Monday, September 5

A living house.

Of the many writers whose works I enjoy reading, studying, and taking in - C.S. Lewis is hands down one who I respect and admire. As I look back over the summer months and begin to engage in school life, once again, I find much truth in his words: 

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." 

This summer I was a Program Coordinator for Group Week of Hope in Charleston, SC. Last summer, I did the same job at the Loveland, CO site and while both summers were completely different experiences, the same truth held for both: God always has a bigger plan than anything I can dream or understand. 

In the context of my healthier eating lifestyle I embarked on in the spring, this meant that sometimes its not about the food. Camp food (for those of you who have never experienced it) is not exactly what I would label as "gourmet" or "organic". Camp food is designed to feed the masses in a timely fashion so that they have energy to enjoy their camp/mission experience. Most of the food that is readily available in the summer (and lovingly prepared by volunteers and campers) is not what I would choose to eat any other day of the year. But, in the perspective of 100s of people giving up their time to serve a community & people in need - my personal food preferences pale in comparison. 

One of the many ways I was humbled this summer, was by the reminder that I am blessed to be able to make a decision about what I eat the other 9 non-summer months of the year. And for the 3 months that God puts me in the position to direct a mission experience for 100s of people, the food doesn't matter. 

What matters is seeing God's love transform people. Transform attitudes and misconceptions about what it means to serve. Transform years of struggle with misunderstanding just how much God made each and every person out of His love. Transform a group of strangers on Sunday into a family connected through what Christ did for us on the cross by Friday. Transform a 21 year old me more and more through way only He can direct. 

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house...You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself"

I pray I continue to be amazed at how God will continue to use me, my goals of healthy eating, and life experiences as my Senior year of college is now underway...

Monday, May 23

So, what about the food?

My trip with my family to Argentina was now over 2 months ago - and its amazing how my food eating habits have changed throughout this time.

Now, I will begin this by stating that I am by no means perfect and that switching to healthier eating habits has and will continue to be a challenge - because lets face it: who doesn't love a little sugar?

Over the pat couple of months I would say I have faced two main struggles with making this eating change. The biggest part of this food eating makeover to deal with and adapt to has been eating with/around other people. If I just came in contact with myself (or other similarly nutrition conscious eaters) then I would probably be writing a post about how easy eating plant based and nutrition dense food is! Obviously though, I love people and God designed us to thrive in relationships WITH each other - so boxing myself into a perfect food eating bubble just isn't realistic.

My second food struggle has been not having my own kitchen - but visiting my family, Adam's family, and doing disaster relief all means eating food others have lovingly prepared. All of my friends and family have been very gracious and conscious of accommodating my eating needs - but its always hard to be around the possibility of eating non-healthy. It takes a lot of self-control to turn down delicious desserts and other meals - in contrast to having my own kitchen where I can control what is and isn't available for me snack on.

I have found it really encouraging to take time to read blogs of others who are making healthy eating choices as well as continuing to take and research healthy eating/living.

So bottom line: I'm still really positive about eating, and now I am working on how this will translate into my summer!

The next thing is how have I felt??

The more I eat lots of fruits, veggies, and nutrient dense foods the better I have felt - physically and emotionally. Days I don't eat well I can tell a difference in my mood - which is really encouraging to me that I am taking steps away from being so addicted to sugars and processed foods. :)

More importantly though - what about coffee??

I still LOVE the smell of coffee and know without a doubt that I would still love the taste if I was drinking it. That being said, I think I am through the worst of the battle at least with craving coffee all the time. I have come a long way in the area of being able to cope with mornings sans serveral cups of coffee and am working on being an avid tea drinker :) My favorites? Spiced chai or Mint tea! (Green tea would be a close 3rd)

I have appreciated all of the love, support, book/movie suggestions from many of you. Please continue to share - and I love sharing my food passion too :) and will continue to post updates on how I'll be making healthy eating work throughout my job this summer!

Friday, May 20

And, I'm back!

Whew. It's always amazing to me how quickly life can take over. As I look back on the last several weeks of mine I have been all over the place literally and figuratively. I will catch up from Easter to now and share how my eating has been in my next post.

For Easter this year I was blessed to spend the weekend with Adam and his family in Indiana - the Easter bunny even caught wind of my eating preferences and my basket was filled with dried fruit & nuts (and Vera Bradley!). Our Easter morning service was beautiful and Adam's grandparents surprised everyone by deciding to drive up from Alabama last minute to join us in celebrating the miracle of Easter!

