Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Going Keto


Like many of you, I've spent a fair amount of time considering my weight. And while I've yet to figure out what my perfect body composition looks and feels like while still enjoying real world food (important!), I know that what I have been doing isn't working.

For the past couple years I've done pretty regular Whole30s. They are stringent and require a lot of prep/planning, but I always appreciate the boost in energy and decrease in bloating. My wedding ring and waistband inevitably squeeze my skin a little less by the end of the month. But. (And there's always a But.) It felt nearly impossible to enjoy a date night with Husband or grab dinner on the go with Kiddo while sticking to it. If I forgot my lunch I agonized over what I could actually eat from the hospital cafeteria. Food became a near obsession and part of the "reset" process was a fair amount deprivation when it came to the foods I enjoy. That being said, it worked well for me and I've long-since established that ultra-low carb diets suit my body very well.

With PA school less than 11 weeks away, I started to think about my lifestyle. If establishing a rock solid workout and food routine feels hard now, it'll be darn near impossible once I'm knee deep in an intensive grad school program. The fact is, the time has come to change the language from "diet" to "lifestyle."

It comes down to one fundamental issue: I want to be my best self from here on out. I've done a lot of hard work to get where I am, and I want that feeling of accomplishment to be reflected in all aspects of my life.

In an attempt to bridge what works for me (low-carb) and what I can live with (real food in the real world), I landed on a ketogenic lifestyle. And while it requires a good deal of planning, I'm finding it to be the most manageable [restrictive] food plan I've every undertaken. This will not be true for everyone, of course, but for me it's been completely livable. I'm not naturally a sweets person—I much prefer savory/rich foods—which is why it may be such a good fit so far. I can also find keto-approved foods anywhere, even on the go. (If you are unfamiliar with the ketogenic diet, you can get more info here and here.)

I'm 10 days in, so I'm certainly not seeing dramatic changes at this point. Nor do I expect to. (I took an initial weight and will check it again only at 2 week intervals, if that.) I'm taking a wait-and-see approach to this whole affair; unrealistic expectations are out the window. Do some people lose 20 pounds their first month? Sure. Will I? I'm not counting on it. As long as I don't let my mindset settle into wants instead of needs, I will be able to evaluate the efficacy of this lifestyle as it pertains to my body. I'm giving it 30 solid days—following it to a T—and then I'll reevaluate.

I had one rough day last week—Day 3, I think—where I had zero energy. I literally felt like my limbs weighed 100 pounds each and I struggled to do the simplest tasks...like showering or combing my hair. Otherwise I've experienced a noticeable uptick in energy.

As far as food goes, I've planned well. I have two cookbooks that are my go-to, and the internet contains a treasure trove of keto information. I pick out a handful of meals, make a list, and grocery shop. At the very beginning I bought staple items at a natural food store, but otherwise everything else has been readily available at my local grocer. Zero niche food items that are hard to find, cost a fortune, and never get used up. I do have to track my fat, protein and net carbohydrates, but I have a great app for that. Because I can have cream in my coffee and plenty of fat + protein, I have yet to feel deprived or hungry. I'm adept at abandoning grains, sugars, and legumes thanks in large part to Whole30, but I haven't experienced any of the usual cravings I've had on past eating plans. (There is a fair amount of overlap between keto and Paleo diets.)

Last week we traveled a couple hours away for an event Kiddo was involved in. Mario and I decided to grab lunch before heading back, and I'll admit: I found myself pretty frustrated trying to navigate a restaurant menu for the first time. Did it take longer to peruse the menu? Yes. Did it take creativity? A little bit. Did I have to make requests and substitutions I normally would not make? Of course. In the end I had a fully-loaded cheeseburger, sans bun, with a side salad. And wouldn't you know...it was totally and completely satisfying. Husband commented that he didn't miss the bun one iota and we both observed that the bun actually masks some of the underlying flavors. (He's jumping on board for 30 days as a show of solidarity. He's a good egg, that one.)

I'll update you as the month (and beyond) progresses and let you know what my experience has been. The good, the bad and the ugly. Promise. But my hope is that this continues to be a great experience and I can continue this lifestyle for the foreseeable future. If I can make this way of eating a habit now, hopefully it will carry me through school and into my career. Fingers crossed.

I'm keeping an open mind.


In the meantime, these are the things that have made my success thus far possible:

Simply Keto by Suzanne Ryan // My go-to for advice and recipes. Hands down my most treasured resource. She also has a keto calculator on her website, Keto Karma, to get you set up.

The 30-Day Ketogenic Cleanse by Maria Emmerich // Also an amazing cookbook and overall resource. Her recipes are delicious and advice solid. She does not include dairy in her keto diet, but I've been consuming it in moderation. (Dairy often does me wrong, so I'm being careful.)

