. Eat 100% whole grain
    For me, this means oats, oat bran, brown rice, whole grain couscous, other whole grains, and only homemade whole wheat bread. I don’t even want to buy store bought bread anymore, it’s just not as satisfying. I also don’t miss whole grain pasta now that I’m back in spaghetti squash mode. So I think I’m done with that too.
  3. Limit to one alcoholic beverage per week
    Alcohol should be a treat and not a daily indulgence. We visited a winery over the weekend and I chose not to buy a bottle because I don’t enjoy it as much if it’s readily available to me all the time. For me, it should be a treat enjoyed only while out with friends or having a girl’s night potluck 🙂
  4. No diet soda, ever!
    The stuff makes me feel like crap, plus all those chemicals give me nightmares (not literally but just the thought of what they are doing to me). Why do I torture myself? I am working toward nipping this in the bud. Pom + Seltzer is helping 🙂
  5. Eat only the best foods
    Basically, I want to eat a healthy vegan diet, full of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, legumes and whole grains. I still plan to keep processed foods to a minimum, but I can’t eliminate them totally yet. I will buy organic and local when I can and I’m hoping to try lots of new recipes soon. I want to eat what makes me feel good, only when I’m hungry and also be an environmentally-conscious consumer.

This is not a challenge and I have no time frame in mind, but I will be working hard toward achieving these goals every day.

I love Mondays! They make me feel so inspired and it’s a new day to work toward a new goal. I feel a little bad that I’m “quitting” this challenge but I’m still planning to keep it in mind as I make my own changes.

What changes do you hope to make in your diet?

Day 6: Happy Birthday to me!

Hey guys! Sorry I am so behind on my updates, this week has been crazy and today is no better! Luckily things are about to slow down 😉

Thursday was my birthday and it was a happy one indeed!

For breakfast, I had oats with banana and peanut butter. I forgot to photograph it, so here is a “recycled” photo.

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Mid-morning, I snacked on more grapes. I’m loving these!

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Lunch was leftover spaghetti squash with the veggie chickpea sauce I made on Tuesday night 🙂

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And an orange!

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Then later in the afternoon, I finished off this bag of edamame before heading to the gym to lift weights, using the same routine I did on Tuesday.

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For dinner, we went to Ramsi’s Cafe on the World, which is one of my favorite vegan-friendly places here in Louisville.

Mom treated me to a glass of Chardonnay which was great, I hadn’t had any in a while!

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Then we ordered the hummus appetizer, which I was so pleased that many of my relatives tried…and liked! 🙂

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For my dinner, I had the Roasted Vegetable Masala. I divided this huge portion in half and took the rest home to have for lunch the next day!

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It was delicious! I loved the sweet potato, carrots and all the other veggies inside, plus it was just a little spicy. Almost as good as going to an Indian restaurant.

Everyone else really enjoyed their food too and we had excellent service. I’m so glad everything worked out so well 🙂

We skipped dessert at the restaurant, but later on at home I wanted something else, so I made myself a little birthday treat!

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How cute is that? 🙂

I had a great birthday and I know that 28 is going to be the best age yet!

Day 5: Let the celebrations commence!

Even though Wednesday was the day before my birthday, I still got to start celebrating early 🙂

Reason number 5,682 why I love my sweet, sweet husband:

He had heard me complaining about how terrible my blender has been lately and here I thought he never listened? Ha ha. He showed me! Check out the beautiful new green smoothie maker:


And good riddance old friend. You’ve worked well the last 4.5 out of 5 years but it’s time to retire now.


Anyone know what to do with old appliances? Can they be recycled?

Of course I celebrated my first birthday gift with a delicious green smoothie. Just look at it go!

I even spoiled myself and used the dispenser!


Result: A yummy, creamy, delicious green smoothie (1 cup almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, three handfuls of spinach).

I made sure to send my husband a message about how awesome this smoothie was and how much easier it is to make in a shiny new blender. I’m so spoiled!

Mid-morning, I had some tea and grapes.

Then for lunch, I sort of threw together a new combination. One thing I realized about this challenge is that even though there are a ton of recipes out there that I could use, I love being forced to come up with my own based on what’s in the pantry. It makes me so creative!

