Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Breaking My Carb Addiction

According to the CDC, 35.7% of American adults are obese--not overweight, OBESE.

Look around your kitchen. How much of your food comes in a box? How much is frozen? How many items in your kitchen come in individual wrappers? If you're an average American, the answer is probably "most." Do you eat cereal, granola bars, donuts, or other processed foods for breakfast? According to the USDA, 63% of the Standard American Diet is comprised of processed foods. If you've been inside a grocery store in the past 30 years, that data shouldn't surprise you. But it should alarm you. Again, not that it takes a post-graduate degree to figure it out, but a diet high in processed foods and low (7-12%) in fresh vegetables leads to poor health and a host of deficiencies and diseases.
Let me start by saying that "being fat" is not a medical problem so much as the manifestation of a number of more serious issues. Again, I shouldn't need to tell you that obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancer. What frustrates me the most is how little we are willing to do about it as a country. By no means am I standing on a soapbox right now. I am included in that "we" as I sit ten feet away from a pantry full of cookies, cereals, and snacks, a freezer full of "Weight Watchers" desserts, and a counter laden with several types of chips. I am angry that I have allowed myself to be surrounded and consumed by these industrial foods, while we ALL know what we should be eating instead. Say it with me, people: "Eat your vegetables!"

We know our diets are bad, but what is it that is doing the most damage?
  • High-carb foods. Think vending machine garbage. The stuff you feel horrible about eating even while you are eating it. 
  • Trans-fats. They come from hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils and can be found in most processed foods. (If you don't care to follow the link, just know that your Lean Cuisines and Ramen Noodles are on that list, but chances are so are your cereals and salad dressings.)
  • Sugar. ALL sugar. Even "raw" sugar, maple sugar, molasses, and honey. If you are using it to sweeten something that is not naturally sweet, it is probably contributing to your addiction to sweets (and carbs in general.)
  • Refined (white) flour. Basically most breads and pastas. Remember that healthy diets contain a rainbow of foods and white is not a color. (With the exception of white fruits and veggies, of course.)
I am extremely confident in my views of nutrition, and I am more than happy to debate food choices with you. I look forward to posting about low-carb vs. low-fat diets. (If we should be following supposedly successful "low-fat" diets, why are we still so fat?)

Anyway, my research on the subject of nutrition has led me to a deep interest in Paleo and Primal lifestyles. I am very attracted to the idea of eating whole foods, being closer to nature, and getting back to the diets we had as healthy Americans before the industrial revolution flooded our dinner tables (and our poor, unfortunate digestive tracts) with grains like wheat and corn. Unfortunately, I have a problem most of us seem to have. I am addicted to carbohydrates.
Eating carbohydrates releases serotonin (a "feel good" chemical) which is why many carb-rich foods (mac 'n cheese, ice cream, mashed potatoes, etc.) are considered "comfort foods." The problem is that many people become dependent on this feeling, leading to a dependence on such foods. Ironically, carb addiction can also lead to serious problems like eating disorders and depression.
How many of you have tried to start a "low-carb" diet like Atkins? How many of you failed to follow through after the first week because you couldn't handle the cravings, or you were sick with headaches, nausea, and fatigue? Those are called withdrawal symptoms, folks. It is a real addiction, and it is nearly impossible to quit cold-turkey.
I am in a somewhat unique situation in which I do not have much control over the foods that come into this house, but I am going to attempt a 21-day sugar detox in order to reset my palate and hopefully make it easier to wean myself off of carb-rich foods and transition into a diet that is more in line with the Paleo lifestyle I admire so much. Will it be cheap? No. Will it be easy? Of course not. But, damn it, these foods are literally making us sick and I'm not going to sit back and let it happen anymore! Anyone care to join me?