Swerve sweetener // I have a very strong aversion to sugar alternatives. I find the flavor/aftertaste to be unpleasant and I can detect even the tiniest quantity in a food. (Stevia included.) This stuff is different. One bag will last a long time, isn't very expensive, and I absolutely can't tell the difference. It's pretty much magic. (The confectioners type blends seamlessly into everything.)

Lily's Baking Chips (waaay cheaper when bought locally, in my experience) and Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate Chips (easy to find)

Carb Manager app // Scans food barcodes, has a decent food library, and allows manual entries. I can even copy a whole meal from one day to the next if I'm eating leftovers. It's unusual in that it tracks net carbs which is rare among other food tracking apps but essential to following a keto diet. The app is free, but I paid about $9 to try the premium membership for a month. It has a few more features and lets me sync my Fitbit. If I like it, it's $40 for a year to keep up the premium features.

Magic Pill // I watched this documentary last weekend, on the recommendation of a friend, and I was both moved and educated. I certainly understand the faults in our food system, but there were things I didn't know or completely understand. As the credits rolled I found myself encouraged and uplifted! (It was akin to Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, Food Inc., and Forks Over Knives. I happen to enjoy food documentaries.)

Fat bombs // Sound gross, taste delicious. And it's amazing how something so small can satisfy my hunger and/or sweet tooth for hours. Pinterest is a source of endless recipes. (And for all things keto, for that matter.) There are even fat bomb cookbooks!

When it comes to specific questions, if you've thought it someone has asked it on Reddit.


I'll also note that a hallmark of this diet is measuring your ketones for the purpose of establishing whether or not you're maintaining ketosis. I have determined that this is not a valuable tool in my case. The evidence showing that these tests provide accurate results is shaky at best. I'm following the rules and trusting that my body will tell me the rest. I'm not interested in pricking my finger or peeing on a test strip. Everyone is different—there is no right or wrong—I've simply decided to rely on weight loss, my energy levels, and a feeling of well-being to determine if I'm on the right track.

I feel obligated to note that this diet is not without controversy. At my last routine doctor's appointment I was chatting with my physician and she mentioned the efficacy of the ketogenic diet, but quickly followed up with "but it's too hard." I can see where she's coming from. So far that has not been my experience at all, but for many people it's simply too restrictive. That's why I'm entering into this with a completely open mind. If this way of eating works for me and I decide to adopt the lifestyle, I will follow up with routine blood work in a few months to make sure my numbers have remained within healthy ranges.

More favorite products, recipes, tips and tricks to come!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Lately (+ Victoria, BC)


Our life these days, in numbers:

// Today my one and only kiddo turns 18. He is legally an adult and yet...he's still so young in so many ways. I've yet to wrap my mind or emotions around that one.

// June 1st marks the end of my return to the workforce after nearly a decade spent being a mom (and later, a student). In 3 years I'll return, but I'll be working in my dream career.

// Aforementioned kiddo graduates from high school in 4 weeks.

// In 7 weeks we'll close the door on these last 4 years and make the 5 day trek from Washington State to Georgia to start our next chapter.

//  My graduate school education starts in 81 days and runs for 30 months straight. <insert wide-eye emoji>

A trip to Victoria, BC at the first of the month marked the last big event before we head off on our new adventure. It was four and a half lovely days spent with my two aunts and two of my cousins; a girls weekend full of food, sightseeing and laughter. I'll treasure that trip for many years to come.

Now that it's over, it's time to start the arduous process of downsizing + moving a household across the country. Weekends from here on out will involve a lot of garage cleaning and stuff sorting. I'm also tasked with finishing my pre-orientation assignments, filling out all the paperwork and jumping through all the hoops; meanwhile I'll be carving out as much time as I can to spend with our PNW friends. We'll also be celebrating Kiddo's many milestones! Motherhood is so many things, but most of all it's magical. (She says, while trying not to cry her eyeballs out at the local coffee shop.)

There's a lot that will happen in the in-between and I'm brimming with excitement . . . but also more than a little overwhelmed with all the things that need to be accomplished.

If you need me, I'll be daydreaming about a pretty little place called Victoria. If you haven't been, book a trip! Especially during springtime!


Things to do in Victoria:

// Butchart Gardens
// Victoria Butterfly Gardens
// Harbour Air Seaplane Tours
// Tea at the Empress Hotel
// Shopping in Downtown Victoria





Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It's Getting Real


We've reached a point in this in-between space where the butterflies in my belly come more frequently. The months ahead are starting to take shape and plans are being solidified. In other words, it's getting real.

We booked the movers.
I put in my notice at work.
A yard sale is tentatively scheduled.
My pre-req assignments are well underway.
We signed a lease on an apartment.

