OK – I’ll have to admit one of the reasons we’ve been able to be so successful with our gut healthy journey and change of lifestyle is there have been some amazingly delicious and super easy recipes – like our go-to grass-fed burgers (or bison) with an easy coleslaw, fermented pickles and avocado. Yum!
Once you’ve had this, there will be no surprise why it’s quickly become one of our favorites. There is one ‘weird’ ingredient that you may not be used to eating or cooking with is fennel. We have never had fennel prior to our gut health journey — but there are a handful of recipes that’ve called for it like this one. And it does have a distinct taste, but it tastes good! Fennel is oddly shaped and a member of the carrot family, but it is not considered a root vegetable. A few other ‘gut healthy’ pointers when buying some of your ingredients:
Yogurt – Make sure to get greek yogurt that has live cultures with at least 1 million CFUs (colony-forming units). Also, when possible look for pasture-raised cows so that you don’t have any extra hidden evils in there.
Meat – It’s crucial to purchase and eat grass-fed beef or bison, this ensures you’re not eating any additional antibiotics and getting the freshest and safest meat. We are always stocked on grass-fed beef thanks to Meatboxlocal.
Ingredients: – (4) carrots, peeled and shredded – (1) fennel bulb, shredded – 3-cups of sliced red cabbage – Juice from one whole lemon, – 1 teaspoon of celery seed – 1-cup of 2% plain greek yogurt – For Serving: avocado, fermented pickles, grass-fed beef or bison burgers.
Step-by-Step Instructions: 1. Wash and prep your carrots, shred them with a cheese grater into a bowl — add your red cabbage. 2. Next, prep your fennel – wash and cut the greens off. Then shred overtop your carrots and cabbage. Next up shred half of your lemon peel and pour lemon juice over top. 3. Top with your 1-cup of greek yogurt and teaspoon of fennel seeds. Mix well, refrigerate until ready to serve! 4. Serving size is 1-cup of coleslaw, use as your base and stack burger, quarter avocado and a few pickle slices for your final meal!
Serving Size: (1 burger, 1 cup of slaw, quarter of an avocado, 3 sliced pickles) 284 calories, 31g protein, 24g carbohydrates, 9g total fat,
And that is really it! I promise you it’ll be a go-to and it’s so easy to pull together. The coleslaw recipe would be great on it’s own as a side and a healthy alternative to bring to your next backyard bbq or family gathering. We make this at least once a week and love every bit of it – you don’t even miss the burger buns because the flavor between the coleslaw, avocado and pickles paired with the burger is just soooo good!
Ok, I have to admit the four year wedding anniversary gift is kinda weird and kinda of boring. Up until year four, the gifts have been fun and make you think outside of the box – but fruit or flowers? Yes, fruit or flowers is the traditional wedding gift for year four, which traditionally, is what B and I like to stick too. But ironically, the modern gift for year four is appliances. Ironic, because we’re in the process of a kitchen remodel and the only thing we’ve actually done is order our appliances, which are an upgrade and major splurge.
“Your relationship has fully bloomed by your fourth anniversary, making flowers or ripe fruit an appropriate gift.”
“A more practical gift, sure, but electrical appliances also embody how settled you feel in your relationship by the fourth year.”
Fruit and Flowers just seem like every day normal things to me – which in my opinion make this ‘theme’ a little less-special, especially when celebrating something so special as a marriage and your commitment. I also do research when I’m putting this together to provide unique gifts and ideas for my readers, because otherwise what’s the point?! So here are some twists/turns on this oddly normal gift theme.
Lemon Tree. A fruit tree can be a clever way to give the gift of fruit (and flowers) without letting it be eaten up or temporary. A lemon tree can grow and produce lemons year after year — of course some research may need to be done based on your climate, and/or keeping this inside. But I personally, would love a lemon tree!
Hydrangea Bush. In the same vein, this is something that you can plant together AND it will come back each year as a perfect reminder of your marriage – and each year it’ll grow bigger and stronger just like your relationship does. Of course, any sort of flower bush or plant would be a great gift, so finding something that fits into your climate and landscape will definitely be the best bet and may require a bit of research!
