Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Year Ahead {2013 Dawns} - a Primal Kitchen Giveaway

Now a couple of days on the other side of Christmas, we've cleaned up a lot of wrapping paper and packaging, and I'm finally getting a handle on planning to use some of the neat gifts I've been given.

My parents gave me some credit at my local yoga studio, for which I am extremely grateful. They also gave me a gift card with the stated purpose of finding some yoga clothing. My hope is to find some good on-sale fitness wear that I can use for both yoga and Crossfit - and since I've dropped a lot of weight, I now can really use that gift card to find more tops and bottoms in smaller sizes that fit. Though a year of Crossfit certainly made me stronger and generally fitter, yoga exposed a lot of my weaknesses, like flexibility and balance. I look forward to seeing what a couple of more months of yoga will bring to the table fitness-wise.

My in-laws really surprised me, with a smoker! (It was this year's Christmas gift and next year's birthday gift rolled into one.) Wow, it is cool! There are so many possibilities, but I am really excited about being able to buy pork in bulk locally and being able to smoke my own ham and bacon. How great to select the ingredients for our family's ham and bacon, so that my littlest can also enjoy it, too! And, admittedly, I cannot wait to smoke some roasts and baby back ribs in this bad boy. So, there are a lot of fun experiments and projects wrapped up in that present as well.
Wow, I wonder if this
model was hired because
of her resemblance to
Michelle Dockery...?

Fitness fun and kitchen fun. What can I say? Those made for a great Christmas, in my book.

Now, I want to throw a little more holiday cheer back out into the world to say "thanks" to all of my readers and commenters for a great 2012:

I'm giving away a Primal Kitchen classic lunchbox/kettlebell design T-shirt in the size/age/gender of the winner's choice! Yes, that means the winner can pick size of kids', women's, or men's tee!

Look for this, in the right hand column of Primal Kitchen,
and click "Join this site" to join!
If you are a follower via Google Friend Connect and you make a comment in this post with your favorite part about visiting Primal Kitchen, you are officially entered to win. I will use to generate a random number to chose the winning comment. I will also verify that your comment belongs to somebody in the "Google Friend Connect" list, so be sure that you also join there if you haven't already so that you aren't disqualified! To follow Primal Kitchen via Google Friend Connect, please go to the right hand column of the Primal Kitchen web home page and click the blue "Join this site" button!

So, three easy things: Join this site via Google Friend Connect (if you haven't already), make a comment (one per person, honor system!), and include in your comment your favorite part about visiting this site. Entries must be made before 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2012. The winner will be announced on New Year's Day (January 1, 2013).

Winner must claim prize within 48 hours of award being announced, otherwise winner forfeits prize and a new winner will be selected.


This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you (i.e. the item's price does not go up for you), so thank you!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Embracing Progress However It Comes

Via Flickr Creative Commons,
the George Eastman House Collection
There is nothing like a collection full of loved ones' Christmas newsletters to remind me of the way people use the end of the year to mark milestones and achievements.

Admittedly, on the subject of human milestone celebrations, I've read some really, truly amazing testimonials in the two and a half years since I ditched processed foods in favor of nutrient dense whole foods. Some folks turned their lifestyle around on a dime, and dropped a ton of fat in their first few months, all while reversing one or many chronic illnesses like diabetes and autoimmune conditions. Some even manage to have their extended families on board after a few months, which I always consider to be a miracle, their magnificent transformations notwithstanding.

After I had spent an intense while reading up on nutrition, I fairly swiftly made the decision to eat more healthfully by avoiding processed grains, sugars, and vegetable oils. But while my decision was swift, my transformation has been a long term work in progress of fits and starts.

Maybe some folks reading can identify. For instance, it took me a solid year and a half of primal eating before I realized how dearly I needed to combine exercise with my improved diet. Once I started Crossfitting, I learned within a few months under my coaches' guidance and encouragement how to better monitor my carb intake and really watch some of my weaknesses (like for chocolate) while carefully tracking my personal performance and body comp data - thus allowing me to finally drop about 40 pounds.

It took a break from Crossfit this month while I recover from a lingering injury to discover the mobility-enhancing calm of hot yoga - and the fact that I can manage to keep my body comp steady or even more lean by carefully managing my carbs, despite the fact that right now I'm not working out at my Crossfit box at my firebreather frequency.

In other words, the last two and a half years have involved a lot of personal growth, and not necessarily at the pace I'd have originally liked to see. I think, though, that each person's pace is set the way that it is for a reason, and in my case, there were lots of humility-building, sometimes painful realizations within each of those lessons. Had I experienced all of my milestones in a few months' time, I'd have also had to experience all of those painful humility-building moments - and maybe not have learned as thoroughly from them!

So, my desired pace of progress is not always the ideal pace of progress. It's for this same reason that I fully embrace the progress that comes from those around me. With my parents and my in-laws, I learned a while ago to compromise in some areas where I can (as in allowing my older daughter some wiggle room). Meanwhile, I celebrate any concession, or adaptation, they graciously elect to make for my sake and my family's sake. I realize that for any parent, watching a heretofore "good child" embark on a thoroughly countercultural path to what seems like Crazytown, U.S.A. has to be worrying at best.

However, I think over the last two and a half years, my folks and my in-laws have had a long time to witness my personal growth and a growing acknowledgement of ancestral health principles by mainstream media and peer-reviewed research journals. They have seen my weight loss, my fitness gains, my ongoing journey to provide my youngest daughter with optimal nutrition for her neurological disorder. They've also seen mainstream and academic sources embracing coconut oil, shunning refined sugars, acknowledging inflammation as a driver of heart disease, and even outright suggesting gluten-free diets as a path to avoiding inflammation and obesity. For example, the Today Show recently had Drew Ramsey, MD advocating lard and butter as healthier choices for the 2012 holiday season. Even Dr. Oz had shows in December featuring modern wheat's impact on health (link is 1 of 3 parts, features cardiologist William Davis, MD),  and how to take a closer look at what cholesterol numbers really mean (link is 1 of 3 parts, features cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD)! If it takes a TV cardiothoracic surgeon to help my folks and in-laws to think of me and my principles as a little less "out there", then I will gladly accept it as one more marker of progress.

My brother has undeniably been an unintentional testimony to the power of fueling responsibly; he recently participated in his Crossfit box's first paleo nutrition challenge, and in one month's time added around 20 points to his Fight Gone Bad score - which any seasoned Crossfitter will recognize as an incredible leap! His performance jump was impressive enough to earn him the men's top prize at his box, including a free month of membership! His slimmer physique and features were plain to see when he returned home for Thanksgiving with our family and my folks.

Meanwhile, my mom has been working hard this year to learn more about gluten-free baking. She made an impressive gluten-free dairy-free bread at Thanksgiving, and a bacon-embedded gluten free cornbread stuffing that I dearly hope she plans to repeat. My mother-in-law has plans, too, to make a gluten-free grassfed beef prime rib roast (which we helped her to source) for the meal she is hosting on Christmas Day, which means that my youngest daughter can eat the same meal alongside everyone else.

Though my parents and in-laws do not fully accept the path we have chosen, they yet try to meet us where we are on it many times each year for our get-togethers, and to that end I count it progress, and I thank God for blessing us through another year of fits and starts as my little family continues along our ancestral-health-anchored path, even as our extended family makes progress of their own in learning about why we do the things we do.

Thus, my Christmas wish for my readers: This Tuesday, may you embrace your family and your progress - the small, the big, the in-betweens of 2012. Count as a blessing, too, the God-ordained pace at which you hit your milestones and lessons, even if it isn't the pace you'd have originally desired. Progress is progress, and the path you are on is yours and your family's to run! May you also anticipate a 2013 of increasing self-knowledge and challenging but achievable victories of all sizes - and I pray that God's grace sustains you in the pursuit of those victories!

Merry Christmas! What progress will you celebrate as 2012 draws to an end?


