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More Baby Prep & Meal Freezing

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Last week was a bit of a debacle because I was without a phone for a brief stint (I dropped it one too many times and went from I'll Just Continue Using My Phone Despite This Giant Crack in the Screen to I Can Literally No Longer Operate My Phone and Must Get it Fixed ASAP within seconds). No phone meant no pictures, which means a delicious vegetarian lasagna was constructed from scratch but there is no photographic evidence to share on the blog. Just know that after our baby arrives, the lasagna waiting for us in our freezer is a cheesy masterpiece stuffed with homemade seitan, mashed sweet potatoes and spinach. Also as you can see in this post, I did have my phone around when I was making a vegetable barley soup. All is not lost.

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For this vegetable barley soup recipe, I turned to The Vegan Pregnancy Cookbook. This book was instrumental to me, especially early in my pregnancy. As I've mentioned before, I couldn't even THINK about dairy or eggs without getting sick during my first trimester. I became a default vegan until I could stomach the ingredients again. My egg and dairy consumption remains significantly less than what it used to be, but I'm now back to eating non-vegan ingredients at least a few times a week. During early pregnancy, though: no way. This book was a godsend.

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Tomorrow I will be 37 weeks pregnant. I can reasonably expect to give birth in 1-5 weeks. Making it this far into pregnancy is surreal because here I am, uncomfortable and cumbersome, foreign in my own body, the most unlike myself I've ever been. On the other side of all of this a tiny person will greet me and become my own. I'm so excited about motherhood because I feel like in some ways it's the most "me" I'll ever be. The love I have for this baby is ready to pour out of me. In the meantime, I sit here uncomfortably waiting.

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Today I read an article about the idea of becoming a mom without becoming a mommy, i.e. entering motherhood without losing a sense of self-identity. In some ways pregnancy feels like a losing of oneself, which I assumed would translate mainly to my body. I've found it's seeped into other facets of my life, too. I've lost interest and drive in certain areas, though I'm not convinced that this is entirely bad. As a writer I've always had a scrappiness that's allowed me to devote myself to projects even when they didn't fully hold my interest. In pregnancy I feel too tired for all of that. I'm too tired to sell myself to editors or to try and write in a way that matches the vision of a company that's not my own. I don't feel like spending my hours doing work I don't love right now. That's a gross and privileged thing to say — let me own that upfront. It's also a true thing to say. Pregnancy is a weird process that brings up a lot of pure and crystalized feelings. I'm too tired for the rest. Am I really losing myself or am I becoming more myself than ever? 

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I love the idea of becoming a mom and not a mommy, of loving and nurturing a human without denying the interests that drove me long before baby came along. I think in particular for women who plan to stay home, the danger of immersive baby and kid culture is real. One minute you're a writer, runner, cupcake baker and book lover. The next you're a mom and housewife whose daily schedule revolves around a tiny human. I'm not saying I'm not excited to care for this tiny human — I am, more than I can even express. I'm saying there's a lot of pressure these days to become a certain kind of mom — the one who packs lunches that look like pieces of art and volunteers to coach all the activities and makes homemade costumes for playtime and hosts weekly playdates that include laboriously prepared appetizers and drinks for the other moms and joins all the Mommy & Me groups and goes from activity to activity and stays up all night gluing pieces from Pinterest-inspired art projects and dresses her kid like a mini fashionista and documents every moment on social media, all while keeping up with the housework and making nutritious yet delicious dinners (and breakfasts, lunches, and snacks) every day. If I become that kind of mother, when will I ever write another book? When will I go for a run? When will I spend time with my husband? When will I sit down with my child and just read and cuddle and be there and not worry about going somewhere or doing the next thing on the list?

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By mentioning any of this, I've already entered the dangerous territory of coming off like I'm judging other mothers. There is nothing wrong with Pinterest-inspired craft projects. There is nothing wrong with volunteering to lead your child's activities. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make your kid's sandwich look like a frog or pirate or ladybug and there's nothing wrong with keeping a clean house. Where things get tricky, I think, is when that pressure seeps in to try and do ALL THE MOM THINGS to the detriment of some or all of the Woman In the World things/ friend things/ spouse things/ independent person things. 

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Do I plan on being ridiculously devoted to my child? Am I ready to give away my time and space and energy and love in a way I never have before? Absolutely. I'll be the first to say it: this little person is going to be my world. I will do anything and everything I can to keep this person safe and happy. But I also want to write another book. I want to return to running. I want to read and bake cupcakes and spend time with my husband, family, and friends. I don't want to feel like a housewife (I frankly already feel like a housewife. It's impossible to work from home and not devote a big chunk of time each day to housework. It's there, in front of you, always.) I don't want to feel like MORE of a housewife. I want to feel like a person who has some semblance of balance despite the level of devotion required for this motherhood position. 

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I think that everything I'm saying is important for me, but I think it's important for my child, too. I want my kid to look at me as a complete person. I remember all the Mom and Dad moments from my childhood, but I also remember my mom as a potter and self-employed businesswoman. I remember my dad as a newspaper editor and tennis player. I remember our shared love of Mexican food and family bike rides, of road trips to Colorado and time spent outdoors. My mom made me a lot of clothes and Halloween costumes, but she had both the skill and desire to do so. My dad made a lot of elaborate meals, but he had both the skill and desire to do so. I do not feel that either of them lost themselves to parenting and although I've never asked, I hope they don't feel that way either. (Perhaps if I did ask, I'd learn a few things. Maybe someone wishes all those Saturday afternoons on soccer sidelines were spent in a yoga class instead. Maybe someone wishes another caregiver had been in rotation to give respite from the endless afternoons with us running around. I don't know, although I'm now curious and will make a point of asking soon.) Maybe it's impossible not to lose yourself just a little in the act of parenting, or maybe I'm blowing the entire thing out of proportion. I won't know until I get there.

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I'm going to have a baby soon and I cannot wait. I'm also going to keep writing, though not necessarily for other people. I'm already giving so much of myself to this one person — maybe I'll try and retain a little bit of my writing identity and make something of it in my own way. Financials are always scary but giving myself away to something I don't truly believe in is scarier. I'm going to believe in my own abilities. I'm going to believe in the relationship this sweet baby and I are about to form. I'm going to believe in our ability to navigate and figure out this new world together. I'm going to believe that I'll find my place again while remaining at home with a child. I'm going to believe that all-consuming "mommyhood" and devoted motherhood are not one at the same, and that I can be good at one without losing myself to the other. 

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Running By The Numbers

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21 races in the last 21 months

(10 half marathons, 4 10Ks, 1 8K, 6 5Ks)

179.5 total miles

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11 half marathons in the last 3 years

144.21 total miles

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9 half marathons in 9 months

117.99 total miles

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7 half marathons with a baby on board

91.77 total miles

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4 half marathons in the 4-part Oregon Half Marathon series

52.44 total miles

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2 half marathons during my 3rd trimester

26.22 miles

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Pre-pregnancy PR from January: 1:47:06 (3rd place in my age group)

My pace was 8:10 per mile. I never stopped running. 

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Half marathon time today at 30 weeks pregnant: 2:45:43 (40th out of 43 in my age group)

My pace was 12:38 per mile. I walked all the inclines. I walked during all water breaks. I stopped to pee 3 times throughout the course.

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I fell running 3 times over the past 9 years.

I've never had a lasting injury — until my last fall in August, which tweaked my knee in a way that still impacts my running today.

My fastest mile ever: 6:58

My longest run ever: 16 miles

My plan for the next few months before baby arrives: light runs, long walks, lots of rest

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New Cookbook Day: RUN FAST. EAT SLOW.

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I love cookbooks. New recipes, crisp pictures, fun ingredient ideas: a new cookbook opens up a new world. I get excited for cookbooks the way others get excited for clothes or shoes — I see a new one on the market and I simply HAVE TO HAVE IT. For many months I've been getting increasingly excited about the release of a cookbook written by four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef/food writer/nutrition educator/runner/mother Elyse Kopecky called RUN FAST. EAT SLOW. After all my anticipation, the book was released in August and I finally got my hands on a copy last night during a talk the authors gave at Powell's at Cedar Hill Crossing. 

I'm excited to get cracking on some of the recipes, but before I do I already know I love this book. How do I know this? Shalane and Elyse have a food philosophy that aligns perfectly with my own. They may eat a lot more meat (they are particularly big fans of bison) and their athletic training may be way more elite than mine, but we still share some very similar ideas about food.

Particularly in this country and especially as women, so much of what we're taught about nutrition is bonkers. By focusing so much on avoiding fat, counting calories, and restricting ourselves, food is stripped of both flavor and fun. Restrictive eating leads to hunger which leads to binging which leads to restrictive eating which leads to hunger which leads to binging. Nowhere in that cycle is there room for enjoyment or adequate nutrition. For many years now I've believed — and KNOWN! — that there's a better way. In reading their book, I can see that Shalane and Elyse believe this too.

