Dads Are Just As Awesome

When I was pregnant with my daughter 3 years ago, I remember getting emotional over anything I saw that highlighted the special bond a mother has with her child. Baby commercials, blog posts, pregnancy books, videos of mothers holding their baby for the first time- my overly hormonal pregnancy brain just couldn’t handle the anticipation of becoming a mother, something that is such a miracle and the most wonderful journey I could ever imagine embarking on. I couldn’t wait to form that special bond with my own child, and I envisioned being there for her in every way that a mother is supposed to be- doing mommy and me classes, comforting her in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep, rubbing her back when she’s sick, tucking her into bed, picking her up and dropping her off at school- I wanted to be the parent who is supposed to do all of those things. Because I’m the mom, and that’s what moms do.

Society puts both moms and dads in certain roles. Or at least it used to. Moms take care of sick kids. Moms console a hurting child. Moms get up in the middle of the night. Moms are more involved in activities and school. Moms get praised relentlessly for all we do because….moms do it all. 

Partly out of my motherly instincts and partly because I’m selfish, ever since my daughter was born I felt as if I needed to do it all too. Not because I felt I had to, but I wanted to and I didn’t want to be labeled a bad mom for letting my husband step into what was supposed to be MY role. But he wanted to be in my role. He wanted to have a bigger part in the parenting pendulum. This annoyed me to such a deep level that I started to resent him for it. Not that I wanted our daughter to have a deadbeat dad, but I wanted him to just butt out of my job. Dads just aren’t supposed to take that special role away from mothers. It’s easy to play the martyr. It’s also more rewarding to feel as if you are doing everything for your kids- I wanted the self-satisfaction in knowing that I could do it all. I was super mom.

Last week our little girl was sick and it was a Tuesday night. If this kid gets sick, it’s ALWAYS on Tuesday night. I work on Wednesdays only (my husband is off on Wednesdays), and there is nothing I hate more than leaving her when she doesn’t feel good. Sick kids only want their mom, right? I remember telling him that I was just going to go in later that week- maybe Thursday or Friday. She needed me. He accused me of calling him an incompetent parent which annoyed me even more. I thought- but what if she needs to go to the doctor? I need to be there for that!

The next morning, after a long night staying up with a toddler who was having horrible tummy pains, I was driving to Atlanta on about 3 hours of sleep. I had threatened my husband all night that I was going to quit my job that I love, just so I could always be around for times like this. I had the radio tuned to my favorite morning station and they happened to be talking about the new Chickfila drive thru service for moms. This caters to moms with small children who don’t want the hassle of standing in line with them, but still want to sit in the dining room. They can take the kids through the drive thru while they are still restrained in their car seats to place their order, then park and go inside where a table with their food will be waiting for him. People were calling in to the station asking “what about dads? Why don’t dads get this kind of service? Why is everything catered to moms?”

I’m sure if my husband really wanted to use this service while he’s home with our daughter on a Wednesday, Chickfila would cater to him and not put up a fight. But it’s just the concept of it- our society is catered to allowing moms to have the primary parenting role, and dads are always coming in second. It’s terribly difficult to find a men’s room with a changing table- my husband could never change our daughter’s diaper when we’re eating out even if he wanted to. Most companies don’t offer any type of paternity leave for dads- my husband had to save up sick leave so that he could have a week off when our baby was born. I won’t even go into the role that the media, advertisement and our culture play into, that put moms on the parenting pedestal while dads are sitting on the couch, drinking a beer and watching football.

While I was listening to this radio show last Wednesday, the message I got was that dads want to be more involved. And women want the fathers of their children to be able to step into that “mom” role more often. Not because women are getting whiny and don’t want the responsibility, or because the millennials are now becoming parents and we’re all lazy, but because  dads are just as capable at doing the things that moms have always done. We should want our children to have an equal relationship with both parents. How selfish of me for wanting to get all the snuggles, all the bedtime kisses and all the bonding time.

My husband is a champ and such an amazing father. That day he called the doctor, took her in and explained her symptoms just as I would have. He got peed on, didn’t get a shower, and most importantly gave our 2 year old all the love and snuggles she needed. She was perfectly fine staying home with her dad and he handled the day like a pro- just like he always has.

 

I’m grateful that my little girl has such an amazing male role model in her life. It takes some of the pressure off of me, to know that when I’m gone she’s getting the equal quality of care that she would if I were there. I feel less guilty for wanting to work outside of the home a little bit. I feel less of a burden on the nights I’m out doing other commitments and can’t be home to tuck her into bed.

Her daddy wants to spend as much quality time as possible with her. He doesn’t mind rocking her in the middle of the night. He wants to comfort her when she’s hurt. I want him to have these opportunities. And I’m no longer taking it as a threat that she’s just as happy to be with her daddy as she is me. I just consider us both to be incredibly lucky to have him.

Monday Meals with Carli

Mondays are tough for us. My husband works an early morning shift, comes home to sleep for a few hours, and then has to go back into work around 10PM to work through the evening. This is after he has been working all weekend. The nice part about it all is that he gets almost 4 whole days off until Friday evening, but by Monday afternoon I’m going crazy trying to find ways to keep our toddler entertained.