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Paleo (-"ish") Cookie Exchanging, And A Sun Butter Buckeye Bon BonRecipe

This is what I call a cookie group hug.
Heh heh. Nut sack. :)

Our Crossfit box's cookie exchange was today! We did things "paleo-ish" - gluten free and no canola oil or soybean oil. I was blown away by how many signed up to participate.

We had a great turn out, and so many different kinds of cookies - almond biscotti, no-bakes, pistachio-cranberry bark, chocolate chip, eggless egg-nog, samoas, soft ginger, and many more. One creative lady brought decorative favor bags filled with nuts as her contribution!

We gathered around and sorted cookies into boxes - some kind souls brought in some mimosas for the volunteers. Within about half an hour we had the boxes mostly packed and ready. 

I'm so grateful - even though I'm my December sugar detox has tapered off and my youngest can't eat refined sugars, my husband and oldest daughter will get to share some daddy-daughter dates over hot chocolate and some wholesome treats as Christmas draws near.
I mean, will you look at those beautiful paleo samoas?! My friend used the Real Sustenance samoa recipe.
And of course, always nice to have classic (paleo) chocolate chip cookies around.
Sun butter buckeyes. Legume-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free.
My contribution to the exchange was sun butter buckeyes. I saw a recipe for peanut butter buckeyes here and adapted it with sun butter and also made it dairy-free. I subbed coconut oil for the vegetable oil. I also halved the powdered sugar with no noticeable detriment to the taste.

Sunbutter Buckeye Bon Bons
Makes approximately 5 dozen

2 cups sun butter (mine for this came in bulk sweetened with sugar but you can order organic unsweetened, too)
½ cup palm shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups crispy rice cereal (I used Erewhon organic cocoa; 1 box is 6 cups so this recipe uses half a box)
2 cups powdered sugar
Semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life allergen-friendly chocolate chips)
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Warm the palm shortening on the stove or microwave until soft. Mix with Sunbutter and vanilla in a bowl with a mixer until blended through. Add rice cereal and powdered sugar, and continue to mix until thoroughly blended.

Using a teaspoon, measure out balls of the sunbutter "dough" onto wax paper on a cookie sheet or cake pan. Freeze thoroughly - at least an hour. You will probably need a lot of free freezer space for 5 dozen of these.

Melt the coconut oil and chocolate chips in the microwave and stir until smooth.Take the frozen balls out of the freezer about a dozen at a time. Using a slotted spoon, lower a frozen sunbutter ball into the melted chocolate and drop it back on wax paper. Every dozen that you finish dipping, place them back in the freezer to set some more (another 30 minutes).

Store in the freezer in an airtight container (for up to several weeks) or in the fridge if you are consuming soon.


What more wholesome treats did you bake up this year?

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you, so thank you!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Safer Bath Products in 2012: Shampoo Edition

I'm not going to make a claim that any commercially-sold shampoo is perfect for people in general or for any specific person. Even the most cleaned-up ingredient lists probably still have one or two ingredients whose merit could be debated. That said, our family went from being a reflexively-Pantene family to reading toiletry product labels a lot more carefully, especially after my youngest daughter's diagnosis of sensory processing disorder. So far we've not found a no-poo solution, so my stop-gap is shampooing my littlest's hair every 2-3 days, using less noxious options when I do shampoo, and using as little shampoo as possible to get her hair clean, often just a teeny drizzle. So, it is an ongoing process of reducing usage and product evaluation for us.

We progressed through a few "more natural" brands this year - and here I rank them by recommendation. I did also try using Dr. Bronner's liquid castille soap, which is great when used sparingly for cleaning in general, but despite its ideal ingredient list it strips hair far too harshly for me to recommend. Maybe next year we will discover other brands we like even better! - and maybe you can suggest some to try in the comments.

Aubrey Organics Green Tea Clarifying Shampoo

Out of what we've tried this year, this is my top recommendation, for both performance and ingredients. A little bit (a dime sized amount) can easily lather a whole head of hair, and it genuinely clarifies. It has no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, or petrochemicals. The green tea smell is pretty refreshing, too!

It is available through many online retailers, including Amazon and Vitacost.

The ingredient list follows: Alcohol denat. (38b lavender ) aqua hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) extract aloe barbadensis leaf juice glycerin camellia sinensis leaf oil panthenol simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil oenothera biennis (evening primrose) oil rosa mosqueta (rose hip) seed oil chenopodium quinoa seed extract pelargonium graveolens flower oil panax ginseng root extract ginkgo biloba leaf extract chrysanthemum sinense flower extract magnolia biondii bud flower extract angelica archangelica root extract.

Burt's Bees Very Volumizing Shampoo with Pomegranate

This is my second choice out of the three we've tried out this year. True to the label, it does have a deliciously fruity smell, but does not clean quite as thoroughly as the Aubrey green tea option - and in fact my past-shoulder length hair usually gets two rounds of sudsing with this one to feel sufficiently clean. The ingredient list is mostly good - I love that like the Aubrey one, it has no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, or petrochemicals involved. I could do without added fragrance, though. This one I've found at WalMart and other major retailers, as well, so it's been a good stand-by option for us when we've been waiting to order more of the Aubrey green tea shampoo.

The ingredient list follows: Aqua (water, eau), sodium bis-hydroxyethylglycinate coco-glucosides crosspolymer, sodium cocoyl alaninate, glycerin, disodium cocoyl glutamate, oryza sativa (rice) extract, hydrolyzed jojoba protein, sodium cocoyl hydrolyzed soy protein, punica granatum seed oil, origanum vulgare leaf oil, thymus vulgaris (thyme) oil, arginine, parfum (fragrance)*, sodium lauroyl lactylate, sodium cocoyl glutamate, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, lauryl lactyl lactate, sodium chloride, lactic acid.

Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Shampoo

This shampoo is the one I'd pick if I were on the road in the middle of nowhere, needed shampoo, and still managed to find a WalMart or Target that wasn't carrying the Burt's Bees. In other words, it's commonly available and is free from a certain amount of junk, but at the same time it's far from ideal. Its ingredients are said to be 94% biodegradable, and it is free of silicone, dye, or paraben. Not my favorite: it still has sulfate, preservative, and fragrance

The ingredient list follows: Aqua/Water; Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate; Cocamidopropyl Betaine; Sodium Chloride; Hexylene Glycol; Pyrus Malus Extract/Apple Fruit Extract; Parfum/Fragrance; Sodium Benzoate; Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride; Citric Acid; Salicylic Acid; Benzoic Acid; Niacinamide; Pyridoxine HCl; Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride; Linalool; Hexyl Cinnamal; Saccharium Officinarum Extract/Sugar Cane Extract; Citrus Medica Limonum Peel Extract/Lemon Peel Extract; Camellia Sinensis Extract/Camellia Sinensi

What "more natural" shampoos have you tried this year? Do you have any with ingredient lists that you adore?


Monday, December 17, 2012

On Being the Antidote

Via Flickr Creative Commons,
the Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums
After Friday's horrific school shooting in Connecticut, life went on in our corner of the world this weekend. Christmas gifts were bought. A party was attended. And yet, there is nothing that we did that wasn't somehow chilled by the shadow of what had happened. The unfathomable horror of one's own child being mercilessly slaughtered does not swiftly depart any parent who allows even for a moment such a contemplation to enter their thoughts.

We received papers from my oldest daughter's school today - discussing the school's own actions and plans, and also offering cogent advice to parents on how and/or whether to discuss the situation in depth with their own children.

The only thing I could keep thinking was, I shouldn't even be in the position of having to wonder whether my 5 year old has already heard anything about this at school, because things like this shouldn't happen. The shooting such an angry red wound on the end of 2012, which has forever altered December and Christmas for countless families. It is all symptomatic of a deeply troubled, ill world.