Their food philosophy is all about "indulgent noursishment." They believe that eating real food and not obsessing over calorie counts or micronutrients leads to optimal body function and satisfaction. We all have the ability to tune into the needs of our own bodies, but some of us have been conditioned for years to participate in diets and other restrictive styles of eating. We've lost sight of the power of our own bodies and minds.

I try hard never to turn food into a moral argument but the fact always remains that I DON'T FEEL GOOD when I eat processed foods or when I skip meals or when I let myself get so hungry that I'm willing to eat whatever is set in front of me. I feel good when I eat whole, real food. I feel nourished. I feel happy. Eating a real meal does not make me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating a bag of potato chips makes me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating real food — the kind that is prepared with fresh ingredients, contains substantial calories, and actually tastes good — is the bridge for everything for me. It's the bridge to a good mood. It's the bridge to a good run. It's the bridge to less stress and higher contentment. There is simply nothing in this world that can or will make me feel better than a healthy, home-cooked meal shared with someone I love. 

In this cookbook, Shalane and Elyse are not messing around. They do not shy away from healthy fats, which are both flavor and nutrient carriers. We've been so conditioned to be so scared of certain types of foods (like foods with real fat) while encouraged to flock to the very foods that will leave us less satisfied and more unhealthy (like low-fat foods pumped with extra sugar). These elite athletes are here to put a stop to this madness and I could not be any more on board.

I'll be trying recipes in the coming weeks and letting you know what I think, but for now I'm just pleased that a book like this even exists. At their talk they said this is the first book geared toward runners that doesn't contain calorie counts, which I find astounding. As someone who refuses to count calories and/or weigh myself* I think this is such a positive step toward establishing healthier food habits for so many people. In my opinion food is meant to be lovingly prepared and happily devoured. When a food relationship is all about trying to look a certain way or be a certain weight, life can get pretty miserable. I have no interest in a miserable life and every interest in loving the food I eat and the body I'm in.

*You don't weigh yourself?! How do you know how much you've gained in your pregnancy? I don't! And I also don't think it's important that I do know. I get weighed at every single doctor's appointment and I know they'll let me know if there's ever an issue. Otherwise, what difference does it make? Keeping active and eating healthfully have been my main goals throughout this pregnancy and as long as I'm sticking to that, I think that's all that matters.

But what about losing the weight after the baby is born?! Before I was pregnant, I thought this would be a concern. The more pregnant I get, the less I care. I want my baby to be healthy and I want to keep myself healthy and the rest just doesn't seem that significant to me. My body will look the way it looks. I will continue to focus on being active and eating healthy and my body can either follow suit or not. I'm much more interested in providing a healthy life for my child. I think the best place for me to start is to introduce healthy food habits early. I don't anticipate my kid caring about how soft my stomach is. I do anticipate my kid caring about whether or not the food I'm serving is delicious and satisfying. 

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

Life is crazy enough without making ourselves crazy about food, too. I say: eat real, good food and enjoy every bite. Then get outside for a run (or walk or whatever your preferred mode of activity is) and enjoy that, too. We're humans. We're alive. We're allowed to enjoy ourselves and it's totally possible to do just that while living a healthy life at the same time. 

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Staying Active During Pregnancy (When All You Really Want To Do Is Sleep)

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

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Sometimes I think people get the wrong impression of me when they find out I've kept up my running (somewhat and so far) throughout my pregnancy. I've been called everything from badass to hardcore to unstoppable, but none of these descriptors ring true for me. The truth as I see it is that there is one reason and one reason only why I've been able to complete so many half marathons during pregnancy. That reason? I was already regularly completing half marathons before pregnancy. I was already in the physical condition necessary to drag my body over 13.1 miles.

There's nothing I've done during pregnancy to increase my strength or stamina in that regard. Every single week, I've run a little less and a little slower than the week before. During some runs I stop and walk entirely. Other days I skip the run to take a nap instead.

Do I think my routine was pretty badass and hardcore before pregnancy? Absolutely. That's how I was able to break a 1:45 half marathon PR. But since I've been pregnant? I've been in maintenance mode. I have dramatically scaled back the amount of time and effort I devote to running. It may seem impressive to some that I'm still getting out there, but I firmly believe the ONLY reason I'm able to do so is because I worked so hard for an entire year prior to getting pregnant. 

Here are a few things I used to do regularly that I no longer do now: Run fast. Lift weights. Do ab exercises. Do HIIT training. Run on an incline. Go outside and run 10 miles just because I know I can and I like to move my body. I don't do these things anymore. I certainly planned to continue lifting light weights throughout my pregnancy, but I just haven't had the energy. I planned on running more throughout the week, but I don't have it in me. I can complete half marathons still because the muscle memory is there and because I run JUST ENOUGH to not lose my base level of fitness. For the most part, though, I'm not running a lot anymore. 

I'm not saying any of this to disparage myself and try to convince you that running a half marathon while pregnant is nothing. I'm just saying that the reason why I'm still able to carry my pregnant body across finish lines is because I worked my ass off and then some for the year prior to getting pregnant. It's just as simple as that. I worked harder than I've ever worked and thanks to that, I'm still reaping some benefits despite the fact that I've slowed down a lot. 

One of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was go out and run 16 miles. My body was in the perfect shape to do it and I knew that wouldn't be the case for long. I wanted a super long run so I could navigate and process all the complex emotions I was going through: I was so excited, so happy, so nervous. Until then my longest run was 15 miles, but I knew I had it in me. I had to take advantage of my body's capabilities while they were still available to me.

Could I go out and run 16 miles today? No way. I can still push myself through 13.1 miles in a race setting but as far as runs I do on my own, the energy level is just not there. To me this is the most interesting thing about people finding out I run half marathons while pregnant: they act like I'm out being superhuman but meanwhile most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. To repeat: most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. There's very little that feels superhuman about that. 

At this point in my pregnancy, I'm no longer a hardcore runner. My runs include walking breaks, pee breaks, food breaks, water breaks, and Let's Cut This One Short Today, I'm Not Feeling It breaks. It's important to me to try and maintain as much of an active lifestyle as possible despite wanting to spend my days napping and snacking, so what do I do? This is what I do.

I walk a lot. 

I take a weekly prenatal yoga class. 

When inspired, I do push-ups against the wall, tricep dips on the coffee table, and squats and lunges in the living room.

I run, but much less frequently. 

I walk up hills. 

I park far away.

I take the stairs.

I walk around the neighborhood. I walk the aisles of grocery stores. I walk up to Mt. Tabor. I walk. 

I have a few gentle prenatal workout videos.

Here's what else I do:

I rest. I sleep. I drink a lot of water. I make sure I'm eating plenty of calories. I listen to my baby and my body and cut workouts short when I don't have the right energy level. I avoid working out outside when the temperatures are too hot. I give myself a break because I'm growing a human and that counts for something. 

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This is why I feel a little strange when people act like the half marathons are some sort of HUGE accomplishment. It's not that I'm not proud of them — I am. I just don't want to give the wrong impression. Guys, I am telling you: when it comes to working out, I truly don't do that much these days. I don't have the energy to carry myself through long workouts. I adore my prenatal yoga class, which challenges my muscles but also feels a bit like a glorified nap. I love strolling around my neighborhood. On the days when I do feel like I have the energy, I love going for short runs. About once a month, I love completing a half marathon. For the most part, though, when it comes to my life day in and day out: I'm resting. I'm sleeping. I'm working. I'm in my robe on the couch. There is nothing badass to see here.

And right now, I think that's totally okay.

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Super Brain

Baby Brain? Nope. Super Brain!

Baby Brain? Nope. Super Brain!

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I'm a huge fan of the One Bad Mother podcast. Hosts Theresa and Biz are big advocates of taking the judgment out of parenting and instead trying to be supportive of each other. They always make a point of saying "You're doing a great job" to each other and encourage their listeners to extend that message to other parents. When you see a mom dealing with a child's temper tantrum at Target, for example, tell her she's doing a great job. Parenting — and life in general — is difficult enough without dealing with the judgments of the so-called "mommy wars." When we're kind and patient and supportive with each other, things work out better for everyone. 

In an early episode (it was episode 14 if you're interested) of the podcast, Biz and Theresa talk with author Anne Kreamer about what happens to the brain after pregnancy. They discuss how they don't really like any of the terms commonly used to describe the brain shifts that take place with a baby on board. They don't like Mommy Brain, Pregnancy Brain or Baby Brain, all of which have a derogatory edge. They decide to come up with a new way to describe the hormonal, emotional, and chemical shifts. The term they come up with has a much nicer ring: Super Brain. 

"Pregnancy and childbirth actually cause your brain to shrink in size," Kreamer says on the show before noting that it can take up to six months after birth for the brain to go back to its original size.

Theresa points out how absurd it is that "as you're gaining responsibilities and adding more things to your life that you need to be responsible for and take care of and understand, your brain is actually shrinking."

Kreamer goes on to explain that from an evolutionary standpoint, it was never meant to be a mother's role to deal with the demands of a job after childbirth; it was her role to deal with the demands of her child. A child's survival depended on the mother's ability to care for him or her. In our modern world, or course, there is the expectation of parents to return to work as quickly as possible after childbirth and to juggle the roles of the job along with the responsibility of raising a child. 