Flower Inspired Jewelry. If you’re not really a plant person – get something that never dies! Thesebirth month flower gold necklaces are simple, delicate and meaningful. Or this option is a little more bold and trendy(B, if you’re reading this, winky winky on this second link!). You could even get the flower of the month you were married to make it a little more special and tie it into your anniversary more! There are so many options to choose from on Etsy, plus then you’re also supporting a local business.
I definitely don’t recommend surprisingly your spouse with a brand new expensive fridge, unless you’ve already consulted each other on the purchase. Otherwise my beef with appliances as a gift is, it feels sort of boring and generic and bad-Christmas gifty — unless that is your thing! But that’s why I dug deep for a few more price-friendly and unique “appliances” if you’re shopping for a modern fourth wedding anniversary gift. The key for thinking of a more personalized appliance, is what’re things you enjoy doing together? Here is some inspiration from B and I.
Adult-Level Toaster. First of all, if you don’t have a four slice toaster, get one! Also four sliced toaster for your four year anniversary… dare I say, genius? Now, upgrade to a nice looking toaster that has style and function. B and I always like making breakfast together – so this makes sense and is something we’ll both enjoy using. Also, if you ever host you’ll be able to toast four slices, instead of two.
Gourmet Coffee at Home. B and I love to drink coffee, we also love getting coffee. You too? Bring the barista to your home! Even if it’s just getting a single serve espresso maker – this can instantly up your at home coffee game, especially if it’s something you both enjoy together!
A Glammed Up Air Fryer. We haven’t jumped on the air fryer train, but Drew Barrymore’s Beautiful line, exclusive to Wal-Mart (ugh!) is SUPER cute and kinda of makes me want an air fryer. The color options are so fun and you can get a few other matching pieces or appliances that all match and will make your kitchen looking high-end but at a much nicer price tag!
Here’s hoping that the appliances we ordered in June actually get here and that we can make this kitchen renovation a reality this year! So, backorder pending – we have our four year anniversary gifts already picked out, but I know we will find another way and something small to celebrate and spoil each other come November.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve shared a weekend highlight. One, because last year it felt like a cardinal sin if you had an ounce of fun or socialized with anyone — and this year, is just an awkward light-switch back to normal, so you better be prepared to live life like last year never happened! Sorry, not quite there – and have been taking baby paired with big steps into trying to get back to live pre-19.
But we had the most perfect weekend away, so I just had to share a few highlights from our time away.
Our annual STBC trip. A trip to the cabin means an automatic trip to our favorite spot, Southern Tier Brewing Co. We first went to STBC in 2013, and have made it back almost every year since as it’s our annual tradition. We usually make it there in the fall so that we can enjoy their fall seasonal beers, but we got there a little earlier this year! Luckily they had their fall beers on tap – so I was able to have my fave Warlock. The forecast for the weekend, specifically Saturday was looking like a wash, but we were going to try and arrive to STBC when they opened at 11am, so we could snag an optimal covered outdoor spot since we brought Moz. Well, when we were heading out, the forecast looked like it was clearing up, at least for our morning timeframe. It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. We got our prime covered, outdoor seat – avoided the crowds – and splurged on some yummy eats and brews! And by the time we left, it was a crazy downpour, so it was seriously the definition of perfect timing.
Homemade, local ice cream! I wanna scream right now — I ate real ice cream… in a cone… and didn’t die! After being diagnosed lactose intolerant almost 6-years ago, I just came to grips that I needed to opt for dairy-free or yogurt-based ice creams to avoid a problem. BUT after going on this gut cleanse, I was interested in trying out ice cream again, I think a big thing that helped is we went to a homemade local ice cream spot near the cabin. I really wanted cookie dough, but they didn’t have the flavor (can you even believe?) so I opted for buckeye and thin mint. Thin mint was definitely where it was at – I wish I had a whole cone of thin mint. It was basically amazing.
Cabin life. Our cabin getaway is a family home, so we are so lucky to be able to enjoy our time away, make memories with a quick drive to the middle of nowhere. Once you arrive at the cabin, you’re just welcomed with a sense of relief — the real world is so far away, even when you’re scanning work emails or posting something for a client. The covered deck is perfect for early morning breakfast and late night game nights with fun lights, tiki torches and quiet ambiance of nature. Even with the rain, being “stuck” inside is welcomed, because either way it’s a retreat and a break from the real world. We love our walks around the grounds, our morning coffee, sleeping in, and making breakfasts.