I have not much in the way of comfort to offer my be honest it has been exceptionally hard to comfort myself on this count. One thing I remind myself in terms of safety and managing fears of is the real risks we undertake every day to live our lives: driving cars, for example. Beside this pragmatic analysis, I also grasp at positives. I embrace my children, I treasure a quiet evening at home with my husband, I laugh with my friend over the little bumps and bends in the road that are a mom's life. I try to go out of my way to relate to my friends and family a little more patiently, a little more graciously. In the face of the worst of what humans can do, the best of what life has to offer starts with us and our attitudes. It starts with our abilities to cultivate the right priorities, and to cherish those around us. We are the antidote, and every day we get a chance to celebrate that duty.

As the days until Christmas approach, savor your time. Savor your errands and your baking. Try hard to maintain your patience in the face of the usual stresses. Offer grace wherever possible. Say prayers, if you say them, most especially for the victims' families and loved ones. Be the best human you can be. Be the antidote.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Safer Gifts in 2012: Gluten Free and Non-Wheat-Based Modeling Dough Edition

Our family has been experimenting in 2012 with toys and art projects that are safer for my youngest daughter, who must be strictly gluten free.

Play-Dough is a ubiquitous childhood memory. I have fond recollections of squishing and manipulating Play-Dough, and modelling various little masterpieces before letting them air dry.

Unfortunately, Play-Dough and most commercial modeling doughs are made with wheat flour, so rubbing these products all over our family's kitchen table is not an option, as it presents a pretty high risk of cross contamination for the same place where we eat most of our meals.

Thankfully, there are a lot of good, safer alternatives that would make excellent gifts for almost any kid.*

So far, my top pick for a gluten free dough alternative is Mama-K's gluten free play clay. This stuff is in a class of its own for quality and design. We picked up the 5 tub variety pack of this in the summer, and the 5 different colors in modestly sized tubs turned out to be a convenient way to leave a few with my youngest daughter's preschool classroom, so that she can model with this if there is a Play-Dough project going on.

Each of the 5 colors has its own fragrance from organic essential oils: bergamot (yellow), lavender (purple), sweet orange (an orangey-red), geranium (pink), and lemongrass (green). My husband and I get headaches from artificial scents, but these natural scents are low-key and not overpowering to me - quite to the contrary, I enjoy them. Also, the flours used to make Mama-K's are certified gluten free, so of the options we've tried, this one seems to have the most stringent standards for its doughs' processing and ingredients.

See above, right, the screenshot from the Crayola website. Cross contamination seems to still present a very small, but relevant risk. Please choose only modeling doughs that meet your family's safety and dietary/allergen requirements, with the advice of your trusted health care professional.
The other non-wheat-based modeling alternatives we've been able to try out this year are by Crayola, and include Model Magic and Air-Dry Clay. While their ingredients aren't as natural/crunchy as those in Mama-K's dough, the Crayola doughs are still a good option for any air-dry project, or a project that you'd like to paint and customize after drying - homemade Christmas ornaments certainly come to mind. The Model Magic and another brand's take on Model Magic have popped up at my daughter's occupational therapists' office and at her mainstream preschool. On a practical note, I suggest opting for the white (uncolored) version of the Model Magic over the colored version, since I have seen our youngest daughter's occupational therapist use a Crayola marker to "dot" a wad of the Model Magic a few times and massage it, thus changing the white wad of dough into the marker's color. You could also experiment with natural liquid or powder dyes if magic markers are not an option, or wait until the white dough drys sufficiently before you paint your projects.

Have you tried a gluten-free modeling dough this year? What was your favorite?

*Note that according to the Crayola website, there is a small risk of cross contamination from the Crayola plant using the same processing lines as it uses for its wheat-flour-based dough - though the lines are cleaned between processing products. (See Crayola website screenshot above.) If your child is at risk from this potential level of cross contamination (i.e., putting his/her fingers in her mouth while modeling, or eating the Crayola dough, or working on a surface with the dough on which he/she regularly eats meals, etc.), you will need to decide for yourself with the advice of your trusted health care professional whether the products in this post meet your family's individual needs or not. Remember to read ingredient labels fully for your family's own needs. All posts and information provided within this blog are for informational and educational purposes only, and is not to be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this website.  

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you, so thank you!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Primal Kitchen Makes Top 50 Paleo Blogs Per Institute for Psychology of Eating

I recently learned that Primal Kitchen made the list of the Top 50 Paleo Blogs of 2012. It is a distinct privilege to be counted among such good company.

The Institute of the Psychology of Eating is not a paleo-based organization - it is more broadly based in the concept of holistic health through nutrition. I want to give special thanks to the Institute for the Psychology of Eating for creating a list of paleo-based blogs!


Lunchbox #192

Today, my kindergartner's lunchbox featured (clockwise from left):

  • About 1/2 oz. of chicken Braunschweiger from U.S. Wellness Meats
  • A 100 calorie pack of guacamole
  • An organic carrot...for some reason my 5 year old finds it really hilarious to have a huge, whole peeled carrot. Whatever has her eating her veggies, I say!
  • Some preservative free salami
  • A Bubbies pickle
  • An organic apple
  • A couple of maple flax crackers, some raisins, and a few chocolate chips
So thankful it's Friday!

What was in your lunchbox today?


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Paleo Magazine's "Best of 2012" Survey

Paleo Magazine's "Best of 2012" Survey is here!

I'm so touched - and so, so honored - that Primal Kitchen made the list of nominees for the category "Paleo Parenting Site."

If Primal Kitchen has been useful to you in your paleo journey while searching for some real food parenting answers, could you take a moment of time to vote for this site? The voting ends Friday, November 30.

I want to give big hugs to all of you who comment, all of you that I get to meet on Twitter - it is because of the strength of the paleo community that I've been able to persevere in and share our family's real food adventures.

I am thankful for every single one of my readers and fellow bloggers!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Best Cupcake Wrappers for Paleo Recipes

I'm in Day 2 of this 28 day sugar detox. There's nothing like a nutrition challenge to make me realize how mindlessly I can sometimes bites I steal of my girls' apple chips when packing their lunches.

I've done a lot of nutrition and paleo challenges, both by myself and with my Crossfit box, but this is the first time I've actively avoided fruit. It does sound kind of extreme, but I still get some carbs from nonfruit sources like butternut squash. I'm also planning on taking in some coconut water (I dilute it half and half with filtered water) during and after hot yoga sessions. If I were Crossfitting or otherwise tackling intense exercise, I'd be following the sugar detox for athletes protocol, which involves strategically adding a little more carbs in the form of fruit or starchy veggies.

Day 2 of a challenge can be brutal - I'm wading through serious headache territory, but thankfully I know enough that by this time next week I should be doing much better. In the meantime I'm keeping myself going with continuous meats, eggs, veggies, and healthy fats.

One of my favorite "to-go" low carb breakfasts involves using preservative free ham as a cupcake liner, cracking an egg inside the ham "cup", and baking. The ham is out for me at the moment during this challenge, though, since it does have some trace amounts turbinado sugar.

This brings me to my favorite paleo baking tool: unbleached paper cupcake liners (and parchment paper, and pie pans, and mini muffin liners) by If You Care. Besides being available in bulk on  Amazon and in single packages from Vitacost, they are also available in Wegmans, Giant, and many other major grocery store chains. I was thrilled when their unbleached paper pie pans helped me to make my first successful GAPS and gluten free pumpkin pie crusts - because for the first time in 3 years of paleo pie-baking the crusts didn't stick or burn to the pan!

No matter what texture is going on, I can always count on If You Care liners to break away from my baked item cleanly without tearing apart and destroying the end product. Yes, even in the case of just eggs! When I want to make something extra pretty - like for a birthday party - I sometimes add a brightly colored conventional cupcake wrapper on the outside of these modest beige ones, after the treats have cooled.

This morning's project:

  • Set oven to 425 to preheat.
  • Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • Crack one egg into each liner.
  • Sprinkle eggs with a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt.
  • Add a slice or two of mushrooms, and a couple of 1/2" pieces of asparagus.
  • Optional and delicious, if you have it: crumbled bacon.
  • Change oven setting to broil at 425F.
  • Broil 15 minutes (or 3 minutes less if you want your egg/yolk a little runny).
Luckily, these are GAPS diet friendly, too, so my 2 year old had some with a GAPS-OK liverwurst and guacamole for her second breakfast!

