Friday, August 15, 2014

Before & After

Far Left Dec 2012: Middle June 2013: Far Right June 2014

My Health Journey (at least one small part of it).

Way back in December of 2012 a lot of great things were happening in my life. I had just completed my student teaching, was living with one of my best friends, and finally graduating college with two degrees. My health however was not in great shape. At this point in my life I realized that I was at the heaviest I had ever been (A year or so prior I had had another "this is the heaviest I've been moment" but that new number had surpassed that old record high considerably). I started to come to terms with how much weight I had gained and tried to take some steps to lose it. At the start I was: 191 pounds. (pictured below)
During January 2013 I started taking small steps to losing weight. I became a bit more active and started watching what I was consuming. I didn't really see many considerable changes. 

In February of that year I was in a pretty serious car accident that put me in a hospital bed for awhile and then left me recovering and relearning how to walk. I was in a wheel chair for a good amount of time and over several months eventually worked myself back into walking without assistance. 

In March 2013 while I was recovering (now living with my parents) I decided I really needed to take control of my health issues. It wasn't just that I was overweight according to the internet- it was that I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin- simple activities were harder to do, my energy level was crap. I knew I wanted to change but still wasn't quite sure how. 
My mom and I dove into this crazy rewards program we developed for ourselves. That started with a juice cleanse and worked into the 17 day diet. Honestly, this plan was really effective for me. The intense diet worked well since it focused on healthy food choices. It didn't leave room for empty calorie choices and was so drastic to my regular eating habits that I had ridiculously great results. I also wasn't able to do much physical activity at the time so it worked out better for me to focus on food choices. This wasn't the first time I had tried the 17 day diet. Both times I had a lot of success with it. The hard part is what happens after!
Aside from the dieting and the healthy changes we were making during this time I discovered Sarah Jenks. She's a blogger who started the live more weigh less movement. I started reading about emotional eating and learning about how people can use food to fill a lot of other voids. I did some soul searching and started focusing on living more. If you haven't read her stuff and have struggled with diets that don't work- you must read it! By starting to focus on the positives and loving myself just as I was at 190, I was able to really enjoy life and not feel like the diet was punishing me. Instead it was just one tool to help me get back to a healthy lifestyle.

By June 2013 I had reached about 175. However, like most normal human beings, after you come off of an intense diet it's easy to gain some weight back. (which is why so many diets don't work). So by mid July I had bumped back up to 185. I remember it was hard not to be discouraged but rather than feeling defeated I just kept plugging along. I decided to do the 17 day diet again and had some more success. I incorporated more exercise into it this time and by August I was fitting into my old skinny jeans back at 175. 

In August 2013 I started my teaching job. This rocketed a series of crazy life changes. I went from a pretty sedentary lifestyle to a full time on your feet all day job. I had the new job to get used to and in October moved to a new city closer to school. I remember trying to stay pretty healthy during the start of the year- but honestly I think all the changes helped distract me from being so focused on food that by the time November hit I had lost another 10lbs. (165) These months are proof that having a fulfilling life can really help you avoid emotional eating! 

The holidays happened and I gained some and lost some like most. Can't say no to those dang cookies! But in February 2014 I was about the same weight (167). 

When the new year hit I did a lot of searching to find inspiration about being healthy. Making better choices and having a healthier lifestyle. I was starting to feel complacent and not happy with myself, which is ridiculous right? I mean come on, I had lost over 20 pounds, I should be screaming with joy! But society has a way of making us feel really inadequate. And a lifetime of looking in the mirror and seeing all your flaws takes more than a few months to un-do. I re-read some of the Sarah Jenks material online and got re-inspired to like myself just as I was. 

I focused again on making more consistent healthy choices. I used my knowledge of nutrition and started tailoring it to what works for me. I tried incorporating elements of what the 17 day diet teaches but not depriving myself of the things I love. Last May I even tried being a vegetarian and doing daily exercise. 

