30 Day Challenge Resumed

I took a hiatus from the 30 Day Challenge.

Let's be real.
I quit.

I ate a lot of bananas slathered with almond butter.  I got drunk a couple of times.  I had a few perfectly baked molasses cookies made with rye flour.  They were good.  It was all good, at the time, and then it felt like shit later on. 

Meanwhile, I kept up my gym workouts and dragged my hungover ass out for runs.  Beans made it through the end of her Four Month Regression and emerged her happy bubbly little self.  We spent forty-five minutes today making high-pitched trills and squeals back and forth at each other on the bed.  Life is good.

But I realized something this morning as I trotted down the three flights of concrete steps from the parking garage to the gym:  I quit the challenge because I didn't care enough about my goals. 

I mean, I'd like to see my abs again, but this is not a huge motivating factor in my day-to-day life.  My weight is fine where it is.  Yes, I'd like to lose the last few pounds, but I mean, I don't really care that much.  So what, then, do I really care about, that I'd like to challenge myself with for thirty days?

Well, I'd like to make sure my diet is as clean as possible.  I went through What to Expect The First Year and read up on postpartum nutrients needed for making really superb breastmilk.  They are:  3 servings protein, 3 servings vitamin C foods, 2-3 servings green and yellow veg, 2 more servings other fruit and veg, 5 servings calcium-rich foods, 5 servings grains, and 1 serving iron-rich food.  I'm writing this from memory, but that's basically it. 

I can use this as motivation to stop eating so many goddamned bananas. 
How gold-plated are my problems, that I'm worried about how many bananas I'm eating?


I ate my last banana tonight.  It was number four today.  There will be no more bananas, and we're out of almond butter.  This is kind of a big deal.

The bigger deal is that I want to get back to my writing. 
And this should be my challenge. 

But I don't want to start this challenge until April 1, because my mom is coming later this week and I don't want that to get in the way right at the start.

So the deal is, when she's gone and Easter is over and I've eaten all of Bean's candy, I'm going to start writing every day, for at least one hour (1 nap +15 minutes). 

And until then, no bananas.


30 Day Challenge: Day 5

I am exhausted.

Beans screamed for two and a half hours in the very early morning.  Not hungry, not wet, no spider bites, not placated by a gum-rub.  We bounced and walked her until she finally fell asleep again, but I could feel today's sharp edges extra-keenly. 

No gym this morning... but we did make it out for a five mile run.

And I didn't have any sugar.  


30 Day Challenge: Day 4

Right, so.  I wasn't going to have sugar today.

But then I got home from running Beans to grocery shop, which is a five-mile round-trip, and on the way back it's all uphill with forty or so pounds of groceries stuffed into the bottom of the jogging stroller... and I caved.  I needed a snack, and so I ate the last piece of that zucchini and sweet potato bread.  I will spare you the list of things I ate today-- it was similar to yesterday. 

I did have a great workout this morning. 

2 mile warm-up
BOSU crossover crunch:  4 sets of 25 each
1.  EZ-bar triceps pressdown:  4 sets of 20 @ 40 lbs.
2.  Rope triceps extension:  4 sets of 20 @ 70, 60, 50, 40 lbs. (5 reps at each weight, approx.)
1.  Arnold press:  3 sets of 15 w/ 15 lb. dumbbells
2.  Plank knees-to-elbows:  3 sets of 25 each
3.  Lateral raise:  3 sets of 15 with 15 lb. dumbbells
4.  Supine hip raise / leg drop:  3 sets of 25

I love plank variations.  Planking is great for the transversus abdominus, which is the long swath of core musculature underneath your rectus abdominus (your external abdominals).  The TA is responsible for stability and endurance, and when it's strong, it takes a lot of pressure off your back and facilitates easier movement between the upper and lower body.  It also tightens down as it becomes stronger, giving you a leaner, narrower waist.  Plank also works the glutes, the shoulders, and the chest. 

In the knees-to-elbows variation, it also works the rectus abdominus and the obliques, so you get a more complete abdominal workout.  To perform it, start in plank, with your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders, as though you were about to do a push-up, on your toes.  Draw your shoulders back away from your ears, squeeze your butt nice and tight, and make sure your back is flat.  Draw your abs in tightly. 

Bring one knee up under the body and across toward your opposite elbow.  Squeeze the belly in tightly, and then return that foot to starting position.  Complete the same movement on the other side.  Alternate sides, driving each knee toward the opposite elbow (see if you can touch!  It's hard!), until you have completed 25 reps on each side.  Take a 30 second break, and then repeat. 