What low carb breakfasts have you tried out lately?

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Damage Control During the Holidays

Starting Monday, I'm doing a 4 week sugar detox. Why? Oh, why, why, why, why, why would any person in their right mind do a sugar detox in December?!

That's why. Because if I don't challenge myself in December, I eat anything gluten free that looks remotely appetizing, and come out the other end in a disoriented sugar haze, having gained weight. Last December, I did things differently - I was challenging myself, and I came out of the holiday season lighter. Could never before have said I had managed that!

My nutrition/weight goals are still modest this holiday season - I'm mainly hoping to break even, and simply avoid fat gain. Though I'll be sugar detoxing, my activity levels will be rather involuntarily lowered. During the Thanksgiving Day WOD at my Crossfit box, a persistent back issue cropped up again. It's something that I can't shake, even having seen a chiropractor and having gotten an MRI courtesy of my local orthopedist's office. Over the last couple of months I've continued to scale way, way down...first it was no heavy weights...then no even rowing seems to have triggered the same back issue, so I'm to the point where I don't know what I can do workout-wise at Crossfit.

For me the main thing is this: I am mother to a 35 lb. human cannonball, aka my almost-3-year-old daughter who has sensory processing disorder. This child is in perpetual motion, and I need to be able to keep her safe walking through parking lots, able to pick her up out of her car seat and put her in shopping carts, take her to occupational therapy appointments, where I help to put her on swings and other therapy equipment. I cannot afford to have back pain in my day-to-day life, because my daughter's safety and progress depends on me being ready handle her at a moment's notice.

So, as reluctant as I am to admit it to myself, it seems that I need to take a longer break from Crossfit than the 1 week here, a few days there I'd been taking whenever the pain flared up. I'm having to think through ways to make it through December with minimal damage to body comp while still letting my body heal.

Strategy 1 is AndreAnna's sugar detox. I thrive under the gentle yoke of accountability, and knowing that at least 50 other people have joined the detox will certainly keep me on the straight and narrow. Since I won't be burning carbs 5 days/week the way I usually do with WODing, I will need to keep the carbs fairly low this time.

Strategy 2 is hot yoga. I recently tried out the new yoga place that opened in our town. I have done both the regular yoga 101 and the hot yoga 101 classes, and have already a distinct preference for the hot yoga. It delivers very noticeable relief to my back issues - and I think this is because it almost resembles a string of Kelly Starrett's Mobility WOD videos, only done in a heated room. It seems to really help to sort out that messed up tangle of hip flexors, piriformis, ligaments, SI joint, muscle, nerves, and discs. I'm hoping that I can integrate hot yoga in as a regular recuperative element in my workout routines.

I haven't figured out any good cardio or HIIT things that wouldn't aggravate my back, so for a while I may need to rely on lots and lots of walking. It certainly won't get me the same delicious heart-bursting rush that my beloved Crossfit does, but at least it will keep me moving and my body from shutting down.

What ways are you planning damage control during the next month?

Monday, November 19, 2012

The 100K Holiday Row

It started at our Crossfit box. Our coaches challenged us to row at least 100k between Thanksgiving and Christmas. No, not us all together. Us each. I dove in without a second thought.

Soon I was chatting about this flirtation with insanity on Twitter. Something about flirting with insanity appeals to Crossfitters; soon AndreAnna of Life As A Plate and Daniel of Grizzly Strong were committed - and AndreAnna's Crossfit gym members even committed to tie their rowing to a food bank donation with each milestone they hit in the coming weeks.

So, are you looking for an exercise challenge over the holidays? Do you have access to a rower? Are you in?

If so, comment here or ping us on Twitter. We'll be updating using hashtag #100kholidayrow.

ETA: I unfortunately reinjured an old back problem during the Thanksgiving WOD, so I probably won't be able to participate. I'm leaving this post here, though, for Crossfit and rowing enthusiasts who would still like to hear about it and learn how they can participate.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Notion of Different Parenting/Food Philosophies for Different Kids

I always thought I'd be able to apply the same nutrition principles and food philosophy with all of the kids I'd have.

Until lately.

Lately, I've been mulling where to give wiggle room. For my 2 year old, there is none. She has sensory processing disorder and speech/developmental delay, and is on a gluten free dairy free gut-healing diet.

But my 5 year old kindergartner? She is now coming up on halfway through her school year.  I've come to grudgingly admit that my glory days of packing her uncompromising real food lunches for preschool have to be adapted into a more self-aware social context. She's already reported to me that cafeteria tablemates have made fun of her Wholly Guacamole 100 calorie packs, teasing her by saying they look gross.

(Side note: Parents, can we all agree to train our kids to never make fun of other kids' lunches? I know it's hard to do, but it's worthwhile. Thanks very much.)

I've tried to continue the angle of her holding her own, saying that she should joke around with them that it's like she's eating slime, ewwwwwwwwww. Deviled eggs - seemed pretty innocuous to me - are also being reviled.

It's never been my goal for my kids to feel stifled by our dietary approach. I want my daughters to learn in concrete terms why we chose the foods that we do. I also try not to condemn foods wholesale, but to refer to foods as being along a spectrum in terms of healthfulness, and asking about what healthier choices might exist.

That said, lately I've given my 5 year old more of an 80/20 approach. Since she eats lunches away from her sister during the school day, she might get a handful of 6 or 7 gluten free pretzels in her lunch once a week, or once in a great while a tetrapack single serving of chocolate almond milk. I even had a day a couple of weeks ago when I packed her a slice of Chebe pizza leftover from a weekend gathering with grandparents -- and it so happened that pizza was on the menu in the lunchroom. I think these minor concessions go a long way to helping her to feel more like her friends without compromising too much.

How to you work the 80/20 angle for your kids' lunches? Do you have a household where different food standards apply among your kids based on their individual physiological and social/emotional needs?

Thanksgiving Challenge: THANK Your Grocer

Front and center:
Organic grassfed beef, $5.99/lb.
It does not specifically say "grass-finished",
but in my view this is Giant responding
to market demand, so it is a good thing,
grass-finished or no.
I know of lots of paleo-leaning folks who have managed to arrive at near or total self-sufficiency - they raise their own meat, own egg-laying chickens, and grow Martha Stewart photo op worthy produce.

Me? So not there. I'd like to keep learning ways to do things on my own. For now, though, I still rely heavily on grocery stores in my neighborhood to keep us going. In addition, I rely on Amazon, Vitacost, and US Wellness Meats to supplement what I haven't managed to source steadily, locally.

In the past year we've bought 2 halves of grassfed cows from a couple of local farmers. Now, our freezer is just running bare, save a few packages of offal that I need to tackle. Imagine my great delight, then when I was strolling through Giant today and saw ORGANIC GRASSFED BEEF on the shelves! I was so delerious...there may or may not have been dancing. Right away I ran to the closest section manager and like a rockstar's giddy fan-girl, blubbered my irrational level of gratefulness for Giant now carrying organic grassfed beef.

At checkout, I also thanked the cashier, a sweet lady that I see in Giant all the time. I know that she probably had nothing to do with the beef now being stocked, but I believe that every positive remark has to stand out against a steady tide of grumbling in the grocery business.

I have a little challenge for you guys. This next week, if you have a grocery store visit planned before Thanksgiving, think about at least one thing you love about that grocery store. It is Thanskgiving week - people are out there feeling rushed, stressed, and impatient for PIE. Make an effort to be one little beam of sunshine for your cashier, for your grocery store manager. Show them kindness and encourage them for what they're doing really well. Track down the customer service comment box and write a positive note about how an employee's helpfulness made your shopping trip easier. It just might make their day!

Have you said, "Thank you!" to someone at your local grocery store lately?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mainstream Pediatrics Addresses Gut Health in Autism Spectrum Children

This last weekend, a friend who is an occupational therapist alerted me to this: "Gastrointestinal Conditions in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Developing a Research Agenda". It was an article hot off the presses in the November 2012 issue of the American Academy of Pediatrics' monthly magazine Pediatrics.

