Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Review: The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

I just finished reading The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg. Fannie is the author of Fried Green Tomatoes, one of my all time favorite stories. When I heard an interview with her on NPR a few weeks ago about this latest novel of hers, I was eager to read it. She didn't disappoint!

This book is the current read of my book group, The Novelties. We meet to talk about it next Wednesday. I'm looking forward to hearing what my girls have to say about it.

This, and Fried Green Tomatoes, are the only two novels of Flagg's I've read. Her writing style was consistent between the two. She goes back and forth between a historical time and current day, and as the story progresses the two plots intermingle, one solving the mystery of the other.

Our current day leading lady is Sookie, a 60-something year old woman with four grown children, a loving, supportive husband and a narcissistic, controlling mother. After a lifetime of putting up with and taking care of a mother like that, Sookie suddenly finds out she's adopted.

The historical timeline in the story is of the early 1940s, when three sisters served as female pilots in WWII (WASPS). The family consists of four sisters total, plus a male sibling. Their family ran a popular filling station in Pulaski, Wisconsin before the war.

As you can imagine, one of the sisters turns out to be Sookie's biological mother. True to Flagg's style, you may think you've put the pieces together well before the story ends, but, trust me, Flagg remains in control until the very end.

Also similar to Fried Green Tomatoes, the woman in the current day part of the story is a bit meek and lacks confidence, and the women in the historical piece are strong-willed and courageous. I'm not sure what to make of Flagg's tendency to portray current-day women as weak and broken.

I LOVE how pieces of true history are woven into the book. I learned things about females in WWII I didn't know before. The story of these women (even if they're fictitious) reminds us of the difficulties women incurred over the years in order for us to have the choices and freedom we have today.

If I were rating this book out of 5 stars, it would receive all 5. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

This Week's Meal Plan: Dec. 15 - Dec. 20, 2013

Over the weekend I created and shopped for my meal plan for the week. The meals that came from recipes I found online include links here for you.

Check out this meal planning website: You can import and store recipes and plan all meals for the week, and link to the recipes. It also creates a shopping list you can view from your phone while you're at the store.

Tex-Mex Casserole
Coconut Chicken
Hashbrown Casserole
Lasagna Soup
Banana Bread (I added chocolate chips to this recipe)

My Workout Week: Dec. 8 - Dec. 14, 2013

I'm working through Jamie Eason's 12 week Live Fit program on I'm following the weight training program she's outlined, but doing my own nutrition plan.

On days that included cardio, I did the weight training early in the morning before work, and the cardio after work before dinner.

Sunday: off
Monday: Back, cardio
Tuesday: chest, abs, cardio
Wednesday: glutes, legs
Thursday: biceps, triceps, abs, cardio
Friday: shoulders (should have done cardio too, but I didn't make it back to the gym for it)
Saturday: was supposed to be another leg day, but I skipped it

Sunday, December 8, 2013

My Experience On The 21 Day Sugar Detox

I've finished my 21 Day Sugar Detox diet. I'll summarize here how well I followed it, how I felt on it, what I learned and how I plan on eating now.

How well I followed it: The first week, my motivation level was high to stick with it 100%. I followed the week one meal plan pretty much exactly.

Our trip to Tennessee for the Thanksgiving holiday was during the second week. My first day in Tennessee was the first time I fell off the wagon a bit. During those three days we were there, I stuck to the plan about 75% of the time. For the most part, I stayed away from all the bread, biscuits, dinner rolls, etc., that were present at all meals, and I steered clear of food with added sugar as much as possible. I did, however, allow myself some of my favorite holiday treats, like my mom's chocolate pie.

After we returned home and life got back to normal, I got right back on the plan 100%. I was comfortable enough with it that I was able to eat in an a' la cart manner, sticking to foods on the 'yes' list, instead of following the meal plan laid out in the book. All week long, though, I was wishing I had planned out meals, because eating on the fly with this was a little more difficult.

How I felt on it: That first week was tough. I found out quickly that my body doesn't respond well to not getting enough carbs. Around day three I felt weak and irritable. The morning of day four I woke up feeling sick and shaky. At that point, I calculated the amount of carbs I'd eaten each day, and it averaged around 50g per day. From that day on, I made sure to eat around 130g - 150g each day.

Going into the second week, I started to feel more energy, a clearer head, and enough excitement about that to strengthen my resolve.

By the third week, it wasn't very difficult to not eat sweet stuff. Cravings weren't much of a struggle most of the time. A bonus: I lost 7 pounds!