Chickpeas on top of a sweet potato, drizzled with salsa verde! Definitely interesting, but totally delicious and filling too. I also had an organic apple on the side 🙂

I snacked on some almonds before heading to the gym for an awesome treadmill run. Wow, those are three words I rarely put together, ha ha.

Then I went home, showered and got ready for girl’s night. I am so lucky to have such good friends who make me feel special!

For dinner, Margie made what is probably my favorite food ever…FALAFEL!

A pita pocket filled with lettuce, diced tomatoes, hummus, and falafel balls topped with tahini. Yesssssss!

Note: this meal is technically not challenged approved, but still very healthy, delicious and special because it was my birthday. I thoroughly enjoyed it, which goes back to that comment about enjoying stuff more when you don’t eat it every day.

I had this plate times two!

For my birthday dessert, per tradition, we had some pink bubbly!

And some yummy vegan cupcakes that Courtney made herself!

She was not happy with them, but I thought they were delicious. Sometimes things can look funny but actually taste great. Plus when a friend makes something special for you, it tastes even better, am I right?

She used this recipe, including a special strawberry glaze that was full of sugar but oh so tasty!


I enjoyed my birthday dessert, very very much 🙂

Thank you girls for giving me such a special night! I love you all 🙂

Day 4: Oops!

Sorry for the short lapse in posting! I promise, I’m not having another meltdown. In fact, life has been so good this week that I’ve just been enjoying it too much to keep up with blogging 🙂

Today is my 28th birthday and I feel absolutely fabulous!

But let’s back up…I have a lot to catch you all up on.

For breakfast on Tuesday, I had oats in a jar!


Well, technically it was oat bran in a jar, but you know what I mean.

I cooked 1/2 cup oat bran with 1/2 cup almond milk and 1/4 cup of water, then threw it in the PB jar with a sliced banana and enjoyed the beautiful creation.


On Tuesday, I ended up drinking two cups of coffee at work, but I am glad to say that I have not had a diet soda since May 1st! And now that a few days have passed, I don’t even miss them 🙂

For a snack, I had some grapes. So refreshing and juicy!


Lunch was leftover beans & tomatoes on top of salad greens. I love making leftovers salads!

And an orange. I’m really loving fruit these days!

I mentioned my two cups of coffee already but I also had some decaf peppermint tea to help warm me up. I love tea and I’m actually kind of glad it’s been cold at work because otherwise I’d be too warm to drink any!

Later in the afternoon, I snacked on some edamame before my workout at the gym.

Then when I got home, I refueled with a special dinner…spaghetti squash!

I wrote an Examiner article on spaghetti squash a while back and I’m so glad to have it back in my life and remember why I loved it so much! I actually prefer spaghetti squash to pasta now, which is especially great for this 30 day challenge.

It’s just so easy to make, just cut it in half and bake in the oven at 375* for 35 minutes. It’s also so cheap (usually around $1/lb and I just buy the smallest one I can find) and a great way to get in more veggies!

I decided to step my sauce up a notch, using these ingredients.

I drained an rinsed the beans and threw half the can, with half the jar of sauce, into a pot. Then I chopped up 1/2 a green pepper and 1/2 an onion and stirred those in, simmering on med-low heat for about 20 minutes, while the spaghetti squash cooled.

Et voila!

This was so flavorful and amazingly delicious. The eggplant sauce combined well with the peppers and onion. There is something so satisfying about preparing a meal like this yourself and so much healthier than eating anything out of a box. Even though I used already-made sauce, I still feel like this meal was so fresh and whole 🙂

I’m so excited, I get to eat the leftovers for lunch today 😉

For “dessert” I had a small cup of oats with raisins and natural peanut butter. I’m obsessed! I’m pretty sure I could live off of oats and peanut butter, at least for a little while…

I can’t believe we are almost a week into this challenge already! I’ve noticed a big difference in my energy levels and I feel good about removing certain junk from my life that was weighing me down.