In short, this article represents America's pediatricians coming to a consensus about deteriorated gut health and autism spectrum disorders being linked and real. The article even uses "gut-brain connection" and "leaky gut" - terms that in years past were relegated to the category of desperate parents' and quacks' "crazy talk".

The article's information and content were not new to me...I've been independently exploring and applying those research concepts for well over a year on behalf of my youngest daughter, who has sensory processing disorder and speech delay.

Here, then, is the significance: This magazine serves as mainstream pediatrics' voice.
Addressing gut health in autism spectrum disorder kids has now been prioritized. Consequently, any parent who asks their pediatrician questions about their ASD kids' diet should not be brushed off or dismissed, but instead earnestly, constructively engaged. While our own family doctor has been very supportive of our efforts to maintain my daughter's diet, I frequently come into contact with other parents whose doctors' reactions to suggested diet changes range from indifference to condemnation. Often, due to limitations in geographic availability or insurance coverage, such doctors remain the only option for these families. Now, though, the parents can discuss with their children's doctors the options for dietary changes with the American Academy of Pediatrics' backing.

I felt tears well a bit in my eyes when I read this article. It is a major breakthrough for parents who are trying to support their children's neurodevelopmental progress through a cleaned-up diet. I encourage you to print out this article and give it to your loved ones who are parents of children with neurodevelopmental disorders - because as many of us will testify, change in diet is the foundation to the rest of the therapies and progress these kids can hope to tackle.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hot Deal: Organic Gluten Free Coconut Flour at Rock Bottom Prices!

Something flickered on my radar today as I was shopping Vitacost to restock on cod liver oil. It turns out that there is a deal on Let's Do Organic! Coconut Flour - the currently listed price is $3.65 for a 16 oz. bag. I can't remember the last time I saw organic gluten free coconut flour that cheap. (I usually see 1 lb. bags of coconut flour in the $5-$10 range, as a point of reference.) At the rate I've been baking lately with the cold temps, coconut flour is becoming our household's hottest commodity.

If you haven't bought from Vitacost before, you can get $10 free credit just for signing up (sign up is free) for their Vitacost Rewards. This $10 credit is good on purchases of $30 or more.

Here's one way to work a deal so that you can get that coconut flour even more cheaply.
  1. Go create a Vitacost Rewards account to claim the $10 free credit, and make sure that the credit redemption code is emailed to you.

    Optional step: Using your ebates account (creating one is free), be sure to click to through ebates to get 4% cash back on your Vitacost purchase.
  2. Once at, search for "Let's Do Organic Coconut Flour." Add three bags to your shopping cart. Your cart total will be $10.95 for the coconut flour; you will need $19.05 worth of other items to reach the $30 required to use the $10 credit.

    Vitacost is a great resource for vitamins and supplements, but also for as other inexpensively priced gluten free baking staples like extra virgin coconut oil, almond flour, and raw honey. You can get a 54 oz. tub of extra virgin coconut oil for a little over $20, for one suggestion.
  3. On your shopping cart page, their is a promo code window at the top. Enter your $10 code into that window and redeem.
  4. Proceed through the checkout process. You'll also get 4% cash back on that if you went through ebates.
This price an absolutely unbeatable deal for three 1 lb. bags of coconut flour! How do you think you'd use the flour for your baking projects this month?

This post contains affiliate links to Vitacost Rewards and ebates. Shopping through these links results in Primal Kitchen receiving a referral bonus at no cost to you - thank you for supporting Primal Kitchen! :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Paleo and Primal Natural Disaster Pantry Prepping: Building a Stockpile of Nonperishables

I realize that golfing and hang-gliding may also be strong contenders for this title, but earlier this week, while waiting out the storm, I unofficially dubbed the combination of disaster preparation with a paleo lifestyle as potentially one of the most expensive hobbies I could imagine.

Of course, if you're really, really invested in getting back to nature, maybe you've got some ammo and/or some good crossbow equipment stowed away; you've probably already learned how to use it and gone on a few hunting trips. You're probably also the type to have read all of the memoirs of Bear Grylls and Les Stroud, and also multiple books on the edible flora and fauna of your region's ecology. If that's the case, then you might be set preparation-wise. (And incidentally, can we talk? Because I might want to be BFFs with you if a catastrophe goes down.)

Me, though? I'm still just 2.5 years into this whole foods lifestyle - that's still not so long that I don't remember my pre-paleo disaster prep shopping trips, which involved bagged/sliced bread, cereal, and other processed foods. In fact, rumor has it that Americans' buying patterns on average spike for beer and Pop-Tarts when a storm approaches. By now, I've been through a few inclement weather sessions in the last two and a half years - enough to get a better idea for how fast our family might go through certain staples, and to know what makes for good eats in the absence of power.

As the initial warnings about Hurricane Sandy started to reach a steady hum last Friday morning, I headed to Wegmans with my youngest daughter. Meat and produce filled my cart...but yes, also a couple of carefully selected treats - as in, the kind I might indulge in once every couple of months - hard apple cider, and one pack of gluten free dairy free cookie dough.. (It was, after all, supposed to be the storm of the century!) The handy thing about being trapped at home in a storm was that limited indulgences remained limited; it's not as though I was able to drive 20 minutes through all manner of rain and wind to Wegmans to get more cookie dough. When that batch of cookies was gone, it was (sniff!) gone.

Thankfully, despite my jokes about paleo disaster prepping seeming expensive, it doesn't need to be. It undeniably costs more than creating a stockpile of pasta and cereal, but there are a lot of ways to save money on paleo-friendly nonperishables. Amazon saves our family time and money because we buy a lot of these nonperishables through its Subscribe & Save program, which delivers directly to our doorstep on intervals that we chose. Using this program, we've gradually built a nice stockpile of nonperishable paleo-friendly staples that have been complementing the fresh foods I grabbed at Wegmans - including many that work with my 2 year old's GAPS diet, too. Almost all of our nonperishables have been bought at the lowest prices I've been able to find online or in stores, via's Subscribe and Save program. Often the Subscribe & Save items come in bulk quantities, which has saved us a lot of money over the long run, especially when compared to the marked up retail prices on individual packages at the store. We don't receive these items every month - they are each on a staggered schedule, so we might get one item every other month, or another item every 6 months, all depending on our family's ability to use it up and our food budgeting priorities.

Here are some of the nonperishable items we've bought and enjoyed in the past that are available on Subscribe and Save:

Nonperishable Snack Foods and Lunchbox Staples*, nice for when power is out:
*One of our daughter's schools has a nut-free cafeteria but a nut-OK classroom; the other's school does not exclude nuts at all. Sunbutter, apple chips, and raisins are just some of the nut-free choices out there. Remember to shop according to your particular lunchtime destinations' parameters and your family's own dietary needs.

Nonperishable Bulk Baking and Cooking Supplies:
Convenience/Transition Nonperishables:

Oils for Dressings, Sauces, and Mayos

What primal and paleo nonperishables have you been stocking in your pantry? After Hurricane Sandy, are you planning on stocking your pantry in case of more inclement weather later this winter?

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you, so thank you!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Diet's Impact on Neurological Struggles: Not Everything, But Hardly Nothing

This morning, I came home from Crossfit to a couple of very hungry girls. My five year old had already gotten them each a banana (hey, maybe in another 5-7 years I can have her making us all eggs and bacon!), but they were looking around eagerly for the next course.

They were delighted to realize I had a pomegranate in the house. We normally classify pomegranates as fancy holiday fare, because of their more typical $2.50+ price tag, but I'd stopped into a Food Lion by chance yesterday, and they were selling them for $0.99 each!

I used a chef's knife to crack open the pom (YouTube has a TON of videos on pomegranate prep, watch them for great tips!), and after pulling it apart into sections, I could hardly pry the seeds out of the inside fast enough for the four little hands to grab them off the plate.