I've talked a lot about graduate school and my journey to become a Physician Assistant. I wrote about my acceptance into the Dream Program. But I've never really talked about the details. (Quandaries regarding the complexity of my internet presence, always.)

Along with so many amazing + scary + exciting life changes on the horizon comes the biggest of all: we are moving from Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Georgia the last week of June.

We are feeling all the feels, and Husband and I have engaged in a fair amount of bickering over the last few weeks. I am the primary instigator. I'm prone to feeling defensive and worrisome and comments are taken to a place where they normally wouldn't be. Where does a cross-country move rank on the list of most stressful life changes? It's up there, and rightfully so.

In between now and then we need to downsize our belongings to go from a 2400 sqft house with attached 2-car garage to a 1300 sqft second floor apartment. (We opted to rent a garage for extra storage, but it's considerably smaller and although close, it's not immediately adjacent to our apartment.

Oh, and my one and only Kiddo is graduating from high school. (Welp.) Fortunately one of our best family friends has offered him an internship at his business, and we are excited for this amazing opportunity. I'm also incredibly grateful that his transition into adulthood is off to a smooth start. (Though there will be many bumps, I'm sure.) It's one less thing to add to the pile during my own transition into graduate school. For at least the first few months after we move he'll be living in California. I have a lot of feelings about that, too. Mostly happy, some sad. Motherhood: the emotional minefield.

Life changes, they are coming in spades around in here.

Most of all, I'm so darn excited for what's to come. When you work for years to achieve your goal—and reach the desired outcome!—then go back to living your normal day-to-day life for the next 9 months...well, let's just say there have been a few moments of impatience on my part. (But also not wanting things to change because we are in a really lovely phase right now. Minefield!)

Spring break week we went down to Atlanta to apartment hunt and explore our new city. We stayed at the most adorable Airbnb cottage right next to the college and had the opportunity to get to know the immediate area. I had set up 6 apartment tours in advance, and we stopped by others sans appointment. By the second morning, 8 apartment tours in, we were feeling pretty overwhelmed. So we went back to where we started—literally and figuratively—and re-toured the first complex. We needed a specific floorplan to accommodate our needs, and as luck would have it someone had given notice that very morning. It's being completely remodeled and on July 1st we will start calling it home. (We decided paying a little more each month for upgrades like granite countertops and brand new kitchen/bathroom cabinets is definitely worth it.) Everything fell into place in that way it often does, and I couldn't be more thrilled. And at only 1.8 miles from campus, it had one of the shortest commutes which is not nothing when it comes to Atlanta traffic.

While we were there we played + ate at Ponce City Market (soooo fun!), brunched at Ria's Bluebird + sampled the gourmet popsicle scene (yuuuum!), and visited Georgia Aquarium (amazing!). We've lived a lot of places, but never in the South, and we are super excited to explore our new region.

Time to start stocking up on shorts.





















Friday, March 9, 2018

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Life Lately


The ebb and flow of late has felt very different. After travel, life always takes a moment to regain its equilibrium. My work schedule has been lighter some weeks, based on Husband's travel schedule, and I'm feeling like less stress + more time spent being a mom is a lovely way to lead up to a very hectic next phase. So these days I'm more apt to say no to a work schedule that doesn't work for our family.

This weekend I hope to find my way back to the ceramics studio after a month-long hiatus. I'm also taking Kiddo on a long driving lesson to the beach. He's motivated and doing really well, so we are finding every opportunity to get in some practice time. The weather is supposed to be in the 60s and sunny! Little signs of spring are everywhere in the PNW: morning sunshine coming through the bedroom window; blooms popping up along fence lines. I feel like I'm coming alive again after a long nap.


In the meantime I'm working my way through an assigned medical terminology class and rediscovering how I study best. Too loud, too hot, uncomfortable chairs, no food...the journey to find the perfect coffee shop for optimum productivity is a challenge.

I hope you all have a great weekend! Here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked lately:

Right after we got back from Grand Cayman I underwent oral surgery due to the dental trauma I mentioned in my last post. Part of the post-op protocol is a hefty round of antibiotics. My body is still struggling to recover so I'm downing all the probiotic-rich food and drinks I can. Happy Mountain's Peach Blossom and Townsend Tea's Lemon Ginger Cayenne kombucha for the win.

Starting a ketogenic diet on Monday. I consider it an elaboration on my Whole30 habit, but hopefully with a little more fat loss. This cookbook explains everything and the recipes are delicious no matter how you eat.

I couldn't resist these Desert Friends slip-on shoes.

I came down with a wicked upper respiratory infection at the end of our trip. Starbucks' Medicine Ball Tea came to my rescue before our flight home and many times in the days to follow.

