The Top 5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Buying a House

A big reason why I haven’t been on this blog or social media much in the last year? We bought a house in December! And boy, did I learn a lot through the process. While I know this is a running blog, I thought I’d share our first-time home buying experience for others out there who might also be terrified, confused, and overwhelmed at the idea of jumping into home ownership (because we sure were, and honestly still are)! SO here are my top five things that they don’t tell you about buying your first house.

  1. It costs a LOT more than they say it will.

Those mortgage calculators online are ALL WRONG. I don’t care who you are or how much money you have, the total you’re going to end up paying each month is never going to be as low as those estimators will tell you. Because if you do a little research, those calculators are almost always sponsored or offered by mortgage providers or other entities that have a stake in getting you to apply for a mortgage with them. Of COURSE they’re going to want you to think you can afford that bigger loan! Don’t believe them. Figure out your monthly budget and go by that.

In the same vein, you’re going to have to pay for so much more than just the down payment. Inspections, septic tank sweeps, any work you may need to do before you can move in… it all adds up. Whatever those estimators say your down payment should be, err on the safe side and add $3,000 or more to that, and make sure you have it in CASH. You’re going to need about that much cash on hand to cover all of the miscellaneous costs that will come up during the process, while still having enough to cover closing.

Follow up on EVERYTHING.

If you’re Type A like me, buying a house is going to drive you insane. Because people are gonna people. They’ll make mistakes. They’ll forget things. For example, the person responsible for getting your home insurance set up will do things like write 2021 on the policy instead of 2022, thereby expiring your insurance one month in. Or your mortgage may get sold one week after you close and the new owners of your loan will send paperwork to your old address so you won’t get it until three weeks after the payment is due, falsely sending you into collections.

I wish I was kidding.

What I’m trying to say is this: double and triple check everything once it’s “done”. Because chances are, someone missed something or didn’t hit send or entered a wrong number, and it’s going to end up creating much more work down the line.

This brings me to my next tip:

You REALLY need to like and trust your real estate agent.

We love our agent, Aggie, like family. If I thought I was the one that stayed on top of things, she was on top of ME. She had been through this process so many times, so she’d seen it all. She was there to tell me to relax when something worried me, like the crack in the front door window, but also gently reminded us to be more serious about other things, like getting the anti-tipping bracket installed on the oven. It was the first thing the town inspector went for, yet we’d never heard about it in our lives!

Plus she was always the most stylish one in the room every time we got together and I love that.

Most importantly, she was the bulldog we needed when the seller started acting foolish, and she even kept me company when I would have been alone during a plumbing inspection. And it was a good thing too bc that plumber was cree-py with a capital C.

One thing a realtor can’t help you with, however, is the next thing on my list:

Take time to plan your move, and start earlier than planned (if you can).

Because the house we bought was only about a mile away from where we moved from, we originally thought we’d do most of the move ourselves in small batches over a few days/weeks, then hire movers to get our big items in.

We were so stupid.

Cars are only so big, and if you’re an average human, your stuff probably takes MUCH more than a few trips back and forth. Hell, lamps took up all of one trip entirely. On top of that, movers turned out to be out of our budget because closing costs were an extra $5K above what we’d planned for (see tip #1 above), so we had to go the U-Haul-and-friends route.

Which we will never do again.

You can only ask so much of friends, and do so much with the U-Haul truck while you have it. We started at 9am with 4 people, and by the time I had to return the truck at about 4pm, we still hadn’t even touched our closets or spare bedroom. But we were determined to get it all done so we pushed through, so we packed, loaded up and drove boxes back and forth between the two houses for the next SEVEN HOURS. We packed up the final load, with the turtle and the cat in their respective boxes, along with our TV carefully laid across our mattress pad, and closed the door on the old house for the last time just after midnight the next day… and still had to set up at least the mattress before we could crash for the night.

0/10 stars. Would not recommend.

But that leads me to my last and final tip:

Wait a while to decorate and renovate.