Carli is only two, but is fascinated with cooking and loves to be with me in the kitchen. She even goes to the extent of finding cooking shows on Amazon Prime to watch, and can’t get enough of them. I’ve tried to get her into Mickey Mouse and the other typical shows toddlers are attracted to, but the kid isn’t interested! She has always been a great eater, but is at the age where she is starting to form an opinion about what she wants to eat and is getting picky. Not terribly picky, but enough that we are having to find creative ways to get her to sit down and eat a meal with us. One of the best ways to get little kids to eat a variety of foods and to eat healthy is to let them be involved. Carli likes to know (along with most other toddlers I’m sure) that she is somewhat in control of whatever the task at hand is- whether is be eating, playing, or learning something new. I thought I would start putting her interest in cooking to good use and let her be a part of making dinner on Monday nights. It’s been a win-win for both of us. She is learning about new foods and is getting to be more involved with the meal she is about to eat, and I get to test and try out new recipes. We sample the dishes together, add and take away ingredients to make it better and the end result is a dish that both of us have created that’s healthy and full of fun new flavors.

I’ll try to post our Monday meals each week. This has been a fun experience so far and something we both look forward to. Tonight our recipe tonight involved chicken, mango (a fruit Carli has had but not often), whole grains, broccoli (her favorite vegetable) and kale (a new vegetable for her). I’m trying to introduce new foods to her through this experience and it’s grown her interest in trying new foods. I look forward to sharing our Monday meals with everyone!

Mango Chicken with Whole Grains, Kale and Roasted Broccoli

**This recipe serves 2 people (or 2 adults and a toddler). You may want to double or triple the recipe**

First we started with the sauce. If you like your foods to be spicy I would add the crushed red pepper. To make it more kid-friendly I would remove the crushed red pepper- Carli doesn’t like spicy foods so I had to re-make the entire sauce recipe once she tried it so that she would eat it. Both versions are good!

 

For the sauce:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 mango (chopped into cubes)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 min, until brown. Add the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer.

While the sauce is simmering, cut 2 chicken breasts into cubes. Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until brown. Add the chicken to the sauce mixture and continue to let simmer.

Next, prepare the grains. I used 1/3 cup quinoa, 1/3 cup millet and 1/3 cup buckwheat. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the grains and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.

While the grains are cooking, prepare the broccoli and kale.

For the broccoli:

  • 1 broccoli head, chopped
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil (you can use any oil you have)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together. Place mixture on baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.

For the kale:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh kale, broken into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (omit if you don’t want it to be spicy)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in pan, add garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes.

When everything is ready, place a scoop of the chicken with sauce on a plate, along with a spoonful of broccoli and kale. I tossed the grains with a little bit of olive oil and added about 1/2 cup of cranberries to it. I would recommend mixing everything together so the sauce covers the veggies and grains- it’s delicious! Aim for making 1/2 of each plate broccoli and kale, 1/4 of each plate grains, and 1/4 of each plate chicken. The nutrient density and color in this meal is amazing! Carli enjoyed the cranberries and and mangoes the most- “It’s candy Mommy!”

I hope everyone has a great week!

New Year- New Blog!

When I started blogging last year I learned a couple of things. I enjoyed keeping a blog and loved to share with others simple ways to eat healthy. However, there were lots of other topics I wanted to blog about, but felt I couldn’t because my blog was centered around nutrition. There’s so much more to my everyday life other than healthy recipes and the type of food I buy at the grocery store. I’m hoping that with this new blog I can continue to write about how my family stays healthy and give expert advice on foods and nutrition, but I also want to write about my experiences (both the highs and lows) of being a mom, a wife, and just making it through life.

I’ll continue to post our family’s favorite healthy recipes and tricks I use to get my toddler (and meat and potato lover husband) to eat healthy. I’ll continue to write about how balance healthy eating, exercise and being a mom. This year I’ll also post about family updates and the many joys and challenges that come with parenting. Because #parentingforreal- it ain’t easy, it’s comical, it’s a blessing and it’s something that requires a lot of grace on both sides. I hope to be able to relate to a lot of you and be as real as possible- I’m pretty much an open book!

Why the name change?

Chews Mindfully was a name I gave careful thought to and loved- but again it is a name that applies to a nutrition-only blog. I wanted to change the name to better fit the content of what I’ll be writing about. Life outside the bubble was a name inspired by where I live. The town we live in, Senioa GA is right outside a small town called Peachtree City. I was talking to someone a few weeks ago, who said he was familiar with Peachtree City when I used it as a location marker to explain where we lived. He commented that everyone in Peachtree City seems to be living the perfect suburban life. That’s a pretty accurate description! Peachtree City is referred to as “the bubble”- an idyllic setting with golf cart paths (of course everyone owns a golf cart), pretty lakes, amazing schools, lots of money, and of course- the perfect suburban life. So because we live in Senoia, we are outside of that picture-perfect bubble. I love Peachtree City, and we may consider moving there when our two year old starts kindergarten. I’ll be honest, for the longest time I wanted to live in Peachtree City just so I could claim that status- you can hold your head a little higher when you say you live in the bubble.

