Welcome Back

Hi. I’m Lydia. I’m a mess. 

I don’t mean that like, “omg I ate 7 pieces of pizza today,” or “I’ve worn this hoodie everyday this week” or “I gave myself a black eye in my sleep” (although all recent truths). I’m saying, I am a whole mess. I’m a 30something single woman living with her parents, abandoning 5 years and 2 degrees worth of graduate school because standard day job work gives me crippling depression, and so I work as a Lyft driver with six figures of debt and sometimes well-managed mental health issues. And on top of all of those things I’m the kind of obese that has to shop in a specialty store because the plus-size section at the regular size store probably doesn’t have sizes big enough. That’s a lot of issues, and a lot of mess. Nevermind my inability to arrive anywhere on time or organize a closet. Last year, I tried to Marie Kondo my part of the house, but ended up just moving into the guest room and started calling the bedroom my walk-in closet. See? A mess. 

IMG_9071
My face

Um, okay…

So many blogs, and even more instagrams, want you to believe that their lives are perfect. That the outcome you see is simple and organic. Every pie, soup and refurbished bookshelf turns out perfect on the first try, and looks beautiful in its gorgeously decorated, perfectly lit kitchen or living room, enjoyed by beautiful people in their pristine, dry clean only casual attire. Usually the blogger is a superwoman who runs every aspect of her life like clockwork, works out all morning and still has time to do her hair and makeup before this baking and cooking and painting happens. All over the internet are people who want you to believe they’re the next Martha Stewart, but with fewer felonies and more used Anthropologie gift cards.  

But none of that is real. A lot of those accounts have entire staffs working for them, teams for cooking and staging and web design. Which, good for them for their achievements. A thriving small business is something to be proud of for sure. But that’s not what’s presented to us.What we see is one person writing a quick entry to show off what she just whipped up. We don’t see all the attempts that weren’t a success, the photos that didn’t turn out exactly perfect. We only see the best version, no matter how much editing goes into it. 

To be fair, maybe for some people it is real. Maybe they really have culinary and domestic intuition to get everything right on the first try. They really achieved the charmed life, and were blessed with the ability to be organized and task-oriented and never miss a beat. Congratulations to those magical people (and their pharmacists). But the rest of us are messy. Maybe you’re not as messy as me, but we all have our moments. 

Weight loss stories are too often the same way. “Well, I realized drinking Mountain Dew was bad for me, so I stopped doing that and lost 200 pounds.” If only it was that easy. There is so much to weight loss, and obesity in general, that no one wants to talk about. Ups, downs, plateaus. Oddities and unpleasantness that we guard and hold inside ourselves because of the shame and guilt we’ve been told to feel. Too many people want to talk about results, but they aren’t prepared for the journey. I don’t love using buzzwords like journey, but that’s what it is. It takes time, effort, and a kind of self-control that I only possess some of the time.

I don’t mean to sound overly critical. I love the kind of accounts I’ve been talking about. I love seeing people’s transformation stories, and I love seeing a perfectly set farm to table meal in a rustic gourmet kitchen. It’s aspirational. In spite of everything I know about myself and the world of Influencers, I can still look at something and think, “if she can do it, there’s no reason I can’t too.”  

But as much as I like looking at those things, I know they aren’t what I need. I need something true. Something more relatable. I need to write about my struggles with weight loss, self-care, and healthy living. I can’t pretend everything is going smoothly if it isn’t. I don’t have time for that, really, because the sooner I’m healthy the better. So I need a place where I can hold myself accountable. If I mess up, get distracted or stumble, I want to have this place to tell someone about it. Really talk about it, without sugar-coating. Sugar is what got me in the plus size section in the first place, so we’re done with that. 

I hope that you can read this and think, “Omg, I can’t believe there are other people that do that. That’s crazy, I thought I was the only one.” You’re not, and I’m not! One time when I was signing up for personal training at the gym, the training manager said to me without preamble, “Don’t even worry, you’re not the most out of shape person I’ve seen doing this training. Not by a long shot.” At first I was put off, like ‘…well obviously not. That thought never crossed my mind.’ But the more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t offended, I was reassured. Like, ‘well good. Maybe I’m not the only person feeling a little bit embarrassed working out in this giant open room.’ And who’s to say only the people with the most work to do will be the people feeling shy or embarrassed? Or that the people who appear to be fit aren’t self-conscious for their own reasons? And who’s to say the people who that guy thinks will be embarrassed are going to be?? Maybe they’re proud because they showed up to do the best they could. The point is that we all have our journeys. We all have our own insecurities, our own hurdles, and our own measurements of success.  

