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Photoshop Before & Afters

29 Jun

I love looking at Photoshop before & afters, and I recently stumbled upon a blog with a nice round-up (featuring men, too!).

Here’s a little preview:


See the rest here!


Got burnt? Try this:

20 Jun

This stuff has saved my skin before, and I imagine it’ll do it again.

Sunscreen Rules!

28 May

It’s unofficially summertime (in the US)!!! Speaking of…did you guys see this article in the New York Times today?

Clarity on how sunscreen works and what all those numbers mean is something I’ve been talking blogging about for a while.

Here are some of the take-aways from the article that I think are particularly helpful (content copied from the article, my notes are Italicized):

  • Look for products with an SPF of 15 to 50, and that are labeled “broad spectrum protection,” meaning they protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid sunscreen sprays. The F.D.A. has banned sunscreen powders (though some products may still be available) and has asked for more data on sprays. The concern is twofold: that not enough sunscreen makes it onto the skin, and that the spray may be inhaled into the lungs. [Enough sunscreen = 1 fluid ounce (the size of a golf ball)]
  • Avoid products with vitamin A, retinol or its derivatives, such as retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate. At the moment, the F.D.A. says there isn’t enough evidence to suggest these are harmful, but the Canadian health authorities appear to be concerned that the additives increase sun sensitivity. [A lot of “skin tightening” creams (especially for your under-eye area) have retinol in them, so beware!]
  • Look for fragrance-free products. Scents bring more unnecessary chemicals and potential allergens to the mix.
  • Take endorsements and seals of approval with a grain of salt. The Skin Cancer Foundation gives a “seal of recommendation” to sunscreens, but only if their manufacturer has donated $10,000 to become a member of the organization. [I blogged about this a few years ago! Take a look at #4!]

Click here for more of my musings on sun protection, and stay safe this summer!

Whole30: FAQs

5 Apr

Arranged Vegetables Creating a Face

A few friends reached out to me during the process to express their interest in giving the Whole30 a try. But, since it’s rather intimidating, they had lots of questions. Here are some good/common ones:

Q: Is it hard?
A: Yes. But not that hard, and it got easier. During the first week or so, I would finish a meal and then panic, thinking, “Oh no! Was that compliant?” Of course it was. I planned and prepared all of my meals in advance (which is very hard for some). I was just terrified I’d forget that I was even doing a Whole30. For example, I made pico de gallo. I needed to taste it, and Richie had a bag of pita chips out, so I almost reached for a pita chip without even thinking! (Don’t worry–I used a spoon instead.)

And in the evenings, the dessert cravings were a little intense–especially during a particularly rough week (see my post on treats)–and lasted until around day 20. But, I got over it.

Q: What have you been craving?
A: Pizza (I had at least two pizza dreams), wine (I had one wine dream), peanut butter, cheese (of course), and crunchy things!!! Not that fresh bell peppers or sugar snap peas aren’t crunchy, but on one grocery run, I wanted every crunchy thing in the store, including every bag of chips. So I bought roasted hazelnuts; they’re amazing.

Q: Is Richie joining you for support?
A: No. It’s not that he’s not supportive (though eating all that peanut butter in front me wasn’t very nice), but Whole30 is vegetarian-unfriendly. It’s not impossible, but it’s very difficult. We mostly made separate meals, but for some meals, we made separate proteins.

Q: Have you been surprised about ingredients in anything?
A: Yes! Why does chicken need sugar? It doesn’t, but you’d be amazed how much has it added. Luckily, the Whole9 forum was incredibly helpful when it came to ordering lunch at chain restaurants (which I did at work a couple times). Did you know Panera has a secret menu? (It’s more Paleo, but you can make Whole30 adjustments.)

Q. What can you eat?
A: Lots of stuff! When out, I had a few bun-less burgers and lots of salads with grilled chicken. One of my favorite at-home meals was spaghetti (squash) and meatballs with homemade marinara and wilted spinach. I also rocked a few delicious curries (coconut milk SAVED me).

Q: No alcohol? Really?
A: Really. During the month, I went to a brewery’s birthday party, a concert, and a couple bars, and we even hosted a barleywine tasting at our place. I drank seltzer with lime and sometimes added a splash of berry juice. It was delicious! (Now I’m considering getting a SodaStream).

Q: Did you cheat?
A: No. Not on purpose, at least. At home, not at all. When out, there’s only so much you can do. I’m sure not all of the cooking oil was Whole30-compliant, and I wasn’t about to raid any kitchens. And I realized–a couple weeks in–that the tea I keep at work has soy lecithin in it, so I didn’t have it for the remainder of the challenge. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Q: What results have you seen?
A: Check out my results post here!

Q: Will you keep it up?
A: No! Well, not really. First, I need to reintroduce grains, dairy, beans, sugar, and alcohol one by one to see how they each affect me. But I already know I’m going to make it a point to consume very little sugar and alcohol. And maybe even dairy. Because as much as I love cheese, the truth is that I love good cheese, and I had lost sight of that, eating just any old cheese that came my way. That’s right: I was a cheese hussy.

Any other questions? Stay tuned for reintroduction posts (maybe) and recipe posts (definitely)!

Whole30: Results!

27 Mar

I did it! 30 days without sugar, dairy, grains, beans, or alcohol! And I feel…GREAT!