As I get older, I’m learning that life isn’t meant to be picture-perfect. If anything, it’s one big beautiful mess. It’s exhausting to try and keep up with the Jones’s, and a lesson I’ve learned over the past few years is that the more you try to keep up, the less happy you are. A goal for myself as I enter my 30’s this year is to live outside the bubble- not just geographically but also mentally. I want to quit worrying about what other people think, focus on the moment rather than trying to make it perfect, and celebrate life as it comes without worrying about what I can do to make the future better. Thanks for coming along for the ride with me!

Cheers to 2017!

This entry was posted in updates.

Bottle or Breast- Which is Best?

All moms are encouraged to breastfeed because we know of the many benefits it has for both mom and baby. Immunity for the baby is one. Another benefit is easier weight loss for mom. It may protect your baby from ear infections, SIDS, eczema, allergens, type 2 diabetes and becoming obese as a child. It may protect mom from certain cancers, such as ovarian and breast cancer. It can improve the baby’s cognitive development. It can reduce mom’s risk of developing postpartum depression. It introduces flavors to baby before he/she is exposed to solid foods, making your baby more likely to accept a variety of foods as a child. It’s free.

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Although the research supporting the above may be true for most breastfed babies, it doesn’t hold true for all. Let’s take a little boy I know for example, who was breastfed and wouldn’t even take the bottle. He fought chronic ear infections as a child and refused to eat anything that wasn’t white rice or kool aid. On the other hand, I know some formula fed kids who are healthy and love most foods- even the green ones! Some women hold onto their baby weight until they’re done breastfeeding because their body likes to hold onto some extra fat for milk production.  Other women may formula feed but still find weight loss to come easy after birth.

All of that being said, I DO encourage moms to breastfeed because of all the wonderful health benefits it can have for the baby. However, I don’t like women to think that breastfeeding is magically going to cure their baby of all childhood illnesses or that the 30+ pounds they gained during the course of their pregnancy is going to disappear almost immediately. Everyone’s situation is different but because we know that breastfeeding is linked to all of these wonderful things, it’s what moms are encouraged to do.

So that must mean that breast is best, right? Not in every case. I have seen so many women feel like failures because they were unable to breastfeed their children. I’ve seen them labeled as bad moms. I’ve seen them get discouraged and feel ashamed because they were unable to feed their children the way we are expected to as “good” moms.

A positive to bottle feeding is allowing dad to bond with baby

A positive to bottle feeding is allowing dad to bond with baby

There are special situations where it may seem your baby is unable to tolerate breastmilk. It’s actually the foods in mom’s diet that the baby is having trouble with, not the breastmilk. Carli was a little colicky when she was a newborn, and with some trial and error with my diet I was able to discover that I had to reduce my intake of gas-producing foods (namely vegetables) and completely eliminate dairy for her to tolerate my milk. I understand that some of this may involve quite the sacrifice (no pizza?? Come on!!) and maybe it will be better for you to just switch your baby over to a lactose-free or dairy-free formula for both of you to be well-fed and happy. Every time I did sneak a bite of cheesecake or a small spoonful of ice-cream we were both miserable- Carli because she had an upset tummy and me because I was up all night with a sick baby.

In other situations, changing your diet to make your milk better for baby simply isn’t an option. That’s because in some cases, women have a hard time even producing breastmilk.

  •  Insufficient glandular tissue is one example, something that occurs when breasts doesn’t develop normally. With this issue you may be able to breastfeed a little bit but will also need to supplement with formula to make sure your baby is getting enough.
  • Hormonal problems, such as PCOS, thyroid disease or diabetes. Breastfeeding relies on the signaling of hormones to allow for milk production, so in some cases these hormonal issues may result in a low milk supply.
  • Breastfeeding is NOT birth control, so some women may opt to go back on the birth control pill shortly after having their baby. Hormonal birth control will reduce milk supply, making it difficult to breastfeed. If you want to be successful in breastfeeding, I would recommend a non-hormonal form of birth control until you or baby is ready to wean.

In other situations, the baby may have difficulty breastfeeding. This is typically a result of a poor latch. A lactation consultant may be able to help with this, but some babies will still have sucking difficulties. I was born with a cleft palate which resulted in a lot of feeding difficulties, especially since my mom was trying to breastfeed me. I was able to get more milk from the bottle, so my poor mother was a slave to the pump so that I could still drink her expressed milk. Back then there were no such thing as electronic pumps- they were all manual. That’s dedication! It didn’t last long and I ended up being a mostly formula fed baby. I don’t blame my mom one bit. And hey- I turned out just fine! Other babies who have difficulty taking milk from the breast include those with cardiac problems, neurological deficits and congenital conditions such as Down’s Syndrome. These babies may be better able to take mom’s expressed milk or formula from a bottle.

Although most women are able to produce enough milk for their babies and will be able to successfully breastfeed, use your instinct and do what’s best for you and your baby. Look for signs that your newborn is getting enough milk. Is he fussy during or after feeds? Is he sleeping okay? Gaining weight okay? Has he developed jaundice (a condition that can happen to newborns when they aren’t getting enough milk)?  In the case that mom’s mature milk production is delayed, these babies are at risk for hypoglycemia, >5% weight loss, dehydration and high levels of bilirubin. Underfed newborns are at risk for neurodevelopmental impairments such as ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, severe speech delays and mental retardation. Although a delayed onset in milk production is rare, most well-meaning mothers may be under- feeding their newborns without knowing it, wanting so badly to be successful with breastfeeding.