What I learned:
  • You have to be extremely intentional about reading labels and knowing what you're buying in order to not buy grocery items without some sort of added sugar or artificial ingredients. 
  • It IS possible, though, and not that difficult once you get in the habit of looking and knowing what to look for. 
  • I also (re)learned the importance of planning and cooking.
  • Meals that are home-cooked with real food ingredients have a high quality taste that I've come to desire much more than all that crap junk full of fillers and chemicals.
My exit plan and how I intend to eat going forward: This morning, I made my own meal plan for the upcoming week and went shopping for it. My experience with this diet has helped me get back into the habit of cooking dinner every night. When I do that, I'm able to easily pack lunch for the next day so that I'm not eating on the fly. I stay in control of what I eat this way.

I intend to continue to find and/or create new recipes and work with a weekly meal plan. I will use recipes that call for real food ingredients and use honey, maple or fruit when I need sweetener. It won't be difficult at all to cook without adding sugar to things, and I'm confident I'll be able to buy food without any kind of sugar ingredients added.

The only thing I truly missed and have figured out I don't want to do without is having sweetener in my coffee. I got away from using sugar a long time ago, substituting honey instead. I will definitely go back to using honey in my coffee now, but I bet I won't need as much of it. :)

The last consideration for my eating plan going forward is that I intend to follow the plan I just described here probably 80-90% of the time. If I'm out with friends or on occasions where I want to enjoy a sweet treat, slice of pizza, or otherwise go off the path a little bit, I will do so without regret.

As for the 21 Day Sugar Detox, I'm extremely glad I did it and highly recommend it to everyone. I wasn't perfect on it, but it did a great service to my resolve to clean up my eating and completely changed my mindset about food and feeding my body. I anticipate doing it again sometime next year.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Social Media, Meetings and Not-So-Creative Meals

Day 19 of the 21 Day Sugar Detox

Today was a whirlwind of a day, and my meals were blah. My work day started with a seminar in Lansing about social media, taught by one of my colleagues, Matt Bonifiglio, of MLive Media Group. Lots of great information about how to use social media to grow your business!

This morning, I was up at 5:00 for my workout and ate yogurt and a banana for breakfast around 7:30. I took my coffee with me for the drive. By 10:00 I was starving and sitting in that seminar. They had bagels and cream cheese for us, but I was good and didn't have any. As hungry as I was, it wasn't worth it to me to cave in and have all that bread. It would have kicked off a spiral of bread cravings.

I got to our Lansing office after the seminar around noon and ate my lunch, which was leftovers from last night: a chicken leg and fried rice and a carrot. Thankfully, I got full with that, because it was about that time when pizza was delivered. Ugh! One of my toughest weaknesses! Again, I didn't have any. It would have doomed my day.

I was busy with meetings the rest of the afternoon and ate a not-sweet cinnamon cookie with almond butter at 3:00 for a snack while taking care of some work on my computer.

As I said in yesterday's post, I haven't done much prep for this week's meals, and it was a late, long drive home from work, so I didn't feel like stopping at the store. Dinner was four slices of bacon and some rice crackers with almond butter. Oh, and a small glass of wine. Oh well, tomorrow's a new day. :)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On The Home Stretch

I had fun with my new UP24 today. I've wondered lots of times how many calories I burn in my day to day activities. This technology isn't perfectly accurate, but it uses a formula based on my age, weight, height and steps taken throughout the day. I also recorded everything I ate today.

It's 8:15 pm right now. According to my UP24, I walked 5,554 steps - the equivalent of 2.4 miles. I ate approximately 1,984 calories, which included 160 grams of carbs, 117 grams of protein, 52 grams of unsaturated fat, 37 grams of saturated fat, and 317 mg of cholesterol. Including my walking around and my morning workout, I burned 1,688 calories.

According to this data, I'm at a calorie surplus for the day. They were clean calories though, so hopefully they will go toward muscle gain.

I didn't have much time to plan my meals this week, having just gotten back from our Tennessee trip on Sunday evening. Our freezer is stocked with plenty of meat, so I'm just working with what I have in the kitchen and cooking up meals that fit my 21 Day Sugar Detox nutrition plan.

Today was day 17. Breakfast was full-fat plain yogurt with a cut-up banana mixed in and a 12 oz. latte made with whole milk. I had a handful of almonds after my morning appointment while I was driving back to Jackson. For lunch I ate more leftover chicken thighs and a red skin potato with butter and salt. My afternoon snack was a not-sweet cinnamon cookie from the book, with almond butter spread on it.

Dinner was chicken legs and fried rice (cooked rice fried in coconut oil with seasonings, some balsamic vinegar and scrambled eggs). I baked the chicken basted with coconut oil and seasoned with sage, chives, salt and pepper. I also had a glass of red wine tonight. It's been a long few days!

Scott took Harley, one of our dogs, to the vet this afternoon because her ears have been bothering her. Turns out she has a yeast infection in them. Poor girl. We're getting her all fixed up now. Hopefully she'll feel better soon.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Early Birthday Present: Jawbone UP24

I got a Jawbone UP24 today as an early birthday present from my wonderful, sexy, awesome hubby! Yay! I've downloaded the app, paired it to the device and personalized it. One of the first features I'll be using is the alarm. It will vibrate to wake me during the best sleep cycle within 10 minutes of the set time. Can't wait to experience that in the morning and start logging my activity and nutrition!