"It's like going back to work with both hands and your legs tied behind your back," says Kreamer.

The biological responses of parenting are not limited to mothers. Kreamer points out that in men, there is a spike in the nurturing hormone prolactin and a plummet in testosterone. Add in the effects of sleep deprivation (mothers lose an average equivalent of four months of work in lost hours of sleep when they are nursing, Kreamer says) and the result is this: "If 4 million babies on average are born in the States every year, that means that there are 8 million parents at any time in the workplace completely emotionally gaga."

Parenthood changes the brain biologically. These changes start taking place during pregnancy. It's become a big cultural joke to make fun of the way women have a tendency to get emotional or spacey or foggy during pregnancy, but I've found that it's less hilarious when actually living through it. It is a fact that I am not thinking as clearly as a pregnant woman as I did before I was pregnant. One of the very first things I did early in my pregnancy was accidentally shred a check that was sent to me. Since them I've had a series of follies ranging from misplacing my keys to not being able to remember why I walked into a room to straight-up being unable to focus on some of the tasks I used to perform well. Every day when my husband gets home from work, our kitchen is half cleaned. It's like the part of my brain that remembers to finish cleaning the kitchen once I start has just shut down. My whole life has become a series of half-finished errands and projects. I get myself to the store, but then I forget why I'm there. I sit down at my computer to write, but then my brain goes blank. 

One theory I have about this is that parenthood in general and first-time parenthood in particular is so overwhelming that there's absolutely no way I could prepare for it if I was still as focused on all these other aspects of my life. This is the time when we need to be making decisions about the things we need for our baby, the life we'll provide for our baby, the way we'll set up our baby's room, and more. As hard as I try to focus my attention elsewhere (and I realize I'm overstating everything here and of course I have been able to write essays and blog posts and perform tasks and it's not as if my brain has completely stopped working), my focus just isn't there right now.  It is more difficult than ever to pay attention to the topics being discussed at social events or the events going on in the world. 

My brain is being used for such a super-sized task that I agree the only correct way to refer to it right now is Super Brain. I have a Super Brain because, in spite of how distracted and crazy I sometimes feel, I'm still getting some things done. And though the responsibilities we're facing now are nothing compared to what we'll face in a few months, it's true that we are taking on a lot right now. Getting prepared to have a baby has to be one of the most emotionally (not to mention financially) overwhelming things a person can do. We are incredibly excited but we are also like: Whoa. This is a lot.  

I'm giving myself some credit because it IS a lot. The financial cost is a LOT, as any parent can attest. The emotional cost is a lot. We're going to have a whole new person living with us — not just any person, but someone who we want to have the BEST life possible. This baby is going to be our family for the rest of our lives. That is huge. That is monumental. If I get a little overwhelmed thinking about it to the point where I forget about some of my other life responsibilities, I think it's okay. I think it will all balance out somehow.

Whatever you do, don't ask if I have Mommy Brain or Pregnancy Brain or Baby Brian. I have Super Brain, plain and simple. (On an unrelated but possibly slightly related note, I also have a bum knee every since last week's fall. Between my shrinking brain and swollen knee, I'm doing all right for myself.)

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I Fell Today.

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I fell today. This is the third time I've fallen running in a period of nine years. The first was about two weeks before my best friend's wedding, when I was all set to walk down the aisle as a bridesmaid. My twisted ankle was swollen and painful for a long time, but somehow magically felt fine on the big day. The second time I fell was about a week before my own wedding. I scratched myself up but didn't experience any major injuries. You can see a scab on my elbow if you look closely in my wedding photos, but other than that everything was fine. 

Today was my scariest fall because it was the first time I fell with a baby on board. The injuries to my own body are obvious from the picture above: I really scraped up my elbows and hand. The skin is raw and painful and because the knee injuries hit right where my knees bend, walking today has been a bit of a challenge. But obviously I wasn't thinking about any of that when I picked myself up and dusted off. Obviously I was worried about the baby.

In talking to a nurse at my doctor's office, I've learned there are a lot of good signs to my fall. First, the heavy scrapes on my knees and hand mean that I braced myself somewhat and therefore my belly didn't absorb all the impact. Secondly, I haven't experienced any scary symptoms like cramping or bleeding. Finally, I'm still feeling movement from my little one inside my belly. Tracking this movement has been difficult because I've only felt sporadic movements up until this point, but I am very happy to report that since the fall I have felt a few more sporadic movements today. Thanks to a lot of amniotic fluid and the still-small size of my baby at 24 weeks, my nurse (in consultation with my doctor) feels confident that the baby is okay. 

That news is wonderful, but it was still a terrifying experience. The irony is not lost on me that in trying to stay active and do something healthy for my baby, I ultimately put my baby in danger by losing my footing. As much as I try to eat healthy foods and use healthy products, I know I'm still ingesting things in the environment that have the potential to be toxic. There's no such thing as control here. (Side note: I've never considered myself someone who felt like she *had* to be in control, but when it comes to the health and safety of my baby it's true I want to control as much as possible.) But in the end, it doesn't matter how obsessed I am about avoiding certain ingredients or getting regular exercise or trying to put my best foot forward for the little cupcake in my oven. Sometimes my best foot forward trips on gravel and knocks me down in the dust.

I know this is only a preview of what's to come — there will be so many scenarios beyond my control when we're raising a child. But with the child still in my body, I'd like to think I can keep things as healthy and safe as possible. When I can't do that, I feel a little defeated.

But what matters is this: The baby is moving. I am not experiencing any scary symptoms. I think I shook both of us up a little today, but from the outside it seems we're both okay. As for me, I won't be attempting to run again until I'm fully healed. And even then, I think I'll get myself to a park or somewhere with softer trails and take it super easy. I love running and I think the running I've done until this point has benefited my baby, but as always I'll listen to my body and do what seems best for my little running buddy. 

Until then, Baby and I are resting with feet propped, ice pack on, and everything erased from the to-do list for the rest of the day. 

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From Krike's Kitchen: Banza Recipe #4, Spicy Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Nectarines

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Today I'm making another pasta recipe using Banza chickpea pasta. If you haven't been following my previous posts, here's a quick recap: Banza contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of traditional pasta. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. Banza is made from chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is not paying me to speak on their behalf, but they did send me six free boxes of pasta. I have been using this free pasta to experiment with different recipes. In all previous weeks I've followed a recipe, but this week I challenged myself to create my own. I was inspired by recipes I've tried in the past but decided to go completely off-book and create everything from scratch in the moment. The result was a dish that has a creamy pesto sauce with a slight kick mixed with perfectly roasted savory tomatoes and sweet nectarines. 

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To me this dish screams summertime. I ended up using about a third of the tomatoes pictured here, plus two of the nectarines. While the oven preheated to 325, I sliced everything up and placed on a baking sheet covered with tin foil. 

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I sprayed everything with a little spray oil and sprinkled with a touch of sea salt. I baked for 15 minutes on one side, flipped everything over, and baked for 10 more.

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While those roasted, I assembled my pesto ingredients. I used 1 cup of soaked cashews (which I started soaking a few hours prior), 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup water, a package of basil, a clove of garlic, a sliced jalapeño, and salt and pepper to taste. If you're sensitive to spice, you could make this with either a deseeded jalapeño or leave the jalapeño out entirely. If you want to kick it up even more, add another jalapeño or choose a hotter style of pepper like habanero. For me, one jalapeño with all the seeds was perfect. 

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There are few things I love more than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a food processor and ending up with something tasty. Making this thick, creamy pesto could not have been simpler.

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From there I boiled a pot of water and threw my pasta in. One thing I love about Banza is that it cooks rapidly. (Did I mention I'm not paid by Banza? I swear I'm not paid by Banza. I just love their pasta.)

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I know I mention this every time I make a recipe with Banza, but I again want to reiterate that it has the taste, texture and appearance of regular pasta. If you're nervous about a pasta made from chickpeas, rest assured there is absolutely no chickpea flavor. This just tastes like straight-up delicious noodles. 

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Look at those beautiful shells, all drained and rinsed. (Do not skip rinsing. If you do, you'll notice a real starchiness and stickiness.)

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I loved the hint of green that came out when I folded the pesto into the pasta, but I couldn't wait for the bold pop of color I knew was coming with the next step. 

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I've been obsessed with roasted tomatoes all summer, but I think the real showstopper in this dish is the nectarines. A little sweetness in each bite makes this pasta refreshing and memorable. 

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The whole recipe took about 20 minutes to make. It is packed with healthy fruits and veggies but does not taste like "health food." This dish got the seal of approval from my husband, who I don't think immediately realized that I hadn't followed a recipe to make it. For a quick, light summertime meal, I think this pasta is perfect.

FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: BANZA RECIPE #4, SPICY PESTO PASTA WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND NECTARINES

INGREDIENTS:
1 box Banza pasta
1/2-1 cup cherry and grape tomatoes
2 nectarines
1 cup soaked cashews
1 handful basil
1 jalapeno
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
Sea salt
Pepper
Spray oil

DIRECTIONS:
See above.