After Easter break ended the remaining two weeks at school became almost a blur. Papers, projects, finals, meetings, work...a typical end of the semester list for any college student. On top of normal school stuff, Adam and I and two other friends from school - Ryan & Hannah - were involved in planning a 1 day community service event in the Chicago area that would be taking place May 7th (the day after our semester ended).We also were asked to be co-coordinators for a ministry program at our school this upcoming year and needed to begin immediate planning for that, mainly focusing on getting leaders applied & interviewed before we all left for the semester. Needless to say it was a very busy end of a semester but God continues to bless my life in new ways every day through all of the amazing opportunities he places in it!

Adam and I succeeded in interviewing all of our leader applicants (we did anywhere between 5-10 interviews a day for a week) and are incredibly excited to see how God will shape our ministry in the upcoming year.

The 1 day service event we were involved with was also a fantastic day and great way to end a semester. We helped plan 1ByYouth Chicago which saw over 600 youth spend the day in a Chicago neighborhood serving the residents through cleaning, picking up garbage, painting, and small home repair projects. For tons of pictures of the day go here.

With the completion of 1ByYouth and the semester being officially over  that meant next stop was Maryland to spend time with my family! After a brief stop at Adam's house in Indiana to drop off his school stuff, we road tripped back to my house. It is always amazing to me how much taller all of my brothers always are every time I see them! Our visit was cut a day short when we had the opportunity to go down to parts of Alabama where the recent tornadoes hit and help with disaster relief.

We packed up and headed to Indiana on Sunday and were on our way down to Gardendale, Alabama by 5am on Tuesday morning. As soon as I get the pictures uploaded to my laptop - look for a post on this as well - it was unbelievable the damage and devastation down there - but alongside of that it was also amazing how many stories we were told of God's power and love in the midst of the destruction.

I am now back up at Adam's house for a few days - as we both work to pack and finish up last minute things before flying out to our jobs for the summer on Monday.

So here we are, I will be posting shortly about how healthy eating has been through all of this and my recent trip down to Alabama!

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure” -William Feather

Tuesday, April 19


True life: this morning I declined being offered coffee.

This was potentially one of the harder tasks to take on in these past couple of days. On top of declining the coffee I then had the experience of sitting in a meeting while everyone else (okay there were only 2 other people...but still) everyone else was enjoying their warm and soothing smelling cup of joe. I admit, I was possibly slightly overwhelmed by how great the coffee smelled. It smelled wonderful enough to make me forget about how much I loved breakfast this morning (a fresh fruit salad!) and also wonderful enough to make me consider dropping everything and sprinting to the closest Starbucks for some comfort drinking.

I was asked if I had given up coffee for Lent. My response was "No, I've given it up for life". What??? Yes. You can pick your jaw up off of the ground now if you like. Coffee isn't great for you, but man it smells awesome!

This is tough. But being healthy and conscious of what I am putting into my body, is still a great great thing. Unless the coffee is being held right under my nose (like this morning) - I really am still excited about my new changes in eating.

For this morning though, I just will keep reminding myself about how healthy my bones and heart will be from lack of downing cups of coffee every day. Because what I really want right this moment is a huge steaming mug of java.

It was an unexpected question this morning: Do you want some coffee?

And the person asking had no idea how loaded that question then became for me...But that is life I suppose. Full of unexpected moments that are defining of who we are and what we value.

The unexpected matters.

Friday, April 15

18 days down. A lifetime to go.

It is hard to believe that 18 days ago I was returning from Argentina with a new found plan for becoming healthier by simply reducing the amount of processed sugar in my diet. Now, after 18 days of eating, researching, reading, and discussing the benefits of eating only natural foods, I  plan on never going back to my old eating habits. One easy reason being, the less processed/sugar/animal product type foods you eat, the less you think they taste great anyways!

After reading the book Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Furhman I was floored at how simple (in theory) it is to make a drastic health change for the better simply by having a primarily plant based diet. If you're not interested in reading it, I'll summarize: the higher amount of nutrient rich foods you eat = a healthier and more disease resistant you. That is it, in a nutshell, and honestly I think its crazy to not actively strive for being a healthy and informed consumer. Most people (hopefully) wouldn't buy a car or house without some amount of research, so why not take some time to think and study what it is you are eating and is directly effecting your body and mental health? There are literally TONS of resources and support available to encourage a healthy eating lifestyle...