During May 2014 I was down to my lowest weight I had been in ages, 153. I had lost a total of 38lbs. And honestly those last 15 pounds from February to May wasn't because of any crash diet, it was just by making consistent healthy choices and from focusing on my overall mental and emotional health! 

Since then I have slacked off a bit. The end of the school year got stressful and I totally turned to food for comfort. (bad me, I know better). Then the summer hit and I've been kinda living it up food-wise. I've been spoiling myself and indulging in maybe one too many ice cream cones. I'm back up to 167. But honestly, that's reality. When I'm eating healthy and living a healthy life style my body naturally and gradually lets go of that weight. But when I'm using food as entertainment, comfort, or some other thing I tend to over-eat and not make great choices about what I'm eating. 

So what's next?
I'm experimenting again with vegetarian dishes to help re-inspire my passion for healthy cooking. I'm purposely choosing not to do a crazy intense diet because I'm looking to make long term changes that will last. Also I'm planning on cutting myself some slack. I'm not going to get mad about gaining back a few pounds, and I won't beat myself up if my pants are a bit snug. I'm going to try and appreciate myself and my life right where I am now.

Here are things I've learned in the past year and a half about food/health/dieting that have really made a huge difference for me! 

1. Eat whole foods. (try to avoid processed foods or prepacked stuff)

2. If you want bread or chocolate or peanut butter just eat it. (The trick to this is buying great quality bread or chocolate. This way I don't have to feel like I need it every day or to binge on it because it's "not allowed". I can just enjoy great quality treats every once and awhile.)

3. Try to move daily. (walk, jog, dance, whatever works- just do something). 

4. Get excited about what you are eating. (In April I was getting super bored cooking the same chicken and veggies every night so I shifted to a no meat diet that way I'd be challenged to try new things. best. choice. ever. Cooking ended up being a fun thing to look forward to and made the meal taste that much better)

5. Make your plate look pretty. (this one may just be for me, but I swear it helps. Arranging your food really beautifully on a cute plate, or using colorful veggies on purpose can make your meal really visually appealing- not only will it be delicious and healthy but you can even instagram it.. lol #foodpic)

6. Try to address the issues in your life instead of filling them with food. (a lot of us eat when we are bored, sad, lonely, happy, celebrating, tired, etc. The trick to not over-eating is to start only using food for when you are hungry.- I still struggle with this, but take it one day at a time). Read this post on emotional eating, it's eye opening!

7. Try to not let your weight govern how you live your life. (so many of us put our lives on hold while we are dieting. We tell ourselves how fat we are and then punish our bodies with crazy restrictive diets that set us up to fail. Learn to love and accept yourself now. LMWL really helped me with this concept- and it's life changing once you grasp it. Start living the life you want right now- not after you are your goal weight. We only get one life and I'm pretty sure at the end of your days you won't care what size pants you were wearing- you'll care that you lived.)

So there it is. Lessons I've learned about health. It's only taken me 24 years to realize I don't want to spend the next 24 years in a perpetual cycle of dieting and gaining and dieting again. I'm honestly feeling happy at this weight. (Even though pretty recently I weighed less.) It's not that big of a deal. 10lbs or even 40lbs doesn't change who I am, or how happy I can be. I've had a great year and a half and I can promise you most of that happiness is because I'm trying to pour myself into living my life and not holding myself back regardless of whatever weight I happen to be. Honestly, the most dramatic change about my "after" picture isn't my pants size it's my mindset. 

I challenge you to really think about your relationship with food and with your weight. If you don't like what you find- dare to change the way you think! 

Comment below, or message me if you'd like to chat. I'd love to cheer you on in your own health journey or have a discussion about your thoughts on this post!

Monday, March 10, 2014

14 Kick-Butt Vegetarian Recipes

About 16 or so days ago I decided to try being a vegetarian for 20 days. In that time I've totally loved experimenting with new veggies and other foods I wasn't familiar with. These recipes contain a lot of standard ingredients- but also ones that stretched my comfort zone like quinoa, brussles sprouts, eggplant and more! I only have a few days left and I'm totally happy with how it's been going. I feel so much more empowered with what I can cook and the interesting combinations I've tried out. A lot of these were inspired by pinterest or my friend Danielle. Hope you enjoy!

