I’m Still Amazed at How the Whole30 Impacted My Life — p.s. I’m on Popsugar!

August 22, 2017

As a fitness instructor, I always thought of myself as more or less a healthy eater. I lived by the “everything in moderation” rule and dispelled food guilt with thoughts of I’m worth itTreat yourself girl! and Hey, I worked out twice today. I packed my lunches (when I remembered), tried to only eat out a few times a week, and blended as many fruits and veggies I could into smoothie bowls.

But in reality, as clean as my diet appeared, my lifestyle wasn’t working. I was sick.

For as long as I can remember I have suffered from digestive issues, migraines, acne, and ovarian cysts. I tried a myriad of medications over the years to no avail, often seeing only short-term relief — or feeling even sicker than before. I continued to try to eat healthy and work out religiously, but something wasn’t working. There were lifestyle changes I needed to make to bring my mind and body back to full health.

After thumbing through the Whole30 Cookbook at a friend’s home one night, I felt the conviction hard and swift: I needed a challenge and some discipline to get back on track. This would be my reset.

A few long, sugarless-breadless-wineless weeks later, this is what I noticed…

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p.s. this is my very first post on Popsugar Fitness! Love it? Share it! Pass it on to your family, coworkers & friends. The power of food is real, my friends. 

The Any-Level-Hiker’s Guide to Half Dome

July 25, 2017

A few weeks ago, five of us pulled up to a dusty, pitch black parking lot at the base of a mountain at 3am. A big, huge, bucket list mountain, that is. Twelve hours later, we were pulling off our hiking boots in that same dusty parking lot in the mid-afternoon sun. Oh Half Dome, I hate that I love you.

If you’re one of the chosen few with a permit to hike Half Dome, you’re in for a treat. Who doesn’t want to hike 9 miles straight up into the oxygen-starved atmosphere with a few mosquitos and a bear or two? I kid.

In reality, summiting Half Dome was a check off my bucket list and a new top 5 memory to (hiking)boot.

When doing my own research to prepare for the trip, I found rather lackluster sites with more scare tactics than helpful tips (especially when it came to the cables.) The best advice I received was word of mouth from pals who conquered the trail before. After schooling my coworker on what to expect just a few weeks later on her own climb, I decided to compile all of our tips here, so you can be one prepared hiker when your turn comes.

So here we go–from me to you, the Real, Any-Level-Hiker’s Guide to Half Dome. Here’s everything you need to know (and pack!) before heading out to conquer the great granite summit.

GET YOUR PERMIT

Half Dome isn’t just a wake-up-let’s-do-this kinda adventure. Because of its popularity, the National Park Service limits the amount of visitors allowed up every day. While a few permits are released day-of, most hikers opt for the lottery in March for better luck. Applications are open from March 1-31 and results are posted in mid-April. When submitting, try for Sundays and less popular days, too–it’ll give you better odds.

half dome cables

PUMP SOME IRON

Get lucky with permits? Good. Start working those arms. Yes, arms. Along with getting your booty in gear with long walks or day hikes, squats on squats, or the stair master, get those biceps and triceps working. The cable portion of the hike uses much more upper body strength than expected! The better shape you’re in, the more enjoyable your hike will be–and the days following the hike.

GATHER YOUR GEAR

First of all–gloves are absolutely necessary to tackle the cables. Unless you want slippery, sweaty and scraped up hands, grab a set. Make sure they’ve got a good fit and a solid rubberized grip. We got these and they were perfect. Some hikers leave their discarded pairs in a basket at the bottom just in case, but don’t trust there will be a good set there when you go.

Invest in a Camelbak backpack (or off-brand similar pack with a water bladder) to hold layers, snacks, and plenty of water–you need more than you think. As for what to wear? I opted for my breathable, quick dry lululemon crops tucked into hiking socks, a tank top, a long sleeve layered over for the morning, and a rain jacket (for the Mist Trail). Check the weather before you go and be prepared for changing conditions! 

Your footwear is everything, and a sturdy set of hiking boots is certainly recommended. Make sure you break them in well before the hike to avoid blisters. While some may opt to hike in tennis shoes, it is not advised because the trail can be slippery–especially at the cables. If you do hike in sneaks, make sure they have a grippy, tough tread. No Nike Frees, please.

START EARLY

Half Dome takes longer to conquer than you think it will. If you choose the route beginning at the Mist Trail, which we did, plan on about 12 hours round-trip including breaks and a pause on the top. (We hung out at the summit for just over an hour).

Starting way before the sun gives you a better chance of tackling the cables without a crowd and avoiding any super hot summer afternoons or dangerous thunderstorms. It is pretty darn breathtaking to see the beauty of Yosemite gradually lighten in the morning light–and you’ll hit the summit before most people even wake up.

PACK PLENTY OF FOOD & WATER

Stock up on snacks on snacks to fuel you to the top. Give yourself a hearty variety, but a balanced one. I made the mistake of eating too many nuts and RX Bars… My tummy was in a world of hurt (and extremely bloated) trying to digest all the fiber AND keep me upright.

Pack some PB, honey and banana sandwiches, a package of salami, apples and Justin’s almond butter single serve packets, fresh fruit, and most importantly, a treat for the top. My sweet friend and veteran climber Amie passed on this tip. When we summited, I was never more excited to unwrap a Pop Tart in my life.

As for water? Bring lots of it. Drink it. We each carried a 3 liter Camelbak and multiple water bottles. I picked up some Nuun electrolyte tabs and a coconut water to switch up the flavor and replace lost minerals from sweat, as well. I drank it all and would’ve sipped more. I gave my past self a big thank you for leaving a few S’well bottles in the car for a cold drink of water post-hike.  

ENJOY!