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How to Start a Self-Love Revolution

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As I've mentioned many times in the past, I'm a big fan and follower of Fit Girls Guide, an online fitness community that promotes clean eating and self-love. For each monthly challenge with Fit Girls Guide, there is a new mantra. This month's is I Am The Revolution. I love this phrase because it encourages us to look inward for our own inspiration instead of seeking it elsewhere. 

At the same time, I know a lot of people are confused about where exactly to start when it comes to starting a revolution. Telling someone to "just love yourself" is not enough to get them going on a journey of acceptance and self-compassion. What does that actually mean and how does one practice it daily? 

I thought I would share a few concrete ways I started a self-love revolution for myself. This is a process that began four or five years ago and continues daily. I know this kind of revolution can seem daunting at first, but I think you'll see from the examples I'm providing that it can be a lot simpler than you might first realize.

1. STOP READING WOMEN'S MAGAZINES

This one pains me as a writer. When I was younger, I aspired to write for these types of publications. Also I don't want to miss out on the incredible writing I know lives in the pages of these magazines. (For the latter I have a solution: read the articles online.)

A lot of quality content can be found in women's magazines and I don't want to underscore this fact, but I also want to point out that the barrage of images — both from the magazine's photoshoots and the included advertising — are not healthy for even the healthiest woman out there. Flip through the pages of a women's magazine and the message you will find over and over again is that you are not enough. You're not thin enough or your hair isn't shiny enough or your fashion budget isn't big enough or your skin isn't clear enough or your body isn't toned enough or your nails aren't bright enough and so on and so on.

These magazines exist to sell  products. Magazines want you to believe that the pop singer with the flawless skin didn't get that way through airbrushing; she got that way because she uses X brand of makeup. That model's hair isn't the result of three hours with a hair professional; it's because she uses Y hair product. We would all be a little prettier and happier if we just bought this outfit or that eye cream or this self-tanner. 

Remove yourself from the cycle of comparison by just saying no to women's magazines. I used to read them religiously (probably at least five different magazines a month) and it's amazing what happened when I stopped several years ago. I no longer felt like I HAD to go get my hands on a certain beauty product because I was no longer aware of that beauty product's existence. I no longer looked at pictures of celebrities or models and compared them to the way I looked in my own life. Eventually, when I did pick up a magazine again, I was struck by the skewed ratio of quality content versus selling. I decided to become a person who didn't want to be sold anything. I decided to accept myself the way I already was, without X miracle beauty product or must-have outfit. Once I ditched the constant exposure to beautiful airbrushed models, I felt a lot less pressure to look a certain way and a lot more comfortable just being myself. 

2. EAT FOODS THAT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD

I know I'm getting into tricky territory with this one. On the one hand, I hate the way that food is moralized and we're made to believe there's such a thing as good versus bad when it comes to the way we eat. This society puts way too much pressure on everyone, specifically women, to look a certain way and be a certain size and we're often sold the message that the only way to be happy is to not be overweight. I don't buy any of that. I think people should eat what they want to eat, wear what makes them comfortable, and live their lives the way they want to live their lives.

That being said, there is no denying the fact that for me, eating healthy foods makes me feel one way and eating unhealthy foods makes me feel another. Processed foods exacerbate my fatigue. Fresh foods and veggies combined with lean proteins and whole grains give me energy. Does this mean I never consume chips or cupcakes or other so-called "bad" foods? No! It means that balance is always my goal and I strive for a diet that relies mostly on healthy foods and minimally on less healthy ones. To me this has nothing to do with wanting to look a certain way. It has nothing to do with self-punishment. It has everything to do with checking in and realizing that I simply cannot finish off a plate of greasy nachos and feel great afterward. I feel weighed down, lethargic and listless — which is fine if those greasy nachos are an occasional indulgence and those post-nacho symptoms are an occasional side effect. When junk food starts taking over my life, though, it has a huge impact on the way I feel both physically and emotionally. I am far more prone to get an upset stomach or head after polishing off a cookie than I am after eating an apple. 

On the other hand, when I feed myself food that fuels me with the nutrients and vitamins and minerals my body needs, I operate better. My thoughts feel clearer. My energy is bigger. I feel more equipped to take on life challenges that arise daily. So while I don't turn down a piece of birthday cake and don't recommend that you do either, I also make a conscious attempt to fill my life with leafy greens and quinoa and tofu and almonds and garden-fresh veggies and berries. I do this because my physical and mental health depends on it. I simply can't love myself as much when I don't even have the energy to move. 

3. CULTIVATE YOUR OWN STYLE

There are a lot of style rules out there dictating that this type of body needs to wear this type of swimsuit and that type of body should avoid that cut of dress and if you weigh X, cover yourself up and if you weigh Y, go about your days half-naked. To me it's all nonsense. When it comes to putting clothes on your body, I think it all boils down to wearing what you like, what makes you comfortable, and what makes you happy. Period.

If you're 250 pounds and want to wear short shorts, don't let anyone stop you. If you wouldn't be caught dead in a dress even at a friend's wedding, own it. If you want to wear a bikini but are worried what others will think, screw what everyone thinks and wear it with pride. If you want to wear nothing but sweats and T-shirts, go for it. If you get dressed to the nines every day and wake up extra early to do your hair and makeup because that's what makes you happy, do that. Wear what you like. Wear what makes you comfortable. Wear what makes you happy. Follow trends if you think that's fun. Avoid them if you don't. Wear jeans. Wear skirts. Wear the skimpiest swimsuit imaginable. Wear a conservative pantsuit. Show your cleavage. Cover your cleavage. Wear something tight. Wear something loose. Wear something that elicits compliments. Wear something that nobody else likes. It doesn't matter as long as you like it, you are comfortable, and you are happy.  

4. TREAT YOURSELF THE WAY YOU'D TREAT A CHILD

This one is huge because women have a tendency to say horrible things to themselves. Every time you look into the mirror and tell yourself how fat and hideous you are, turn around and picture yourself saying those exact same words to a small child. Nobody — child or adult — deserves to be treated with hatred. Nobody includes YOU. You do not deserve to be treated with hatred. If you would forgive a child for accidentally breaking a plate, forgive yourself for eating an unhealthy meal that left you feeling depleted. If you can forgive a child for saying something inappropriate, forgive yourself for whatever missteps you made today. You can skip your workout and still be a wonderful person. You can weigh more than what society tells you you're supposed to weigh and still be a wonderful person. You can try on an outfit you don't like and refuse to tell yourself you have a gross body, opting instead to realize that all outfits fit all people in all different ways and this one just didn't quite work out. Hug the child in your life, hug yourself, and move on. 

Several years ago I read this piece by Sarah Koppelkam and it became the Bible for how I treat myself and others. Now that I am pregnant, I've been thinking about this concept anew. This is a short piece of writing and I encourage everyone to read it from start to finish. If you want a revolution of self-love and body acceptance, this is the way to get there. Use this as a guide for talking to your daughters and sons. Use this as a guide for talking to yourself. Memorize the words. Tattoo them on your body. Live them. There's your revolution. 

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Running Half Marathons With a Cupcake in the Oven

6 weeks, 8 weeks, 15 weeks, 18 weeks and 22 weeks pregnanat

6 weeks, 8 weeks, 15 weeks, 18 weeks and 22 weeks pregnanat

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In the years before I became pregnant, running became a huge part of my life. It was my go-to source of stress relief as well as my favorite physical activity. I've never been very sporty or athletically inclined, but in running I didn't have to be either. I just needed to put one foot in front of the other. In the year 2015, I ran a race every month, ranging from 5Ks to a half marathon. For 2016, I had two goals: to continue running a race a month for as long as I could, and to get pregnant. I knew that if I achieved both goals, they would cross over at some point and play into each other. So far this year I've run seven half marathons — one for each month — and five of them have been with a baby on board. I'm planning on running a few more, and then I'm planning on taking the last few months of the year off. I may do some light running during that time, but I definitely won't be racing. 

Before getting pregnant, I sought out a doctor who would support me with both my baby and my running goals. I was lucky to find someone I relate to and feel very comfortable around; I feel confident having her as my doctor and I think she understands me and what's important to me in a way that not everyone does. She ran throughout her pregnancies, so I knew she would support me during mine. 

Pregnant running is vastly different from non-pregnant running. The goal is no longer speed. My pace has slowed dramatically and it continues to slow each month. I'm also not able to attack certain obstacles (specifically hills) in the same way, or often at all. I never shied from a hill before I was pregnant, but now I slow to a walk every time I encounter one. I don't want to get my heart rate too elevated, I don't want to get overheated, and I don't want to get breathless. This means that I'm going slower (sometimes completely slowing to a walk), I'm skipping the hills, and I'm taking everything at a much easier pace. 