Between the rain working out with our schedule and being able to get our STBC trip in – to enjoying some ice cream – having a fun game night – and then meeting some fun farm animals at a neighboring farm, the weekend was simply perfect.
My “official” gut health journey is wrapping up, which means the start of the official life as we know it gut health lifestyle — this three part journey has only just been the start. In Phase 1, we took 30-hard days of cleansing our gut with a keto-like approach, which helped drop serious pounds and also clean out the bad gut bugs. In Phase 2, we focused on fertilizing and re-planting the good gut bugs back into our gut by adding in fermented foods and probiotics. Phase 3 has been all about maintaining and easing into “life as we know it” – and I have to say, I’ve been pretty pleased with Phase 3, as I’ve been able to give and take a bit more while still maintaining my weight over the last few weeks – which is the ultimate goal on top of having a healthy gut!
THE GIST OF PHASE 3
Phase 3 is basically life as we know it – with a primary focus on food that is closely related to and inspired by the Mediterranean Diet. Phase 3 is about achieving and maintaining the ultimate healthy lifestyle – with a good balance of healthy, natural foods, paired with exercise, ways to reduce stress, better sleep and even enjoying the finer things in life every now and again. That last part, was something that also made me realize I’ve picked the right thing to help switch up my overall health — being able to enjoy sweets and other tasty things. As we are reminded throughout the book the poison is in the dose. So many ‘diets’ are about being super strict and eliminating this whole food group or that whole food group – and this really offers a nice variety – it’s just focusing on cutting out the fake foods our society has normalized and made so easily accessible overtime.
Also, so many diets focus on the food only – and not the well-rounded being beyond saying you should “work out.” Here is another powerful quote that represents what this lifestyle change is really all about. Another gut-health resource on Instagram is Dr. Mark Hyman – he shares a lot of great gut health information.
“Environmental influencers do impact the expression of certain parts of your genetic code. Diet, exercise, stress levels, toxins, and more can trigger receptors in your genes that will alter the messages they send to your body. That means what you do, what you eat, how you exercise, how much stress you have, and how you behave everyday actually affects you at the deepest possible biological and physiological levels.”
The Gut Balance Revolution
MY PHASE 3 RESULTS
This 85 day journey has proven crazy results, including obvious physical ones and then mental and other health benefits. I’m actually below my initial goal weight of 154 and weighing 149, which is a total loss of 25lbs. And, as I mentioned since Phase 3 has started, we have been able to maintain that weight steadily for the last couple weeks — even with a cheat day thrown in here and there.
Let’s talk more numbers! I’ve lost 6% of my body fat since the start – which is incredible in and of itself. I’ve even lost over 7-inches around my upper thigh, 5.5-inches around my belly and my breast width is down 2-inches. The physical transformation, has also helped my mental well-being, I just feel better. I’m more confident, more happy when I put clothes on — the weight has literally been lifted.
As I mentioned in my Phase 2 update, I’ve been able to eat a few things that I haven’t in over 6-years, like yogurt (pretty regularly, soft cheeses). My cough that was lingering since October has even gone away, whether it was acid reflex related or not, my cough and congestion have become much more tolerable and pinpointed to actual natural elements (even though I don’t have any technical allergies).
We will continue to make recipes and utilize everything we’ve learned from a healthy diet perspective, what to favor and what to have fewer into our everyday diet. We’ll continue to integrate wild caught fish like salmon and shrimp and even focusing on making sure we’re buying grass-fed meats (oh hey, Meatboxlocal!) And we will continue to severely limit those processed foods that do our bodies no good. And yes, I look forward to integrating a few more cheat days into the mix – especially as we’re getting back into a workout routine along with our better eating habits. I did enjoy a frosted cookie and piece of my mom’s apple pie over the weekend – totally worth it, but also worth reeling it in the rest of the weekend!
ICYMI – I started my own Gut Health Journey, after diving into the Gut Balance Revolution book. The first phase was a 30-day cleanse that showed major improvements with a keto-like approach to cleanse my gut. It was wildly successful, but only the first part of this journey.
The Gist Of it.