I think in many ways I have overwhelemed most of my friends with my new natural eating vendetta. After becoming aware of how food can effect your life in such a huge positive way - it drives me almost to the point of crazy that most of my college peers could honestly care less. I totally understand that only eating all natural and whole foods as a college student is really really hard, but that is not to say it is impossible. Personally, I get really passionate about a lot of things, and while that part of my personality is as much a curse as it is a blessing sometimes, I really pray that others will see my passion for healthy eating and that it may spark a least a curiosity as to why I would pass up eating college favorites such as  Buffalo Wild Wings, pizza, or food from our student grill. God has designed an earth full of food that is perfect for our bodies - without needing all of the extra salt, sugar, gluten, and oils (among many other things) we tend to add. America is becoming more and more well-known for the high rates of obesity our citizens have. Food is getting a bad rap, and honestly its not the food that is the issue, it is us. If we are the ones that are buying  the processed and unhealthy food - that sends an easy message to the companies that their product is in demand. However, back to my earlier statement about the positivity of food, for as much as unhealthy food is addicting and contributing to high obesity rates, food does not have to be the bad guy - and this is probably the first time in my life I have put that concept together.

So now, what is next?

Next, is spending a focused six weeks on increasing the amount of nutritious foods in my diet and cutting out the not so great options. My first big challenge is work on my coffee addiction. Yup, if you just thought "yikes" - that was a very accurate reaction. I am 3 days now sans coffee, and this morning was a rough one to say the least. While I have noticed that having sugar limited in what I eat really has seemed to be helping me feel less moody, this whole coffee deficiency thing might be the ax to the absence of my mood swings lately...Why no coffee? Well, one cup of coffee a day really wouldn't be a big deal - but I am used to drinking at least 3 or 4 cups every morning which is a great way to be dehydrated and puts me at much higher risk for heart problems. So coffee got kicked to the curb this week and I am definitely mourning it's absence..if anyone has a great morning worthy drink to easy my coffee separation blues - please share!

Overall eating this week: Fruit & granola with flax seed for breakfasts, salads for lunch everyday, and lots of veggies for dinner. Snacks: almonds or kidney beans (which are a new favorite food item!)

Overall mood: No coffee. And it I spent the afternoon doing taxes. But all things considered: B+ for my mood grade.

Tuesday, April 5

1 week in.

After such an excited start to my sugar detox I must admit that these last seven days have been all over the place and has been significantly harder to avoid sugar than I would have hoped. Future advice: starting any kind of change in a food diet should involve taking stock of your pantry before starting. Having been on spring break in Alabama and down in Argentina - in other words - not at my apartment in Chicago for most of the month of March, I was in dire need of a trip to the grocery store. While I began this detox with such excitement and resolve to be sugar free, I failed to anticipate that I had no food in the house, let alone detox friendly food, which was an incredibly discouraging way to start. Tuesday night ended with me eating several Gobstoppers I had sitting on my desk, great right?

Wednesday morning, I woke up determined to not let my Gobstopper guilt carry over into the new day. I managed to find some eggs in the fridge that I quickly made up for breakfast, took my coffee and water bottle and was out of the door. By the time lunch rolled around, I was unnecessarily hungry, which is not good. Our bodies need food regularly, this is supposed to be a detox, not a fast. Wednesday was the day I discovered hard boiled eggs and raw almonds. This was a feast. Dinner was heavy on the veggies, which was again - better than nothing.

Thursday and Friday were similar as far as having minimal variety in my diet and struggling to stay away from sugar. Sugar is in EVERYTHING!

The weekend was my biggest failure of this past week as far as sugar avoidance goes. I was an adult leader for a youth event with kids from my fieldwork church. The event was great and it filled my heart with such joy to see how my kids were processing their faith throughout the weekend and growing together as a group. From a sugar standpoint though - the weekend was a train wreck. In case you haven't  spent time staying up until midnight with any junior high kids recently - they LOVE sugar.
Breakfast options: Fruity Pebbles, Lucky Charms, Poptarts
Lunch Options: PB & J, cookies
Dinner: Pizza, more cookies 
Snacks: Peeps, cookies, cookies, donuts, candy (specifically M & Ms), and did I mention cookies?

I think that every student (we had 18) each came with at least a dozen chocolate chip cookies. Thank you supermoms!

Thankfully there was some fruit and believe it or not usually that was the one item that was not heavily consumed by the group. Had I thought ahead better (and had food in my apartment) I should have packed my own food items to eat. Since I did not, I had pizza and PB & J with the best of them. Also, if it is possible, I may have received secondhand sugar from merely being around all my junior high kids who might as well just bring bags of straight sugar and eat it with spoons next time. At least it would save their moms the time they spent cooking the sugar into the cookies.