Making Donations

I mentioned in my last decluttering post that I dropped off several bags of clothing to Goodwill. I don't have any personal affiliation or preference for charitable organizations. As far as I'm concerned, they are all (at least if they are legitimate charities) in existence to provide assistance to people who are in need, whether it is after a tragic event or a lifetime of struggling. You may prefer to donate to a charity that contributes to a specific cause, church, or local group. I highly recommend checking with the Google Fairy to find a local organization that is in line with your beliefs if that is the case. That way, when you donate, you may feel more motivated because you are not just getting rid of stuff, you are giving to a cause you believe in.

A few helpful tips for making donations:
  • Get a receipt if you plan to claim your donation on your taxes. Make a reasonable estimate of the value of the items you are donating. Be sure to not overestimate, lest the IRS come to question you about that $3000 teapot you generously donated to the Salvation Army. If you do wish to claim over $500 in donations for the year, contact a tax adviser to find out what forms you will need to fill out.  Goodwill and the Salvation Army both have guides available to help you get an idea of what your items are worth.
  • Find out if any local charities will pick up in your area. Also, find out what they will pick up. Some will take whatever you have, others will only take large items like furniture, heavy equipment, and vehicles. Another consultation with the Google Fairy is in order here, as even with larger organizations like the Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity, policies may vary from city to city.
  • Make sure your items are in clean and in useable condition. It is unfair to include damaged or dirty items in your donation. Please remember that most organizations are run by volunteers; don't waste their time by forcing them to throw away your garbage. 
  • If you have a large donation to make, you may want to call ahead to find out if the local store has room for your stuff. It would really suck if you loaded up a truck full of household goods to drop off only to be turned away at the door, wouldn't it?
  • Finally, be sure you are donating to a legitimate organization. They should have a tax ID and be willing to give you a receipt. If not, you may want to take your goods elsewhere. 
Enjoy clearing out the clutter, guys. It feels just as good to unload a bunch of unwanted junk as it does to buy it, and it costs much less. ;)

Monday, July 30, 2012

My Love for Cloth

My love affair with cloth diapers actually began before my daughter was even born, and continues to evolve through research and experience. The first time I heard someone mention trying cloth diapers, I was a skeptic. My immediate thought was, "Eww. No way I'm ever doing that!" Then I asked myself (maybe in my head, maybe out loud...) "Why not?" I figured I should at least see what it was all about before scoffing at the idea. Guess what? I didn't have an answer. Every preconception I had about cloth was wrong. I thought it would be complicated. I thought it would be messy. I thought it would be expensive. I was completely wrong.

It's easy! Sure, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which types and which brands to use, how to wash them, when to wash them. How will I know these will fit? How do I know they won't leak? Can I use them in public/on trips/at night? The best thing you can do is pace yourself when first learning about cloth. There are a ton of valuable resources online. Many online retailers include a FAQ/help section (Kelly Wels has even written a highly recommended book) and there are several forums dedicated to cloth diapering as well as websites that contain reviews of almost every brand and type of diaper on the market.
Having done six months of research before my little monkey was born, I can answer most questions about cloth now without even hesitating, or at least tell you where to find an answer.
My stash: I have a bit of a variety. I have mainly fitteds and covers, pockets, and a few AIOs. I also have a few stacks of prefolds around, but I've found that I don't prefer them like I thought I would. (It happens.) 

It's inexpensive! The reason many people believe cloth diapers are expensive is because of the upfront cost. Yes, it does sound crazy to spend $15 on a diaper when you can get 50 disposables for that amount. But you get hundreds of uses out of cloth (and obviously only one out of disposables.) It's also possible to buy pre-loved diapers (from retailers and other moms) to cut costs. Every online retailer I've visited ALWAYS has items on sale and clearance. And if you're still not sure, you can try/rent diaper packages for a minimal investment.
My stash: I purchased most of my prefolds, fitteds, and covers from the swap (FSOT) on for great prices. I have also purchased sale/clearance dipes from online retailers like,, and and had wonderful experiences with each!