An unexpected side effect of all of this is that during pregnancy, running has actually become more fun. I'm no longer chasing any time goals, so I'm free to go out and just enjoy my runs. Whereas before I would become frustrated if I got tired during a run, now I just slow down, guzzle my water, take in my surroundings, and enjoy the fact that I'm out in the open air. I don't even pay attention to my pace anymore. I stop a lot during my runs to pee. Sometimes I'll stop in the middle of a run and have a snack. I've changed my routes to stick to flatter terrain. During my pregnancy runs, I've noticed more in my neighborhood than I ever did before. Now that I've slowed down, I see more.

Another benefit during my first trimester was that running helped to quell my nausea. There were a few days when I felt too sick to go out, but once I finally got out there I felt so much better. Running has helped me to keep in touch with my pregnant body. I haven't been able to easily maintain strength training or some other forms of physical activity throughout pregnancy, but walking and running are movements I've been able to keep up.

So why run half marathons while pregnant? First reason: I signed up for the races before I was pregnant. Secondly, why not? I was in strong enough condition to run frequent half marathons before I was pregnant and I wanted to maintain that level of fitness for as long as I could. So far, it's been doable. Each of my five pregnant half marathons has been a little slower than the last and I know they'll just get slower, eventually getting too difficult to keep up. 

If I could do it again, I'd probably focus more on slower distances like 5Ks and 10Ks. But I have no regrets about the half marathons I've run. I'm proud of all this baby and I have accomplished together. I'm excited to see what we can continue to do. And I'm thankful that my stress level throughout pregnancy has been manageable thanks to our regular runs. 

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Cupcake in the Oven

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My darling husband Mike and I are so excited to be adding a new member to our family in November. We can't wait to meet our little cupcake and in the meantime, we've been learning a lot about pregnancy. If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that the way I envisioned my pregnancy and the way it's actually playing out are unbelievably different. If there's two things I know for sure, it's that this is okay.

I could not have anticipated how tired I would feel. I had this vision of pregnancy as this time when I would be motivated to sit down and write a book and attack my household chores and prep healthy meals and be full of endless excitement and energy all day, every day. It was like that, just like that, for a few weeks. But then the fatigue hit. Then the nausea followed. Then I realized there would be days when the single most productive thing I'd do all day was finish a writing assignment for work while reclined on the couch in between naps. I realized there would be days when I'd never change out of my robe. There would be days when I wouldn't make it out of the house. There would be days when I'd settle onto the couch to take "a 20-minute nap" only to wake up from a dead sleep five hours later. There would be days when I wouldn't write at all. There would be days when I would not work out. There would be days when I would not make it to the store or muster up the energy to fix a healthy meal. There would be days when I would eat chips and days when I would eat ice cream and days when I would go back to bed after my husband left for work and not wake up again until the afternoon. There would be days when a walk around the block was all I could handle. There would be days when I'd say, "Pizza? Absolutely. No way I'm cooking tonight." There would be days when I would throw up my breakfast and days when, no matter how exciting the prospect of our impending little one was, I simply could not work up the energy to feel joyful.

There were other days, too. Days when I did get dressed. When I did get more than just the bare minimum of work requirements done. Days when I ran half marathons. Days when I put together healthy feasts and cleaned the house and ran errands and felt like a productive member of society. I feel like what I've experienced in pregnancy is such a small preview of what's to come with my child: there are going to be such good days and such bad days and so, so many days in between. 

I'm not having a picture-perfect pregnancy, but I've seen enough turbulent and even life-threatening pregnancies to know I'm lucky. Am I enjoying every second of it? No, and anyone who says that didn't experience nausea or exhaustion. But I'm enjoying most of it. And though it's taken me awhile to get here, I'm finally to the point where I'm excited to share my experience. 

As a longtime vegetarian, one fear I had was that I'd crave meat during pregnancy. For the record, if this had happened, I would have eaten meat. I'm not depriving my baby of anything. Instead, the opposite happened. During most of my first trimester, my aversion to eggs and dairy products was so strong I had to avoid them almost entirely. This is how I found myself becoming a Mostly Vegan. On the rare days when the thought of eggs or cheese didn't make me want to throw up, I absolutely took advantage and got myself an omelette or grilled cheese. Most days, though, my body just wasn't having it. So I listened. 

The egg/dairy aversion lifted in my second trimester and I've been incorporating (small amounts of) eggs and dairy back into my diet. I've realized that I actually do like to limit my intake because the difference in how I feel when I eat a lot of it versus none is substantial. Most days I have either a small amount or none. Some days (I'm looking at you, Saturday) I have pizza AND nachos AND an ice cream sandwich. And then I wake up the next day and remember why Iife is more fun for me when I don't eat like that. In the end, it all balances out.

The first eight or so weeks of my pregnancy were somewhat breezy. I was tired but I didn't have any nausea and I had enough energy to more or less keep up with my regular workouts. Weeks 9 - 14 or so were more hellish. This was when I discovered that those cute late-night ice cream cravings pregnant women are always having in movies and commercials are B.S. A pregnancy craving is not "Oh my gosh, I just have to have some ice cream RIGHT NOW and I'll send my husband out to get some even though it's 3 a.m. because it just sounds SO GOOD!" A pregnancy craving is "There is literally one food and one food only that I can think about and not want to throw up, so I will do whatever it takes to get that food." For me that food was always something super salty like sour cream and onion chips or Wheat Thins, which was super bizarre for me because before pregnancy, I rarely used even a pinch of salt when cooking. Salt was just not my thing. In pregnancy, salt is SO my thing.

Before I was pregnant, I was running 150 miles a month, six days a week, at a sub-8-minute mile. Now I'm running about 55 miles a month, 2-3 days a week, and I'm creeping up on a 12-minute mile. I knew I'd be running slower and less, but I didn't expect things to decrease this much. What I discovered is that there were a lot of days when my energy level was simply too low to fathom going for a run. On those days I tried to walk instead, but even then there were some days I just had to skip and let myself nap instead. I've long been a proponent of listening to my body and giving it what it needs, but it is only in pregnancy that I've learned just how easy I need to go on myself sometimes. I am simply not willing to push myself for the sake of pushing myself when ever fiber of my being is telling me to rest, rest, rest. I know my body is responding to the needs of my baby — so if my baby needs me to rest, I'm going to rest.

I've been working very hard to supply my baby with an extremely nutritious and balanced diet. Once the nutrient quota for the day is hit, I allow myself treats. I do this often. Why? Because I'm HUNGRY and my baby is hungry and we already ate all the things we're supposed to eat, so now we're going to finish the day with an ice cream sandwich and not feel bad about it. Before I was pregnant, I so rarely ate the kinds of snacks I'm eating now. In the first trimester it was all about chips, crackers, toast, popcorn, and whatever salty morsels I could find. Lately I've been drifting back toward my natural sweet tooth, which means that first and foremost I've been eating a lot of fruit, and beyond that I've been having sweet treats of the ice cream and cookie variety. I try to make my own when I can and stick to cleaner brands when I can't — or occasionally I just go for it with the processed crap. I do. I thought I wouldn't get that stuff anywhere near my baby, but every once in awhile it sounds so good I incorporate a handful and move on with my life. Last night I had frosted animal cookies after eating a vegetable-heavy dinner. Balance, balance, balance.

So far the changes in my body have been both subtle and extraordinary. Pregnancy has a way of making you feel hideous by causing a slew of physical effects simultaneously. It's not just that you're gaining weight. It's that you're gaining weight at the same time your face is breaking out and the same time your hair is getting super dry and the same time your nose won't stop running and the same time your feet and legs are swelling up and the same time you have no energy to do anything, much less put on a cute outfit or do your hair or wear makeup. Huge kudos to the women who say they felt/ feel most beautiful when they're pregnant because that's been a difficult costume for me to wear. I'm not glowing; I'm sweating. My weight gain isn't going exclusively toward an adorable baby bump; my butt and legs and arms are getting bigger, too. I don't feel radiant; I feel tired.

That said, do I get what "they" say about being amazed by your body's capabilities during pregnancy? Yes. I've felt so much of my vanity float away during this process, partly because I'm too damn tired to give that much thought to how I look and partly because I recognize there's something truly magical about what's happening to my body. There is a human growing inside of me! Some nights I catch myself complaining to my husband about how big everything is getting and the fact that I keep breaking out along my jawline and the weird way a lot of clothes look on me right now. He always reminds me that underneath all that surface bullshit, our baby is living and growing inside of me. So maybe I don't feel my cutest right now, but maybe feeling cute is so beside the point anyway.

Would I trade this body for anything? No. There's a little cupcake baking in this oven and the bigger that cupcake gets, the less I care about the state of the kitchen. Let there be flour on the counters and batter on the floor. I can clean things up after this cupcake is born. Or I can not clean things up, and focus my energy elsewhere. Either way, there will be time. Right now I have more important things to worry about. 

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A Weekend Away

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In what will likely be the last time the two of us are able to sneak away together for a long time, Mike and I spent our weekend at quiet cabin in the woods. The cabin is owned by friends who generously let us stay there and use all the amenities. I realized when we there that it's been way too long since we've had a few days with no TV, minimal phone usage, and plenty of time to just enjoy nature and each other's company. 

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In the absence of TV, I started and finished two books: a collection of essays by my talented friend Chloe Caldwell and another collection of essays by my author crush Lindy West. I loved both of them.