This Phase 2 is rolled out as “do it until you reach your goal weight.” When I ended the first Phase I was still 5-6lbs away from my goal weight, but was 15lbs down already. The focus of Phase 2 was adding prebiotics and probiotics back into our diet to add the good gut florals back after being cleansed. I thought we would be on this for a quick two weeks, but we’ve been working through Phase 2 for almost four weeks now. I was also nervous about this phase since a lot of the ways prebiotics and probiotics are added back in during this phase is through yogurt, kefir, and a few other typically not so dairy friendly diet options. This phase also adds in a variety of fermented items like pickles, sauerkraut and beets, yum!
Our portions for Phase 2 seemed a lot bigger than Phase 1 – so we were a bit shocked, and questioned if we were portioning correctly, although didn’t complain. We also were adding in more good carbs, like black beans, garbanzo beans, steal oats and buckwheat porridge, just to name a few — this also had me a bit hesitate as they aren’t only filling (while is great), but they’re also carbs!! As I’ve continued reading, I’ve learned that picking good carbs and controlling the portion better are OK to incorporate into the diet.
my phase 2 results
I finally hit my goal weight of 154 at the start of week three in this phase for a total weight loss of 20lbs, which was conveniently right before our beach vacation. And I’m down nearly 7.4% in total body fat since the start of this journey. I also had little to no side effects on eating those foods that I was nervous about and typically avoid like the plague, like greek yogurt, kefir and even a coleslaw we made was delicious! We quickly fell into a good eating pattern, mixing up the recipes for breakfast, snacks, lunches and our dinners making Phase 2 somewhat of a breeze after learning the meal options. Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen berries has been my new favorite breakfast, and I haven’t ate yogurt in probably 6+ years.
Another part of Phase 2, I’ve been trying to navigate responsibly is being able to have some alcohol again. After going nearly 40-days of not drinking, I enjoyed a glass of champagne – this may be my main “cheat.” The book only really talks about red wine and beer, which I don’t drink or haven’t been able too drink so I was sticking to my safe bubble route. It definitely came for good timing with a few more social functions happening now that Summer is in full swing. I’m still trying to be strict, but also enjoy myself and I’ve been pretty good at finding that balance so far! I did learn that recovering with a hangover on this diet is a little harder than before – since I’d normally just consume a bunch of carbs and greasy food. Whoops 🙃!
We will most likely stay on Phase 2 a little bit longer since we’re coming off of a week long vacation – although I’ve been sticking too the diet pretty well still. From there we will be starting Phase 3 which is the final phase and maintenance mode. I’m looking forward to finalizing this initial journey, while kicking off the ongoing phase in order to maintain this goal weight — while also being able to enjoy a few more cheat-like things from time to time. More to come as we continue into Phase 3 and work towards maintenance mode and sustaining all this hard work we’ve done in the last almost 60 days.
#ICYMI: May is Mental Health Awareness Month! A year ago, I was reflecting on the state of the world – and my growing state of my mental health, and not in a good way. But it has been interesting to reflect back at moments of this past year when I allowed my anxiety to get the best of me, whether that was being bed ridden, constant chest pains, sobbing fits or panic attacks. I went threw the gambit of emotions that were amplified by the world this past year.
I have always tried to be open and honest about my anxiety, because I think it’s (1) important, (2) it’s reassuring to know you’re not alone, and (3) to show how we all react and feel anxiety and stress differently. I’ve worked really hard, especially in the last few months to push myself out of certain comfort zones to deal with my anxiety and stress head on – because let’s face it, that is sometimes the most direct way in overcoming or managing it. I’d like to emphasis the managing part — because some times it doesn’t go away, or it does but can come right back in a flash, that’s the funny thing with anxiety, stress and everything in between, it’s always sort of just hiding in the shadows waiting to come out. One of my goals this year was making my health a priority – mentally and physically, and I finally started talking to someone again in February.
For me, I have always had some social anxiety to a certain extent, whether that’s drinks at a bar with friends, a night out with mutual acquaintances or walking into a room where I may only know the person I’m standing next too. I like to be around people who I trust, make me feel safe and I’m able to be my authentic self around — I blame that on getting burned a few times in high school, but I’m also OK with that. So imagine that “normal” social anxiety and then you add this past shit show of a year on top of it, with an added layer of social expectations and family pressures and you get a hot mess of anxiety and fear – aka, Me.