I want a place where I can feel safe to be honest about my progress. I want to talk about both my wins and my failures, because even the failures (there are many) are ways to learn how I can do better. When I started this blog over a decade ago (!!!) I knew nothing. It’s been so long since my last post, and a lot has happened. Now I have so much further to go, but I also know so much more about food, wellness, and myself. Hopefully if I tell you about what and how I’m doing, that will make both of us feel a little less alone. I’m trying to build a better Lydia, but I think you’ll find some ways for how to better yourself too. 

But You’re A Mess…

Sometimes my messiness is funny. Sometimes, it’s heartbreaking. Occasionally, it goes away and I seem like I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m trying hard to make that last one happen more often. What I said in the beginning about the messes with the pizza, the hoodie, and the black eye? Well, the pizza was made with cauliflower crust, and it was a small. The hoodie is the shirt I wear when I go for my nightly walk. I wash it frequently. The black eye…okay that one was weird. My friend Google says it was actually because of my sinuses; my mom agrees I would have definitely woken up if I punched myself that hard. No matter, cold compresses, allergy meds, and a cucumber mask cleared it up a few days later. 

The point is that right now my goal is small victories. I don’t know enough about architectural history to give you some clever allusions to fast and small building processes, but just know I’m trying to show you the means before I show you the end. I’m trying pretty hard to build a better Lydia.

That’s all lovely but isn’t this a food blog?

Only kind of. I want this blog to be all about self-improvement. Not just clean eating, but healthy living, physically and emotionally. But I also want to offer something readers can take away from each post (aside from my clever prose). I’m a “jump to recipe” type of gal 90% of the time, so I think that’s important. Today though, I just wanted to touch base and say here I am and this is what’s happening moving forward. 

Stay healthy,

Lydia

 

Working on my Fitness

Whoops! Ya get a little bit busy and suddenly it’s seven eight weeks since your last blog. But that is not to say I haven’t been keeping with my mission! Things have been going great!

As I declared when I hit the one year mark, I needed to amp up my efforts for year two. So ever since then, I have been going hardcore on the fitness side of improving my health (and weight). A long time ago, I wrote about how I didn’t think my body was ready for intense exercise but that I thought walking would be a nice way to build up to something more intensive. I don’t know if it was the walking or general weight loss or just an increase in motivation but for the last two and a half months my efforts have increased tremendously.

What has really changed is that I’ve gotten really into strength training. I tagged along with a friend who had a surplus of personal training sessions, and I found that unlike my first experience with it, the trainer was extremely helpful. It was a much more focused and effective workout than I might’ve put myself through, and it gave me ideas for what I should be doing for my own workouts. Then I happened to win two private training sessions. I liked the private sessions so much I ended up buying a training package. (To be honest I kind of think the raffle was rigged because they knew this would happen…)

It’s been about a month now since I’ve been in training and I’ve been able to get into a pretty good routine. Three days a week I do strength training and two days a week I do cardio, although I do some cardio every time I workout. For the strength training part, I separate each workout into an “isolated/split routine.” The schedule looks a little like this:

  • Sunday: 5 min. warm-up (exercise bike), 35 min. Back & Biceps, 25 min. elliptical
  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 5 min. warm-up, 30 min. Legs (w/ trainer), 30 min. Cross Trainer machine
  • Wednesday: 10 min. abs, 60 min. elliptical
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: 5. min. warm-up, 35 min. Chest, Triceps & Shoulders, 10 min. stair machine, 10 min. walk on treadmill
  • Saturday: 75 min. moderate cardio (hiking, a bike ride, etc.)