Whether it’s from a beast or a bottle, fed is best. Fed babies are healthy, happy and thrive developmentally. If you’re feeding your baby there is no shame in that, no matter where the milk comes from.

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14 Years Later

Around this day 14 years ago I was getting ready for my 1st semi-formal dance. I didn’t have a date, but was going with a group of girlfriends and a few other guys. It was a great group and I was happy to be able to go with them. We got ready together, doing each other’s hair and makeup. We took pictures together and went out to dinner before the dance. I don’t remember much about the dance. I actually don’t remember being there at all. My memories from that day were the moments that were uncomfortable, because that’s all I ever felt during that time.

I remember being cold.

I was always cold. Not just chilled, but the type of cold that buries into your bones and makes you feel like there’s ice in your blood. That night in particular was miserable because I was wearing a thin, sleeveless dress in the middle of November. I remember shivering at the restaurant, pressing my palms between my thighs to get just the smallest amount of blood flow to my fingers, which were starting to turn blue at the tips. I remember how long it took for my body to recover from that night. Once I was home I had to put on 4 layers of clothing and then went to bed with 3 thick blankets to get my body back up to a comfortable temperature.

I remember the food.

The snacks my friends were eating while we were doing our hair and makeup were off-limits. Even though I hadn’t eaten all day to prepare for a fun afternoon of consuming junk food in my best friend’s bedroom, I never allowed myself the luxury of giving up any sort of control around food once the moment arrived. It was all a game. “If I don’t eat now, I can eat more later”- I told myself that once I passed up the snacks. I will just eat a good, fattening meal at the restaurant. Except I didn’t. I never did. It was a never-ending game of how long I could hold off, and how little I could consume once I finally did eat. Instead I sucked down diet Coke and pretended to ignore the greasy potato chips and bowl of chocolate candy that was staring me down, taunting me to let go and have just one. But I couldn’t. It was too hard face the guilt afterwards.

I remember the lies in my head.

The lyrics from the songs being played that night were a constant reminder that I didn’t have a date, and the lies that unfolded from that invaded my thoughts constantly. Lies telling me I would never be pretty enough for a boy to love me, that I would always be alone, and that my eating disorder was the only thing that could make me feel safe and secure. The lies told me it was all I would ever need to be happy. But somehow no matter how hard I faked it, I wasn’t happy. I was miserable.

I remember the emptiness.

An eating disorder rips away everything- I felt as if I had been gutted and left with a body that was meaningless and emotionless. I didn’t know who I was anymore. Any joy I expressed that day was an act, one that came from a sense of denial and one that I controlled well. I remember laughing with my friends, but wasn’t sure what we were laughing about. I remember looking in the mirror to find satisfaction with what I was doing, and to validate that it was all worth it. What I saw in the mirror wasn’t someone who was sick. I saw someone I still wanted to change, someone who I would never be happy with. And the emptiness was still there, because no matter how many times I reached my goal weight, no matter how many times I passed up dessert or how many times I exercised, I never felt satisfied. An eating disorder never makes you feel satisfied, it just keeps taking away.

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Two nights ago, I attended another dance. It wasn’t formal, I didn’t wear a pretty dress and, my nails weren’t done and I didn’t have any makeup on. It was impromptu, the way my dances tend to be these days. It wasn’t in a high school gym or with hundreds of people, but it was in my kitchen with my husband and 2-year-old daughter. The memories I make at these crazy dance parties we tend to have on a regular basis will stick with me forever, much like the uncomfortable memories I have from my first formal dance. These memories are much different though.

I’ll remember being warm because my now-healthy body can insulate itself and tolerate temperatures under 90 degrees.

I’ll remember the smells of food. Chili in the crock pot, taco meat on the stove, and chicken parmesan in the oven are all the comforting aromas of some of the meals that have been in preparation while we’re twirling our toddler around in the kitchen.

I’ll remember how it feels to be surrounded by truth. Truth that I am loved, that I am promised never-ending hope, and that I am cherished by a God who will never abandon me.

I’ll remember feeling full. So so full. Full of purpose, self-satisfaction, and life. Life is so much different now and I’m extremely grateful for that. I’m no longer controlled by that image in the mirror or value myself based on how much I had to eat. I’m more free to love, to experience true joy and to walk through life with a purpose other than meeting my goal on the scale.

I’ll continue to feel this way because I chose recovery. I didn’t chose to have an eating disorder, but I chose to fight my way out. All the memories, both good and bad have shaped me into the person I am today. I’m strong, and the battle has become easier if not nonexistent. I have the painful memories to thank for that.

 

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Chili Season!

Although it’s November 1st, I’m writing this post wearing shorts and a tank top and my face is slightly sunburned from a 30 minute run I did earlier today. Autumn where are you?! I love the mild winters that living in the South brings, but I am eager for cooler temperatures. For my family and friends up North, I envy you and your hoodie-wearing weather! I am ready to be done with summer for awhile and to switch out my bathing suits for sweaters and leggings. I’m also ready for the comfort food season that’s quickly approaching. You know what I’m talking about- big pots of creamy soups and chili, warm breads, hot cocoa, Thanksgiving feasts and holiday treats. Because most comfort food isn’t low calorie, a lot of people tend to gain weight this time of year. But who says that comfort food can’t be healthy? I have four healthy and delicious chili recipes I love to rotate this time of year that are warm, filling and oh so comforting to eat. The best part- you can make them all in the crockpot! There’s nothing better than having the aroma of chili fill the house on a cool fall day.