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On Saturday we went for a hike that went straight uphill but was ultimately worth the view. 

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We spent a significant amount of time working on a puzzle of various candies. It looks so sweet and innocent, doesn't it? I found my patience for it in spurts, and in between I read my books. My sweet husband worked diligently in my absence, exhibiting once again a level of patience that exceeds normal human expectations.

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We enjoyed a decadent meal at a French restaurant called Rendevous before allowing ourselves the ultimate indulgence of sleeping in until 11:30 on Sunday. 11:30! I was probably a teenager the last time that happened. We squeezed in another hike before Mike hit the hot tub and I basked in the sunshine. 

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Two food-related lessons I learned this weekend: The Not So Boring Bar and Grill in Boring serves amazing veggie burgers and Joe's Donut Shop in Sandy serves the best donuts. We ate our dinners out but made all our breakfasts, lunches and snacks at the cabin. Highlights of this included a sandwich we made both days with whole wheat bread, chili-roasted sweet potatoes (I roasted them the day before we left), nectarine slices, white cheddar and spinach. We also took some of our avocado-egg salad to eat with bread and crackers, plus grapes, kale chips, trail mix and mini vegan chocolate chip cookies.  

Other lessons learned: It really pays to get away, even if it's just for two days.

Sleeping in like a 14-year-old is possibly the most blissful activity on this earth.

Taking a break from technology and spending time in nature is so good for the body, mind and spirit.

I have the best husband (I mean, this is more a fact than a lesson. He just is the best.)

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Cupcakes & Cocktails

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Berries

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Mike and I hosted a Cupcakes & Cocktails party for Memorial Day and not surprisingly, he was in charge of the cocktails and I was in charge of the cupcakes. For his part, he infused vodkas (and gins, I think? I dunno — this wasn't my area) with ingredients like mint, black pepper, dill, cucumbers, basil and jalapeños. I personally haven't had a drink in 2016 but the crowd drank up his concoctions and seemed to love every sip.  

S'mores Cupcakes and Banana Split Cupcakes

S'mores Cupcakes and Banana Split Cupcakes

There was nothing "healthy" about this party, and I for one think there's some value in that. We're in another cycle where a lot of news sources are picking up stories about "the dangers of clean eating"  that suggest a rigid adherence to healthy eating leads to orthoexia, an unhealthy obsession with eating right. I've written in the past about the problems I have with these types of articles, which I think unfairly link clean eating with eating disorders when in fact the disorders are a result of overzealous rigidity and not the clean, healthy lifestyle I know and love. The lifestyle I know promotes balance and moderation, not severity. 

Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes

Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes

I think the best way to counter this popular view of clean eating as something dark, dirty and dangerous is to live a balanced life in which food is never the enemy. There are so many fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet, we empty our kitchen compost daily. I am the queen of whole grains and there's nothing I love more than a good tempeh or tofu. Nine times out of ten, I'll choose salad over fries. I'll choose water over soda. These daily choices make it so much sweeter on those days when I do go for the fries or the brownie or the root beer float or the nachos. I have those days too. They're infrequent and therefore they're special. I enjoy them without guilt or shame, which is how I think life should always be enjoyed. 

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

So maybe I fight back by making cupcakes. This is my way of showing the world: here's something I love. It's not particularly healthy, but I made it with my own hands and it tastes good and it brings me joy to share it. And I know my husband gets joy from sharing his fun cocktails, which also have no nutritional value but have the effect of bringing people together and offering refreshment on a hot, sunny day. And I know we'll eat salad for lunch today and everything balances out. 

Blueberry Lemon Creme Cupcakes

Blueberry Lemon Creme Cupcakes

I am obsessed with food in the sense that I spend a lot of time thinking about it, shopping for it, preparing it, and eating. I love finding delicious recipes. I love playing around with seasonal produce. I love discovering the flavors and textures my tastebuds respond to most. And though I spent my younger years being obsessed with food in a less healthy way, I now refuse to play the game that requires me to feel bad or guilty for eating a certain type of food or equate my self-worth with the items on my plate. There are times in life when you just want to eat a cookie and I refuse to believe there's anything wrong with that.  

Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes

Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes

So I make cupcakes. Sometimes I make really healthy cupcakes, the kind where I swap sugar for mashed banana and oil for avocado or unsweetened applesauce. Other times I make the full-sugar, full-fat, fully loaded versions. I think there's value in both. More than anything, I think there's value in gathering with friends on the patio on a warm day to enjoy food, drinks, and company. In fact, I think experiences like that are the most valuable thing in life. 

Eat cupcakes. Eat kale. Ride your bike all morning and sleep all afternoon. Order the salad instead of the fries. But every once in awhile, order the fries instead of the salad. Ditto for dessert: satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit at the end of your meals. Then one day, go for the ice cream sundae. Enjoy every bite. This summer, enjoy the heck out of corn on the cob and fresh watermelon and big fruit salads and spinach and artichokes. Equally enjoy an ice cream cone or salt water taffy or s'mores here and there. 

Look around. Notice the people with you. Notice the environment you're in. Notice your mood. Notice your comfort level. Are you with people you love? Are you enjoying the scenery? Are you happy? Are you content? This is what matters. Whether you had a "perfect eating day" or you scarfed down cupcakes at a party, this is always what matters.  

P.S. Even those these weren't particularly "healthy" cupcakes, they were all vegan and six out of seven of them were gluten-free. I hate excluding friends with food restrictions from enjoying the foods I make and I love experimenting with ingredients to try and make dishes that work for everybody. 

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It's "Bikini Body" Season

http://the-toast.net/2013/10/02/girl-tips-2/

http://the-toast.net/2013/10/02/girl-tips-2/

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'Tis the time of year when magazines are splashed with headlines about achieving the perfect "bikini body." Like most things geared toward women, "bikini body" is a made-up term designed to make women feel like they are not worthy of wearing a certain type of clothing unless they have a certain type of body. As the cartoon above so aptly illustrates, this is nonsense.

If you have a body and you want to wear a bikini, wear a bikini. If you have a body and you don't want to wear a bikini, don't wear a bikini. If you want to become physically active and eat healthier foods as a means of feeling better about yourself, do that. If you want to work on toning your body as means of achieving a physical goal, do that. If you want to accept yourself exactly as you are even though you ate three cupcakes today, do that.

But whatever you do, don't buy into this story that's sold every year to women — the one that tries to convince us we need to change who we are in order to fit a certain ideal about how we're "supposed" to look. Wear what you want to wear. Do the physical activities you enjoy. Eat the foods you want to eat, aiming for a balance of healthy foods and treats in moderation. Put on a bikini no matter your size or situation. Or if you don't want to put on a bikini, don't. You're in control of your own body. You get to decide.

I'm a big fan of saving the energy most people put toward worshipping celebrities and instead investing that energy on the people in my own life — and myself. It means a heck of a lot more to me to listen to my mom and friends than it does to listen to a movie star I've never met/ will never meet.

That said, if you MUST look to a celebrity for guidance, here's a list of celebrities making body-positive statements that don't promote unhealthy ideals. If you're feeling low on confidence, steal some of theirs.

And for eff's sake, NEVER bash another woman for how she looks in a bathing suit or any other type of clothing. If you do, guess who will hear you? Your 12-year-old granddaughter will hear you. Your 8-year-old niece will hear you. Your friend who's struggling with her own body image will hear you. And then guess what you are? Part of the problem. A big part of the problem.

“I’ve just never cared what people think. It’s more if I’m happy and confident and feeling good, that’s always been my thing. And more so now, since having a family — I don’t seek out any other acceptance.”
--Kelly Clarkson

“I’m healthy and happy, and if you’re hating on my weight, you obviously aren’t.” 
--Demi Lovato

“Far too many women are much more hurt by being called fat or ugly than they are by being called not smart or not a leader. If someone told me that I was stupid or that I wasn’t a leader or that I wasn’t witty or quick or perceptive, I’d be devastated. If someone told me that I had a gross body, I’d say, ‘Well, it’s bringing me a lot of happiness.’”
--Mindy Kaling

“Don’t compare yourself to anyone."
--Minnie Driver

“I’m never going to starve myself for a part … I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.’ That’s something I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.”
--Jennifer Lawrence

 “I think that whatever size or shape body you have, it’s important to embrace it and get down. The female body is something that’s so beautiful. I wish women would be proud of their bodies and not dis other women for being proud of theirs.”
--Christina Aguilera

“I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.”
--Adele

 “My main beauty tip is don’t say that negative thing when you look in the mirror. It just isn’t healthy. That lack of beating up on ourselves — that’s my new mantra. Happiness is the best makeup; a smile is better than any lipstick you’ll put on.”
--Drew Barrymore

 “You know, it gets easier and easier. My fears came true: people called me fat and hideous, and I lived. And now I keep living.”
--Lena Dunham

 “I refuse to worry about something that I could not change … I am not a woman whose self-worth comes from her dress size.”
--Kristen Bell

 “While I admit that the dress didn’t photograph as well as it did in my kitchen, I will also admit that I felt very pretty. In fact, I feel beautiful.”
--Pink

 “As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, ‘I am so proud of my body.’ So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter] because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”
--Kate Winslet

"Girls of all kinds can be beautiful — from the thin, plus-sized, short, very tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned; the quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing, and all in between. It's not easy though because many people still put beauty into a confining, narrow box ... Think outside of the box ... pledge that you will look in the mirror and find the unique beauty in you."
--Tyra Banks

"I keep telling myself that I'm a human being, an imperfect human who's not made to look like a doll, and that who I am as a person is more important than whether at that moment I have a nice figure."
--Emma Watson

"My smile is my favorite part of my body. I think a smile can make your whole body. I want women to know that it's okay, that you can be whatever size you are and be beautiful inside and out."
--Serena Williams

"To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini — put it on and stay strong."
--Jennifer Love Hewitt
https://mic.com/articles/89705/there-s-a-new-chart-on-getting-a-bikini-body-that-every-woman-needs-to-see#.ZetycYT9s

https://mic.com/articles/89705/there-s-a-new-chart-on-getting-a-bikini-body-that-every-woman-needs-to-see#.ZetycYT9s

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Mojo Slump

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I grabbed the photo above from the Women's Running Instagram page. It summarizes my current life well.