But, for dinner and dessert last night, I relaxed some of the “rules” and I really enjoyed myself. It was my birthday celebration with the girls at our Wednesday night potluck. I learned a valuable lesson too — there’s just something about making certain foods be for special occasions only makes them so much more enjoyable than if I ate them every day. Don’t you agree?

Stay tuned to find out what…

Pound for Pound: Week 11

I have to say that after all the revelations I’ve had the past two weeks, especially in regards to weight, I didn’t even really want to weigh in today. Not because I’ve given up but because I’m feeling okay where I’m at.

But I committed to this challenge back in February so I am going to see it through.

  • Last week’s weight: 149 lbs
  • This week’s weight: 150.3 (+1.3 lbs)
  • 8 weeks to go/8.7 lbs to goal

Thoughts? Last week, I weighed on my scale at home (because I was not at work) and this week I weighed at the gym at work. At home, I also weigh with no clothes on and this week at work I decided not to change into shorts because if I’m really comfortable, it won’t matter if I weigh with my pants on and it saves me time too. So there you have it.

Another revelation

Yesterday, I had a really bad headache, partially caused by being overheated, so I was laying on the couch last night with the A/C on and just wearing shorts and a bra. Usually, even in my own house, I would be too embarrassed to sit around like this, but for some reason last night I was totally comfortable.

You see, even though I lost a lot of weight almost three years ago, I still carry the “scars” from it — excess skin, stretch marks, etc. Even though I am more comfortable in clothes that fit me well, I still have trouble with things like bathing suits, tight fitting shirts or anything spandex (which no one should wear, really). But why? It is because I don’t like the way I look in certain things? Do I really care what other people think?

One day I pointed this out to a friend of mine when I was wearing a shirt that showed my “rolls” and she said: “Sarah, I’m pretty sure you are the only one who notices it.” Maybe she’s right. Maybe it is okay to be 5’5″ and weigh 150 lbs (especially when you consider at one point, I was at 225 lbs). Maybe it is okay to be way too “chicken” to have surgery to remove excess skin because it would be too expensive and painful.

What I do know is that I have worked VERY HARD to get what I do have. I have walked, run, weight trained, done yoga, and treated my body very well through a healthy diet, especially now that I have started the Happy Herbivore 30 Whole Days challenge. So to me, that means I should be proud of my body, the way it is right now. Because look what all it’s done! So as I sat there on the couch last night, I felt good about myself. I felt comfortable and happy with my body.

So what now? Since I am in a healthy range, the weight really doesn’t matter. I’m still going to monitor it because Lord knows I won’t be comfortable if it starts going up too high (which has happened to me the last two summers). But I’m not going to stress and I’m not going to try to push my body to be something that it’s not. Because I’m fine just the way I am. Whether I stay around 147-150 forever, or someday I do manage to get to 135-140, I will still be me.

Maybe all this confidence is coming from my new haircut?!

Thanks for being such great blog friends! I will see you all later with a recap of HH30 Day 3 🙂

Day 2: Headache & lots o’ bananas

I woke up this morning with a really bad headache that is just now starting to go away as I write this (8 o’clock at night). I think I got overheated in my sleep or I’m really sensitive to weather changes (it’s been hot, humid and rainy today). Or perhaps a combination of the two.

But I ate a good breakfast before lying on the couch and going back to sleep for four more hours! Yikes, I must’ve needed it.

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Pumpkin Raisin Oats

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup plain almond milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp raw wheat germ
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1-2 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • Heat almond milk and water on high until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir in oats. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until desired consistency is reached.
  • Add in pumpkin and stir for an additional minute or so, allowing pumpkin to heat up. Remove from stove, stir in wheat germ and top with raisins and peanut butter.

When I woke up from my really long nap, I was ready for lunch. But first, I had to walk Suzie who got REALLY wet from the monsoon going on outside.

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Poor wet dog!

For lunch, I had my last Gardein “chicken” breast. It’s technically processed but it expired before the end of the challenge, so I decided to go ahead and use it up.

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I had it on top of whole wheat couscous with some Brussels sprouts on the side. It was hard not to sprinkle salt or add Smart Balance Light to the veggies, but they tasted just fine without!