Spicy white chicken chili

If you love spicy foods, this is for you. You can serve it with sour cream and shredded cheese, but it’s just as tasty without the toppings.

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Ingredients:

1 yellow onion, diced

1 large jalepeno pepper, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large rotisserie chicken, chicken pulled off bones and shredded

2 cans Northern white beans, drained

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups salsa verde

1 tsp chili powder

2 tbsp fresh cilantro

1/2 tbsp poultry seasoning

Directions:

Saute pepper, onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Place all ingredients in crockpot, add pepper and onion mixture and set crockpot on low. Cook for 4-5 hours.

 

Chicken taco chili

This chili is very kid-friendly. My toddler can’t get enough of it! She loves it with “extra” cheese and tortilla chips, but this is another chili that tastes great served plain as well.

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Ingredients

1 onion, chopped

1 can of black beans

1 8-oz can of tomato sauce

2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes with chili peppers

1 bag of frozen corn

1 packet taco seasoning

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Directions

Place all ingredients into the crockpot with the chicken on top. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 6 hours. 15-20 minutes before serving take the chicken out and shred with a fork. Return to crockpot and continue cooking until ready to serve.

Vegetarian chili

This is my favorite chili and I make it often. I love vegetables, and this dish is full of them! You can switch out the beans for meatless crumbles (such as Boca brand or Morningstar crumbles) if desired. Or if you are a die-hard carnivore you can add 1lb of beef or ground turkey. This makes a pretty large pot and we tend to end up eating it all week long! Cut it in half if you aren’t a fan of leftovers.

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Ingredients

1 can of black beans

1 can of kidney beans

1 can diced tomatoes with chilis

1 28 oz can tomato sauce

1 zucchini, chopped

1 yellow squash, chopped

2 large carrots, sliced

1 yellow onion, diced

1 package mushrooms

1 sweet potato, chopped

1 large bell pepper, chopped (I use 1/2 red and 1/2 yellow)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6 hours.

Pumpkin chili

Featured in my last post OMG Pumpkin, this chili has become a new favorite. The pumpkin flavor is quite mild, so if you aren’t a pumpkin lover don’t let the name scare you.

Ingredients:

1 T coconut oil

2 cups chopped yellow onion

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 lbs grass feed beef or bison

28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

6 ounce can of tomato paste

1 can of pumpkin

1 cup chicken broth (or you can just use water if desired)

2 1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 T chili powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

Directions:

Heat a large pot over the stove. Add oil and saute onion and pepper until onions begin to soften (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and cook an extra 8-10 minutes, breaking up the beef into crumbles as it cooks. Transfer meat mixture into crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 6-7 hours on low.

 

Stay warm!

OMG Pumpkin!

October is my absolute favorite month out of the entire year. I love everything about the beautiful colors of autumn, the chilly mornings and cool nights, boots and scarves (with shorts and t-shirts because it’s still 80+ degrees during the day here in Georgia) and of course…pumpkin EVERYTHING. PSL’s, pumpkin candles, pumpkin decorations, pumpkin patches, pumpkin beer, pumpkin desserts- I love them all. Not only does pumpkin stuff smell good, but eating food with pumpkin in it has a few health benefits! Pumpkin is full of fiber (3 grams per 1 cup serving), is loaded with Vitamin A (beneficial for maintaining good eyesight), and contains more potassium per cup than 1 banana. Don’t stop at just the pumpkin though! Their seeds are highly nutritious as well. Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce a mood-lifting chemical called serotonin. Serotonin not only helps to improve mood, but it can also help you sleep better at night. In addition to all of that, pumpkin seeds contain about 7 grams of protein per 1 ounce serving and omega-6 fatty acids, beneficial for cardiovascular health. Hooray for delicious and nutritious!

I have a ton of pumpkin recipes along with a slight obsession of baking pumpkin goodies all throughout the fall. Here are some of my favorites.

Pumpkin Chickpeas

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl add 1 can of chickpeas. In a smaller bowl combine 1/3 cup pumpkin, 2 T pure maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Pour over chickpeas and stir. Place chickpeas on lined baking sheet and cook for 60 minutes, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt

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Stir together 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 T cinnamon and 1 T honey. Put in freezer until it sets. This is a favorite of mine to eat on hot fall days.

Pumpkin Bread

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I have about 10 different pumpkin bread recipes, but this by far is one of my favorite (and also one of the healthiest). It’s naturally sweetened with applesauce and honey, with just a little bit of brown sugar in the crumble topping. I have this alongside chili or soup in the evening (see chili recipe below!) or with (pumpkin-flavored) coffee in the morning.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour

1 T pumpkin spice

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla

For the crumble topping:

1/4 cup oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 T butter (melted)

2 T flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9X9 inch pan with cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined, pour into pan. Mix the crumble toppings together and pour evenly over the bread batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes.

