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Day 2

It’s the second day of my true attempt at the Primal Challenge, and I’m feeling pretty good. Yesterday was amazing. I ate well and still came in well under my calorie goal for the day. I didn’t sleep great, so I’m not where I could be today, but overall I feel good.

I forgot how great it felt to do something good for yourself.

So anyway, I’m very tired and busy today, and if I hadn’t promised to check in every day, I wouldn’t be posting at all. So all you get is my nutrition and workout update today. 🙂

Breakfast: smoothie with banana slices, Prograde protein, sunflower seed butter, unsweetened cocoa

Lunch: Fassoulia

Dinner: Mahi Mahi with homemade aioli, and a vegetable dish I haven’t decided on yet

Workout(s): morning hour-long walk with Cynder and Kane; evening bootcamp

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I know, I know. I’ve been gone for quite a while. I’d love to tell you that I’ve been absent from my blogger duties because I’ve been climbing Mount Everest or helping save baby elephants in the jungle or teaching inner-city kids how to settle conflicts with nonviolence. But the truth is I’ve been sitting here on my big, round butt doing a whole lot TV watching, junk food eating, senseless arguing, and wallowing in self pity.

I posted over at Bodies and Motivation last week about how I’ve been in a downward, never-ending spiral in my diet and my relationships for a while. Oh sure, I get out of bed and make it to the gym in the morning, and I manage to take care of my day-to-day responsibilities, but in no way am I thriving. In all ways, my life right now is stagnant.

Being stagnant sucks.

For whatever reason, I haven’t had the gumption or the strength or the wherewithal to kick start myself out of this funk. I keep eating junk and undoing my workouts. I keep yelling and Jeff and undoing our relationship. I keep saying bad things to myself and undoing my self confidence. There’s a lot of undoing going on around here.

It’s good timing that Mark Sisson’s annual primal blueprint challenge started yesterday. I need a challenge like this to un-funk me. At this point, saying I’m going to take the primal challenge seems trite. How many times have I made a declaration like this? How many times have I given up on it after a few hours, days, or weeks?

In all my wallowing I’ve managed to do some introspection, and I realized that I was happiest when I was in control of my food intake. Control I clearly do not have right now. I can’t fix all the other crap in my life in a matter of seconds, but I can decide that quickly, “No, I will not eat that. Instead, I will eat this.” And after doing that a few dozen or hundred times, it will get easier. Eventually, it will be control. Fake it till you make it, as my therapist says.

So food, once again, is where I will start to remake myself into a happier, healthier, calmer, more Zen person. And this time, I’m going to be very specific. My primal blueprint challenge is as follows:

  • No grains or refined sugars. Period.
  • Getting 8 solid hours of sleep per night.
  • Keeping my “moderate” alcohol intake truly moderate, i.e., one glass o’ red wine per week. (OUCH)
  • Keeping dairy and natural sugar (like honey) intake to 3 times/week.
  • Taking a 3 pm stretch/yoga break, instead of hitting the cupboards for some sugar.
  • Pushing myself harder during my workouts.

Are there other things I could/should be doing? Sure. But this is where I will start for now.

If I have any readers left after my prolonged absence, I’d love for you to take the challenge with me.

To keep myself honest, I’ll be posting my food and workouts here daily, starting right now.

Breakfast: Smoothie with frozen banana slices, Prograde protein powder, 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa, and coconut milk

Lunch: Baked wild salmon, sauteed kale

Snack: 2 hard-boiled eggs

Dinner: Fassoulia (venison, tomato, onion, and green bean stew)

Workout(s): morning 3-mile trail run, sprinting uphill; afternoon 10-minute yoga sesh; evening 45-minute walk

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I have a confession to make. I break the law, willingly, consciously, knowingly, and without regret, 2 – 3 times a week. I’ve been caught committing my crime red-handed before, and still I don’t care. I know the consequences, and oh, it is so worth it.

Kane and I run the trails at the Cold Harbor Battlefield park a few times a week. It’s hot as Hades, so we go in the early morning. The woods are dense, dark, cool… they’re packed full of bugs and snakes and deer and squirrels… and I’m pretty sure it’s haunted. No matter how much bug spray I soak us with, we leave with a few itchy bites each time. I’ve tripped over the uneven terrain more times than I can count, bruised my toes, strained my knee, twisted my back, and most recently, completely skinned my kneecap and the palms of my hands.