Before I went grocery shopping, I snacked on a banana.

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I also picked up a black coffee while I was out. I didn’t want to send myself into caffeine withdrawal while I already had a headache! But it made grocery shopping quite relaxing! I may have to do that more often ;-) 

For dinner, I decided to work with these two ingredients.

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I drained and rinsed the beans well before adding them to the pot with the tomatoes. I heated them over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

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While the beans + tomatoes cooked, I heated up some mixed veggies in the microwave.

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I poured a portion of the bean mixture over some whole grain brown rice that I made in the steamer/rice cooker.

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It was a weird looking plate of food but it sure tasted good!

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In this challenge, it is suggested that alcohol be enjoyed in moderation, so I went ahead and finished off the half glass that was left in a bottle I got last week.

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I’m not going to buy anymore wine for home until the challenge is over, but I do plan on enjoying a drink on my birthday 🙂

For dessert, I made banana soft serve with a twist!

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I made the regular banana soft serve recipe and when it was just about done, I added a handful of blackberries and blended it for a few more seconds.

It wasn’t as thick and creamy as the bananas alone, but it still tasted great!

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Day 2, in spite of a possible migraine, went pretty darn good too. Hope all my fellow challengers are feeling strong 🙂

30 Whole Days – Day 1

In my last post, I discussed how I have decided to go forward with a 30 day whole foods challenge started by Happy Herbivore.

As I was preparing for this challenge, I couldn’t help but think it’s amazing how much my personal food philosophy has changed over the years.

I first got “healthy” in 2007 by making lots of lifestyle changes (drinking water, cutting out fast food, exercising, etc.) and lost a lot of weight in the process. But it wasn’t until later that I learned about things like artificial sweeteners, which prompted me to switch to a “crap free” approach to eating.

Then in late 2009, I decided to give vegan a shot after going back and forth with vegetarianism for over a year and now here I am. This challenge is just a reminder that I need to eat whole foods and not rely on processed stuff, no matter what my diet preferences.

I feel like the first day went really well!

For breakfast, I had oats (cooked with unsweetened rice milk) with banana and Krema natural peanut butter (which is made of just peanuts).

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Then I went out and did some shopping with my mom where I enjoyed a black Starbucks coffee (which I haven’t done in a while—I’d gotten hooked on their soy milk).

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I didn’t feel the need for a snack so I just ate lunch when I got hungry. I made some leftover vegetarian baked beans poured on top of a sweet potato and some leftover green beans.

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And later, I snacked on an organic Pink Lady apple before heading to a Derby party.

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I was a little nervous about the party food, but I have to say this challenge has given me more will power, at least today!

I snacked on lots of veggies with salsa and some fruit.

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And since everyone else was eating BBQ and chicken salad, I brought my own black bean burger which I laid on top of salad greens and topped with more salsa 🙂

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While the salsa was technically processed, it was all natural and was a lot better choice than some of the other dips or dressings I could’ve used.

I snacked on a few banana slices and carrots while we were there. One thing I didn’t plan on was the one cup of Coke Zero I had. But I think I’m getting over it – my stomach got upset and I got a headache after I drank it. Hmm…I had water the rest of the time!

When I got home later tonight, I felt hungry and knew I was low on grains for the day, so I had a small cup of oatmeal with peanut butter and some peppermint tea.

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I’m sure I am going to face more challenges, but one day in I have to say: so far, so good.

The “30 Whole Days” Challenge

Tomorrow is May 1st. Do you know what that means?

Well around here it is Derby Day, but that’s not really my cup of tea.

Instead, I will be celebrating the first of the month by beginning the Happy Herbivore 30 Whole Days blogger challenge.

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So, what’s the challenge? Eat no processed foods for 30 days!

Why would I want to do this challenge?

I like to think that I eat pretty “whole” already but there are still things that make their way into my pantry or freezer that are processed, like a frozen dinner here or a can of soup there. These will be easy to avoid.

But the real challenge is going to be the foods I didn’t even think of as being processed — like tofu, sweetened soy milk, and peanut butter that contains more than just peanuts!