It's not any messier than using disposables. Trust me. A poo explosion doesn't care what material is on your baby's bum. When you have a baby, you accept that you will have to tolerate a certain level of grossness. I haven't found cloth to be any grosser, messier, or smellier than disposables. I actually HATE how squishy disposable diapers get when they're full of pee. It's so unnatural.
My stash: I wash my diapers every two days in a front-loading washer with Tide Original (and occasionally OxyClean if there are any exceptionally impressive poops) on hot (Heavy Duty cycle with a prewash and and an extra rinse) and it takes 2 hours. I dry everything that doesn't contain PUL (so my fitteds, prefolds, and inserts) on hot. Everything else gets line dried. NO FABRIC SOFTENER! Fabric softener and dryer sheets leave a film on fabric that keeps it from absorbing moisture, leading to leaks. There are several theories on how to wash your diapers and what detergents to use, but I have found that this works for me.

With that said, I want to celebrate our first week of EXCLUSIVELY using cloth diapers! At first I was afraid (I was petrified. OK, bad joke...) of using cloth in public, but I got over that. But we were still using disposables at night because I was afraid of leaks. When my Pampers Baby Dry overnight diapers actually leaked all over my little monkey's jammies halfway through the night (even though they are supposed to last 12 hours) I decided enough was enough. What did I have to lose by trying cloth at night? The answer: nothing. But I do wish I could get my $10 back for those horrible disposables. Ugh.
My stash: I currently use BumGenius 4.0 pocket diapers with one stay dry (microfiber) insert and a Thirsties hemp insert for added absorption. No leaks so far!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Moment of Weakness

Hi, my name is Kiersten and I am addicted to designer handbags. This particular bag almost did me in yesterday. As I was waiting for Plato's Closet (we'll get to that in a second) to evaluate the four bags of clothing I brought to them, I stopped by TJMaxx which was conveniently located two stores down. I was only there to look, but this B. Makowsky had other plans for me. I normally avoid the rows of more expensive bags, because I wouldn't pay for them even at the outlet price. BUT! This gorgeous, roomy, buttery soft, genuine Italian leather bag (in my favorite color, mind you) was on CLEARANCE! It was marked down to $80.
So the bargaining began. "I can get rid of another purse, so it wouldn't be accumulating." "This doesn't count as clutter, it's useful!" "I'll come back after Plato's Closet pays me. Then I'm not really spending any money." Once I recognized the symptoms of my addiction, I knew I needed help resisting temptation. I called on my Facebook friends to talk me down. (Great job, by the way.) And that was it. Do I still desire this bag? Heck yes, it's gorgeous! But it doesn't fit into my ultimate plan and it would be a step back in the decluttering process. So, as far as I know, it is still sitting on the clearance rack at the TJMaxx in the Gaitway Plaza waiting for some thrifty fashionista to fall in love with it.

Plato's Closet... I have a love/hate relationship with this place. I feel like their prices are fair. (I got $45 for 8 pieces of clothing yesterday.) The problem is that they are SO picky! I went in with four bags of clothes yesterday and walked out with 3 1/2 to then drop off at Goodwill. I went in last week and walked out with everything, because apparently I am an 80-year-old woman and my style is "too mature." Pssh. OK. But I see it this way: I have already committed to tossing out whatever I bring to them, so what do I have to lose?

I love donating clothes because they take up so much space, and once they're gone I feel so relieved that I don't have to wash, dry, fold, pack, or unpack any of these items ever again. Your mission, if you choose to accept it (is that phrase trademarked?) is to donate at least one bag of clothing this week. There must be something you own that is just too big, too small, too old, or too worn out to take up anymore space in your closet. So why let it?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Workout Plan