Flourless Pumpkin Muffins

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Here is a simple muffin recipe for my gluten free lovers out there. Even if you are a gluten glutton like I am, I promise you won’t be disappointed with these.

Ingredients:

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

2 eggs

1 T vanilla extract

4 T almond butter

1/4 milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

2 1/4 cups oats

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (if desired- I most definitely desire this ingredient!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 12-muffin pan or line with paper liners. I typically make mini muffins, in that case you can use 2 mini pans to make 24 muffins. Starting with the wet ingredients first, layer everything except the chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until smooth. You can also use a blender, but a food processor is much easier. Stir the chocolate chips into the batter. Pour into the pans and cook for about 22 minutes.

Pumpkin Smoothie

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Easy and delicious, perfect for on the go snacking. My 2 year old loves these! The ingredients make a pretty tall drink, so we usually split it or put some in the fridge for later (can keep up to 24 hours). Blend together 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1 large banana, 3 Tbsp milk (we use unsweetened vanilla almond milk), 6oz Greek vanilla yogurt (you can use regular if you desire, the Greek provides more protein), 1 tsp agave nectar, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 6 ice cubes and a pinch of nutmeg. Yum! For all my fellow runners, this is a great recovery drink as well for those long fall runs.

Pumpkin Energy Balls

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I revealed this recipe in a previous blog post, just added pumpkin to the mix! You can find the original recipe here. I changed it slightly for this particular post, but if you want to use the old recipe and just add 1/2 cup pumpkin you can.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pumpkin

1 1/2 cups oats

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/2 cup peanut butter (you can use almond or soy butter if desired)

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix together ingredients and form into balls. Put in freezer to allow to set. Let thaw for about 10-15 minutes before serving. Yum! Great for on the go breakfasts or snacks. A great replacement to cookies!

Pumpkin Hummus

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You’ll need your food processor for this one! Hummus has become a food group for my two year old (she eats it by the spoonful) so I’ve started making my own. Homemade hummus is less processed and is also cheaper! Pumpkin hummus is a fun flavor for fall and tastes great with whole grain or regular pita chips. We also like to dip sliced bell peppers in it.

Ingredients:

1 can pumpkin puree

1 can chickpeas

2 cloves garlic

2 T tahini paste

1 T olive oil

2 1/2 T lemon juice

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

Place all in food processor and blend until smooth. You can use this recipe to make your own hummus year round too, just leave out the pumpkin if you would like!

Pumpkin Pie Dip

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A great appetizer for fall parties, this is a fun fruit dip perfect for dipping apples, pears and and cinnamon flavored pita chips. It’s easy to make too! Mix together 1 can of pumpkin, 1/2 cup coconut sugar, 1/8 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice. Mix in 6 oz of Greek yogurt then fold in 8 oz of whipped cream. It’s heavenly.

Pumpkin Chili

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I love chili weather! This pumpkin chili is fantastic and the aromas it fills your house with while it’s cooking won’t disappoint!

Ingredients:

1 T coconut oil

2 cups chopped yellow onion

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 lbs grass feed beef or bison

28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

6 ounce can of tomato paste

1 can of pumpkin

1 cup chicken broth (or you can just use water if desired)

2 1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 T chili powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

Directions:

Heat a large pot over the stove. Add oil and saute onion and pepper until onions begin to soften (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and cook an extra 8-10 minutes, breaking up the beef into crumbles as it cooks. Transfer meat mixture into crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 6-7 hours on low.

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Pumpkin Oatmeal

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I eat a lot of oatmeal on cool mornings. So on cool fall mornings I eat….(duh)…pumpkin oatmeal! It’s easy to make and has a ton of fiber to keep you full throughout the morning. Just heat a saucepan over the stove and add 1 cup water, 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup canned pumpkin, 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk) and just a dash of sugar to taste. Sometimes I add just a pinch of brown sugar or coconut sugar, other times I use 1/2 pack of Stevia.

Have a happy fall y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My decision to quit marathon running

Exercise is something that is considered healthy. Not only does it benefit us physically, but also mentally. It is a good tool to use for stress management and can also help people manage various types of psychological issues.  It’s that adrenaline produced by exercise that can bring out the competitive nature in exceptional athletes and motivate others to live a healthier lifestyle. Even people who joke to have an exercise addiction is something most consider to be admirable. The drive and determination it takes to train multiple hours a day for a certain sport is a quality that is both respected and envied. It can be hard to understand that even too much of a good thing can be negative. I’ve struggled for years with an exercise addiction, and it’s something that’s been terribly difficult to admit. There are multiple signs that have shown me the amount of exercise I was engaging in wasn’t healthy, and the steps I’ve been taking the past several months to put an end to it has definitely been more of a challenge than I thought it would be.

When I started running, it came from a healthy place. I was a freshman in high school who just wanted to be in better shape. The first running loop I created in my neighborhood was 2.5 miles. I remember liking the feeling when I was done, exhausted but proud of what I had accomplished. I liked the way my body felt, my muscles were tighter and being dehydrated made me feel lighter. My clothes began getting baggier and the compliments started coming in.

“You look great!”

“Have you lost weight? I’m so jealous!!”

“You’re such a fast runner!”