Quinoa Bowl

Green Onion
Red Bell Pepper
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Canned Chicken (optional)

How to Make:
Prepare quinoa according to box instructions.
Chop up any veggies you wish to add in. 
Warm up the chicken.
Add veggies, seasonings, and chicken into the mixture.
Garnish and serve! 

Quinoa Stuffed Avocado and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

How to Make:
I like to use leftover quinoa for this one and serve the avocado and quinoa chilled. 
Mix in any desired seasonings or veggies and spoon quinoa mixture onto half of an avocado. 

Make the side:
Preheat oven to about 350.
Chop Brussels in half and slice up some onion. Place on a baking sheet and toss/spray with olive oil and add salt to taste. 
Cook until Brussels look browned at edges. 
May want to flip part way through cooking. 
Baked Egg Avocado

Avocado 1/2
Salt and Pepper
Cheese of Choice

How to Make:
Preheat oven to 375.
Scoop out a bigger hole at the center of the avocado to better fit your egg. 
Crack egg and salt and pepper. 
Place on baking sheet in oven for about 25 minutes or until egg is cooked through. 
Top with cheese in the last several minutes of baking. 
Try serving with a side of fruit and peanut butter whole grain toast. 
South Western Breakfast

Salt and Pepper
Black Beans
Bread of your choice

How to Make:
This one is pretty straight forward. 

Berry Green Salad

Goat Cheese

How to Make:
Combine ingredients try topping with a creamy poppy seed dressing.
For added delight try toasting the pecans in a dry non stick pan for a few minutes. 
Watch closely so they do not burn!

Chipotle Inspired Quinoa

Black Beans
Green/White/Red Onions
Lemon Juice
Kosher Salt

How to Make:
Warm up beans and quinoa. 
Slice up the tomato and your choice of onions. 
If you have fresh cilantro add it to the salsa. 
Once veggies are chopped and placed in a bowl add lemon juice and kosher salt to taste.

Note: This salsa, bean, quinoa combo is to die for. 


Cheese of your choice
Tomato Sauce

How to Make:
Pre-heat oven to 350.
Slice Eggplant. Make sure slices aren't too thin or too fat. 
Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on them to draw out water. And put a litte olive oil on them before placing them on the tray.
Place on a baking sheet and top each slice with sauce and cheese.
Bake until cheese is desired amount of brown. 

Tip: if you need a little more than just eggplant try making an English muffin and placing a few of the slices on there! I did and it was super yummy!

Roasted Veggies and Mashed Potatoes

Veggies of your choice
Mashed Potatoes

How to Make:
If you need a mashed potato recipe message me and I'll get you one. 
Take literally any veggies of your choice sprinkle with olive oil and salt and roast in the oven until they are browning. 
I like this recipe because it's super simple and a nice warm option. 
I used: Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Red Bell Pepper, Asparagus, Eggplant, Onion, and Broccoli.
Goat Cheese Veggie Pizza

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
Red Pepper
Goat Cheese 
Olive Oil

How to Make:
Follow directions for pre-made pizza crust. (I used the artisan pizza crust from pillsbury- not super healthy but it worked)
Cook up any desired veggies in a pan ahead of time. 
Spread olive oil and seasonings across the base of the pizza.
I layered my spinach next then dumped on the cooked veggies. 
I spread around the tomato slices and the goat cheese evenly.
Bake in oven until corners of crust are browning and veggies/cheese seem warm.
Top pizza with fresh arugula and eat! 

Eggplant "Burger" and Sweet Potato Chips

Ingredients for Burger:
English Muffin
2 large eggplant slices
Tomato slice
Red Onion
Red Pepper
How to Make:
Roast the eggplant, pepper and onion on a tray in the oven using salt and olive oil. (add to last half of sweet potatoes)
Toast English muffin
On English muffin stack the arugula, eggplant, tomato, onions, and red pepper.