I am the worst at waiting, especially when it comes to decorating and unpacking. I wanted everything to be perfect as soon as we moved in, but unfortunately, perfect costs MONEY. And once we signed those closing papers, we suddenly didn’t have much of it. We needed some time to build our cushion back up. At first I hated the idea, but it actually worked out: living in the space for a month or so before getting everything “set up” and “finished” gave us a chance to actually see if we really did want to keep the living room laid out like that (we did) or if we really did need those god-forsaken overhead kitchen cabinets that I kept hitting my head on (we didn’t).

Living without everything in perfect harmony around me was a tough adjustment – I’m the type that straightens the pillows on the living room couches before going to bed – but it ended up being worth it. We found the right arrangement and also didn’t waste any more time or money redoing things because we got it wrong the first time.

I’m sure there are about a million other things I could go on about if I think hard enough, but these are the things that stand out.

What about you: do you have any first-time home buyer tips? What about the process shocked you? Share in the comments!

My Favorite Amazon Running Gear

One of the great things about running is that it doesn’t take a lot of THINGS, right? You just usually need a good pair of sneakers and some comfy clothes and you’re set. But of course because we live in a capitalist society (/s) there is no end to the gEaR you can buy to make running easier and more fun.

In the last year I’ve tried to cut back on the amount of stuff that I own in general (thanks, Marie Kondo!), but I’ve discovered a few basic running must-haves that I’ve ordered (and reordered) from Amazon that I’d love to share with you guys in the hopes that you might find a new favorite or two of your own.

Note: As an Amazon Associate, I make a small commission for any purchases made via the links on this page. I only share these things because I use them and can personally vouch for them – but if you really like them and want to buy them too, I’d really appreciate it if you do so through these links and support what I do here in a teeny tiny way!

The number one item on this list has to be my emotional support water bottle.

It comes with me everywhere. I prefer Nalgene because they’re virtually indestructible, affordable, can hold a huge amount of water, and come in a crazy variety of colors. I also have a sticker obsession which these bottles show off nicely. The only downside to the wide mouth on this one is that during a run it can get a little messy, but they also come in a narrow mouth version too.

The next item on the list is an 8-pack of socks that has basically made me love running again.

I spent a LOT of money on socks in my running heyday. So much money, in fact, that I used those socks for FAR longer than I probably should have. I wanted to get that cost per wear down, but ended up wearing them into flat scratchy pancakes that weren’t so much socks as they were… steel wool. I didn’t want to spend that kind of money again, but also didn’t want blisters on my heels anymore, so I caved and bought these incredibly high-rated Saucony socks (seriously, 76,000+ ratings??) and let me just say: I should have bought them YEARS ago. If your sock drawer is in need of an overhaul, don’t waste money on crazy expensive name brands that are like $15 per pair. Just bookmark this listing and thank me later.

When it comes to running clothes, I haven’t bought much new gear in a while; most of my stuff has held up pretty well since I’ve taken such a long hiatus. But running indoors on the treadmill, I want to air out my legs, but CANNOT run in regular shorts. I have thicker thighs that rub together like many other humans’ do, and I thought the raw, red chafing that happens after even a quarter mile was unavoidable – until I discovered these super-soft bike shorts with an 8″ inseam.

To be honest, I originally got them for lounging around and working from home, but they turned out to be amazing for running too, and so now I have a few pairs and practically live in them.

And race in them too.

Next, I started using Run Gum pretty much when it came out in like 2011 or 2012, and while I haven’t used it as regularly as I used to, it is great to have on hand as a kickstart to a run. The caffeine boost is just enough to get my engine going, and it doesn’t give me the jitters or make me have to use the bathroom like a cup of coffee definitely would.

Another must-have is something I wouldn’t have expected. The park that my husband and I love to run is a nice 4-mile loop with no stops. In the spring and fall, I was OK, but in the summer I learned that I have to run with some kind of hydration. But holding a water bottle and phone and also my key and possibly some pepper spray (because hi, 2022) gets obnoxious. This handheld water bottle and zipper pack turned out to be a godsend. It holds my keys and any other extras, along with my hydration AND my phone, all with a clear face that I can still access my phone controls through. Brilliant.