Here are the top five things I noticed throughout the process:

1. Snacking. Before the Whole30, I was snacking pretty much every hour, and was SO HUNGRY in between. Even with healthy meals and snacks, I just couldn’t stay full. It was especially difficult between breakfast and lunch. But during the Whole30, I didn’t need to snack between breakfast and lunch AT ALL (and this was noticeable almost immediately). I was sometimes able to wait until after 1:00pm for lunch! Being full = not being cranky or seriously crashing. And that was almost completely new to me. The only other time I’ve experienced something like this was when I was studying abroad in Costa Rica, eating local fruits, veggies, eggs and meat, and very few processed foods. Hmm…

2. Sleeping. Before–and for the first half of–my Whole30, I took a prescription-strength muscle relaxer every night. This is because, despite getting lots of sleep, I wasn’t feeling refreshed in the morning, AND my neck and shoulders would be so sore (painful to even touch lightly) for seemingly no reason at all. On the night of Day 9, I stopped taking the muscle relaxer and never looked back. I sleep soundly, wake up refreshed, and my muscles don’t ache!

3. Slimming Down. While this was not one of my goals, it certainly was a welcome byproduct! [Full disclosure: a lot of people combine Whole30 with an exercise plan. I did not. In fact, I worked out less than usual, but remained generally active.]

Before Whole30 my measurements were: 38″ bust; 32″ waist; 43″ hip (*insert catcall whistle here*). After, I’m at: 38″ bust; 31.5″ waist; 41.5″ hip

And I don’t know how much I weighed before I started (because I don’t typically weigh myself and forgot), but one week in, I weighed 152 pounds. I still weighed in at 152 on Day 30.

Not a huge difference by the numbers, but look at this:

I’m starting to wonder if I misread the scale the first time…

I’m putting slimming down at #3 because results 4 and 5 aren’t definite. But here they are anyway:

4. Energy. My fatigue is pretty cyclical, so it’s hard to tell if the Whole30 worked for me in terms of energy. But I will say that usually, over the course of a month, I have way more “down” days than I did over the course of my Whole30. Is it placebo? Maybe. But does it matter, if it works?

5. Skin. Like my fatigue, my skin issues are cyclical (if you know what I mean). But, said issues have been much more mild this time around and it seems like my skin is brighter.

All great results! Now it’s time to start the reintroduction and see what happens. Coming soon: FAQs.

Whole30 Halfway: On Treats

10 Mar

Originally posted to my family blog, here’s the latest on my Whole30.

Baltikahn Blogikahn

I’m halfway through my Whole30 and I feel great. But I’m not posting to talk about my results (so far) because it’s still too early to really tell what I’ve learned or what has changed.

I want to talk about bad days. And I don’t mean bad days on the Whole30, I mean actual bad days that just happen to occur while doing a Whole30.

Last week was really hard for me. There were little things that added up to put me in a foul mood: I lost a special ring, my car wouldn’t start, I had a very frustrating meeting, I overextended myself and was totally exhausted. I mean, I watched the last 10 minutes of an episode of Undercover Bosses and cried. I didn’t even get to see any character development!

While winding down at home each night, I wanted–felt like I NEEDED–a treat. Lots of treats. Ice…

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I’m tired. Let’s do a Whole30!

28 Feb

Those of you closest to me know that I’ve been struggling with fatigue for a while (now everybody knows!!!). Docs found a Vitamin D deficiency (twice), and taking D every day has been helpful, but most days, I still don’t feel like my usual (or is it old?) self .

Since (other than the D-ficiency) docs are stumped, I decided to take matters into my own hands and try something new. It’s a program called the Whole30, and it’s designed to be a sort of cleanse/lifestyle change that brings awareness to how the things you put in your body affect you. It’s developed by Whole9, “a community focused on health, fitness, balance and sanity, all built on a foundation of real food and healthy nutritional habits.”

Here’s Whole9’s elevator pitch:

We eat real food – meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, healthy oils, nuts and seeds. We choose foods that were raised, fed and grown naturally, and foods that are nutrient-dense, with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.

This is not a “diet” – we eat as much as we need to maintain strength, energy, activity levels and a healthy body weight. We aim for well-balanced nutrition, so we eat animals and a significant amount of plants.

Eating like this has helped us to look, feel, live and perform our best, and reduces our risk for a variety of lifestyle-related diseases and conditions.

Doing a Whole30 is the best way to get started. They call it a short-term nutritional reset. When I tell people that I’m doing one and that it means I won’t be eating grains, dairy, added sugars, legumes (what?!), or drinking alcohol for 30 DAYS, most people think I’m crazy.

But what I think is crazy is how inexplicably tired I’ve been.

I know it’s not sustainable. It’s not a Whole365. But it will be enlightening to see how my body responds to the absence of certain foods, as well as their reintroduction (one at a time, if I can) after 30 days.

Anyway. I’m only on Day 4, so I don’t know if it will work. But I think it will. I have to hope it will. 

And if the testimonials are true (and I know some are, because I have friends who have done it), then I don’t think it’s crazy to expect great things. I’ll definitely follow this up with a recap when I’m done, and maybe even check in along the way.

Wish me luck!

*Note: This was originally posted on my family blog.