Tomorrow:  No sugar.  Right?  I think we have a play-date with our neighbors across the street.  And I need to cook some chicken for snacks.  I love having pieces of cold oven-fried chicken or cold braised chicken in a little glass dish in the fridge to snack on.  It's much better than this banana-fixation I seem to be harboring.  


30 Day Challenge: Day 3

Yesterday was amazing.
I asked my friends Candy and Tom to be Beans's grandparents.
They said yes.

Candy and I went on a three-mile walk with Beans up to the top of the volcano and then, on the way back down the hill to her house, after talking about the recent ups and downs with my and Brian's parents, I asked her if she and Tom would be willing to be Beans's grandparents, because Beans could use some really awesome close-by family, and we're short in that department.  When Candy said yes, Beans broke into a huge happy smile in her stroller, and we all got goosebumps.  Meant to be.

Brian came over a little later, after Tom showed Beans a bunch of chimes and bells and lights around the house.  We all took turns bouncing and soothing her and showing her various things.  Brian and Tom and Candy had drinks in the kitchen while Beans slept in my arms, and then we went home and I made breakfast for dinner. 

Here is what food looked like yesterday:

2 bananas & 2 tbsp. almond butter (400)
oatmeal with chia seeds and flaxmeal (300)
3.5 oz. pork shoulder, leftover from our Cuban feast (225)
coffee with halfy and a peanut butter cream at farmers' market (150)
1 cup Cuban black beans with sofrito (200)
rice crackers and 1 tbsp. almond butter (200)
scrambled eggs with kale and a tiny bit of cheddar, bacon, sweet potato and scallion hash, and a cup of almond milk (500)
scraped the rest of the almond butter out of the jar, mixed it with a dab of honey and flaxmeal (150)

I still haven't totally kicked sugar.  And I didn't do better today.  Today...

banana & almond butter (200)
frozen slice of zucchini and sweet potato bread, which is amazing, with almond butter (500)
coffee with almond milk (30)
muesli with almond milk (350)
3 pieces of oven-fried tabasco chicken, a green salad with miso-herb sauce, half a red pepper, some cucumber slices, and a quarter cup of hummus (600)
another slice of that crazy bread, with sunbutter (500)
a piece of cold chicken (100)
coconut-curry red lentil and yellow split pea soup with rice (400)
fig newtons (300, ugh)

I'd like to not eat sugar tomorrow.  A lot of my problem the last couple days has to do with not sleeping much.

I did have a great workout this morning.  It was SO hard.  I was dizzy most of the time.

1 mile run to warm up
circuit the following six exercises:
1.  bulgarian split squats:  15 reps each side with 40 lb. dumbbells
2.  weighted burpees:  20 with 15 lb. dumbbells
3.  t-lunges:  15 reps each side with 40 lb. dumbbells
4.  deep butt-kick jump squats:  20 reps, unweighted
5.  side lunges:  10 reps each side with 40 lb. dumbbells
6.  weighted jumping lunges:  20 reps each side, with 15 lb. dumbbells

I managed to get 3 full sets in, and do a fourth set of just the strength moves, skipping pylo for time.

I had intended to do 5 sets.  There was just no way.  But I had only intended to do 10 reps on each side for the strength moves, and with the 40s, I could mostly do more, which was great! 

Important Tips!

Set goals you can reach, and then make a point of reaching them.  If you can exceed them, do that.  I almost never set a goal of 5 sets without making it through those:  I like to finish all of my sets for that extra sense of accomplishment.  Even a small feeling of pride will carry me a long way through the day. 

Also:  remember that cardio is for suckers, and real physique change comes through dietary changes and lifting heavy weights.  Really.  I promise.

And on that note, I really need to start making changes.   I'm going to try to go no sugar starting again tomorrow.  Wish me luck. 


30 Day Challenge: Day 2

There's something we should talk about.

I have this obsession...

But first, let's go over what I ate yesterday.

6 AM:  banana with raw organic almond butter (200)
9 AM:  scottish oatmeal with ground flax seeds, chia seeds, and goat yogurt (400)
1 PM:  steak, rice, almond milk (580)
4 PM:  cup of cuban black beans with sofrito, field greens with miso-herb dressing, half an avocado, and a grilled zucchini (420)
5 PM:  banana with raw organic almond butter (200)
7 PM:  pudla (chickpea-flour pancake filled with mushrooms, red peppers, scallions, and cilantro) (400)
9 PM:  banana with raw organic almond butter (200)

Do you see a theme, anywhere?