Now if it could just cool down the rest of my body while running in 90% humidity and 90 degrees…

Post-run, I rely on a few key players. Number one: this heating pad. Yes, I know it’s not technically a running tool, but approaching 40 and moving regularly means I need a bit more downtime between hard efforts, and this heating pad is SO good at easing those tight muscles. I don’t think I have to say anymore about that…

Lastly – and this isn’t a post-run tool as much as it is a self care tool – I love this electric foot file. I used to have one of those PedEgg graters that you rub back and forth over your heels and other rough spots, but after years of use, that thing got pretty dull. I had my a-ha moment during a home pedicure when I was using so much effort to grind away on my hideously scruffy heels that my Apple Watch thought I was exercising and counted the 15 minutes as “Strength Training”. Thanks, Steve Jobs.

Just in time for sandal season!

This electric file is practically magic because it buffs the rough spots away in just a few seconds, and I don’t even have to break a sweat when I use it. Win-win!

That’s it for my favorite running gear on Amazon, but is there anything that I missed? Something you’d like to see on a future list? Let me know in the comments!

I’m Still Drinking Reese Witherspoon & Kerry Washington’s Smoothie (Almost) Every Day – Here’s How It’s Going

In April of 2021, I discovered the recipe for Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon’s green smoothie on Instagram and started making it for myself every day.

I thought I’d probably keep it up for a few months at best – making these things was a little more of a hassle than just grabbing a protein bar or slathering a piece of toast with peanut butter, after all. It also was kind of a pain to always have fresh vegetables and fruit on hand to make them. But, here we are, about a year later, and would you believe I still drink these things almost every single day??

I never would have thought I’d stick to them, but I can’t seem to quit them. I’ve gone 2 days at most without them before running to the farmer’s market for supplies and happily slurping one down the 3rd morning.

The Acne Benefits

A year later, my acne has stayed clear, though I cannot give these smoothies 100% credit for that. It did come back a few months after I started drinking them, so I started working with the experts at Nurx on clearing my acne for good. Today, I can safely say that I’ve got it under control thanks to the medicine I’m on through them. The side effects are a bit bothersome, but the great thing about Nurx is that I can continue to work with them until we figure out the right balance, all as part of the initial $15 I spent to have them help me with my acne. And I am not sponsored by them, I just love them and am happy to talk to anyone about them because I was skeptical at first but now have nothing but good things to say!

The Overall Skin Benefits

On top of the acne benefits, I’ve seen my skin texture and tone improve as well. I used to struggle with dry patches and rough spots, and didn’t feel comfortable leaving the house without makeup to even out my complexion and hide the things that I was insecure about.

This is another “I can’t prove it” benefit and may also have to do with the other skin care that I’ve started doing regularly in the past year or so. But more and more, friends and family that normally don’t notice these things or ever make comments on my physical appearance have asked me about my “makeup” when I am wearing nothing but CeraVe Daily Moisturizer. I stopped wearing foundation over the summer and don’t think I’ll ever need to go back to it. Whether that’s from the smoothies or not, I don’t know – but all those fruits and vegetables can’t be a bad thing, right?

The Other Benefits

The number one question I get from people when I tell them I drink these things – without fail – has to do with their fiber content. More specifically, they worry that these smoothies have turned me into a walking time bomb, ready to explode at the slightest jostle thanks to the multiple grams of extra natural fiber I was taking in with my morning coffee. While it wasn’t THAT bad, I can say that after a month, the regularity with which I use the bathroom when I drink these every morning is such that you could set a German train schedule by my bowel movements.

This should come as no surprise to anyone with a basic understanding of how human bodies work, but it really is wonderful when you’re someone like me who always had stomach/regularity issues. The regularity makes me feel better, lighter, and gives me more energy. It also counteracts those troublesome side effects of the acne medication I’m on, which makes these smoothies even more beneficial to me.

Final Thoughts

As always, whenever it comes to stuff like this, you need to do your own research and make your own choices for what’s best for your body and your lifestyle. What works for one person may not work for another. But after seeing the interest in my last post about these drinks, I figured it was worth coming here to update you all about how it’s going and maybe share the good benefits with you as well!

Change What You Can, Manage What You Can’t

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you most likely know that I am a big proponent of mental health awareness. Having struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life, I’ve tried a lot of different treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Thankfully, despite a few wobbles of ~6 months here and there, my mental health has remained relatively stable since the early 2000’s when my anxiety manifested as severe OCD that left me holed up in my college dorm room for days at a time, bleeding from hands that I washed close to 100 times a day. Back then, Zoloft paired with a good therapist helped get me back on track, and I remained relatively stable until… a few months into 2020.