Finally Sunday arrived, which meant grocery store day! I haven't been that excited to go to the store in a long time! List in hand, Adam and I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon at the store. I feel like I spent a lot of the trip in shock at how much sugar is in almost anything on the shelves. As I was reading through countless nutrition labels, I was so shocked at how if a product wasn't high in sugar - it was probably loaded with sodium, or calories, or fat, yikes. We wonder why our country is so unhealthy - how many people have read a nutrition label lately? If I was not already convinced that lowering sugar intake was important, this grocery store trip highly encouraged me. The negative aside, I was able to find some great food options to purchase. This included hummus and black olive pita chips for snacks and chicken and egg whites to make cooking meals healthier and sugar detox friendly. Also, I enjoyed picking out a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies, yes to recap - this was exciting to me!

Two hours later, a whole bunch of groceries, and a patient boyfriend still being patient - the grocery store adventure was completed!

I was so encouraged to think about the week ahead knowing that I had lots of healthy and low sugar/sugar free food to eat! I must be getting old to be this excited about healthy eating right? Yesterday for breakfast I started my day with half of a grapefruit and scrambled egg whites. It tasted great and felt even better knowing that what I had just eaten was for the benefit of my body.

Here is to a better, healthier week.

Overall mood update: I have felt more peaceful day-to-day and thought less along the lines of "the day is doomed to pull me under"

P.S. Lacey, thank you for the Eat to Live book recommendation - I ordered it and am waiting anxiously for its arrival. :)

Tuesday, March 29

21 days.

After recently (as in yesterday) returning to chilly Chicago from a wonderful trip to warm and sunny Argentina, I was struck by how many things effect the health and well-being of our bodies. Food, weather, excerise obviously, but it also can be things like relationships, conversations (good or bad)...etc. Recently, in a developmental psych class, we spent time learning about melatonin and how even your body's sleep cycle is effected by a factor as simple as how much cell phone generated light you have been exposed to in the hours leading up to sleep time...yes, texting right before bed is enough light to prevent you from having high sleep quality.

Now, how does this relate to Argentina? I was in Argentina for eight days, which was enough time to learn that the food down there was unlike anything I (or my family) normally consume in our every day American lives. Within three or so days of eating steaks, breads, and other high carbohydrate filled foods, most of us were not feeling the greatest. I personally do not like steak, but that meant that I was relegated to order other items off the menu - 3 things to now quickly understand about Argentine food: First, it is all very bland - spicy food does not exist. Second, there are lots of breads always served with meals. Third, if it is not steak, its probably going to come covered in cheese. (Case in point, I ordered a club sandwich on Friday of our trip and it came out of the kitchen buried under a layer of melted cheese. I may not know much Spanish, but I do know that I did not order a cheese-drowned sandwich intentionally...) Needless to say for most of the trip my digestive system was shot, which is what got me thinking about change.
My mom and other friends recently have been  going through various kinds of detoxing (for various reasons) from things such as dairy, meat, sugars, and processed food in general. It is so interesting to me, how every person's body is effected by the kinds of things they intake so differently. For some people, its as cut and dry as having seasonal allergies. For others though, especially women/girls, we underestimate sometimes how foods and other junk can really mess up everything from our moods and weight to the healthiness of our skin, face, and overall well being. While in Argentina and eating foods high in carbs/sugar/fats, I felt terrible. But that applies Stateside as well...

Side note: I realize this is no major revelation or big idea that other's have not already concluded or that still others will say is common sense - junk food makes you feel less healthy, duh.

That being said, this is more of a me stating the obvious publicly for my own personal benefit. Words typed out (or written) are hard to ignore. Also hard to ignore is my incessant amount of googling. All this thinking about detoxing and feeling healthier has been the primary search query of my Google adventures this morning. End result: I really want to try to eliminate sugars from my diet. To summarize my research, sugars just really end up not being so great for ya. 21 days sans sugars is my plan - based off of a fun blog I found. The main green light foods will consist of veggies, proteins, grains, and moderate amounts of dairy - fruits are a no-go though with the exception of green apples & newly ripe bananas.

Here are my two biggest personal motivations for this:

1. As a Christian, God calls me to take care of the body He has blessed me with & love others as I love myself. Plain and simple, I am here to serve others, and that comes from making sure I in the right shape to do so. I do not take nearly enough time to taking care of myself.

2. This semester especially, but this school year as a whole, I feel like I have been all over the place with my day to day moods/attitudes, which is especially frustrating and not always fair to those who unknowingly cross my path during a bad moment or do not have a choice but to be involved, i.e., my very patient and loving boyfriend, Adam (who I need to thank more often for those qualities!).

Two of the things that lowering sugar intake specifically helps is to improve mood stability and the other is overall/general health improvement - so hopefully both of those occur over these next 21 days.

So to recap: Argentina is beautiful, but try to avoid the food if you ever visit, Veggies= my new best friend, Mornings will start with coffee sans sugar. Ouy.