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!

Giveaway: Schitt’s Creek x Beekman 1802

It’s been a minute since my last giveaway, but I promise it will have been worth the wait because this one’s a good one…

I’m a huge Schitt’s Creek fan. If you follow me on Instagram, this is no surprise.

nothing but simply the best for this Wild Aloof Rebel

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been referred to as David in the group chat, and can’t help but quote Moira Rose every time I hold a wine glass.

It used to make me so sad that I couldn’t actually try the body milks and lip balms that David and Patrick argue about in Rose Apothecary…. that was, until my friends at Beekman 1802 answered my prayers, and asked me to try their Limited Edition Rose Apothecary Gift Set!

This gorgeous box is packed with Rose-y goodness, and features their Body Milk Lotion, Goat Milk Bar Soap, a Votive Candle, and a Tinted Lip Balm (to keep you from chapping and have you looking a little bit Alexis), all in Beekman 1802’s signature rose fragrance, scented with rich florals, green nuances, and soothing woody tones. And even better: they gave me an extra set to share with one of you!

ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN ON INSTAGRAM!

Already entered but want to make sure you get your Rose Apothecary fix? The Gift Set is unfortunately sold out online right now, BUT you can still grab the tinted lip balm as well as a tote of Rose Apothecary products in limited quantities. Restocks featuring some of their best-sellers will also be released in January and February, so there’s something to look forward to! Check them out at the Beekman 1802 x Rose Apothecary collection online.

Now for the fine print: Giveaway US residents only. Giveaway is open now through 9AM EST Friday 12/11 and is in no way affiliated with Instagram, Rose Apothecary, Schitt’s Creek or anyone else. Winner will be selected at random and contacted via DM on 12/11.

Good luck!

How the Peloton App Changed My Life

I know, I know, it sounds dramatic. But after using it for nearly six months, I don’t think I can overstate just how much the Peloton app has improved my physical and mental game.

It all started when I was struggling to stay active during the pandemic. My motivation to push myself had all but disappeared, and we cancelled our gym membership as the hope of being safe in a gym faded more with each week the pandemic went on. I wanted to work out consistently, but I needed help. I’d heard about the Peloton app from friends that had the Bike and Tread, but… I was skeptical.

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Peloton as a concept has been mocked endlessly. Who can forget the cheesy Peloton commercial that launched a thousand couch critics , or the exhausting “hot takes” from purist influencers mocking people for spending thousands of dollars on workout equipment when they can just run outside or get a cheap bike and hit the road. To those haters, I say: get a life. If you feel the need to berate or otherwise shame someone for buying a treadmill or a bike with a logo on it? Put the phone down, take a deep breath, and go eat an apple or something. And on the flip side, if you own Peloton equipment, good for you! I don’t give a f*ck how you spend your money, least of all on workout equipment. If buying a branded bike or treadmill helps you get and stay active? GO FOR IT.

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…aaaanywaaaayyy! Popular opinion aside, the bigger concern I had was the cost. At $13/month, the app would be a new commitment. BUT, I reasoned, with the gym out of the equation, we were saving $40/month in membership fees. So I started the free one-month trial of the app and told myself to give it at least that long.

But after the first day, I was hooked.

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Strength Training

The app interface is super easy to use, with an intuitive filtering function that allows you to sort and select classes by type, body area you want to focus on, length, difficulty, music type, and even by instructor. I started small with On-Demand strength training and HIIT classes, 10 minutes at a pop, before work and in between meetings: arms, back, legs, glutes, full-body… you name it, I did it. I learned the lingo, met all the various instructors, and left it all on the mat. Soon, I was stacking 3-4 mini workouts of 10-15 minutes on top of each other in one day.

My motivation came back in spades. I loved seeing badges add up in my profile, and the app’s integration with my Apple Watch encouraged me to get up and get going. There are challenges you can join within the app, and even training programs too.

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Also, even though the On Demand classes are recorded, you can still see a count of how many other people are taking the class at the same time as you. In the middle of quarantine, there was something comforting to log on at a random time and find 7 other people in a class with me.

Walking & Running

In addition to the cross-training strength classes, I also took a few outdoor running classes with some success. It was easier to find the motivation to keep going farther than I’d normally go by simply selecting a 30- or 45-minute run and hitting the road. But everything changed when we lucked out and bought a second-hand treadmill.

Every morning, I rolled out of bed and onto the treadmill for short On Demand walking and running classes. 1-2-3 miles at a time, it added up. If I felt good – and most days, I did – I added another workout onto my schedule and kept going. Instructor Rebecca Kennedy quickly became my Peloton sensei (seriously, I’m convinced we were separated at birth because we have eerily similar upbringings and families).

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I learned how to “high five” other participants, and squealed with joy when they returned the favor. Sharing workouts to social brought me tons of new encouragement from other Peloton fans, and I found my groove again. Soon, I was logging more miles, more often, and I was officially Pro-Peloton (App).

Meditation

Just when I thought I couldn’t love the app anymore, I discovered yet another benefit when my therapist suggested I try daily meditation – and wouldn’t you know it, Peloton has that too!

And just like the more active classes, you can sort the meditation sessions by time, by intention, and more. And again, the participant list was reassuring, with an average of 10-20 people taking “Sleep” and “Rest Day” evening meditation classes “with” me most nights.

Funny story: I logged into an On-Demand “Acceptance” class just after midnight on election night and found 95 other people in the virtual room with me. I haven’t stopped laughing about that since.

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LOTS of people apparently looking for tools to help them gain acceptance on election night, right along with me. 

I could go on, but I don’t think I have to; it’s safe to say I love this app and it’s only helping me more the more I use it. Next to the treadmill, paying the monthly app fee is the best investment I’ve made in my health in recent years. While I’ve already gotten so much use out of it for the past 6 months, I can easily see myself using it for the foreseeable future. And the best part is, there is really no risk of “running out” of workouts, either – there are HUNDREDS of classes On Demand, in every possible combination, with more being added every day. Yay for options!

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Also: I’m not being paid by Peloton to talk up their app (god, I wish) – I just have gotten a lot of comments on Instagram about how I’m liking the app and figured I’d share my full thoughts here. With that said, now I want to hear from you: have you tried the Peloton app, or any of their equipment? How do you like it? 

A Very Special Bonus Episode of “Running and…”

After a great chat about running and physical therapy with Tiffanie (@Star_wars_runnah), our conversation soon turned to our number one shared interest beyond running: Star Wars.

This is a little bonus video of what happens when you put two Star Wars fans together after nearly 8 months of quarantine with no one to show off their toys and talk Star Wars with.

Running and… Physical Therapy

It’s time for Running and… Physical Therapy!

In Episode 2, I’m chatting with Tiffanie (aka @star_wars_runnah) about how her job as a physical therapist for children 3 years old and under has helped her stay grounded and healthy throughout a 20+ year running career that includes a handful of Boston Marathons and even more Star Wars costumes.

What – or who – else do you want to see on Running and? Let me know in the comments!