Their faces and hands quickly slicked with the delicious red juice, my youngest started counting the arils, "One, two, three." She has made real, very noticeable strides in the time since we overhauled her diet. When we first started buckling down on diet, after her diagnoses, she was 26 months old, using around 20 words clumsily, incompletely and inconsistently. She wandered around in a fog, with little eye contact. At most we were getting her to try one new word in a week, but those rarely stuck. Her language development essentially froze sometime in the middle of her second year of life, and stayed stuck until we changed her diet - this dietary jump-start to her progress was observed and acknowledged by my mother-in-law (a retired speech therapist) and our current speech therapist.

At six weeks shy of three years old, she now counts to twenty, knows all of her colors, all of her shapes, and recognizes the entire alphabet and numerals on sight. Her language development is pacing nicely - she recently tested as being developmentally on track for her verbal articulation skills, and her spontaneous combinations of 3-4 words have been increasing in frequency. Instead of being roughly a year behind on language (as she was this spring), she is now probably only a few months delayed in certain aspects of language. Her sensory processing disorder symptoms have also been blunted a bit - she does not grind her teeth or squeeze my arm until it hurts as intensely and as frequently as she used to. Perhaps most charmingly, she has developed a lot of social skills that I had not seen before - saying, "Hi!" to strangers in public places, making steadier eye contact in general, and mentioning friends, classmates, and teachers by name.

Has diet fixed everything 100%? No. But it unquestionably got the ball to recovery rolling, and has bolstered and supported a diligent therapy schedule. My daughter will probably always have sensory issues to manage, but I rest in the knowledge that her progress now reflects a future with increasingly fewer, if any, limits.

This blog post is an explanation of personal experiences for entertainment purposes only, and is not to be misconstrued as medical advice. Please consult your trusted primary care physician with any questions about major changes in your diet and your family's diet, and remember that decisions about your diet are your own to make based on your own health and circumstances. Every family and child has unique nutritional needs, and those are for you and your health care providers to identify.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Boo Bites (Paleo / GAPS Diet Halloween Treats)

These little guys came to me in a moment of inspiration. I was already mixing up a batch of coconut manna and honey, with a pinch of sea salt. My copy of the GAPS book suggests that patients with blood sugar regulation issues might benefit from taking a combo of coconut oil and honey between meals, and I think that in my youngest daughter's case, having this combo around every other day or so has helped to keep her calories up and her blood sugar from crashing.

I was mixing the stuff up when I thought to myself how like playdough its consistency was. All of a sudden I knew what I could do; I rolled the "dough" into little balls, flattened the balls, and then pinched out little wispy ghost feet. Two miniature allergen-friendly chocolate chips for eyes and a raisin for a mouth going, "OoooOooooo!" and my Boo Bites were born. My 5 year old gets a huge kick out of these and likes to make ghost noises when she is talking about them. While I think they would be cute in lunches, they do require a certain amount of cold, so it would have to be in a lunchbox containing an ice pack, or one kept in the fridge.

This is a great, safe kitchen project for kids to help! The ghosts don't have to look perfect, and the decoration of the eyes and mouths will definitely keep your little ones busy.

While GAPS keeps sugar absolutely out of the diet (and thus mini chocolate chips with sugar are a no-go), you could easily cut a raisin into two smaller pieces for the eyes, making the treat consist of coconut manna, honey, sea salt, raisins, and if desired, GAPS-legal vanilla. Presto! Totally GAPS compliant. Another option for the eyes could be a couple of unsweetened cacao nibs.

Boo Bites
Makes 6

  • 1/2 cup coconut manna, slightly warm and soft*
  • 3-4 tablespoons honey (adjust to your sweetness preference, buy locally or find a good quality one online)
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (Rodelle is one gluten free, junk free option)
  • Raisins, for decoration
  • Mini chocolate chips, appropriate to your dietary needs (I like the allergen-free Enjoy Life chips)
  • A tray or dish lined with parchment paper or wax paper, the right size to fit into your freezer

*One way to soften your coconut manna is to put about 1" of hot water in a larger bowl, and then place a smaller bowl containing the coconut manna into the larger bowl, double-boiler style. After about 10 minutes the coconut manna should be nicely malleable. Remember that coconut manna consistency varies from brand to brand and even jar to jar - you are going for a play-doh style consistency, so if it seems too runny, add more manna. Not runny enough? A little more honey, or even a little added coconut oil.


Stir together all ingredients except for the raisins and chocolate chips. See above notes on consistency; once you have achieved a nice doughy consistency, roll a chunk of mix into the size of a large marble. Flatten the ball, and then use your fingertips to "pinch out" some ghost feet. Place the ghost on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the coconut "dough" until all the ghosts are made. Decorate the ghosts with the chocolate chips for eyes and the raisins for mouths. Place the dish into the freezer to allow them to set. Serve chilled.

This post is participating in Stacy and Matt's annual Paleo Parents Halloween Recipe Roundup.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Shopping Amazon through Primal Kitchen affiliate links supports Primal Kitchen at no additional cost to you, so thank you!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Love Letter: 52 Reasons Why I Love Crossfit

Today marks my one year "Crossfitaversary". Last year, I walked into the introductory ramp up class not a little terrified of whether I could hack it Crossfitting. But, to tell the truth, I had hit the end of my rope and felt like I had no other waffling options - it was time to take some major chances.

It was painful at first. OK, some days, really painful. Not only were my muscles (and muscles I didn't know I had) sore all the time, but I felt the ego pain of realizing exactly how far gone my body and fitness were. I frequently felt the searing self-awareness of being the last to finish, often by more than ten minutes.

What can I say? Me and Crossfit sittin' in a tree...

(Via Flickr Creative Commons)
Fast forward 52 weeks. Like coming around a bend while driving through the mountains, it took me getting a ways into Crossfit to realize exactly how much ground remains for me to cover in the future. I enjoyed the feeling of getting stronger, and noticing new definition of muscle tone where it hadn't been visible for years.

What really kept me coming, though, was the people. My Crossfit box's coaches and owners are some of the most steadfast, friendly, encouraging people I have ever met. The quality of the box has everything to do with their positive attitudes and their teamwork, with their programming, with their dedication to excellence and continuous improvement - that of the box as an organization, and its members as chasers of exceptional fitness.

That in mind, I've decided to dedicate a post to the reasons I love my Crossfit box - 52 reasons for every week I've been Crossfitting. Now that I'm one year in, I'm excited to realize all that is possible in the year to come!

Crossfit Is

1. Learning to fight. After learning to fight through and finish workouts, I recognize myself exercising that same will to "make it" when I'm fighting through a tough day. When I need inspiration to power through a day, it reminds me of shrugging my shoulders and exploding through the hips on a tough power clean. It's in me, I just need to let it out.

2. Learning patience. I often talk with fellow Crossfitters, and learn that after 2 or 3 years of Crossfitting, they've finally reached a personal goal. I remember this when I get frustrated with myself for seemingly being far from hitting some of my goals (like a dead hang pullup) - they made it to their goals, and I can, too. It may simply take longer than I'd like.

3. Learning limits. There have some days (or, weeks!) in the last year that were so humbling - whether I've been rehabbing an injury, or realized that thrusters seem to never get easier, or discovered that my overhead squat PR was lower than I expected because I still have lots of core strength to build. Sometimes running into limits is a daily reminder, sometimes they occur at once - unexpectedly - in a workout and it feels like hitting a brick wall. Either way, I've learned my limits and how to respect them, and sometimes, I've been able to worth through them, which feels like even more of an achievement.

4. Avoiding the temptation to cherry-pick. Not cherry picking is part of the character building process. If I only showed up for the parts of life that I knew ahead of time that I'd enjoy, I would miss out on a whole lot.

5. Leaving self-consciousness at the door. It only took a few sessions at my box before I completely chucked notions of vanity or self-consciousness. Over time I've found function-focused workout gear that lets me get things done, and I've learned to get over the fear of looking silly...often because everyone else is trying to do the same thing! Collapsing into a endorphin-basted makeup-free red-faced pile of sweat and chalk when time is called is something I now fully embrace.