As I've said, prior to getting pregnant I was in great shape and training to be a powerlifter. That means improving on the "big three" (squats, deadlifts, and bench press) at every gym session. I was actually doing really well, too! I weighed around 112lbs and my memory is a little fuzzy, but I believe I was squatting 105, benching 115, and deadlifting 135. Pretty cool, right?
The plan was to maintain my strength through pregnancy by continuing to lift with lighter weights. I cut way back on weight and my trips to the gym became more and more infrequent once my husband left for basic training, so that plan pretty much failed.
Once my daughter was born, I had the overwhelming desire to jump back into my workouts ASAP. I knew I wasn't supposed to lift, so I popped in a few P90x DVDs and even though they practically killed me, it felt great to get moving again. Unfortunately, my daughter had other plans. We were having trouble with colic and breastfeeding, so I decided to hold off.
Now that we have established some semblance of a routine, I am finally able to get back to my glorious free weights! At first, I just tested the waters a little bit. Let me tell you, things happen to your body after incubating and pushing out a tiny human. I could tell right away in my squats that the width of my hips had changed as had my flexibility. I knew then that I had to go slow with adding more weight and focus on form. If that meant starting from scratch at 45lbs for each lift, so be it.
This week was the first week of my new plan. I stole a lot of inspiration (ok, I stole pretty much everything) from Wendler's 5-3-1. I work one of four major lifts and three assistance exercises each day I go to the gym. Since I'm able to go three times a week, I am rotating like this:
Monday: squats
Wednesday: bench
Friday: deads
Monday: overhead press
Wednesday: squats
Friday: bench
The key here for me is to add weight every time I go, even if it's only 2.5lbs. Progression is absolutely vital if you are trying to get stronger, and since my daughter has pretty much doubled her body weight since birth and still has at least ten more months before she starts walking... I definitely need to get stronger.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Getting By

The intent here, if you haven't seen it, is my attempt to introduce each of the main topics this blog will address (health/fitness, clutter, spending) before really going into anything specific. I want you all to see where I'm coming from. I'm not an expert in any of these areas, so I only have my own experiences and personal research to share. I hope you're not too disappointed by that.
Before we decided to start a family, my husband and I were most concerned about our finances. We are fortunate enough (I say fortunate, but we worked our butts off...) to be almost completely debt-free. Our credit card debts were paid off before we were married, we own our vehicles outright, and are currently paying on my student loans and our mortgate. How? The same way we got in shape. The hard way. We made sacrifices. How do you pay off debt? You work, you earn a paycheck, you don't spend money on frivolous things. No racking up bar tabs, no new clothes, no movie dates. Was it easy? No. Was it enjoyable? Not always. But we are much better off financially for it.
One huge factor in our family planning was my husband's decision to join the Army. Obviously, he wasn't the typical recruit--28 years old, married, college education. It's a decision we made together, and if we hadn't, it might have been years before we were financially ready to have a child. I won't get into bonuses and other financial benefits, because that's a little tacky, but suffice to say I am able to stay home with our daughter instead of going back to work as a teacher in two weeks. Again, the key word is sacrifice. We've discussed on several occasions the plan to make sacrifices now in order to build a secure future for our children and ourselves. Would I have loved for my husband to be in the delivery room when our daughter was born? Of course. Does he want more than anything to be here to create a bond with his baby? Absolutely. Would my life be MUCH easier if I could wake him up in the middle of the night when she won't go to sleep (again...)? OMG, yes. But we keep reminding ourselves of the ultimate goal here and that we are doing the right thing. Trust me, it's not always easy. Anyway, we were talking about finances, right?
Since I'm not working, obviously we are down to a single income. Like I said, we have very few expenses, especially considering that the monkey and I are currently staying with my in-laws, who take care of groceries, cooking, keeping the house clean, and all of the things I will sorely miss once we our back on our own. I hate to leave you all hanging, but I will wrap this up by mentioning the two contributions I am able to make to minimize our spending: Breastfeeding and cloth diapers. We can go into detail in a future post, because they each deserve their own. Deal? Deal.

I hope you got through our three-part intro. I can't wait to really get going!

- Mama K.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting Rid of Things

I've struggled with clutter my entire life. I don't think I ever learned how to sort through my stuff and determine what was worth keeping and what was just taking up space. I'm convinced that my parents just tossed a few things and cleaned up my room when I went away for the summers as a kid.