Yes, it's the banana.  The three bananas.  Which are simply potassium-packed vehicles for my obsession with almond butter.  It used to be a peanut butter obsession-- almond butter pales in comparison for sure-- but Beans showed some symptoms of intolerance to peanuts in my diet during my first few weeks of breastfeeding.

Peanut butter is my favorite food, so that felt kind of unfair.

Fortunately, if you grind up pretty much any nut or seed into a paste, I will eat it with glee.  Sesame tahini?  You betcha.  Sunflower seed butter?  Lord yes.  Pecan butter?  I cream my pants.

I've also cut sugar out of my diet entirely in the last few weeks, (except for day before yesterday, when I ate three of the frozen fig newtons that I made a couple months ago, and also a handful of chocolate chips when I thought Brian wasn't watching.  He was standing right behind me.) and in doing so, I seem to have replaced it with bananas-- the final frontier of quick-digesting calories.  I eat a banana in the morning before the gym and that's fine, but the ones in the afternoon and evening are more stress-related than anything.  They're treats.  I don't need them, and I should cut them out.

Except, I've already had two bananas today.

And honestly, the second one was just so I could take a photo of it.
The sacrifices I make for this blog.  Really.

My workout this morning was a little better than yesterday's, though I'm pretty tired today.

3 mile run
Chin-ups from dead hang (3, 3, 2) -- getting better!  Not quite back to the ten I used to be able to knock out, but it's definitely an improvement.
Assisted wide-grip pull-up (superset after chin-ups):  3 sets.  Did as many as I could with 18 lbs. assistance, and then went up 6 lbs. at a time until I'd completed 20 reps (topped out at 48 lbs. assistance)
Seated cable row (close grip):   3 sets of 12 with 75 lbs.
Dumbbell biceps curl:  3 sets of 12 with 17.5 lbs. each
Dumbbell outer curl:  3 sets of 10 with 12.5 lbs. each
Cross-over BOSU crunch:  3 sets of 25 each

Yesterday was not the easiest day:  Beans refused to nap after noon, and so we were up for 8 straight fairly-screamy hours.  But once she went to bed, I made one of the simplest and dinners I've made in a long time.

Pudla is a Pakistani dish, as far as I can tell.  It's a vegan pancake made from garbanzo flour thickened with water and lime juice and seasoned with cumin and turmeric.  I filled ours with lots of chopped veggies and herbs and fried them to a crispy golden brown in a little bit of olive oil.  Garbanzo flour is inexpensive, high-protein, and high-fiber.  Start to finish, including prep and clean-up, this recipe took me 15 minutes.  It's going to be one of my go-to lunches, and I look forward to playing with the filling.  I think it would be great with some garam masala thrown in, or with fresh garlic and ginger.  Spinach, peas, leftover veggies, carrots... I'll probably even try adding some cooked cooled quinoa in there at some point.


Makes 2 pancakes, each about 8" in diameter

1.5 c. garbanzo flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1.5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice (one lime should yield enough)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 c. cremini mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 c. chopped scallions (green and white parts)
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
olive oil

Begin heating your pan while you mix your ingredients.  I used a cast iron skillet, which I find cooks these more evenly than lighter pans.  You'll want to heat it to about medium-high, in order to get the crispy golden exterior on the pancake and still allow it enough time to cook the inside thoroughly.  The raw batter tastes pretty nasty, so be sure to cook these well.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Pour in enough water, whisking constantly, to make a very thick but pourable batter.  Whisk in the lime juice.  Stir in veggies and herbs.  Add about a tablespoon of oil to the pan and swirl to coat well.  Add half the batter and smooth it into a 8" circle.  Allow it to cook, just like a regular pancake, until bubbles form and remain open across the surface of the cake and the bottom is a rich and crispy golden brown.  Flip and cook the other side.  Serve with yogurt, spicy pickles, or good chutney.  



30 Day Challenge:  Day 1


This shirt came in the mail this afternoon.  It is bonkers cute, undeniably.  
Right... let's talk about today.  I got up this morning, pumped milk in case Beans woke up while I was gone, and then went to the gym at 6:30 AM.  