We cannot get enough of it.

My crime is not being clumsy or filthy when I leave. My crime is that, each time we go, as soon as we are out of sight of the ranger station, I let Kane off leash, despite the billions of DOGS MUST BE ON LEASH Department of the Interior signs all over the place, and the wary, watchful eye of the park ranger. For the rest of the run, he has the freedom to do whatever his doggie heart pleases, just as long as he stays within sight. He chases squirrels, deer, pees on numerous and random shrubs, scratches at the dirt trail. Sometimes he just trots along beside or slightly behind me. He is ever ready to warn me of any disturbance in our solitude. We run as a pack: uninhibited and not forced. Natural. Intimate. How Man and Dog have run together for tens of thousands of years.

So, it’s a trail run, and I run it with my dog. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that I do not eat as primally as I should/could. Having a desk job like mine is just about the most unprimal lifestyle imaginable. But running trails with Kane makes me feel alive, fulfilled, reverent. Being in the woods, moving my body and feeling my surroundings, trusting Nature—both terrain and animal—detoxifies me, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

So I will keep going and I will keep breaking that arbitrary law. I may get ticketed one day and have to pay a couple hundred dollars in fines. To me, that’s a small price to pay for therapy. And if you have access to a wooded trail and a dog (or friend) who you can trust off-leash, I highly recommend you do the same. Grok would want it that way.

(Please note, running with your dog off leash only makes sense if you’re almost 100% sure no one else is on the trail. Subjecting dozens of other hikers to a ginormous doberman is not being a good park steward, nor can you ever be sure any other dogs you encounter will be as friendly as your own.)

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On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I get up when the clock still starts with 4 in order to make the AM bootcamp session. (Tuesdays and Thursdays mean sleeping until a whopping 5:30 to get to the battlefield to run before anyone else gets there.) Anyway, on MWF, I get home around 6:45 and immediately take Kane and Cynder for a 45-minute walk. I feed them breakfast when we get back to the house, tidy up a bit, and then hop in the shower and get dressed in a frenzy in order to start working at 8. By midmorning, I’ve got an hour and a half of exercise, three hours of work, and 6 hours of awake time behind me. And I’m exhausted.

During this time I often think about how nice it would be to take a nap. To sleep in and skip a workout. To pour some sugary, HFCS-laden cereal and CAFO milk into a bowl three or four times and call it breakfast AND lunch, instead of taking the time to make organic sweet potato hash browns and local, cage-free fried eggs for breakfast. To save my tired and sore legs and not walk the dogs, to keep them penned in the back yard, pining to stretch their magnificent muscles and spend some quality time with me.

How nice it would be to drive through a Dunkin Donuts drive-thru at 7:55 in my pajamas because hey! I work from home and I can, instead of driving to the next town over before most people are awake to do something constructive and healthy and challenging with other people.

How nice it would be to not shower or fix my hair or put on any makeup or get dressed, because realistically the only person I may see today besides Jeff is the mailman. And he’s so terrified of Cynder and Kane he doesn’t dare linger to chit chat.

And that’s when I hear Robert Frost whispering to me that it wouldn’t really be that nice. Because letting yourself down doesn’t feel nice. Sometimes meeting my own needs is exhausting. But it’s always worth it.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

As a side note, to look at these two, you’d swear they were the ones with the sore muscles and packed day.

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I swear I’m a better person when I’m wearing running tights. I’m happy, I’m ambitious, I’m optimistic, and I’m friendly. I spent the day sitting in a cubicle today, exhausting myself from that weird mixture of staying perfectly still and yet doing so much. (Seriously, nothing exhausts me like sitting in a cubicle all day. Who’s with me? Doesn’t make any sense when you think about it, does it?) So when I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was run. Even as I watched four furry brown legs prance around our apartment, bursting with energy and begging to get outside and stretch, I started justifying throwing the ball for him a few times and calling it a night.