Crossfit Opens
New Avenues of Self-Esteem by Developing Athletes

6. Seeing anyone and everyone as an athlete. I was a poster child for participation trophies as a kid. Now, I recognize the ways I measure my own success, and every little improvement in strength, in speed, in power...all adds up to a growing athletic ability and a growing confidence in what my body can make happen. Now that I know what is possible from my own workouts and watching those at my box work out, I know that anybody who truly wanted to Crossfit could do it.

7. Learning to fuel oneself as an athlete. I've gotten better on average in my fueling up. When I know that the next workout is depending on me getting clean protein and nutrient dense foods, I'm more motivated to keep myself stable on that front.

8. Learning to recover as an athlete and to value that recovery. Over time I've gotten better at recognizing the multiple aspects of recovery, and to honor those when needed - sleep, a rest day, stretching, doing foam rolling, and seeking the advice and services of professionals like my chiropractor (who is himself also paleo and a Crossfitter).

9. Fellow athletes and coaches set the standard of self-care and fitness gains by their examples. My fellow Crossfitters simply take care of their bodies and value their mobility and fitness gains more than the average citizen. When everybody else at my box is doing that for themselves, it makes it easier to do it for myself, too.

Crossfit Means
I Get to Have FUN!

10. Early morning social time. There's nothing to bring me out of my bleary-eyed 5:30 a.m. state than when I pull into a parking spot at the box and see everybody up and about, the earlier class getting their WOD done. The music perks me up, I get to say hi to my friends, catch up on everybody's week while we stretch and warm up. Admittedly, sometimes it's the only interaction I get with other adults the entire day!

11. Laughs. Dancing, busting each other's chops, and generally joking around. And yes, there is still a serious workout that gets done in the middle of all that.

12. Celebrating personal records. Nothing brightens up the rest of the day like hitting a PR. Just as fun is cheering on fellow Crossfitters to PRs of their own!

13. Trying new things. Even a year on, I'm still getting to try new things from one week to the next. I love that Crossfit is based on mixing things up; it's a dopamine fix I can fully endorse.

Crossfit Offers

14. Fundraisers - Our box regularly gives back. We participate in nationwide and local WOD fundraisers. A group workout, a tee for everyone, and working as a team to accomplish a bigger goal...I love it!

15. Food drive/polar bear plunge - We do a polar bear plunge as a group -- and everybody contributes to the local food pantry. Win-win.

16. Holiday WODs - I love getting to spend the early mornings of my holidays knocking out a WOD with my fellow Crossfitters. Even if I'm lazy the rest of the day, the WOD gives me a sense of accomplishment...and an excuse to wear wacky socks and seasonal colors.

17. Team Races and Other Competitive Athletic Events - groups from our box regularly participate in local road races, Tough Mudder, Primal Quest, and other events. These people are fun-loving fitness geeks - WODs just aren't for checking off a box; they genuinely love to get sweaty and compete!

Crossfit Fosters
Goals for the Future

18. Bringing back concrete goals for oneself. Once kids arrived, it became really hard to focus on growth milestones for myself, much less on specific goals, because I felt like I was just trying to make it through each day. Crossfit not only gave me permission to bring goals for myself back - it gave me permission to make them big. I started with my first deadlift 1 rep max at 125 lb. last October. Once I hit 230 lb. on my deadlift early this spring, I knew that 250 was in sight...and within a few months I hit my current PR of 255 lb.

19. Dreaming up goals for your kids. Even if my girls don't grow up to Crossfit, I hope that as they grow, they do find a fitness outlet that gives them a rush and power in the feel of weight work and functional fitness.

20. Seeing oneself as a role model. It's a little easier to hold myself accountable when I see my workouts and my nourishment as a long term project, with me as my daughters' role model for overall adult female wellness.

21. Dreaming about therapeutic applications for sensory kids. My youngest daughter has sensory processing disorder - and in her case as a proprioceptive/vestibular seeker, she needs regular specialized weight work to release dopamine and serotonin. Because she is an intensely active and physical child - she already enjoys monkey bars at age 2 - I have added hope, though, for her future. I dream that maybe, some day, in Crossfit she could relish the therapeutic value of weight work, and gain her needed dopamine fix in such an encouraging environment among friends and coaches.

Crossfit Means
I Get to Be a Kid Again

22. Kids naturally know how to do it. Kids' brains and bodies know more than we think they do. A squatting toddler exhibits more natural mobility than many adult marathon runners. I've so enjoyed reclaiming my body's natural ranges of mobility while Crossfitting!

23. Kids revel in the physical. A young boy scrambling up a fireman's pole on the playground knows the raw joy of being physically active and instinctively lets his core and legs help him up. Crossfit lets me have those moments, of "Wheee! I did it!" as an adult that I rarely experienced as a kid.

24. WODs = recess. One morning last winter, before we began a workout that would involve a lot of wall walks, my friend B said, "I love Crossfit! It's like recess." When you see a WOD as your chance to get some fresh air and fun running around with friends, it puts a cheerful spin on things.

25. The competitive spirit. Just like a bunch of kids at recess, a good WOD will tease out the competitive spirit. I love it when I'm in lock-step with someone across the WOD's reps and we both know it - it makes us both finish faster and stronger than if we were doing it by ourselves.

Crossfit Promotes
Defying Inertia

26. Reclaiming life in the right direction, 20 minutes at a time. Even though many days our workouts are 20 minutes or less, they still manage to leave me thoroughly wiped out. Some may pooh-pooh such short workouts (I call them "efficient"), but over a week that's almost 2 hrs. of intense sweat equity that otherwise wouldn't have happened.

27. Recognizing that in body composition changes and performance changes, the best results come from continuously tracking data. It's hard to recognize body fat creep or weightlifting plateaus unless you regularly document and track your own data. Luckily, my Crossfit box encourages this in pretty much any aspect.

28. Accountability to turn the ship around. If you've been living one way for 20, 30, 40 years, it is so. hard. to turn the ship around - to dedicate yourself to workouts and clean eating. Having partners, friends, and coaches interested in your progress keeps you accountable in a singular way.

29. Knowing the lion-hearted in every coach and member. It is only as a matter of time - eventually, if I get to know a fellow Crossfitter well enough, I discover that they have not allowed the dark side of life to get the best of them - or let the inertia drag them down for good. There is so much that folks at my box have overcome. To see my friends and coaches daily having gotten out of bed, laced up their shoes, and put themselves through a WOD's paces, demonstrates their consistent will to defy downward inertia.

Crossfit Affords
Pleasure in Physical Accomplishments

30. Nerds learning the thrill of the PR. As if it were any secret at all, I'm a nerd - a major one. Most of my life accomplishments until my late 20s have been marked by what I could accomplish using my  mind, but I always assumed myself generally incapable of anything athletic. Now I know that my body possesses a power that I never before realized was there - and it's up to me to do right by my body.

31. Hormone release. Working out releases all kinds of feel-good hormones - some the same hormones released when eating delicious foods, enjoying sex, and trying new thrilling things - like bungee jumping. If you can get a guaranteed bundle of these wonderful hormones packaged and delivered on a regular basis, why wouldn't you?

32. Letting the WOD counter the effects of stress. The right kind and quantity of exercise can effectively counteract much of the negative biological and emotional impact of stress. Tabatas might feel awful in the moment, but 10 minutes after you've caught your breath, you can sail on the hormone-modulated mood boost of accomplishment all day.

33. Honoring the zone in oneself. You know the zone - if you've ever watched the Olympics, or a coach, or a champion, or experienced that moment yourself. It's a moment of unadulterated flow, when your mind barely whispers to your body what to do, and your body salutes and says, "Yes, ma'am." These moments don't happen all the time, but when they do, you can only bask in the euphoria.

34. Celebrating the zone in others. Many days, especially if the workout of the day is a short one, I'll hang around after I'm done to watch other folks tackle the same WOD. My coach, a lean and petite retired Marine who can deadlift double her body weight, will often arrive in a zone during her WOD, when she's scaling a rope, or cranking through multiple dead hang pullups, and it's then that she makes it look as easy as riding a bike, while the rest of us stand by, slack-jawed at her God-granted hard-earned finesse.