That’s an example. The days vary based on what’s going on with work and other stuff, but the distribution generally stays more or less the same. It’s been two and a half months since I started exercising like this, and one month since I started working with the trainer and focusing my routine, and I can already see results. I was really pleased when my fitness-loving brother saw me for the first time in several weeks and said he could tell I’d been working out.

This stage where I am constantly improving my fitness levels but still not actually in good shape is a really weird time. I feel simultaneously really amazing and terrible. I’m tired almost all the time, and at least one body part is usually sore. Last week I actually took two days off in a row and did the moderate long cardio on the third day because my legs just felt so heavy I didn’t even want to walk up the stairs. On the other hand, I can feel my body getting stronger all the time. It’s hard to explain but even though my body is more tired, the rest of me has tons of energy, which is super awesome.

There are two main challenges I’m facing now that my fitness routine has perked up. The first is the sustainability of my schedule. I’m at a bit of a lull with work at the moment, so focusing almost all of my energy on fitness is fine. But as work picks up again and I (hopefully) get more gigs it will be more challenging to keep up this pace.

The other serious challenge is maintaining my diet. I don’t know what it is but when I get home from a particularly grueling workout, all I want in the world is some delicious cheese. My theory is that it’s because of the combination of protein and sugar. However, if you’ll recall, cheese is a big no-no on the clean eating menu. But, what makes it even harder is that in addition to craving bad foods, I’m burning so many more calories that it is extremely hard to meet my daily caloric requirements cleanly. Salad and grilled chicken only have so many calories…and I can only stand to eat them so many times.

So that’s my current project. In addition to continuing with my fitness regimen, I am researching and experimenting ways to stick to the kinds of foods I need to be eating but eating in such ways that I still get all the caloric energy I need. I’ve been reading a lot about vegan athletes, because even though I’m not vegan I limit my animal product intake to very small quantities.

Okay! Now we’re all caught up. I’m excited in the coming weeks to share some of my new fitness knowledge as well as more of the standard hippie food posts I’m used to.

-lj

Granola Breath

Eating healthy is hard. It’s is all about sacrifices. It’s about cutting out foods and habits we like because they aren’t good for us. That’s obvious. We’ve known that forever. And if that wasn’t true it wouldn’t be a challenge.

You’d think after a year it wouldn’t be quite as much of a challenge though. And for the most part, that’s true. I am no longer interested in a lot of foods because I know how terrible they are or I have outgrown them. But every once in a while something random will hit me and I really want it. Lately, it’s been cereal. In school, I used to rock kids’ breakfast cereal with skim milk for dinner on a very regular basis, but having given up dairy, sugar and processed food, Lucky Charms are not really on my pantry’s guest list.

So I’ve been trying to find an alternative. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to find a cereal that is low in sugar, whole grain/gluten-free but doesn’t taste like cardboard. Like, really hard. So I decided to set about making my own. After running into snags on that front, too, I settled on perfecting a recipe for granola.

Crunchy Coconut Granola
Crunchy Coconut Granola

Continue reading “Granola Breath”

Juice Cleanse Recap

A week later, I’ve gotten some clarity. The short synopsis: Juice cleanse is awesome! It was hard. Sometimes really hard. But definitely worth it. It did everything it was supposed to do. I feel healthier, cleaner, and back on track. Also, it’s weirdly addicting and I kind of want to do it again.

green juice

It’s such a strange experience. After my last post, I took a turn for the worse. I did the juice cleanse from Sunday morning to Thursday afternoon and my reaction got progressively worse. I’d read more than once that the first day is the hardest, but that wasn’t my experience at all. I felt really good the first day, but pretty normal. The second day, which I’ve already written about, I went a little crazy. Felt real weird. Almost cried in public. Slept a million hours. The third day was similar to the second. I was less crazy maybe, but I felt more lightheaded. I couldn’t focus on anything at all. The fourth day, the headache arrived. It was terrible. Also, I slept a million hours again. I barely even got out of bed that fourth day. I ended up eating a modified version of my clean southwest salad because I was feeling so weak. The fifth day was a half day, which was my intention. And, it was for the best because I was legitimately sick by that point. Maybe the sickness meant that I should have kept going to get past the detoxing, but it was time to stop. I was so nauseous and my headache was even worse.