Even as I pulled my running tights on, I wasn’t resolved to run tonight. But then I took one step past my full length mirror, and suddenly I wanted to run. I saw some lumps and bumps that I wish weren’t there, but instead of beating myself up, I thought, “Oh well, they’ll work themselves out.” I laced up my shoes, grabbed Kane’s leash, and took off. And really, I took off. I’ve been running the same route for almost 4 years, and tonight was the first time I’ve ever made any real improvement on my time. I shaved a full 4 minutes off a 3.5 mile run. And not only that, I felt good doing it. I bounced, I kept my head up and my shoulders down, I paced my breathing, I focused on each step I took. And I smiled at people when I passed them. I thought happy thoughts: abs in, core tight, head up, WORK IT GIRL! You’re awesome. You’re gorgeous. You’re fast. You’re graceful. You’re friggin floating right now!

I’m not thin. I’m not terribly athletic. I’m not a trail runner or a supermodel or a ballerina. But I felt like those things in my running tights tonight. I’m totally getting another pair.


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It’s Jeff’s turn to visit me this weekend, and I’m excited for several reasons:

  1. I love him.
  2. Kane loves him.
  3. I get to cook for more than one.
  4. There are several things around the house and car I would like a man to look at.

For dinner tonight I’m making AndreAnna’s Spaghetti Squash Meat Pie. Squash + cheese + egg + my homemade meat sauce + baking = DELICOUS. Also, from my understanding, meat + pie + man = engagement ring. So we’ll see.

We’ll also have some red wine tonight, because no matter what diet and exercise regimen I’m on, it’s impossible for me to get through a Friday night without at least A glass of red wine. This morning was the last in my Monday – Friday workouts, and it was a 3.5 mile run. And OH MY GOD it was unusually hard. That being said, I’ll most likely be ready for bed at 8:30 tonight, which will mean I’ll only have time for one helping of meat pie and only 2 glasses of wine. So score there.

Jeff’s going fishing all day tomorrow in the Chesapeake Bay. (Side note: What the hell is wrong with men? It’s supposed to be windy and cold with rain and snow showers. His response: Oh, ok. Noted. So you want to go out on a BOAT in that weather? Where it’s significantly windier and colder? No, thank you.)

I have a few avocados that need to be used, so I’m thinking about having some sort of avocado omelet for brunch Saturday morning. Depending on what time he and his friend wuss out get back, we may have fresh fish for dinner Saturday night. I’m brainstorming some ideas for a primal spinach quiche Sunday morning.

Even though weekends are my “off” days from working out, I’m sure I’ll be moving around quite a bit. Two big dogs in my broom closet of an apartment necessitate several long walks a day.

Visits and trips have historically been very hard for me to maintain any sort of healthy eating or exercise habits. It always seems like an okay time to cheat and slack off. My Thanksgiving trip home was a complete disaster in this regard, and I’m absolved to not let that happen again. Jeff tries very hard to gently remind me during my weaker moments that I’m on a plan, that I want to eat well and move more. No matter how gentle he is, all I ever here is, “You’re fat. Don’t eat that. You’re worthless unless you work out today.”

I know it’s up to me what I put in my mouth and what I do with my body; it’s also up to me to determine how I feel. Today is day 6 in my second Primal experiment. Six days, no grains, sugars, or starches, and I got every single workout in this week. (And I went HARD too; you should see me waddling down the hall at work and the grimace I make when I sit down.) I’m very proud of that. I’m looking forward to this weekend for the company, and for the challenge of maintaining my commitment, regardless of the situation.

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Care to go for a walk down health/fitness memory lane?

Phase 1: Teenager/High School     Weight: 167

Diet: I never remember eating breakfast as a teenager. Perhaps I had a NutriGrain bar every now and then. I do remember stopping at Hardee’s often on my way to work on the weekends for a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. I alternated between weeks of bringing a scarily light lunch and weeks of eating pizza and fries dipped in ranch dressing from the cafeteria. I had an after-school job, which meant I rarely ate home-cooked dinners. If I did eat, it was usually fast food. Arby’s chicken cordon bleu sandwiches were staples in my dinner fare. I didn’t drink very much, but I definitely was no stranger to alcohol. I knew sodas were bad for me, so I only had a few a week, usually at work to keep me awake. I was lucky to drink 50 ounces of water a day.

Exercise: I played volleyball in high school. Our practices were pretty lax, but there was running, jumping, swinging, and lifting weights. Sometimes I “ran” during the off season. Twice a week max, and two miles at a time max. I wasn’t a super model by any means, but I looked good in a bathing suit and was fit and comfortable with my body. This has become my mythical “goal body” ever since, despite all the crap I did to it.