In addition to that, I’ve been in fear of getting or being sick (literally since March 2020). I’ve started to become better at rationalizing how I’m feeling and realizing that I’m not sick — but it’s taken a long time for me to get to this point. But that has been helpful for me, rationalizing things and feelings that can be, while also making sure I’m aware and acknowledging my feelings whether they’re rationale or not. I’ve come to realize I can do normal things and not get sick — a fear, I think that was beat into our brains throughout this past year.
So without getting too much into the weeds — that is what my therapist is for — I just wanted to shed some light into one part of my anxiety-ridden world that I live and deal with. I’m so beyond thankful for our friends, who have been open and accepting of my excuse for not wanting to hang out being “I’m paranoid and just don’t feel comfortable, can we FaceTime for 4-hours instead?” I’m so beyond thankful for those friends who have checked in on my progress of finding a therapist, for those who shared their struggles, wants and successes in finding their own therapist (you know who you are!). I’m also thankful for B for helping me through my panic attacks, letting me cry, yell and share all my rollercoaster feelings when I‘ve been feeling them – and most importantly for being my rock when I needed an ally in my feelings or justifying my actions.
If you’ve been struggling, I can tell you 100% that it is worth fighting through the fear of what that person, friend or loved one might think of you asking for help or sharing your emotions and feelings — because on the other side is relief and an ally to help you get through the tough times, while celebrating the milestones and successes. And if you’re on the other side and may not understand everything, just try to show love, empathy and compassion – it goes a long way.
Welp. Amidst my MIA-ness on here, I had full intentions of starting and keeping you all up-to-date on my recent health journey – but instead you’ll get the cliff notes since I’ve just completed the first part of the journey. This journey is the most drastic thing I’ve ever done, for a prolonged amount of time, consistently and food wise.
How We Got Here.
It’s funny, really. I’ve had the book ‘Gut Balance Revolution‘ saved on my Amazon account for years — I can’t remember who first recommended it to me, I think a family-doctor friend. But, it was recommended because about five years ago, I started having and experiencing a lot of odd intolerances to a variety of foods i.e. dairy, Chinese food, certain vegetables and even alcohol like beer and liquors. I was eventually “diagnosed” with IBS with #2. So, I either learned to cut those things out — or I just dealt with the consequences when I wanted to enjoy some ice cream or pizza. Fast-forward to this year and with my lingering health issues, I started to read and see things about how our gut health can be linked to many other chronic issues (anxiety, sinuses, acid reflex, IBS, etc.). So it was at this moment, when I was finally ready to take charge of my body and health and learn a bit more about all of this. I ordered that book from my Amazon ‘Saved For Later’ — and as soon as I started reading, I felt a mix of emotions – I wanted to cry because this seemed like the answer to a lot of my problems and I also just wanted to keep reading and consuming as much information about food and everything that affects our gut health and health in general, as quickly as possible.
The gist of it.
This book has a specific program that helps people first, cleanse their gut, then rebalance their gut and then sustain a healthy gut, healthy weight and lifestyle, while still being able to enjoy some of the finer things in life — but all with moderation. So the first 30-days was a focus on forgetting foods that promote dysbiosis, inflammation, blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance. AKA no sugars, no starchy carbs, no dairy, low gluten, no alcohol and fewer FODMAPs. We ate a lot of greens, pasture-raised chicken, wild salmon, cod, shrimp, tuna, berries, eggs, quinoa and nuts – just to name a few things!
what i learned
We jumped into this pretty quickly to get this started, yes, B has been a champion alongside me helping with meal prep and even doing the program himself. Since we started so quickly, we jump straight in from eating like shit to shocking our bodies — I had some major keto flu-esq symptoms which mainly consisted of horrible leg aches for two days. Once we got past the hump… aka the first two weeks, it was pretty easy to maintain the routine of eating Breakfast, Lunch, a Snack and Dinner.
Besides learning more about food and food we think might be healthy — this program has been a bit of a shell shock with portion control. We’ve been following the recipe serving sizes to a T – and I will admit the first few dinners, I would look up at B and fake sob asking; “This is it?” But our bodies adjusted over time. There are also a ton of great recipes in this book that we will be pulling in for future breakfasts, lunches and even dinners for us or even if we’re hosting friends/family — so that was a plus.