DIY abstract painting

Falling in love again with the Calm app. I bought a year-long subscription last spring and it has been worth every penny. Sleep stories for those restless nights; guided meditations to help me achieve my mindfulness goals.

The Boys Are Not All Right (As the mother of a young man, this was gripping + made my heart hurt.)

Date Night Mushroom Fettuccine (um, yuuuum!)

After falling down an iPhone game rabbit hole this past week, I'm switching to grayscale and making a concerted effort to avoid excessive screen time. (Which makes me feel icky both physically and mentally.)

A Woman, Her Body (short but  profound)

This lovely but neglected notebook set just became a brand new set of gratitude journals.

Finished this novel last night. It was riveting + confusing + odd + introspective. I'm still digesting my feelings and interpretations. Next up is this book, chosen from a prerequisite reading list. (But looks really good, assignment or no.)

Watching this movie, also the subject of a prereq essay assignment. (I read the book for a class my sophomore year of college and was utterly fascinated.)

Coconut Carob Bars (sugar-free!)

Starting Sunday, we are going to each choose 3 things to donate, sell or throw away each week. Hopefully this will lead to better habits, less clutter, and a less stressful relocation. Loving this article, 32 Items In Your Home That You Can Get Rid of Right Now



In early February I decided to get a closed earring hole re-pierced. While waiting my for my turn at the parlor I started looking at a model showing all the different ear piercings. Twenty minutes later I left with a very spur-of-the-moment "daith" piercing that is still pretty sore. Trying this cleaner based on the reviews. (Advice? Should I just take it out?)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Grand Cayman Saves the Day(s)


Early and mid-February gave me a run for my money. Work was particularly trying in so many ways; I was in a bit of a personal funk (ennui, perhaps); someone backed into my car, breaking the taillight and bumper; I experienced a dental accident that was extremely traumatic. (I'm sure I'll write about it once the personal tragedy of it all wears off a bit more.)

In the middle of all this arrived our yearly trip. Husband's company, a luxury goods company of sorts, puts out an incentive trip every February for their clients who meet or exceed sales goals. Since Husband works at the corporate level we are asked along. Aside from the company's 5-year trip hiatus during the recession, we've been going every year since our mid-twenties. These trips have allowed us to explore the world; places we would probably not have seen otherwise at this point in our lives...or maybe ever.


I'll be honest: these trips can be socially fatiguing for someone like me who requires regular periods of solitude. Hundreds of people, some familiar some not, chatting you up during every waking hour. (Often to talk to you about your husband's many merits.) If you are walking to the beach sans makeup, sunhat pulled low, chances are someone is still going to recognize you.

I've certainly become more social as I've advanced through adulthood. Being partnered with an (extreme) extrovert for 15 years has changed me a lot in that regard, but so has maturity and a dwindling sense of shyness. My thirties have made me more comfortable in my own skin; I relate to others in social settings with a fluency I ever thought possible way back when. Because humans are humans are humans: we are all pretty much the same when you get down to it.

If all else fails three glasses of red wine make for a snazzy social lubricant.


I am so grateful for this perennial opportunity to spend time with my sweet husband in his element. He is universally adored, but sometimes I can get caught up in the less glamorous moments of marriage whilst single parenting + working during his business trips or sharing a home amid conference calls being conducted in the adjacent room.

A free vacation somewhere warm and sunny in mid-February . . . I am forever filled with gratitude for this privilege. I won't likely be able to attend the next couple years, so this trip was extra special and cherished.

I'll admit: when we departed for Grand Cayman I was not at my personal best. In fact, just a couple days prior I was displaying a drastically uncharacteristic lack of resilience. Husband had spent the previous weekend quite concerned about my mental fitness and I was questioning everything. Fortunately it (mostly) passed after a few intense days and a change of scenery was much obliged.


The water was unrivaled: jewel-toned blues and greens that sparkle and mesmerize. The locals are lovely and kind. The beaches pristine. My marine biology-loving self kissed the head of a baby sea turtle and the "lips" of a stingray. Grand Cayman is what you see when you imagine paradise.

The third night in we were to attend an event and I was experiencing mild apprehension stemming from lingering emotional upset. Mentally I still wasn't totally present. Once we got to the venue I had a cocktail...and then a few more. Before I knew it I was chatting and dancing and letting go. Finally. Letting go of all of it. After the event we hit up a local bar where I met a group of locals who were kind, welcoming, and generous with their life stories. And just like that I had a new perspective. My life is good and those crappy moments in time are so extraordinarily temporary. Not everyone has that luxury. I needed to have my grit stoked and boy did I get it.

I came back home motivated, re-energized, and ready to prepare for all the exciting things to come.

For so many reasons, Grand Cayman will hold a special place in my heart. Specifically, it helped me get my groove back.