Ingredients for Chips:
1 medium/small sweet potato
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
How to Make:
Preheat oven to 375.
Peel a sweet potato. 
Slice into very thin pieces. (The thinner they are the more chip like they will become)
Brush or spray with olive oil and lay out the slices on a baking tray. 
Sprinkle a little kosher salt and cinnamon on the top.
Bake in oven about 15 minutes or until sides are browning. 
Flip chips and resprinkle the seasonings.
Bake another 10-15 minutes. (add eggplant burger veggies here). 
Watch so the chips won't burn. Unless you like them that way like me! 

Mashed Potato Pancakes

Left over Mashed Potatoes
Red Pepper
Sour Cream
Green Onion
Parmesan Shaker Cheese
Vegetable Oil

How to Make:
Place left over mashed potatoes in bowl and mix in one egg and some shaker cheese. 
Form into several patties.
Heat up a thin layer of vegetable oil in the bottom of a frying pan. 
Place pancakes in and flip once the bottom side has browned and hardened a bit.
Potatoes are done when both sides are browned. 
Top with some grilled or fresh veggies and sour cream.
Serve with a salad! 

Veggie Pizza and Eggplant Chips

English Muffin
Green Apple
Goat Cheese 
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
How to Make:
Preheat oven to 350. 
Slice and chop up an eggplant into small thin bite-sized pieces. 
Spread out on a pan and salt and season the chips how you want them. 
Bake 10-15 minutes or until the begin to brown. 
Flip the chips over part way through.
Bake until chips are at desired level. 
Use a tiny bit of olive oil on your English muffin and spread goat cheese across tops. Add in oven toeard end of cooking chips to toast bread and warm the cheese. 
Remove from oven and top with spinach and green apple, or strawberries and avocados. The second combo is to die for! 

Quinoa "Fried Rice"

Red/Green Onion
Red Pepper
Olive Oil
Soy Sauce
Lemon Juice

How to Make:
Chop up any desired vegetables. 
Begin cooking in a skillet on stove top. 
Add in soy sauce and lemon juice while cooking. 
Follow directions on how to make quinoa on box. 
After quinoa is cooked don't leave it to set- add it to skillet. 
Next clear a space in the skillet and fry up a scrambled egg. 
Once egg is cooked mix it in with the rest of the veggies and quinoa in the skillet. 
Add any more soy sauce, lemon juice, or other seasonings to taste. 
Note: This was yummy and I'm not usually a fan of regular fried rice. 

Sweet Balsamic Brussels Sprouts and Couscous

Brussels Sprouts
Dried Cherries
Goat Cheese 
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar 
Agave Nectar

How to Make:
Add a little oil to a frying pan. 
Chop Brussels Sprouts in half and remove the stems.
Begin cooking Brussels in Pan.
Chop up several pecans and 1/8 cup of dried cherries. 
Once the Brussels are browning add cherries and nuts to pan.
After cooked place the mixture into a bowl and toss with a small amount of balsamic vinegar and agave nectar. 
Top with some crumbled goat cheese.

Serve with couscous and prepare as directed on box. 

Thanks for reading and to those of you that have been putting up with all my food pics on instagram! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Studio Apartment

Happy February break to any teachers or students. I am so happy to have this week off to relax, unwind, plan, and organize. One of my very first mid-winter break tasks was to finish getting my apartment together. I've been piecing it together bit by bit since I moved in last October. I finally am to a point where I feel really ready to share it with you. Enjoy the pictures. Click on any of the photos to get a closer look! 

First, a Panoramic shot of my living area. This is where the magic happens.

The entry way is the first space you see as you walk into my studio. It's pretty basic, a small shelf to hold my purses, scarves and boots, a shoe mat and a little coat rack. The shelf, the coat rack, the teal basket and the polka dot door mat are all from Ikea. The "Make It Happen" print is from Lara Casey's shop and the gold polka dot key tray is from Target.