The praise motivated me to run harder and eat less. I liked feeling small and light. My mood started to become dependent on the endorphins from running- if I wasn’t able to run that day I would become depressed, irritable and angry. 2.5 miles turned into 5 miles. 5 miles turned into 10 miles.  Once I started my sophomore year of high school I was running 10 miles. Every. Single. Day. The compliments stopped and instead people were starting to worry. My doctor placed me on exercise restriction but that wouldn’t stop me. I would do anything to exercise- before school I would run up and down our stairs 100 times while my parents were still sleeping. I would come home from school and immediately go down to the basement to do aerobics. There were even Sunday mornings where I would find an empty room at our church to run laps in while my parents thought I was sitting in the service with my friends elsewhere. The need to exercise consumed me, and the amount of calories I was burning coupled with the amount I wasn’t eating was taking a toll on my body that I was in denial of. My self-worth was 100% based on how many miles I ran that day, how little I ate (or how long I could hold off eating entirely that day) and the number of ribs I could count that were protruding through my skin.

After being diagnosed with an eating disorder the middle of my sophomore year, I began the road to recovery the summer going into my junior year. I was eating again, but was not willing to stop running. It was the only thing I still felt like I had control over and the thought of giving that up terrified me. As I started to eat normally again and put on weight, my doctor was okay with me running as long as I kept my weight up. I continued to run 10 miles every day, only allowing myself a day off once every 3 weeks. I dreaded every minute of it, but I couldn’t let it go because it was the only thing that allowed me to eat. Although I looked healthy on the outside, I was still fighting a difficult battle with myself on the inside. I told myself that once I went to college I wouldn’t exercise as much because I would be too busy. I was convinced that going away to college would make everything better, but it actually made things worse.

By the middle of my freshman year at Purdue University, I was running a minimum of 11 miles every day, some days I would run 20-22 miles with some upperclassmen who were training for the Chicago marathon. 3 days a week I would run at least twice per day- whenever I had a chance between classes I would exercise. The cross country coach saw me run by the athletic complexes, and impressed with my pace, invited me to join the team. Again, I thought joining the team would give me more discipline to run only the amount my coach told me to. Nope. I became worried that the workouts were too short and would run extra on my own, sneaking in treadmill runs at the Co-Rec and running off-campus so I wouldn’t get caught. The stress on my body lead to multiple stress fractures and other injuries that would put me out of running for months at a time. I didn’t know how to cope with stress and emotions without being able to run, and every injury was a trigger for relapsing back into my eating disorder. I coped with binge drinking, blaming my thrown up dinner on the tequila shots I took that night.

During my last year of undergrad I was finally injury-free and impulsively decided to sign up for the Chicago marathon. A reason to run excessively without giving a cause for people to comment that I was running too much?! Sign me up! After completing the Chicago marathon at a respectable time of 3:29, I decided it was my first and last. Two years later I made another impulsive decision to run the Arizona marathon (only because the entry fee was only $15 more than the half-marathon- I thought, why not??). Running that marathon 7 minutes faster than my first, I had qualified for the Boston marathon twice and decided to go for it. I thought Boston would be my last, I had over-trained and was going into the race mentally and physically drained. However, the year I ran in Boston was the year of the bombings. The events of that day were difficult for me to process, so I coped with the emotions the only way I knew how- running. I ran my next marathon less than 6 months later with another PR, and then after finding out that I was pregnant, took a 2 year break. When Carli was just 14 months old, I ran the Chicago marathon again and then just 5 months later ran the Atlanta marathon. Having had a lot of success in Atlanta (I placed fourth overall female with a time of 3:16) I immediately signed up for my 7th marathon, which would take place in Columbus, IN in September, just 6 months later.

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Before running Boston, April 2013

 

Letting Go

I was able to surrender my eating disorder and body image issues to God years ago- but I’ve grasped onto my exercise addiction with excuses that allowed me to believe it was okay. It’s been easy to let myself thrive in the success I’ve had with marathon running, and I had big goals for myself when I started to train for my 7th marathon. I was going to run close to 3:10- I wanted to get faster and faster so that someday I could beat 3:00. I believed that this drive to be a faster runner was normal because all athletes are motivated to get better. I didn’t want to accept or consider that the success I wanted came at a price- not just the price of the relationships with the people closest to me, but also the price of my health. Even the price of staying in recovery from my eating disorder. Although I refuse to let myself fall into that place again, I’m realizing that training so intensely (the way I have been) can so easily open that door. I’m also learning that training for such long distances is a trigger, one that I’ve been in denial of.

There has been a transformation in my thoughts over the past several years that has allowed me to be at peace with food and my body. I didn’t allow that transformation to get in the way of my running, I wanted so badly to protect that because I was too scared to give it up. It was the one thing that my eating disorder had left to use against me, to stir up those feelings of inadequacy that food could no longer compress. I want my approach to running be similar to my approach to food- something that is healthy and well-balanced. I no longer want to use running as a form of punishment or source of self-worth. I don’t want it to be my only coping mechanism- something that I’m finding to be quite difficult but very rewarding all at the same time.

I no longer want to be defined as just being a hard-working, dedicated runner. I want people to know me as a good friend, a loving wife, a wonderful mother. Running still has a place, it always will. It’s just going to take a backseat to more important things in life.