Day 16 of the 21 Day Sugar Detox

I noticed this morning after my workout, before breakfast, that I was feeling hungry. It felt good. It was a primal kind of hunger - my belly growling, telling me I need fuel - not that light-headed, blood sugar dip I've felt before that makes me feel shaky. I made bacon and an egg for breakfast again this morning with my coffee.

At around 10:30 I ate full-fat, regular yogurt with a cut-up banana. I'm really loving this snack. No need for all those sugary flavored "perfume" yogurts, as my step dad would call them.

For lunch I ate leftover mustard glazed chicken thighs and a red skin potato with butter and salt.

I found a recipe on the Paleo Diet Lifestyle website: Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaves. It sounded delicious and fit the 21DSD plan, so I made it tonight. It was awesome. Definitely a keeper.
I ate this plus some raw carrots and cauliflower for dinner. Yum! My son just ate one and said, "It's like heaven in my mouth." Ha!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Back To Work...

Today was a very full, long, good day. It started with a workout at 4:30 am, then off to Lansing to get back in the swing of things at work after being gone for four days.

I got home around 5:45 pm, just in time to eat dinner and head back out to watch my handsome stepson's school Christmas play. The kids did such a great job. Kudos go to their music teacher. She's a saint!

Last night I packed lunch and snacks for today, but I walked out and left it sitting on the back porch this morning. So... I had to eat out and find something to fit my 21DSD eating plan I'm on. Today was day 15. I'm well into my third and final week now. Even though I wasn't 100% "on" over the holiday weekend, I snapped right back into it today. It's getting much easier, almost like a habit already. :)

Today I ate:
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 scrambled egg
  • coffee with half & half
  • spinach and goat cheese salad with chopped apples (no dressing) from Grand Traverse Pie Co.
  • whole milk latte
  • cashews
  • sushi made with shrimp and rice (no soy sauce or other dressings)
I love the way I feel after a couple of weeks of eating like this. I'm already getting ideas of what maintenance will be like after this week.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thankful For Family, Friends and Traditions

We're back home from Thanksgiving vacation at my mom's home in Tennessee. In all, we spent two days on the road and three days at my mom's.

For my eating plan, the two days on the road weren't difficult at all. The three days at mom's, however, were challenging.

I'm on day fourteen of the 21 Day Sugar Detox. During the days at mom's, I stayed on course with the plan approximately 75% of the time. I did indulge in that chocolate pie of my mom's a couple of times, and I wasn't able to examine ingredient lists of some things or know how everything was prepared.

Last night, the last dinner we had there, I took over cooking duty. I made pork chops simmered in pinto beans and tomatoes, and mashed potatoes. I was able to control that meal a little better.

I haven't thought much about this in a while, but it's no wonder I'm usually such a carb junkie. Every single meal in my mom's house contains a large percentage of bread. Breakfast always includes biscuits and some kind of sweat sauce (jam, preserves, gravy, etc.). For dinner, some kind of biscuit or rolls are a staple, as well as something like breaded meat and/or dressing. Lunch, of course is some type of sandwich or leftovers. That's the way I grew up eating. Most of our meals were home-cooked, but we didn't realize how harmful the excessive amount of bread and sugar-loaded sides we consumed was.

While I was there, I was able to abstain from the bread at my meals and stick with the meat and vegetables, but the effort I had to put forth to be intentional with it really opened my eyes to how much processed grains and sugar my family consumes as part of their normal diet. I'm thankful I was knee-deep in the 21 Day Sugar Detox while I was there. Even though I didn't follow it perfectly, it served its purpose of keeping me from coming home miserable.

My mom and her husband own a Christmas tree farm on their property at their home. Our family tradition is for us to travel there for Thanksgiving and help with their opening weekend that week. It's a very active "vacation." Their tree farm has become a destination and family tradition for so many local families. It's heart-warming to be involved in all the positive, festive energy. And the weather was beautiful each day we were there.

It was really nice to be able to spend some time with my sister. She and her family live about a mile from my mom's house, and she's always a huge part of the farm's opening weekend. You may have read in an earlier post that she's battling breast cancer. She's been through 12 weeks of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and is currently receiving another 12 weeks of chemo, which will be followed by radiation. Thankfully, her treatment so far has been successful and hasn't run her down very much. She looks great and has her typical upbeat, always-smiling attitude. We all feel blessed for that and pray for continued success in her fight of this terrible disease.

I was also able to catch up with one of my lifelong friends. Beth and I were friends in high school in Kingsport, TN. She now lives in the Nashville area, and I live in Michigan. We usually meet up while we're both in town for Thanksgiving.

I truly am blessed with close family and friends who love and support each other. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend as well.