I really enjoy that even though this is a studio apartment it has a separate room for the kitchen. This space is great because of the compact cooking area and the spacious eating area. I was able to bring my kitchen table that my Dad made while he was in high school. It's a great piece and the benches work perfectly in the space. I also love that I finally have a spot to hang my Warhol flowers print, and newly hung today a sweet little chalkboard and wire basket from Gabby. Lamp, ikea. Chalkboard, target

The bathroom is a bright little room. The largest challenge in here was finding a place to store everything. I ended up getting a wire shelf from walmart to put over the toilet to create some extra shelving. For the most part it works very well and makes everything very easy to access.

The living room is by far my favorite area of the house. It has my sitting area, my bed, my piano, and everything I really need. The walls are full of artwork and prints with sentimental meaning and things that inspire me. The very neutral pallet is calming but the vibrant blues and golds give the space some excitement.
The prints above my bed are taken by myself and my father and are framed in ikea ribba frames. It's special to me to see my photo(right) hanging next to one of his. In a way it helps me feel connected to my dad and something he was passionate about. The oil painting above the couch is a lovely piece I found at homegoods. I was so happy to find a painting with exactly the right colors and one that could take up a large portion of my blank wall above the sofa.

 The frame collage above my keyboard is another favorite of mine. There are pretty prints, inspirational quotes, and sentimental things all mixed together. The neutral colors help keep the frames united.

One of my other favorite pieces in the living area is the blue glass lamp. I bough it at target soon after moving in and I love how it looks on my thrifted side table. 

Bedding and pillows mostly ikea and homegoods. Lamp: target, sofa and chair purchased used, side table thrifted, frames either repurposed or purchased at ikea. Quote canvas and framed piece are both handmade. 

One non-pictured area of the apartment that I do love is the closet space. I have a large closet for clothing and an even larger craft/office area closet. Someday I'll share those but for today that's all. 

Hope you enjoy my happy little space. If you are ever in the area I'd love for you to swing by! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

13 things about 2013

I'm sure you are probably sick of reading nostalgic and retrospective posts about everyone's past year, but I just couldn't help myself from jumping on the band wagon. I don't always share my reflections on my year- but this year in particular has brought so many crazy, terrifying, wonderful experiences that I felt the need to reflect.

So to help me keep this post "short" I will limit myself to only share with you 13 things that happened this year.

1. I became a substitute teacher:
This was significant for me because it was my first "big girl" job after graduating college. It was the first job I had that actually used my degree and education training. While I was subbing I lived with my friend Derek in central PA and he subbed as well. It was my first taste of "adulthood" or life after college.

2. I almost was in Legally Blonde:
While living in central PA I auditioned and was cast in Legally Blonde as Kate.We spent weeks dancing and singing and learning staging. I met some amazing people and had a seriously great time- that was until a week before the show when #3 happened.

3. I was in a very serious car accident:
February 1st I was headed to work one morning and my car slid on a patch of ice, right into a tree. The accident was pretty severe and I ended up with a broken knee and hip and 2 surgeries. The accident completely annihilated my mobility and independence. For those of you that were around and there for me during this extremely trying time in my life- I can't say thank you enough.

4. I spent several months of the year relearning how to walk again:
Like I said in #3 my hip and knee were broken, I couldn't even get out of bed much less walk. I spent about a week in the hospital and then several more weeks at a rehabilitation center in PA. My roommate at the rehab center was 94 years old- as you can imagine most of the people there were much closer to 94 than 22. I worked with amazing doctors, therapists, and nurses and eventually was approved to go home. "Home" mind you, switched from being central PA with Derek to Western Massachusetts with my parents. Once I was home in Mass I started visiting a physical therapist several times a week, I moved from using a wheel chair, to a walker, to crutches, to nothing. I have an amazing amount of love and gratitude towards all the doctors and specialists that worked with me. Without their commitment and training I would not be walking today. I also could not possibly thank my parents enough for all their love, patience, encouragement, and support. It's hard to believe that less than a year ago I could literally do nothing without help from someone.