I don’t need to go into detail about that dumpster fire here; I have already recapped my struggle during the early stages of the pandemic and had nothing but good things to say about Effexor when I finally started it in April of 2021. And now that almost a year has passed, life on medication has just continues to get better, even if I don’t post about it here on the blog or on social media often.

The combination of Effexor and therapy finally allowed me the mental space to begin the monumental amount of work it would take to become the best version of myself.

In short, I was able to organize my thoughts in a clear and concise way that made me a better wife, friend, daughter, coworker, and advocate for myself. Our marriage improved. We celebrated 10 years married in August 2021!

I found and started a better job (all remote, better pay, and SUCH a better culture). I spent 3 months on paperwork and phone calls to roll over all 5 of my various retirement funds into one account. I started using a budgeting app to get our finances in order and paid off 90% of our credit card debt by September. And finally, most importantly, in October we were able to make an offer on our very own house – which we closed on December 1!

But while I was busy doing all this WORK, running and working out fell off my plate. I know that some people run or workout through their challenges, but I’m not them. After working 8-9 hours a day, I needed all of the energy I could spare to work on myself. And I never realized how many of my own needs I’d ignored until I finally had the mental space to explore them. I’d lived with anxiety and depression for so long that I didn’t realize what healthy felt like until I got there. I explicitly remember asking my doctor, “THIS is what you all feel like ALL THE TIME? Why did no one TELL me??”

There’s no end to the work I’m doing on my inner self, but as I find more of a balance, I’ve started working out and running again. The runs are short, the workouts hurt, but they’re happening and consistency is the name of the game now. I’m trying to move once a day in some way, even if that’s a 15 minute walk on the treadmill.

I signed up for a few races in the spring – and I even threw my name into the NYC Marathon Lottery! I find out if I get in on March 30th, and I still don’t know if I want to see that charge on my bank account or if I’ll be relieved when I don’t see it.

All that’s to say – tentatively – that I’m back! I’m ready to share myself with you all again, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride as I see where it takes me. Either way, thank you for sticking around this long (can you believe I’ve been running this blog for EIGHT YEARS?) and cheers to many more happy miles!

Goal Setting

Real talk: I’ve only run a handful of races since the NYC Marathon in 2017.

Yes, I know running races isn’t the only thing that makes one a runner, but when I had previously been running at least 2 half marathons a year, along with countless 5K’s and 10K’s sprinkled throughout the year, every year since like 2012, that’s a big drop.

This was due to a number of factors: I lost my job a few months after the marathon and fell into a depression. A new job a few months after that left little mental time for training, but I still did a few shorter distance races here and there. Then I was sidelined by an injury and nerve issues in 2019 that lasted for nearly the whole year. And then we all know what 2020 brought.

2021 brought a lot of changes. I went unofficially gluten- and corn-free. I started limiting my alcohol intake. I went on a new anti-anxiety medication. I dropped about 15 lbs. I started seeing a few new doctors and had bloodwork done, which helped me uncover a few things that needed to change – and gave me some possible insight into some of those nerve issues I’d had previously.

Back in 2019, my mileage dropped and my running decreased because my legs used to twitch and even give out on me while running anything over 3-4 miles. It felt like little electrical shocks shooting through my calves and my feet, and sometimes even in my hands and arms. I had every test imaginable done: MRI’s, EKG’s, and even an EMG nerve test where they stuck a needle in my leg and moved it around to find and test different nerves. Basically the only test that I DIDN’T have done was bloodwork.

Fast-forward to now, when I started seeing these new doctors. After hearing about my history, one recommended I start taking a B12 supplement, and lo and behold: B12 deficiency can cause exactly the types of nerve issues I was having back in 2019. Obviously, I can’t go back in time and get bloodwork done to see if the two things were connected, and I haven’t run more than 4 miles or so anytime recently to see if the twitching will return, but I’m taking my daily vitamin and feeling cautiously hopeful about running longer distances very soon.

