2018 Whole30 Kickoff

A lot has happened in the past 14 months: a move to Chicago, several new roles at work, some travel, and a few life changes. After moving to Chicago in October 2016, I lost focus on my health through a combination of long hours at work (hello, office pizza deliveries), Chicago winter making the walk to/from the grocery store unpleasant, and being faced with an entire city full of new food to try. I ended up gaining more weight inside of two months than I ever had before, and it sucked.

On a New Year’s trip to Florida, I realized how miserable I felt and how clothing simply didn’t fit properly anymore. When I got back to Chicago, I resolved to put more focus on taking care of myself. That meant drinking less, making better food choices, and making time for exercise.

The easiest step was to simply make better food choices. Instead of having a Red Bull and a candy bar for breakfast every day (yes, really), I switched to water and fruits, granola, yogurt, or a cheese stick. At lunch, I began to limit portions to reasonable sizes and chose to focus more on vegetables than on desserts or cheesy, carb-y foods. One of the largest shifts was dinner — instead of ordering pizza or whatever sounded awesome to my frazzled brain in the moment, I began ordering comparatively lighter options like poke, sashimi, soup, etc.

I experimented with several workout routines for the first few months of the year, including a really embarrassing SoulCycle incident during which I was off-beat, out of breath, and eventually gave up and laid down on my handlebars. The instructor turned the lights down, cranked the volume, and actually came over to my bike to ask if I was dying. Needless to say, cycling to Justin Bieber tunes is not my thing.

Eventually, I discovered pole fitness and fell in love. It was everything I was looking for — dance, acrobatics, strength, and fun. I ended up attending classes regularly until the gym closed in October, then continued taking classes sporadically at other studios. Most days, I would walk the 2 miles home after class to help extend the physical activity a bit.

All said and done, I ended up losing around 25lbs within a year and gaining quite a bit of strength. Plus, I can do some cool tricks involving street signs now!

I’m planning to be more intentional about health and fitness this year, which means more meal planning, more cooking at home, and cutting drinking down considerably. To kick it off, I’ve planned a January Whole30. If you’d like to use the meal plan/recipe list/grocery list I’ve put together, feel free to check it out here.

Now for the first recipe in 14 months!

Chicken Bacon Chili Zoodles
Prep to plate time: 40 min
Servings: 10-12 cups-ish

Ingredients:

  • 3-6 zucchini squash
  • 2-4 tbsp red chili paste (read the ingredients to make sure to grab one without sugar)
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1lb bacon (read the ingredients to get bacon cured without sugar, nitrites, or nitrates)
  • 4 grilled chicken drumsticks (I broiled these in bulk on Sunday)
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • Bunch o’ salt

Spiralize (or julienne) the zucchini and place in a strainer in the sink. Heavily salt the zucchini, mixing it up to ensure even coverage. Let it set in the sink to drain for about 20 minutes.

While noodles are resting, sauté garlic in olive oil and set aside.
Chop up bacon and cook in a large frying pan. Simultaneously, pull the meat off of the 4 chicken drumsticks and start simmering that in a separate pan.
When the bacon is cooked and the noodles are finished resting, mix the garlic/olive oil combo with the chicken, add the red chili paste, and simmer on low heat. Rinse the zucchini noodles well and pat dry with a paper towel, then sauté the zucchini noodles in the bacon pan. Then, mix it all together and serve.

1 Month Later…

Today’s workout concluded my first four weeks of Crossfit and paleo. While I haven’t been blogging throughout the past month, I have continued going to the gym 3x a week and mainly sticking with paleo (recipes below).

One interesting thing has happened throughout my month of Crossfit/paleo: I gained weight. The first week, I lost 4lbs. That’s pretty typical of every other time I’ve restarted paleo, and weight loss generally continues until I hit about 115lbs. This time, I started gaining weight in the 2nd week and I now weigh a pound more than I did when I started. However, my stomach is flatter, my clothes fit better, and I feel stronger than I ever have before.

After an initial freakout, I did some research and found that it’s typical to gain weight while fat is being lost and muscle’s being built (articles explaining why are here, here, and here). Long story short, working out is causing me to build muscle while eating clean foods has caused fat loss, resulting in a denser but still smaller body.

This experience has made me reconsider how I view health. In the past, I considered myself successful if I lost weight. Now, I can see that weight is less important than being strong and fit. Next week, I’ll do my “test out” of the Crossfit program to measure progress and will share the results via blog.

Now, on to the paleo part. I’d give myself a “B-” on the clean eating part of this challenge. I haven’t obsessed about it like I have in the past. For example, I’m not carrying Tupperware full of vegetables and almond butter around this time, and I have had beers with friends on the weekends. It’s been a lot easier to stick with it most of the time simply because I don’t want to negate my workouts with empty calories and terrible food.

Here are a couple of fall-inspired paleo recipes that I’ve really enjoyed:

Slow Cooker Pineapple Pork Curry

Prep to table: 6 hourspaleo pork curry

Ingredients

1 package pork tenderloins
1 cup chopped pineapple
1 can coconut milk
1-2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
Garam masala spices to taste

Place pork, jalapeno peppers, spices, and pineapple in the slow cooker. Set to high heat, and cook for ~3 hours.
Drain most of the liquid from the slow cooker, then add coconut milk. Set to low heat, and cook for another ~3 hours.

When I made this recipe, I didn’t drain the liquid before adding coconut milk and ended up with a spicy pork stew. It was still awesome.

 

pumpkin pie paleo smoothiePumpkin Pie Smoothie
Prep to table: 10 min

1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 cup almond milk
1 banana
Nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves to taste

Blend it all in a blender. Drink it. PUMPKIN EVERYTHING.