I don’t plan on never racing again. In fact, I’m running a half-marathon with one of my best friends in early November. I have decided to resign from marathon running – I’m not sure if it’s going to be forever, but I know that right now I can no longer put so much focus on training for a 26.2 mile race. A lot of people who run marathons are able to do so without becoming so consumed by the training. I’m able to train this way for shorter distances, but it’s very hard for me to train for a marathon without running an excessive amount.

I decided to drop out of my 7th marathon just 8 weeks before I was due to race. Honestly, I’m just tired. I’m only 29, but my body feels like I’m 79 sometimes. It’s worn out and defeated. I enjoyed spending my summer running less and allowing myself to do other forms of exercise. I spent more time with friends and family. I slept in (as much as Carli would let me) and I feel refreshed. Although I felt a twinge of guilt yesterday morning when I looked at the clock and realized that I should be running mile 18 at that moment, I was at complete peace with my decision.

A few of my favorite things

I have a few essentials when it comes to stocking my kitchen. My grocery list varies week to week based on what I plan to cook, and I always buy a lot of fresh produce. Here are some things that I’ve grown to love over the years, that almost always make it into my grocery cart.

Love Crunch granola

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There is absolutely nothing healthy about this granola. Okay wait- it’s non-GMO- so that counts for something. I also like that I can read and understand all the ingredients it’s made of so I know exactly what is going into my body. This granola is loaded with dark chocolate chunks, peanuts and peanut butter. It’s sweetened with honey and a little bit of cane sugar. I love to add just a little bit of this to plain yogurt for a sweet snack- for me it’s kind of like a better alternative to a Reese’s peanut butter cup. This granola also comes in a Hawaiian flavor (dried pineapple, coconut and white chocolate) which does not disappoint.

La Croix

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I am a recovering diet coke addict. I love and appreciate the taste of plain water but sometimes I just need something carbonated. It was a tough switch to make at first but as long as my La Croix is ice-cold I love it. Mango and passion fruit are my favorites right now.

The Good Bean

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I always have at least 3-4 bags of these laying around. They come in so many flavors- bbq, lemongrass coconut, sea salt, cinnamon and Bombay spice just to name a few. I am obsessed with these dried chickpeas. I use them for everything- I eat them out of the bag as a snack, I add them to salads and the sweeter flavors I may add to yogurt. People always ask me where to buy these. You can find them in the health food section at most grocery stores. The weird thing is so far I’ve found the largest variety at Rite Aid- so whenever I’m getting a prescription filled I stock up. I’ve also found a lot of flavors at Sprouts and The Fresh Market.

 

Coffee and Tea

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Pumpkin spice season is here people. There is nothing that gets me more excited than pumpkin coffee. I love drinking Chai tea in the cooler months too. All I do is add a splash of coconut milk or almond milk to these hot beverages and they’re good to go.

Chips and Guac

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These chips were a find from Kroger and I love them. They are made with beans (more fiber and protein) yet still taste amazing. The lime flavor goes great with guacamole. I’m a sucker for homemade guacamole but if I’m in a hurry this stuff is second best. The best part- there are veggies in the guacamole! If you don’t like veggies but love guacamole, this may be a good way to sneak them in.

Crackers and hummus

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This is always a go-to snack for me, but sometimes I can make a lunch out of it if I add cheese slices or my dried chickpeas and some sort of fruit. I’m boring and usually just get the plain hummus- I really like Kroger’s simple truth brand. The crackers I buy are usually Blue Diamond Nut-Thins. They are made with just a few ingredients, namely almonds, brown rice and flaxseeds. They are gluten free and a good source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.

Skinny Sticks

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I don’t eat them for my waistline, I eat them because they’re crunchy (can you tell I really like crunchy foods??) and they taste good. I keep a bag of these in the car to keep Carli occupied when we’re driving home from errands or the gym. I’ll do anything to keep her awake and avoid the dreaded late morning car nap- which is always a recipe for a miserable afternoon.

Halo Ice-cream

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A good friend of mine posted this picture on social media and I thought that there is no way this ice-cream can actually taste good. I’ve been burned badly by low-calorie ice-cream in the past (sorry Artic Freeze) and my motto has always been to just enjoy the real stuff in small quantities. But let’s be real, eating ice-cream in small quantities is hard. Really hard. I decided to try this stuff and was blown away with how good it actually was. And bonus- made with lots of all-natural organic ingredients! Blue Bell is still my favorite, but this comes in at a close second.

Let’s Put An End To This

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I was home visiting my parents over labor day weekend and fell across one of my old journals that I kept when I was 10 years old. I came across a page that had 3 goals written on it. To think that I was so fixated on changing the way I looked at such a young age makes me so sad. If you have any sort of influence in any little girl’s life right now, take just a moment to tell her today how beautiful she is. Praise her strengths and acknowledge what she excels at. Don’t criticize her weaknesses. Don’t pressure her into feeling she needs to look or act a different way to feel loved and accepted. Celebrate her uniqueness and own sense of style. Give her a chance to love who she is. Don’t let a day go by without telling her how special she is. Together we can stop the hurt and lies that are attacking these young girls. Let’s put an end to eating disorders.