So, my description probably makes it sound really terrible. But somehow, it really seriously wasn’t. Like, the bad parts were bad. But overall I could tell it was working, which is what’s important.

And all weekend, after the cleanse was over, I felt amazing. I still do! I’ve been having a 16 ounce of green juice everyday for breakfast, which is good for two reasons. First, it’s really the best way to consume as many greens as possible, and it’s a nice way to ease your metabolism into the day. Second, it’s a really good way to remind me to keep up the clean eating for the day. If I have kale-pear juice for breakfast and feel really fresh after, I don’t want to ruin it later.

So for anyone who might be interested, I thought I’d post my juicing schedule. Juice Cleanse

A few of the recipes are on the last couple of blog posts I’ve made. It would take a long time to post the full recipes of every single juice, so I’m not gonna do that unless I get some requests. But in the meantime I have some basic rules for how much to use of each ingredient.

    • Kale: 6-8 leaves. (If you buy Cal-Organic, it’s one bunch.)
    • Spinach: 1 cup.
    • Romaine: 4-6 leaves.
    • Cucumber: 1 cuke.
    • Celery: 5 stalks
    • Carrots: 4-5 carrots
    • Beet: 1 large beet or 2 small
    • Apple: 1-2, depending on taste preference or how many other ingredients are involved
    • Lemon: 1 fruit.
    • Ginger: 1 inch chunk.
    • Grapefruit: 1 or 2 depending on how many additional ingredients you have.
    • Mint: Handful of leaves
    • Parsley: 1/4 cup
    • Pineapple: 1 cup

Obviously, I just included the first three days, because that is how long I prepped. The fourth day I recommend taking your favorites of each category and having those. You can also experiment with combos that use these basic ingredients. I made choices partially based on what I had left from my big shopping trip. For the fifth day, do one green, one citrus, and one root, then eat produce and seeds/nuts for dinner. Avoid animal products and sugar especially. You should also stick with vegan for a couple of days after, too.

Hopefully if you try it out you find it as rewarding as I did. Please let me know if you have questions!

-lj

Juiced Up (Adventures in Cleansing)

Hello! Welcome to the first day of my juice cleanse. So far, so good!* I’m planning on doing three, possibly four days, depending on how I feel. And I thought I would blog about how it’s going along the way.

*It’s been about 7 hours…

I’ve wanted to try a juice cleanse for a while. I’ve done a couple of raw or semi-raw food detoxes in the past year, as you know if you read this thing regularly, but this time I wanted to step it up. I’ve said I want to amp up my efforts starting now, because it’s been a year and it’s time. First step of amping up? Juice cleanse.

The specifics of a juice cleanse are simple enough. Six bottles of juice a day, equal to roughly 96 ounces total. I am adding in an extra bottle of “spicy lemonade” which is like a lazier version of Master Cleanse (lazy because it is agave nectar instead of hardcore black tar pure maple syrup and more water).

When I decided I wanted to go this route, I was planning on ordering my cleanse. Juicing establishments often have cleansing programs. We have one local one in Indy, or there are several in LA or New York who will ship overnight to you. The national ones are crazy expensive, though, presumably because they are using LA or New York pricing. The local one was cheaper, so I decided to go with that, but when I went to place my order I was informed that they were booked for the next 8 days and I should have scheduled earlier. Something they could have mentioned on their website, which I read three times.

So, I was annoyed. I put a fair amount of effort into planning the cleanse, limiting my nutritional and caloric intakes for the week and limiting my number of work assignments for the weekend. But I was telling my mom about this problem and being the angel on earth she is, she suggested she buy me a juicer! I have been really missing my roommate’s juicer since I moved out a few months ago, so that was like the best solution I could think of.

After doing a little research on different juicers, I ended up with the Omega Vert 330. It juices at a low-speed, which is important because the high-speed ones heat up the juice and cook away some important nutrients. So far, it’s been pretty great.

The Omega Vert 330 Juicer! (Yes, I am blogging Instagrams. #noshame)
The Omega Vert 330 Juicer! (Yes, I am blogging Instagrams. #noshame)

But then the problem was the actual juice. The bottled programs have certain schedules to follow, and then often you pick the specific juices based on the category. For instance, you start with a green juice of your choosing, then mid-morning have a citrus. So that’s fine, I had some guidance there, but I still didn’t know specific recipes. I was on an hours long Internet scavenger hunt, looking for the perfect combo of juices, and if possible, recipes to go with them.