I think it is important for all of us to reduce our intake of processed foods as much as possible. Even if they are “healthy” they still often contain added sugars, salt, and other additives that we just don’t need.

I also plan to take this opportunity to finally kick some nasty habits that keep creeping back into my life (diet soda, sugarless gum, etc). Perhaps I’ll even try to cut back on that second cup of coffee.

I have a lot of events coming up this month that are going to make things interesting. My birthday is next week and my best friend is going to make me vegan cupcakes! No way am I missing that. 🙂

I also have a few parties to go to for graduations, weddings, and whatnot. The good thing about parties though is there are usually fruit and vegetable trays and I can make and bring a dish or two.

I’m also going to exclude Wednesday night potluck dinners from the challenge because my girls have been accommodating enough since I went vegan in October, I don’t want to put any more pressure on them. I can make adjustments on my own, like skipping the bread or bringing fruit for dessert.

As the HH says herself, “the goal is not to make this so extreme it becomes impossible.” So I will just be doing the best that I can and hopefully learning a lot in the process (ha, no pun intended).

If you want to know more or are interested in joining this challenge yourself, check out this blog post or go directly to our Google Group and get ready!

Pound for Pound: Weeks 9 & 10

Remember the Pound for Pound Challenge? I almost didn’t.

Between my slight mental breakdown, subsequent recovery and then illness/allergies, I managed not to post about the weigh-ins and my thoughts on the challenge for the past two weeks. Guess I had other things on my mind?

Last time we “met” I had decided to give up calorie counting for a while and focus on choosing wholesome nutritious foods and eating intuitively. This choice was even more liberating than the last few times I’ve made it. I think it might actually stick this time too.

I had also mentioned cutting back on caffeine, but I’m sorry to say this has not gone well. In fact, I think I may have actually increased consumption of coffee the past two weeks. But as the weather gets warmer, my cravings typically become fewer, so we’ll just see how it goes. No reason to stress about it 😉

Speaking of stress, during Week 9, I was in the midst of a stress meltdown. But, even though I took a step back from blogging, I did not hide away and drown my sorrows in food. I also took a step back from exercise even though it was a week before my half marathon. Sometimes getting your mental state back on track is more important! No, it always is.

Stress, less exercise and Aunt Flo led to a slight weight gain for Week 9:

  • Week 8: 150.4
  • Week 9: 151 (+ 0.6)
  • 9.4 lbs to goal

But, during that following week, I had another major breakthrough. I finally admitted to myself (and others) that I do not handle stress well at all. Even if my mind tries to deny it or “fake it”, my body pays the price. I have to get control of what stresses me and do more to relieve myself when stress does come up to that uncomfortable level.

I kept my focus on healthy eating, easy exercise, relaxing hot baths and putting my trust back in God. I remembered what is good about my life and what I can do to change the things I’m not so happy with.

I remembered that I’m only human and it is okay to break down sometimes. In fact, I think it might just be the best thing that could’ve happened. I’ve learned more about myself the past few weeks than I have in a long time.

I finished my school work early so I could focus on the race and nothing else. And I didn’t stress about my race either because I knew I was going to have fun, no matter what. And I did!

I took two days off of work this week because I was feeling run down and sick. I gave my body the break it needed. Now I feel better, both mentally and physically. I’m in a really, really good place. Now if I can just stay here…

The weigh in on Monday was just a minor detail:

  • Previous week: 151 lbs
  • Week 10: 149 lbs (-2.0)
  • 7.4 lbs to goal (9 weeks to go)

With 9 weeks to go, I have absolutely no idea what will happen. In 10 weeks, I have a net loss of 2.6 lbs. So in the next 9, I could lose another 2.6, or 1.6, 0 or 10.

But you know what? It doesn’t really matter!

I’m not giving up on the challenge, in fact I’m still very inspired to keep going toward my goal. But I am NOT going to put myself under pressure. I am not going to stress about it. Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when I’m under pressure and stressed, NOTHING goes well. I can’t live that way anymore.

Looking forward to what the rest of this week holds. If you missed past weeks and want to catch up, check out my Pound for Pound Challenge page 🙂