If you’re lucky enough to snag a permit to hike this legendary peak, do it. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a nature person, do it. I was bursting with pride at my very new to hiking pal Kumar tackling the trail like a superstar.

And while they may seem like the scariest, most impossible things in the world to some, don’t be intimidated by the cables–just stare at the rock in front of you and move foot-over-foot, hand-over-hand to the top (and don’t hang around at the base and stare them down… you will psych yourself out, as we saw happen with numerous hikers.)

There’s a reason Half Dome is a bucket list peak with hundreds of thousands of hikers eagerly vying for a chance to climb it year after year. Like the Grand Canyon, its beauty is so stunning, it almost looks fake–like you’ve fallen into a painting or another world.

Half Dome is a challenge and a reward you will never forget (and your legs won’t let you either, for about three weeks or so after…ouch)–and it is worth every step. All 55,000 of them.

The last tip? Be sure to pack along your best pals– the ones down for adventure, who keep their spirits high in the face of long days and little sleep, that can laugh through the blisters and get you up the heights and keep the conversation going mile after mile, yet know when peace is needed and make a mean PB banana sandwich. These pals? They’re as necessary as water.

6 Steps You Need to Take Before Starting Whole30

June 7, 2017

After publishing my Whole30 reflection, I’ve received more than a few emails and messages from friends old and new about the process, changes I experienced, and how they can incorporate the program into their lives–or even if it is right for them.

I am certainly no professional, but after looking back over my own experience, I’ve boiled it down to these 6 must-take steps to set yourself up for a successful Whole 30 Program. Here we go!

Let’s do the dang thing! But start from the bottom, mmmkay??

#1 Read the Book

This is a non-negotiable. No blog, no friend, no article, and nope not even the Whole 30 website! can prepare you for your journey more than the book can. You wouldn’t build an IKEA dresser without a manual, right? (Wait– don’t answer that…)

The Whole30 book will be your guide and your lifeline before, during, and after the program. Read it once, then read it again. Get it messy with dog-ear pages and underlines. Pour over the why. Pay attention to the timeline of what to expect in your body, in your mind. Skim the recipes and get yourself excited for your coming adventure. This is your journey. Do. Your. Research!

#2 Define Your Goals

The Whole30 program creators are adamant (and so am I): this is NOT a weight loss program. This is not a quick fix. Sure, you may lose weight. But the ultimate goal is not reflected in the numbers on a scale, but in mental clarity, strength, and general feelin-good-ness.

I journaled my goals at the beginning:

  • Level my moods and anxiety, let my food work in tandem with my other treatments to lift depression
  • Achieve stable energy levels and improve sleep
  • Reverse PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • Break my unhealthy habits and relationships with food

When you read the book, you’ll see page-long lists of Whole30 purposes and desired outcomes. Pick your top few (not weight loss please) and write them down. Then it’s time to decide WHEN to begin, which leads us to…

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Wellness Trending: My Whole30 Reflection

June 2, 2017

If you  asked me to give up all gluten, dairy, soy, legumes, alcohol AND sugar for 30 days straight a few months ago, I would have laughed in your face. I maybe would have whipped out some cheese and crackers and poured the wine or reached for the bread basket.

Really? Giving up all this is going to do all that for my body and my health? Girl you crazy.

Then I got sick. Like really, really sick. And I wasn’t getting better.

My doc prompted me to look back on all of my recent illnesses and chronic health struggles: migraine headaches, the worst PMS and cramps, digestive issues, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome– more on that later) hormonal and mood imbalances. Even since I was a little girl,  was constantly plagued by stomach aches and fatigue.

I was sick and tired of being sick and tired all. the. time. 

I realized I had hit the point where I was used to feeling at least a little bit icky each day until I forget what it was like to feel truly healthy. I was caught in a new normal that is really not normal at all, or the way God intended for me to live. (I think we can all relate to this in some way, yea?)

While sipping wine in a pal’s kitchen in late April, I picked up her Whole30 book at random. The conviction was fast and piercing like an arrow through the heart: I had lifestyle changes I needed to make. The Whole30 Program was to be my fresh start.

Now on Day 33, I’m reflecting. Here’s what I noticed during my journey:

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Redefining Rest

May 31, 2017

Magic. Pure magic is what I felt on Sunday afternoon as I settled into my place on the sand. The breeze was cool but the sun warm as I stretched my legs out on the wind-rippled dunes. For once the grains of sand slipping over the hills and valleys of my body didn’t bother me.

I breathed sea air in deep and melted, every vibrating particle of my being supported there on my towel in the sand. Grounded.

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It’s no secret to those around me that I struggle with resting. With sitting still. With ceasing the constant tornado of thoughts. I try the flick on Netflix and numb out way we’ve been defining as “rest” lately–and I can’t even sit through The Handmaiden’s Tale (sooo gooood!) or New Girl without getting up several times.

I often feel as though I am in a constant state of motion–checking off lists, stress-cleaning the kitchen or attacking the mystery piles underneath my always-made bed. Re-examining my goals. Reading up on self-improvement. Planning my next workout, my next vacation.

I strive for order. Cleanliness. A full schedule. An outward projection of perfection. Order.

But in reality? On the inside I am a mess. I am restless. Anxiety clouds my focus, disorderly finances haunt the far reaches of my brain, worries of career paths and relationships and what happens after tomorrow? tug at my joy. Instead I opt for just one more episode of Hulu, one more Insta-scroll, one more snack or drink or plan. I try to numb out, rather than simply rest in, the space I’m in.

Can you relate? (Can I getta aaaaaMEN!)

I know I needed to change my mindset when it came to rest. So this weekend, oh this weekend, for a few pure hours I brought my exhausted soul to the beach. I laid it down. I let it breathe. I let it rest.

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