Crossfit Creates
A Family Atmosphere

35. Welcoming newbies. We get a new batch of Crossfitters joining our ranks about once per month. One of our box's owners always says to us regulars, "Don't be a workout snob, say hi to - ...." and is sure that the new people are introduced all the way around at the box. This right-at-home welcome set a very nervous me at ease a year ago, and I still really, really enjoy saying an enthusiastic, "Hi!" to the folks joining us - because waking up early to go do something completely terrifying and new while you're still sore is a little easier when you don't feel like you're doing it among strangers.

36. Knowing that folks are teased for even brief absences, and welcomed back warmly after harder stretches away. "Whoa-hoa! Everybody check out the new girl!" Variations on this dig are commonly tossed out when somebody returns from an absence of as short as a couple of days - but always in good fun. I take it as a comforting sign that somebody can be missed and rewelcomed after missing even a handful of workouts. It's also a great motivation to not casually miss too many workouts. And yet, sometimes there are solid reasons to be gone; while I was letting an injury heal recently, under my chiropractor's advice, I missed about a week of workouts straight. I came back on a Friday, and the first thing one of the box's owners said to me was, "Hey, welcome home." You know that people truly care about where you've been and how you're recovering, and that they are genuinely glad to have you back.

Crossfit Teaches
The Value of Teamwork

37. Team WODs. I've learned to appreciate team WODs; the first few months of Crossfit, I was afraid that working as a team meant that I would be holding my partners back. Now, though, I see the value in shared reps and runs, and in the importance of letting no one feel left behind. Often, it seems, one team member's gifts will complement the other's, and that lets us carry each other just a bit through the hardest parts of the WOD...except through wallballs and thrusters, because I've yet to meet somebody who would consider themselves gifted in doing those - at most, gifted in surviving them.

38. Team Nutrition Challenging. We don't do all of our nutrition challenges in teams, but this summer I had a chance to do one with a fabulous partner. Knowing she was giving it her all as we checked on each other throughout the week kept me very much in line with my own eating and workouts, and we finished strong as a result. It was a great way to mix things up with the challenges!

39. Seeing coaches as team members in wellness. I have a primary care physician that I adore, and a chiropractor who is the jam. Meanwhile, our box has an awesome nutrition gal (who also coaches) and coaches who look after the general fitness welfare of the box members. Even though they've all never met face to face, I love having such a capable "team" looking out for me!

Crossfitting Yields
The Continuous Practice of Doing Hard Things

40. Tackling the most-dreaded WODs. Reading the descriptions of some WODs makes me want to run a mile...or avoid running a mile, as it were. The only way to make these things I dread easier, though, is to keep doing them, to make them a way of life. Simply showing up for those tough-looking WODs is more than half the battle.

41. Adding more weight to the bar. Because getting stronger doesn't happen unless you push yourself.

42. Scaling up. Sometimes I have recognized on my own when the time was right...and sometimes my coach gave me that nudge. Scaling up is what prevents us from stagnating, so even if you have to do the WOD a few minutes slower, and end up a little more sore the next day, you've earned yourself some progress.

43. Fueling the right way, faithfully, consistently. We start another nutrition challenge fourth at the box this year. Responsibly fueling myself is not always fun, but the results that come from it - clear-headedness, improved strength and performance, decent health markers, and a leaner look - make fueling that way worthwhile in the long run. As many I've spoken to at our box will testify, though, it often takes a solid three weeks of dedicated clean eating before cravings start to fade and the body makes the switch to using "premium". The biggest difficulty for me, then, is remaining consistent for very long stretches of time of several weeks in a row. The more I do it, though, the easier it gets to stay on course and recognize whether a splurge is truly "worth it" or not.

44. Deprioritizing fluff time to make room for rest and recovery. Sure, it's fun to stay up late browsing the web, catching up on emails, and watching movies, but ultimately, a night like that robs me of sleep and drains my energy if I do it too often. I am still learning to bring sleep and recovery toward the top of the list - so that I can live to WOD another day.

45. Greasing the groove. Earlier this year we had an entire month of extra burpees every day after the WODs were finished. I was not a fan burpees, but I did them anyway, and discovered that doing those burpees day after day really did grease the groove. By the end of the month, I had learned to flop to the ground much more efficiently, and as a result, I came to embrace burpees in my WODs from that point on as much more doable.

46. Honesty with oneself. There have been some uncomfortably honest moments I've had to endure - learning my highest body fat percentage back in January was one of them. Moments like these, though, inspired me to be honest with myself more often...because it's less painful that way, and less likely that I have a chance to stick my head in the sand. Instead of blowing off the body fat assessments offered by our box's nutrition gal, I sign up for them regularly through nutrition challenges. I weigh myself regularly to understand how workouts, food, and other factors impact my weight on a regular basis. Knowledge is power, so honesty with myself about how I'm performing on all counts is ultimately my wisest course.

47. Giving up some pleasures for the sake of bigger goals. The difficult thing is accepting the idea of opportunity cost. If I want to lean out, I need to avoid insulinogenic and inflammatory foods. I can't eat massive amounts of chocolate every day and continue to develop into a lean, mean Crossfitter. If I want to make it to my morning WODs, I need to not sleep in and instead get myself to bed earlier - thereby forgoing my aforementioned "fluff" time. Giving up some parts of my past life impersonating a slug is what must be done to pursue a future of health and fitness, and it's accepting and applying that reality that is still a hard thing - an ongoing process, truthfully.

Crossfit as a Microcosm for Life

48. Training the core. Crossfit - but especially the lifting - almost always involves engaging the core abdominal muscles to bring about explosive power. What I've realized as a mother, is that I'm the core of my family's home life. (Corny, I know, but true.) If I don't condition and take care of myself, it can take one awkward moment of lost form for my own weakness to bring everything crashing down. If you're at the core of family life, remember to take care of yourself, too. Keep the core strong and engaged!

49. Learning what's right for you, then going out and getting it, because you're worth it. When you're Crossfitting, you learn to cherish the time you're given. This time is for me, this WOD is for me, I'm going to make the most of it. When you begin to think like that regularly as a part of your day, soon you begin to value yourself more, to value the wellness of your family more, and to value the time and energies you put into the rest of your day.

50. Keeping setbacks in perspective, and getting back in the game however you can. Whether it's an injury, or an unavoidable absence, or a shift in schedules, any setback could be an excuse to quit - or an excuse to get creative and do whatever you have to do to keep yourself moving and retain strength. It means paying extra careful attention to what you eat (to retain muscle mass and avoid gaining fat), or doing bodyweight WODs while you're on the road, or substituting movements around an injury. No matter what has to happen, it teaches your brain a "don't quit - just get creative" philosophy that I've in turn applied to my own life outside of Crossfit, as when dealing with managing my youngest daughter's SPD through diet, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

51. Believing that "If it is to be, it is up to me." My dead hang pullup won't happen on its own. Neither will rope climbs. My ability to do those as prescribed in the future depends on me - and not just showing up for WODs; they will only come with continued day-in-day-out dedication to healthy nutrient dense eating and smart supplementing. Holding my own feet to the fire in this way gives me plenty of practice for dealing with the ongoing daily commitments of my marriage and my parenting, and to believe that there are great things to achieve with steadfast application of my efforts.

52. Trusting in the best from people and waiting to see what they deliver. My coach believed in me from the first day...even during that first week, when I could barely finish the beginners' super-scaled workouts. I've watched her place the same faith in fellow Crossfitters day in, day out - from the freshest beginners to the longtime members. It still amazes me to this day, and convicts me of my natural bent toward cynicism. If my coach could look at a cream puff like me and cheer me through a whole year of weight loss, strength gains, and PRs, how much more faith could I put in my own family and friends?

Why do you love your Crossfit box? Do you have 52 reasons? Or 100? Or 1000? Post your reasons!

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