Here are the topic titles I originally bounced around for the post: 

Not Feeling It
I'm Tired!
Meh

I've been a little low on the mojo front lately. This isn't to say I haven't been taking care of myself, but I've been pretty exhausted and a little burnt out. As a result, I've had to let a few things go. This is one of those things that happens in life sometimes. My work load has been bigger these past few months, which is not something I want to complain about but definitely something I've had to factor into my schedule. Last night I did something I haven't done in a LONG time: stayed up working on a deadline. It was a nice reminder that I am not in college anymore and I do not enjoy staying up past a certain hour at my age. 

So what's to be done when we hit a lackluster slump? To me, a loss of mojo always signifies that it's time to go back to the basics: basic meals, basic workouts, basic schedule. I know myself well and I know there are times when my energy goes through the roof; during those times I can make  multiple-course meals and conquer new workout routines and load up my days with to-dos. During slumps, though, I know it's more beneficial for me to keep it simple. One-pot meals. Walks in the sunshine. Lots of self-forgiveness because I know I'm operating at a lower level than I normally do, and I also know that's okay.

And maybe that's the most important piece of all of this: to recognize where I am right now, to accept what my body and mind is capable of right now, to make the modifications I need to make right now, and to feel completely okay about not being an absolute badass at the moment. I don't need to be an absolute badass all the time. I'm allowed to be a softer person when that's what I need to do.

Right now, that's what I need to do. I'm fixing myself healthy meals. I'm going for light runs. I'm doing significantly less strength training than I normally do. I'm napping significantly more. I'm working a lot. I'm letting some daily household to-dos slide. Normally when the sun comes out, that's my time to thrive after a long winter fighting against Portland's darkness and rain. This year, it's working out a little differently. This year, this is my time to be a little more tired and to take it a little more easy. This is my time to listen to what I need — physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. And what I need right now is pretty basic: I need to eat good, nutritional food. I need to move my body. I need to get enough rest. I need to meet all my work deadlines. And the rest? The rest has a way of working itself out, especially since I happen to be married to the most helpful and supportive person on this planet. 

So I'm covered. I'm doing what I need to do for me right now. I know my energy will return again and I know it's okay that I'm a little low-energy right now. I think the important thing for anyone going through an energy slump is to continue taking care of yourself in whatever way you can. And always, always be nice to yourself. You're no less awesome when you're a sleep zombie than you are when you're a half marathoner. Embrace it all.  
 

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No Thanks To "No Excuses"

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

This piece from Women's Running by NYC Running Mama resonated with me. NYC Running Mama (real name: Michele Gonzalez) talks about how she used to live by the "No Excuses" mantra when it came to running and training.

This mantra gained traction several years ago when the self-proclaimed "No Excuse Mom" posted a picture of herself looking extremely toned and fit while three small children clung to her. The caption for the picture was "What's your excuse?" and the implication was that if a busy mom of three could find the time to work out and achieve that body, surely anyone could do it. 

This is a common refrain in the fitness community. We're often reminded that we all have the same number of hours in the day — it's a matter of how we choose to prioritize them. And for some people, workouts always win. No matter how busy a person gets. No matter what else is going on. No excuses.

In her piece, NYC Running Mama talks about an evolution that led to rethinking her "No Excuses" stance and opting instead to forgive herself for missing a run here or there. "The reality is that there are excuses," she says. She goes on to point out that "running is not our job or how we make our living. So sometimes priorities get in the way of training. That is okay. And not only is it okay — it's normal."

I love this. I'm typically the type of person who does prioritize working out, generally making space for it about six times a week. Lately, though, that's had to change. It's had to change because of a shift in my schedule. Due to the amount that's on my plate right now, there's simply no way I can work out six days a week and feel healthy. Other projects are requiring my attention right now. And like NYC Running Mama said, that's okay. 

Forcing yourself to work out on top of a crazy schedule can seem like the right thing to do, and some days it is. Some days, though, you just need to give yourself a break. Pushing through can have a detrimental impact not just on your happiness, but on the way you look at your training. "Constantly putting running first may make you physically strong, but you could be worn out or overtrained (mentally) or you may begin to view running as something you have to do. These can impact race performance, even more so than a few missed workouts," says NYC Running Mama. 

Indeed. Exercise is an outlet. It's a stress-reliever. It should be something that's looked forward to. If it's not, and if it's instead viewed as something that needs to be forced and squeezed into a jam-packed, stressful day, it becomes the enemy. Something to dread. And then even when you do squeeze it in, you don't enjoy yourself while doing it. 

Life is constantly shifting. Pressure ebbs and flows. An insurmountable schedule that presents itself one month eases up the following month. What you don't have time for on Tuesday you might have time for on Thursday. A project that's demanding so much of your attention right now will eventually be completed. 

Look at your life. Figure out what your present circumstances are. If you're presently able to take on daily workouts, go for it. That's wonderful. That daily sweat will likely make you a happier person. But if your present life is asking you to take it down a notch, that's okay too. If you become an every-other-day exerciser or if you have to trade some of your runs for walks or if you have to do whatever you need to do to avoid having the rest of your life crash and burn, it's okay. 

Don't make excuses every day because then they're just that — excuses. But if you need to take a day off here or there, allow yourself to do just that. If you encounter a "No Excuses" type who judges you for it, let her judge. Anytime someone judges someone, it's more a reflection of what's going on with them than the other person. And with that said, don't judge the "No Excuses" types either. Props to them. Props to anyone who makes exercise a priority despite a hectic schedule. When you encounter these types at the gym, tell them they're doing an awesome job. But you know who else is doing an awesome job? The person juggling her job/ kids/ whatever other responsibilities who makes it to the gym once a week because that's what she can handle right now. Props to her too.

We're all living our lives, making choices, and doing a fine job.

 

 

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Running 4 Half Marathons in 4 Months is a Lot Like ... Anything Else

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

This past weekend I ran my fourth half marathon of the year. 

I'm sure there are lots of people out there who race as often or run as much as I do (and there are of course people who run much more), but I don't know any of them personally. I'm the only person I know who has so far run four half marathons in the four months of 2016. I started thinking about what it means to run this much and what I go through to get to each race day. That's when I realized that running four half marathons in four months is exactly like ... anything else in life. It's challenging. Also, sometimes it's not challenging. Sometimes it's just routine. Running is extremely rewarding some days and borderline heartbreaking other days. Running is boring and exhilarating and everything in between. Running is a place where nothing happens and running is a place where everything happens. 

Sometimes running is easy. My legs start moving and I just go. The movement feels effortless. Some days in life feel easy and effortless, too. I move from one project to the next, tick things off my to-do list, and maneuver through my day like it's nothing. I'm thankful for these days but they're not always the most rewarding. 

Sometimes running is really, really hard. I never know when a hard day will strike. Some runs are circumstantially difficult: it's a big mileage day or the terrain is hilly or the weather is deplorable. Sometimes, though, a run that would otherwise seem easy and smooth just isn't. This could be a quick, flat, three-mile run around the neighborhood — the type of run that normally feels like nothing but on that day, for whatever reason, feels like the hardest thing ever. Each step seems painfully slow. Instead of feeling breathless toward the end, I start feeling breathless a few minutes in. Each minute that passes feels harder than the last and once I get into that mental space of thinking it's hard, it only gets harder.

Sometimes life is really, really hard. Again, sometimes this is circumstantial. Other times a rough day presents itself out of nowhere and all the tasks that normally seem doable suddenly seem insurmountable. These are the days when accomplishing anything at all, no matter how small, feels like a major victory. I hate these days but I think they're necessary, too.

Sometimes running feels so-so. It's neither easy nor hard. It's neither boring nor electrifying. It's just movement. Nothing inspiring is going to come from these runs but neither is any great defeat. This is a lot like life too. There are days that are just days. There's nothing deep about it. It's just doing one thing and then doing the next. Walking one step and then walking another. 