Phase 2: College. Or, The Fat Years     Weight: 167 – 242

Diet: Unlimited junk from the cafeteria, and lots of Budweiser. I didn’t have a ton of soda, but there were studying nights that I definitely remember throwing back some Cherry Coke. This was also the scene of failed NutriSystem, South Beach, and Atkins experiments. None of these stuck for more than 4 or 5 days. (Which I’m OK with now, because now I know they’re terrible for you.)

Exercise: Minimal, if at all. I “ran” a few times, a mile or so total. I also went to the gym a few times a week, where I half-assedly got on the elliptical machine for about 30 minutes. I’d go through phases of working my heiny off in the gym, but I’d inevitably burn out (because I was fat, eating shit around the clock, and exhausted) after a few days and quit.

Phase 3: Maniac     Weight: 242 – 167

Diet: 1200 calories per day max at first, and around 1600 per day near the end of the phase. I tried to eat what I later discovered was Primal, but to me it was fresh food. Sometimes I splurged on a Lean Cuisine pizza, and on Fridays I was allowed to have WHATEVER I wanted. I didn’t eat particularly smartly or healthily, and I knew that. In my mind, I was carrying 80 extra pounds, and getting it off was priority one. I’d learn to “eat right” later, once I was at a healthy weight. It worked: I lost 75 pounds total (60 in the first 7 months, and and additional 15 over the next 6 months). I didn’t drink a whole lot, but I did learn to love red wine. I also dabbled with Weight Watchers a few times during this phase, but never fell in love with it.

Exercise: I started by doing modified CrossFit WODs in my living room. Then I started running, doing yoga and pilates, and eventually fell in love with Jillian Michaels videos.

Phase 4: Enlightened, But Lazy     Weight: 167 – 188

Diet: I didn’t eat like total crap during this period, but I had my share of comfort food and booze. I tried WW again and hated it. I tried counting calories and hated it. This was undoubtedly the most frustrating period of my life.

Exercise. I continued to work out, but I never did anything particularly hard or groundbreaking. Except of course my experiment with Insanity, which landed me a sprained hip and 6 weeks of mediocre activity, but no real rest (which is why I still have hip pain, and probably always will).

Phase 5: This is It     Weight: 188 – ?

Diet: I just started eating Primal. No grain, no starches, no sugar. And I love it. It’s by far the easiest and most natural dietary adjustment I’ve ever made. It just feels right. I’m one week in, so no real “progress” to note, but hot damn do I feel good. Most of the time. I still have weird mood swings that I’m sure are a result of some chemical mumbo jumbo happening inside me. Oddly enough, I haven’t really craved anything during my “detox” from grains and sugar. In fact, a few days ago, I actually sucked some pesto off a piece of pasta and then discarded it. I didn’t want it. Weird. I have a general idea of how many calories I’m eating (between 1000 and 2000, most likely around 1600), but I’m saited and comfortable. I eat lots of seafood, lean red grassfed meat, and veggies.

Exercise: I bought a book on outdoor fitness a few weeks ago, and have really been giving it my all. I’m also adjusting my workout schedule to be Monday – Friday mornings, to leave my weekend open for my boyfriend who lives an hour and a half away. (No one wants to worry about squeezing in a run when their TDH [tall, dark, and handsome]) is making them eggs and bacon for breakfast.) I try to run on Mondays, do an outdoor crossfit-style routine on Tuesdays, strength training on Wednesdays, another outdoor sesh on Thursdays, and run again on Fridays. I’m 3 weeks into this, and I like it for the most part. Getting up at 5:15 to work out is a big commitment every workday morning, but I’ve recently started working from home on Wednesdays, which definitely helps. That extra hour of sleep is cruical.

A friend commented the other day that I’m always “doing something different and weird with your diet and workouts.” She was specifically talking about Primal and outdoor fitness. Looking back, she’s right. Also looking back, I’ve spent 10 years playing into what “they” say I should do to be healthy: calorie restriction and mindless, horrible, endless hours on an elliptical machine. And, 10 years later, here I am: still unsatisfied and looking for the right fit. I’m actually quite proud that in 10 years I’ve gone through 5 phases of food/fitness evolution, especially given that none of the previous 4 either worked or were sustainable over time. Maybe this phase will be the last phase.

I still have crazy person body image issues. But for now, I’m giddy to not be counting calories in and out anymore. Give me a steak and a park bench to do box jumps on instead, please.

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