All that cautious optimism has me thinking about the future – which also involves looking back at my past. When I was running a half marathon every spring and every fall, I was almost always training for some race or another. It was a lot of work, but I had found a good balance between running and life, and felt stronger and more confident in general when I was running regularly.

also: I miss those thighs

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe I’m blinded by the Effexor. Maybe I’ll try running and fail at mile 5 again.

But maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll get to mile 6, and then mile 7, and mile 8. And before I know it, I’ll be at mile 13. And maybe I’ll get that confidence back.

Either way, I’m finally excited for whatever happens.

I Drank Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington’s Green Smoothies Every Day for a Month. Here’s What Happened.

A little more than a month ago, I was doing my morning scroll through my Instagram feed and stumbled on Reese Witherspoon’s IG Live video detailing how she makes herself a green smoothie every morning.

In her video, Reese explained that when she first met Kerry Washington, she remarked how clear her skin was and asked her for her secret. Kerry told her that she drinks this smoothie every day, and ever since then, Reese has done the same.

Because I was instantly convinced that this was the key to both of their beauty – that, or there is an oil painting of both of them in some dusty attic somewhere that is aging instead of them – and the fact that it seemed SUPER easy to make, I decided to give this a shot too.

The Method

If you’re interested in watching me perform this science experiment, you can watch the first attempt here. Long story short: I definitely didn’t blend it enough and omitted the almond butter. It also confirmed that I don’t enjoy coconut water in ANY capacity, so I switched to water or almond milk for subsequent batches. It also gave me the idea to add collagen powder because it was easier to add to this smoothie than to my coffee like I’d been doing for weeks.

Note: This recipe also makes roughly 60 ounces. I can’t fathom drinking 60 ounces of ANYTHING, so I took Reese’s advice and split it into two and saved the second half for the next day. This can give me middling results because fruit on day two is always a little weird. But re-blending it tends to revive it, and this is the method that I’ve stuck with.

The Results

I’ll be real: I started this because of Reese’s skin claims, but I really wasn’t expecting any eye-popping results in the skin department. Some people just have good genes. But to my surprise, something interesting happened.

About a year ago, a cancer scare convinced me to stop taking hormonal birth control after nearly 20 years, and my skin has been reacting badly ever since. It was like every zit I managed to avoid for 20 years on the pill came back for revenge, all over my chin and neck for 8 straight months, and nothing I did could stop it. Painful red welts every 3 weeks (timed with my cycle) made me super self-conscious. I wasted money on tons of topical treatments that never worked, and I was miserable for most of the last year (on top of being anxious and depressed because of the pandemic).

After less than a week of smoothies, the acne all but disappeared.

I thought I was just having a good skin week at first, and kept an eye on it. But one week went by, then another, and another, and no acne. Yes, I have one or two spots that manage to make their way to the surface, but it is NOTHING like it used to be, and I could cry from happiness.

I also thought this amount of fiber would have… shall we say… explosive results. I’m pleased to report that I have so far suffered NO ill effects. On the flip side, I will say that if I accidentally skip a day or two of the smoothie, I DO start to notice a NEGATIVE difference in my skin and in my stomach. TMI? Maybe. But we keep it real here.

Final Thoughts

Granted, the skin results that I’ve seen cannot be 100% proven by smoothie magic, but the way I see it, there’s no downside to eating all those fruits and veggies each day, right?

After a few tries, my final version of Reese & Kerry’s Smoothie is:

  • 2 heads of Romaine
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • 1 pear
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 6 – 8 ounces almond milk or water
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 4 scoops of Vital Proteins collagen powder

Yes, it’s kind of a pain to always make sure that we have all these fresh fruits and vegetables around. But after having such good results over the last month, I’m willing to keep this concoction in my daily routine as often as I can to keep the good vibes flowing!

UPDATE: One year later, I’m still drinking these smoothies – and still seeing the benefits! Take a look at how it’s going now, with before and after pics and all.

What I Eat in a Day – Part 2

I know it took me months, but after starting with what I eat for breakfast, lunch, and snack time, now I’m taking a look at what I eat for dinner and dessert – and sharing some of my favorite recipes, too.