That garbage bag is filled solely with my husband's socks and boxer briefs.

BIG TIME CONFESSION: Throughout most of my childhood, the floor in my room was not visible. I often had to clear a path just to get from the door to my bed. It wasn't a Hoarders-level situation, but I was a messy kid. What did I learn from this? It's difficult to have a MESS if you don't have STUFF.
Since I came to that realization, I gave made it my mission to lug around as little as possible. How am I working on that now?

This closet has undergone several declutters.

I am currently clearing out closets to prepare for our October/November PCS to Ft. Hood. And I'm doing it alone since my husband is in Georgia until said PCS. We tend to accumulate clothing and shoes most easily, so I'm starting there. Again, this post is on the verge of becoming too long, so I'll save my Plato's Closet rant for another day. But believe me, it IS coming!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting Back in Shape

I was in great shape before I got pregnant. My husband and I did a round of P90x after our wedding and I lost 10 pounds. We cut out carbs, alcohol, and ate most of our meals at home.
I started powerlifting with the goal of competing initially at the novice level. Just when I had gained the strength and momentum to start getting serious about competition, I broke my finger (putting up a 50# dumbbell...) and was in a cast for two weeks. Soon after, I got that BFP! 
The day before I broke my finger.
My midwife insisted I could continue my exercise routine until I told her that included benching, squatting, and deadlifting more than my body weight. I was then told that I was limited to lifting 20-25lbs. Apparently, it wasn't safe for me to do more than 20% of my lifting capacity, but girls who have only ever done 5-10# curls and tricep extensions could continue at the same level and even quadruple their load if they wanted to... *major eyeroll*
I was terrified of a miscarriage, so even though I had done enough research to reassure myself that I could continue lifting as long as I felt comfortable, I decreased my load dramatically. I cut deadlifts completely, dropped my squatting weight to 75#, and only did incline bench presses with 25# dumbbells.
At six months pregnant, I cut strength training almost completely and reduced my routine to walking around the neighborhood. I was swollen, hot, and uncomfortable. It was all I could do.

Six months pregnant.
41 weeks pregnant and wider than I am tall... (The day before I gave birth.)

 Looking back, I regret not trusting myself and continuing to lift, but this was my first baby, and I was nervous. Now I am paying for it. My little girl is 11 weeks old and I have only lost about half the baby weight. I have 12lbs to go to my pre-pregnancy weight, and about 15-20 to my ideal weight. How am I going to get there? For starters, I'm back at the gym three days a week and it feels great! Before this gets anymore tl;dr I will end it here and share my routine another time. 
The only post-partum picture I could find. Me and Monkey Girl, 2 months old.

Monday, July 23, 2012

What This is All About

A lot in my life has changed recently. Within the last 5 years (since graduating college) I have started a career, gotten married, purchased a home, had a baby, and become a stay-at-home-mom. My husband also joined the Army and will be graduating AIT in October. Then we will be on our way to Ft. Hood, TX. With so much changing and taking care of an infant, I need to minimize the stress in other aspects of my life.

What causes me the most anxiety is clutter, money, and my health. These are going to be the main focus of my blog, so you will read all about my ventures in Paleo, powerlifting, parenting, minimizing, and budgeting. Not that I place myself in any box, but I breastfeed, wear, and cloth diaper my baby. I plan to make my own baby food and teach her sign language as well. If that makes me crunchy, so be it. I am passionate about fitness and nutrition and you will be virtual witnesses to my rants on the gym, processed foods, and lazy people. I am trying VERY hard after living a life full of STUFF to get rid of as many material possessions as possible in order to free my mind and simplify my life (and the infamous military moving process.) And finally, I have taken on the new challenge of budgeting on a single salary while saving and investing for our future. All while being completely clueless about finances other than knowing that it is a good idea to spend less than you make. So this should be fun! ;)