Sometimes running feels deeply demoralizing. I already touched upon the days when running feels difficult, but here I'm talking about the gut-wrenching, soul-shaking, truly difficult days when the only voice that's speaking is the most negative one that lives inside of you. These are the days when you feel like quitting. These are the days when you feel like eating french fries instead of even attempting a run. These are the days when you see the big hill ahead and automatically slow to a walk, no matter how many times you've conquered that hill running before. 

There are days like this in life too. These days are often tinged with feelings of grief or disappointment or loneliness. These days have been rare for me in the past several years, which I'm grateful for, but I recognize the similar feelings that come up on occasional runs. Maybe it is residual grief floating through me. Maybe it is life's way of reminding me not everything is sweet. 

Sometimes running feels like the only possible answer. There is simply no other way to get where I'm trying to go: both literally and physically getting from Point A to Point B but also getting to a place in my mind that I couldn't access otherwise. This is the place where I find myself solving problems. This is the place where I end up answering the questions that plague me. This is the place where I figure out myself and my life and there is absolutely no way I would get to that place if it weren't for running.

This is the way writing works for me, too. If I were to go through all my days without ever lacing up my running shoes or sitting down at my computer to type out my thoughts, I would be adrift. I know because I've been there. I've gone for periods of time without running or writing and it's quite simply my own personal version of hell. There are parts of my brain I cannot access through daily life. I can't access them through conversation. I can't access them no matter how long I sit, focus, and try to access them. I can access them when I'm writing and I can access them when I'm running. These are the only ways to get there for me. This is why I put up with all the challenging days and so-so days and truly demoralizing days. My release is on the other side of that mountain. I just have to be willing to do all the work of getting over the mountain first.

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This Is What a Year of Clean Eating and Regular Workouts Looks Like

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

Today is my "fitversary" which means I've been sticking to a mainly clean diet and working out 4-6 days a week for a year. It all started in 2015 when I decided to start using Fit Girls Guide as a birthday present to myself. I was turning 33 and I wanted to get in the best shape possible for my wedding and hopefully a future pregnancy. My birthday was March 12th and I started the program on March 16th.

March 16, 2015

March 16, 2015

I made it a goal to always have fun. I refused to hate, shame, or torment myself. I made foods I enjoyed eating. I found workouts (mainly running) I enjoyed doing. I didn't berate myself for any missteps. I was proud of every small accomplishment. 

April 11, 2015

April 11, 2015

Clean eating made me feel so much better. I stopped popping antacids all the time. I stopped taking so many naps. I got through my days with more energy than I'd had in years.

May 31, 2015

May 31, 2015

I became addicted to the feeling of moving my body. I got in the habit of walking to the grocery store, parking far away on errands, taking the stairs, and adding little bursts of activity (10 push-ups here, 10 squats there) throughout the day. 

July 2, 2015

July 2, 2015

I drastically reduced the amount of alcohol I consumed. It became rare for me to consume more than two drinks a week. I thought that cutting down on drinking would be so much more difficult than it actually was. 

August 7, 2015

August 7, 2015

I never tried to lose weight. I focused on eating real, fresh foods and making exercise a regular part of my daily routine. 

September 13, 2015

September 13, 2015

In addition to Fit Girls Guide, I turned to Jillian Michaels videos and Kayla Itsine's Bikini Body Guide for challenging workouts. I fell in love with the feeling of pushing myself to the next level. 

October 25, 2015

October 25, 2015

I became passionate about adapting recipes to make them healthier. I especially enjoyed swapping cleaner ingredients into desserts to make them less sugary. 

November 29, 2015

November 29, 2015

The more addicted I became to the way clean eating made me feel, the more I wanted to experiment with clean living in general. I began making DIY versions of everything from dish soap and toilet bowl cleaner to face masks and shampoo.

January 3, 2016

January 3, 2016

I was more lax about food around the holidays because it was more important to me to spend time with people I love than to obsess over a few cookies.

February 7, 2016   

February 7, 2016

 

I'm proud of the changes I've made in my body even when it's not at its leanest. Some weeks I work out like mad and stick to clean eating 95% of the time and have the tight body to show for it. Other weeks my workouts are more relaxed, my eating is more relaxed, and my body is a little softer and more relaxed, too. I love both versions.

March 12, 2016

March 12, 2016

Clean eating is a way of life for me. It is my lifestyle. I eat treats here and there and don't feel guilty about it — but generally when I do, I don't feel physically great afterward. Sometimes I have to ask myself if that slice of pizza or cake is really worth the way I'll feel later.

March 16, 2015 on the left and March 12, 2016 on the right

March 16, 2015 on the left and March 12, 2016 on the right

The change in my appearance is nice but the change in my attitude, happiness, and confidence is  what I care about most. Exercise made me stronger, empowered me, and showed me that I'm capable of so much more than I thought. Eating well helped me to realize that the way I feel both physically and mentally is within my control. When I eat well, I feel well. 

March 16, 2015 on the left and March 12, 2015 on the right

March 16, 2015 on the left and March 12, 2015 on the right

I decided on a whim to give myself the gift of health last year on my birthday. It was the smartest decision I ever made and I'm proud of myself for making it. 

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33 Things That Happened in my 33rd Year

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If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.

That picture up there if of me at my birthday party last year. A lot has changed in 364 days.

Today's my last day as a 33-year-old. For reasons I can't fully clarify, I always thought about turning 33 when I was a child. There was something this particular age that epitomized adulthood to my young brain. I always looked forward to it wistfully. When 33 arrived, I was thrilled. And now, looking back on it a year later, I can assuredly say my 33rd year did not disappoint. In honor of tomorrow's 34th birthday, here are 33 things that happened in my 33rd year. 

1.) I traded in a diet full of fake meat, lots of cheese, and tons of pasta and chips for one that focused on clean foods, whole ingredients, and lots of fresh produce, fiber, lean proteins and healthy fats.

2.) I became a person who works out regularly. In years past I've always gone through phases where I'd work out a few weeks or months here or there, but this year I got myself into the routine of legitimately working out 4-6 days a week every week. 

3.) I married the love of my life.

4.) I visited Belgium for the first time.

5.) I refocused this blog to showcase my new interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle through clean eating and fitness.

6.) I received a check from the state of Oregon for over $200 in unclaimed property refunds.

7.) I accidentally shredded said check.

8.) I went to three different bachelorette parties thrown in my honor and spent time with some of my favorite female friends.

9.) I developed a serious passion for running and completed 12 races in 2015 and two races so far in 2016.

10.) I learned how to make cleaner versions of all the foods I love, from cupcakes to cookies to ice cream to macaroni and cheese to lasagna to eggplant parmesan.

11.) I tried trampoline aerobics with my friend Megan.

12.) I tried stand-up paddle boarding with my niece Grace.

13.) I tried indoor rock climbing with my husband Mike.

14.) I spent a relaxing weekend in Bend at a lovely house with a hot tub in the company of my sweetheart thanks to the generosity of a former coworker.

15.) I went from being unable to do even one push-up to being able to bust out 20.

16.) I got legitimately good at doing burpees.

17.) I spent a lot of time writing, working on articles, and babysitting.

18.) I said no to a few invitations I knew were going to absolutely drain me and I did so without guilt.

19.) I spent two different days in two different emergency rooms with two different family members.

20.) I got into the habit of prepping all my meals for the week on Sundays. 

21.) I lost 40 pounds.

22.) I mourned the fact that none of my grandparents lived long enough to see me get married.

23.) I didn't get sick once beyond a minor sore throat or case of the sniffles here or there.

24.) I spent a few days in Paris.

25.) I reached the Purple Level on Nike Plus, which translated to 1,553 lifetime running miles.

26.) I gathered with two other families for our 31st or 32nd (we've lost track at this point) annual camping trip.

27.) I watched a lot of Netflix movies while cuddled up on the couch next to my husband.

28.) I made a raw, vegan, gluten-free cheesecake for my husband's birthday that everyone in my family raved about.

29.) I made clean gingerbread cookies for Christmas that nobody in my family really liked. 

30.) I published a lot of articles that didn't excite me but paid the bills and several articles I felt genuinely proud of, too.

31.) I'm pretty sure I didn't throw up once, which HAS to be a record for me.

32.) I rode a camel.

33.) I planned a honeymoon to Morocco with my husband and we spent a week having the adventure of a lifetime

I capped off my last day as a 33-year-old with a 16-mile run in the rain and am officially dedicating the rest of the weekend to nothing but relaxation and fun. 

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This picture is of me last week, enjoying my natural habitat of daily sweat sessions and clean eating. (As a reminder I'm all for everything in moderation, which means I also enjoyed the heck out of all kinds of food this year, including breads, pastries, and sweetened mint tea galore in Morocco. If you never allow yourself to indulge in anything, I think you're holding yourself back from fully enjoying your life.) Here's to another year that will hopefully be healthy, balanced, fun, and productive. And here's hoping I don't accidentally shred any checks next year. 

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