Dinner

Though the pandemic literally set my mental health journey back about 2 years in the span of just a few months, it did force me to broaden my culinary horizons. Random food shortages thanks to people panic-emptying the grocery store shelves (and fear of even going to the grocery store at first) meant stretching the big shop from our normal one week to last two or even three weeks.

This meant trying recipes with a lot of frozen and canned vegetables and things I could find in bulk like frozen shrimp and quinoa, and I managed to create a handful of dishes that became staples even when things started to calm down. This garlic shrimp dish in particular is still one of my favorites, especially when I pair it with quinoa that I combined with canned roasted tomatoes, corn, canned beans and fresh cilantro. Now, of course, I omit the corn, but it’s still a tasty dish that makes tons of leftovers and can even be a lunch option too.

I also discovered homemade poke bowls, after one of my favorite Bake Off winners, Nadiya Hussain, was given a Netflix show last spring where she shared her favorite quick recipes for lunch and dinner. Sushi-grade tuna was hard to come by the first time we made ours, but I gave the salmon a quick sear in the frying pan and fell in love with this super-fresh, crisp bowl full of veggies and rice and protein. It’s a great option when we’ve got a bunch of stuff in the fridge that’s about to go bad – just whip up some protein and toss that delicious sriracha sauce on it and boom: everyone’s happy.

The crock pot isn’t just for winter cooking in this house, either. I regularly break it out for things like chicken tacos (combine a pack of chicken breasts and a jar of salsa and ta-da) or my favorite ground turkey chili. Other staples include:

  • chicken marsala with brown rice and roasted Brussels sprouts
  • butter chicken with jasmine rice and broccoli
  • Beyond Burgers on gluten free buns
  • tilapia Thai green curry with white rice and veggies
  • Gluten free frozen pizzas (from everywhere, we’ve tried a lot of them and have found plenty we enjoy)

Desserts

Now that we’ve committed to that gluten free life, I’ve become a big fan of baking more at home. But an interesting side effect of that is that I also don’t feel the urge to plow through 5 cookies in one sitting when I’ve baked them myself. Maybe it’s because they take longer to make, butthe flavor is just that much more intense and they’re so much more satisfying one at a time.

Like these snickerdoodles, which I baked for everyone at Christmas, complete with red and gold sprinkles

Some of my favorite recipes – which I simply substitute Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour in – include:

I also can’t quit my favorite Reese’s mini cups, and always have a stash of them on hand at all times. Thanks to my new medication, I’m finding it much easier to avoid eating the entire bag in one sitting and often forget they’re even in the house for a few days at a time now. It’s nice to know they’re there if I need them, though.

Bonus: Beverage Time!

In addition to watching my gluten and corn intake, I’ve also focused on how much alcohol I drink, too. At the start of the pandemic, I fell into the trap of opening a bottle of wine every few days and “treating myself” to a glass or two (or three) after work almost every day, because it was what everyone else seemed to be doing on social media and what else were we doing?

After months of that, I realized I was unhappy – and likely packing on the pounds with each bottle, given that I also wasn’t exercising as much as I used to. So in September I put myself in wine time out and ended up not having a drop until Thanksgiving. And while it was delicious when I finally had some again, I realized that I didn’t need it as much as I used to. I slept better without drinking so much, and my skin and head were more clear without it. So I now have a glass or two maybe every month, with the occasional splurge on a Zoom date with friends.

I also discovered the joy that is Aviation gin, and my eyes have been opened:

Yes, it’s Ryan Reynolds’ gin, and yes, I’m not ashamed to admit that I love it. I’ve tried other alcohols with varying degrees of success but none have checked all the boxes like gin does for me. It takes less gin for me to get a similar buzz to wine, so it’s lower in calories than my usual 2-glasses-of-wine evening, and it doesn’t give me headaches. It’s also given me the opportunity to try other mixers, like flavored sugar-free seltzers and fresh fruit.

Keep in mind, with my new medication, I’m not drinking almost at all – it’s not a bright idea to mix a depressant like alcohol with an anti-depressant, after all – but red wine and gin in moderation are what I go for when I do.

And that about does it! How about you – what go-to’s are on your daily menu? Share your favorites and hook me up with some new things to try!