In the end, I found a few basic ingredient lists (e.g. Apple, Lemon & Ginger), a few actual recipes, and a couple that I made up myself (or already had in my repertoire). I spent quite a while mapping out which juices I would drink which days and in what order. Some of the standard ingredients were going to be duplicated (or quadruplicated) on any given day, but I didn’t want, like, three pineapple juices on day 1 and none the rest of the time. I also wanted to make sure if there was a juice I was really dreading that the one after it would be extra delish. That was another thing, I needed to make sure that I wasn’t cheating by using juices that sounded really tasty but weren’t necessarily as effective as others would have been.

Granted, I’m only halfway through the first day, so have had three out of eighteen juices, but I think I did a good job. I am starting out every day with the same super green juice (kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, celery, apple, lemon & ginger) but the second green juice of the day can be a little more innovative. In an hour or so I’m going to drink “Mojito Juice,” which came mostly from the link above.

The process has been really great so far. Aside from actually purchasing the juicer, it’s significantly cheaper to do it yourself. It was going to be about $160 to do the local bottled program, which is a lot. I spent about $115 at Whole Foods, which is still a lot, but it’s less than $160. Also, the amount of produce necessary for 18 16 oz bottles of juice is pretty substantial.

-This is what $115 of organic produce looks like.
-This is what $115 of organic produce looks like.

For bottles, I poured the water out of a bunch of 16.9 oz water bottles and into bigger 1.5 liter bottles, and am using the little ones for juice. Glass is better, and if I’d been thinking ahead I would have been saving up tea bottles over time, but live and learn. The plastic ones are fine!

The other good thing about doing it myself is it’s actually kind of fun. It’s quite a bit of work but I like seeing the whole process. There’s something so soothing about seeing the process, witnessing how it goes from a big leafy green to a juice I’ll be drinking. I like the creativity.

Day 1, Juices 2-5
Day 1, Juices 2-5

I’m going to keep updating the next couple of days, tracking my progress both physically and emotionally. And I’ll post my “meal plan,” but I’ll wait for a post that isn’t already so long. (I’m wordy, I’m sorry!)

In the meantime, here are some recipes:

Super Green Juice

  • 1 Bunch Kale
  • 1 Cup Spinach
  • 8 Leaves Romaine
  • 3 Stalks Celery
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 2 Apples
  • 1 Inch Ginger

Grapefruit-Ginger Juice

  • 2 Red Grapefruits
  • 2 Lemons
  • 1 Apple
  • 1 Inch Ginger

Spicy Lemonade

  • 15 Ounces Filtered Water
  • 2 Lemons
  • 1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar

Spicy Lemonade

-Please don’t be mad if these do not taste good. Sadly deliciousness is not a requirement for juice cleanse. I think they are all tolerable though, particularly the first two.

Happy juicing!
-lj

Vegging out.

So this week continues my on-going quest to insert more vegetables into my life. Having recently passed the one year mark on this operation, it’s time to step up the game. My body understands the difference between healthy and unhealthy now, finally, and it’s time to escalate to the next level. I’m marking the occasion with a juice cleanse! 

Honestly part of it is to initiate next level status, but part of it is because I have been having frequent headaches and other illness-y symptoms recently and I want to get out whatever toxins are making me sick. To prep for a juice cleanse, the juice company recommends taking a few days to work your way into it, which means a mostly vegan, gluten-free, unprocessed diet. I’ll talk more about this later but I wanted to set the stage!

I don’t mind eating mostly produce at all, certainly not just for a couple of days, but my body gets annoyed if it doesn’t have what feels like a real meal. And, I figure three days of nothing but cold-pressed juice is coming up, so I don’t really want to eat a whole bunch of vegan soup leading up to that. So I thought about meals I’ve made in the past that are solid food, warm and almost entirely plant-based. I really love spaghetti squash so I decided to think about something like that.

zucc marinara
Zucchini Marinara

Continue reading “Vegging out.”