The other huge part that allowed these 30-days to be a success, which was also in large part of B – was the prepping. We cleaned out the fridge and pantry of bad junk food, yucky condiments, beer and other things we wouldn’t need — so there wouldn’t be any temptations. The second part of planning, was working through meal plans and extensive shopping lists. From there, prepping the foods ahead of time for breakfast to be ready, or for me packing up my meal for the day when we had stuff going on was crucial and didn’t allow any room for error.
My 30 day results
Well the biggest result of the first 30 days, was loosing 15 pounds. Which, I definitely needed to do, especially after a strong year of pandemic living. I lost 2.6% body fat and 1-incharound my chest and 3.5 inches around my waistline. My upper thighs even shrunk by 4-inches within the last two weeks. Also, I think my lingering cough that I was having since November is gone away. *knocks on wood* I’m still waiting to see some of the other physical results, especially as we jump into Phase 2 of fertilizing our guts – so more to come. But I am hopeful and optimistic that this is a lifestyle that we can maintain as well, and hope to reap even more health benefits moving forward. The testimonial stories and research in the book are pretty incredible. I’d also like to preference, all of this weight was lost without working out – this was strictly diet related.
As I mentioned, we’re jumping into Phase 2 – which will be about two weeks. This has a focus on prebiotic and probiotic rich foods focusing on certain fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, wild game and fermented foods. And from there, we’ll go into a final Phase that adds in a bit more food variety! In general, I’ve learned so much and want to continue to learn more about how foods interact with our bodies. In addition to that, continuing to focus on my immune support along with starting to integrate more actual exercise so that I can tone and continue to get into a more balanced and healthy routine. This 30-day jump start is just the beginning!
P.S. I also can’t wait to drink some bubbles and eat a donut!
I had to come back from my month+ hiatus to celebrate a biggie. Today marks ten years with B… a whole decade, a whole third of my life ♥️! Our first date was on May 5th — and I always just use that date as the start of our relationship, because #FunFact: B never officially asked me out, we just were ever since our first date together.
Looking back, we were pretty inseparable since our first date and I know my when my parents rolled into town that weekend after our first date, and I was asking to go hang out with him at a bar they were like who is this dude? *smiles* There were so many early on signs that pointed to B and I being meant for each other, but I think my favorite was when we “found” each other in a crowd after my first half marathon. B was literally the first person I bumped into, before I could even find my gigantic family who I came with! It was just one of those movie moments that made you all starry-eyed. And if you’ve ever been in the aftermath of a race, you know it’s quite crowded and a sea of people.
Usually, we celebrate with Chipotle — but this year we’ll be making our own chicken lettuce wraps as we wrap up a 30 day gut cleanse and no alcohol, but that’s ok 🙃! We’ll be celebrating in the spirit of last year’s Cinco De Mayo funand dreaming of taco pizza – but at least we’re in it together.
A year ago today, we were all just starting to process the initial impact of the coronavirus… we had hope that it would be a blimp in the year, and not actually consume an entire year or completely turn our world’s upside down. We had optimism and hope, even as schools, gyms, churches and restaurants closed down. One good thing that came of the coronavirus, literally hitting on my birthday, was that turning 30 didn’t hold the weight it did leading up to the day – the pressures changed (but I am sure they’ll be back soon enough!) And here we are, welcoming 31.
This past year my anxiety reached new levels, a new kinda of anxiety, which has made me finally make my mental health a priority, even if it took 8-months. I’ve learned to go with the ups and downs, and when I need to take a break and when I needed to push out of my comfort zones to better my mental health. I’ve learned when I need to communicate the pain, the struggle and where I am at in the moment, so that other’s know how I feel and why decisions are made. While, not a whole lot of this past year made sense, what was right, what was wrong — with so many different opinions and thoughts, it came down to doing what made sense for me, what made sense for B and I. And not all of those decisions probably made sense to others, and I know future decisions won’t make sense to everyone either — but we are still trying to navigate into some semblance of normal, and that is still going to be disjointed for awhile.
I hope 31 brings back more moments of normal. I hope that I can continue to grow personally, continue to grow more in love with B, create new memories, focus on friendships, look for the positive, share love, learn new things, start making new plans, celebrate the precious moments, while cutting out the negativity in any shape or form it may be. So here’s to 31, another year of possibilities and hope!