Recovering from a Mental Health Injury

Hey there! It’s been a few months. Where to begin?

When we last left off, things were going relatively well. I started seeing a therapist in October and was making good progress in my mental health. Together we cultivated a toolbox full of anxiety management techniques and dug into the ideas of acceptance and mindfulness. As a result, my running improved greatly. By December, cutting out gluten and corn in September had helped me drop almost 20 pounds, and I had more motivation to keep it up.

After the dumpster fire that was 2020, I was ready to enter the New Year with high hopes. Or rather, I planned to tiptoe into the year quietly, so as not to spook it and send it running, on fire, into the barn, thus starting a blaze that would level the entire city.

The fact that I haven’t blogged for 5 months tells you all you need to know about how that worked out.

Two days before New Year’s Eve, we were faced with a family emergency that threw our little team of two into chaos. Then just as things started to calm down on that front, my mother came down with COVID. With a lot of stressful nights and careful watching, she is now back to 100% healthy. We’ve continued to work through a handful of other unrelated issues since then, but after the 1-2-3 punch that was January-February-March, I made a change and wanted to share here.

No, not wearing a fanny pack 24/7 (although I really dig this one)

I started medication again.

I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression since age 12, and went on Zoloft back in 2003 to manage severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the medication made me gain much of the weight that took me years to lose, it worked. I am a big proponent of medication for mental health, but for some reason, kept telling myself that I didn’t need it this time. I had found running and acupuncture, and I was in therapy. Shouldn’t that be enough? It sort of was, until I found myself in crisis around the end of February.

The best way I can describe my tipping point is that it felt like I was working two full-time jobs. In addition to working 9-5 for money, every free hour was spent working on my mental health. Every thought was focused on my own thoughts. My mind was in constant motion from one anxious thought to the next, with no safe place to land. I moved in and out of depressive states that put me in some dark places. VERY dark.

But if living with anxiety and depression at that level was like treading water endlessly, starting Effexor was like grabbing onto a life raft and finally feeling the relief of not having to try so goddamn hard for the first time in months – years, really.

The pic I sent my husband after I picked up my new prescription for mental health (covered in cat hair that I didn’t see until later).

With Effexor, I still have anxious thoughts. But instead of the anxiety flowing through my whole body and causing a physical reaction in my clenching stomach and sweaty palms and racing heart and shortness of breath, the thoughts… stay in my head. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s fascinating. The medicine “opens the window” and gives me the mental space to work through the anxious or depressive thoughts using the tools that I’ve developed over 7 months of work in therapy. It’s still work, but it’s not as stressful, and it’s easier to let those thoughts pass and return to regular thoughts.

It’s also not some magic bullet, either. I was faced with a hugely stressful situation last week that created a swell of anxiety that not even Effexor could stop. The day was rough and I spiraled, thinking that it was a sign that I had backslid into my old ways, the medicine was useless, that nothing could fix me. But the window had been “opened”, and after a day or so, I was able to approach the situation tentatively and work through it a bit. It was a good reminder that while meds are helpful, I am also stronger and better equipped to handle anxiety than I was a year ago thanks to therapy.

We decided to try Effexor because its mechanism of action is similar to Zoloft, which I had a good experience with, but also includes norepinephrine to possibly improve my energy levels and attentiveness, which had been impacted. And despite being worried about weight gain, Effexor has had the opposite effect of the Zoloft and I’ve lost a few pounds already. I don’t feel the need to turn to food for comfort, and nighttime snacking (which was my Achilles heel) is all but nonexistent. It’s motivating me to move more but not affecting my sleep. I wish I’d started this stuff years ago.

July 2020 on the left, April 2021 on the right.

I say all this with an asterisk: just because I am having a good experience doesn’t mean that it’ll work for everyone. I’ve had people message me about it but don’t want to sound like I’m pushing this drug or overselling it. This is just me explaining how it’s helped me and keeping the conversation about mental health going.

In December, Olympic runner and filmmaker Alexi Pappas shared her story of depression and the importance of treating mental health issues the same way we treat physical ones. She referred to them as “mental health injuries”. That phrase stuck with me.