5. I started my own online greeting card business:
While I was at home recovering I was bored. Like really, really bored. You can only do so much when you are confined to sitting on the couch all day. In March I came up with an idea to start a craft business- I invested what little money I had into some supplies and began creating greeting cards and started up my own business called "Everyday Hello". I'm proud to say that after looking into my Christmas time sales I actually have made some profit off of the business- not much, but still :) To see more everyday hello pictures explore #everydayhello on Instagram- or go to the actual site!

6. I applied for countless teaching jobs all around the East coast:
Applying for jobs is one of the worst things ever. It takes so much time and effort to apply to jobs and then most of the time it ends in rejection. I applied to many jobs and interviewed for several. By the time August hit I still hadn't found a teaching job. I can't really explain how defeating it feels, but I'm sure many people can relate in today's economy.

7. I was hired for my first full time teaching job: Mid-August hit and I got called for an interview for a middle school music position in central Massachusetts. I did the interview and shortly after was offered the job. I cannot even explain my excitement and gratitude I have for this job.

8. I moved out of my parents house and got my first studio apartment in a city I've never been to:
In the beginning of the school year I lived at home with my parents and drove an hour to work everyday. That was killing my bank account, and making me lose out on a lot of sleep so I decided to move out! I found a lovely studio apartment in a city not far from my school. I'm completely in love with the apartment and I had so much fun decorating and moving out on my own. At first I was really hesitant about living by myself, but it's honestly not so bad. True, it can be lonely, true it sucks to have to do all the housework and pay all the bills, but really I quite enjoy living alone. (Well I do have a sweet kitty to keep me company- that certainly helps).

9. I was given teacher of the month my first month at school:
I was so nervous that I might fail miserably at teaching or disappoint the school. What if I wasn't what they wanted? What if I actually suck at teaching? What if I don't know enough? Well it turns out I was doing just fine. The administration noticed me and awarded me teacher of the month. I was surprised, honored, and truly grateful to receive positive recognition for what I was doing. Since then I've gotten pretty good reports from observations etc. and although teaching can be extremely challenging and hard at times it's also extremely rewarding.

10. I conducted my first chorus concert:
During my student teaching I never was able to conduct at an actual concert so the very first time I conducted was this December with my middle school chorus. The students did an amazing job and displayed their abilities well. I was really proud of them and am really looking forward to the spring.

11. I met and started dating Dan:
Making new friends and meeting people has been a challenge this year. It's hard to meet people when you live in a city where you know no one. I decided to give online dating a try and met Dan. He lives in the same city, we have a lot in common, and we hit it off really well. We've been seeing each other about 2 months now.

12. I lost and kept off about 20 lbs:
Throughout this whole year, especially spring and summer time I focused on being healthier and trying to lose some weight. I did the 17 day diet with my mom- all 4 cycles pretty diligently. We even came up with this complicated rewards system to keep us motivated. Even during the school year I managed to continue eating healthy, it wasn't until the holiday season that I really started tripping up. After the year ended I can proudly say I managed to lose and keep off 20 lbs. I am looking forward to working towards being healthier this next year too! I've already delved back into a more strict diet to recoup some of the holiday gain. After the first several weeks I am feeling great, healthy, and am looking forward to seeing continued positive and healthy changes in my body!

13. I had the opportunity to take trips, see friends, and experience a lot of great moments:
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how lucky I am to have had multiple opportunities to take trips to Lockport, Mansfield, and other places this year. I was blessed to be able to take trips with family, with friends, and to see family and friends. One of my favorite trips this year was when I went down to SC. I traveled with friends going down, and then got to see even more friends once we got there. I have many amazing memories with friends this year- even though they might be fewer and farther between than during college they still mean so much to me!

So much for "short".... at least I limited myself to only 13 things.

In conclusion I'd say that 2013 has been a year of growing up, a year of appreciating, a year of refocusing, and a year of new beginnings. I'm excited to think of what 2014 may hold! Wishing you all the best as we begin this new year.