Workout #1

3 mile run
Bulgarian Split Squats:  2 sets of 10 each leg with 50 lb. barbell
Leg Press:  2 sets of 10 each leg with 70 lbs.
Barbell Squats:  2 sets of 10 with 95 lbs.
T-Lunges:  2 sets of 10 with 35 lb. dumbbells
Side-Lunges:  2 sets of 10 each with 20 lb. dumbbells
Deadlifts:  2 sets of 10 with 115 lb. barbell
Rear Lunges:  2 sets of 10 each, alternating, with 20 lb. dumbells

This was not an inspired workout.  I felt tired and bloated from eating poorly yesterday, and I moved lethargically between sets.  Normally I wouldn't only do 2 sets of each thing, and normally I'd use heavier weights... but at least I hung in there and worked out.  I could easily have scrapped it and gone home.  But I kept reminding myself that this was going to be one of the hardest days:  the first day.  

Here's what I've eaten today:

6 AM:  medium banana, 1 tbsp. organic raw almond butter (200)
9 AM:  3/4 c. scottish oatmeal, 2 tbsp. ground flaxseed, 1 tbsp. chia seeds, 1/3 c. organic goat yogurt, 8 oz. almond milk (430)
1 PM:  6 oz. new york steak (lean only), 1 c. cooked white rice (I know, it should have been brown... but it was leftover from our Cuban feast) (550)

And here's what I expect to eat later:

4 PM:  salad with field greens, roasted zucchini and carrot, avocado, and mustard vinaigrette (200)
7 PM:  pudla (chickpea and vegetable pancake) ... (?)

Alright.  Ready for it?  I had to wait until after I'd pooped to take these photos.  Is this a thing that normal people do?  Probably.  Is this a thing that normal people talk about?  That's irrelevant.  There is a lot of talk about poop at our house.  That's what happens when you have a four month old baby.  Or, you know, the mind of a teenage boy.  Or both.   Let's do week 1 photos.

By the way, that's my favorite nursing bra.  It's from Hot Milk.  And those panties are ridiculous.  Thank you, Heather.  I love ridiculous panties.  Especially purple leopard print ones.  

Onward!  The 30 days have begun!  

30 Day Challenge

I love a good challenge, especially when I'm competing against myself.  With myself?  Same thing.  

It's go time.  

Since I gave birth, back in November, I have lost 36 or 37 pounds.  I only gained 27ish while I was pregnant, which puts me at ten pounds below my starting weight.  The main reason for this, and I can say this with total confidence, is that I'm at home, near my kitchen.  I'm working out just as much as I did before and during pregnancy, and with equal intensity.  The workouts really aren't anything special, in fact, I'd say they're a little bit shorter than they were pre-Beans.  I used to have a lot of time to workout during the day between clients or after work-- 90 minute or 2 hour workouts were a regular thing.  Now I get about an hour a day.  

Back to my point:  The Kitchen.  Because I have my kitchen, which is stocked with green things, I've lost much more weight.  Taking the time to plan meals, cook them, and then sit down and eat them (instead of snacking or foraging) has made an amazing difference.  Even when I was packing lunches to take to work, I wasn't getting results like these, and that's partially because I wasn't sitting down and savoring my food.  I probably wasn't chewing things very much.  Sometimes I don't chew.   And I was probably doing something else while I was eating:  walking to the bank, talking on the phone, checking my email, changing into my running clothes.  

So then, the two things that are different:  1) I eat when I'm eating, and 2) I cook hot meals and fill them with vegetables.  

Now, on to the next ten pounds.  

Once upon a time, I was a stripper.

This was back in 2004.  I was twenty-four years old.  I weighed 134.5 lbs. in these photos.  I know that because they were taken on the last day of the last 30-day challenge I completed, nine years ago.  I lost nine pounds in those 30 days, and I'm planning on doing much the same thing this time.  

This time I have a lot more practical training and nutrition knowledge, but other than that, the method will be roughly the same:  eat around 2,000 calories a day (to support my workouts and breastfeeding), lift weights for 45 minutes 5-6 days a week, go running occasionally, drink a lot of water, get a lot of sleep, don't drink any alcohol, avoid sugar, and...

Talk about it.

I'll blog about progress every day, writing down exactly what I've eaten and the workout I've completed.  I'll take photos once a week and post them, and probably weigh in once a week, too-- though not today, because I don't want to know today.  It's important to be respectful and know your boundaries... and I ate a ton of crap yesterday and am super-bloated today, and it would not be good for my mental health at all to see those 2.6 g. of water per g. of carbohydrate that I'm storing.  

Anyway, follow along!  Let's make some progress.