As runners, we are often sidelined by things like shin splints, hairline fractures, or torn ACLs. But we treat those injuries with things like physical therapy and medication. Why don’t we view mental health struggles the same way?Having a mental health injury isn’t a weakness in the same way that pulling a muscle isn’t a weakness. They stop us in our tracks, take time to recover from, and in some cases, there is often a chemical – physical – imbalance, and medication like the one I’m on can be an IMMENSE help. But yet, the stigma around it remains.

Why?

I’m tired of being anxious and depressed and feeling like a prisoner in my own mind. Now that I found the combination of things that seems to work for me in this moment, I’m going to talk to anyone who will listen about it, in the hopes that it helps even one person take that step and get help for themselves, whether that’s through therapy or medication or both.

And that’s what’s going on in my world these days. How are you doing?

What I Eat In a Day – Part 1

Now that I’ve gone about 95% gluten- and corn-free, some folks have asked about what I eat in any given day, so here’s a little rundown of my go-to’s! Note: I’m not sponsored by any of these products, nor am I a nutritionist. I’m just trying to eat in a semi-healthy way while still enjoying food, and wanted to share the love in case you’re looking for some breakfast, lunch and snack ideas to switch up your routine.

I’ll go into more detail about dinner and desserts in a Part 2 post later this week.

Breakfast: My go-to is a slice of Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread, with some Smuckers Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter and half cup of blueberries. If I’m not too hungry I’ll omit the peanut butter.

On the weekend, I experiment with gluten free baked goods (in October and November, we were partial to Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes and Pumpkin Butter but they’re seasonal and I don’t condone spending $18 on off-market pumpkin butter), or will make some scrambled egg whites and turkey bacon.

My favorite part of breakfast, though, is coffee. Hot or cold, I take it black with the tiniest pinch of Stevia (1/8th of a teaspoon maybe? does that make me pretentious??). Not too long ago, I discovered Trader Joe’s Instant Cold Brew. After a brief period where I saw the future because I made it too strong, I figured out the right balance of coffee to water and really enjoy it. If I need to warm up, I’ll have medium roast hot coffee, but will treat myself by adding some Nut Pods, and whip it up with a travel milk frother to turn boring coffee into an at-home latte. Seriously, that frother has changed my life in the most delightful way, get one immediately. And while I’m on Nut Pods, if you’re looking for a dairy-free, gluten free, unsweetened coffee creamer, they have incredible flavors at like 10 calories per tbs. My current favorite is the Peppermint Mocha.

Bonus: Bach’s Rescue Pastilles for natural stress relief. Placebo? Maybe. Tasty? Definitely.

Lunch: Here’s where I say that I batch cook on the weekend for lunches throughout the week. BUT I am human, and lazy, and don’t do that as often as I’d like to. When I DO batch cook, one of my favorite recipes is black bean soup: three cans of black beans (two blended and one whole) mixed with salsa, canned tomatoes and onions, chiles, salt, pepper and lime juice to taste.

I also enjoy the good old Millennial Classic: avocado toast! My cheat version consists of toasted GF white bread topped with Shop Rite deli department guacamole or Wholly Guacamole and a fried egg (or scrambled egg whites) and TJ’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning.

When I don’t cook, I am a fan of our local Shop Rite’s chicken salad with cranberries and slivered almonds, or will go for roasted or smoked sliced chicken from the deli counter either on a bed of baby spinach or toasted Canyon Bakehouse or Schar Gluten Free White Bread. When it comes to GF bread, those are the two brands we’ve enjoyed the most. Lastly, if I’m pressed for time or we’re out of fresh ingredients, I rely on frozen meals that have a good amount of protein and aren’t TOO heavy on sodium, like Amy’s 3 Cheese and Kale Bake and Healthy Choice Power Bowls.

Snacktime: In 2020 I set out to avoid mindless snacking and have broadly succeeded, focusing instead on snacks that are high in protein and not as many empty calories. I used to be big on snack time, but as I’ve gotten used to working from home throughout the pandemic, I don’t snack as much, but generally always have some cheese, 100-calorie fruit cups in juice, teriyaki turkey jerky, and Trader Joe’s Everything But the Gluten Crackers on hand depending on if I’m feeling sweet or savory.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll go into more detail about dinner and desserts, and include some of my favorite recipes!