Giving, Vision & Grace

So, I've been holding on to this one for a while.

Because the reality is, a lot has been going on since I came home from Miss America. And a lot of it has been hard. A lot of it has been challenging, and exhausting, and it has some times flat out sucked.

And really, I've been keeping it to myself because, let's be really frank, plenty of people read this. Plenty of people who have made my life hard, challenging and exhausting. And it's hard to rationalize talking about life's tough parts when you're simultaneously putting yourself in a position to say, hey listen, you're kinda being a jerk, so please read about it on the internet. 

Wait. Pause.

That's not to say that nothing good has happened since September (or in 2016 at all. Duh.) Plenty of really good, big, amazing, mushy-heart-eyes, things have happened. Actually, all in all, it's been kinda magical in the last few months. But all of that has been tapered by these...challenges.

And I think, what I'm saying is, the highlight reel has been playing loud and clear for the public. But the raw stuff, the things left on the cutting room floor...oh y'all, it's sucked so hard.

I can't change any of it.

It's over and done with.

I won't sit here and detail through the tough shit.

But I will walk you through the last few days, the big dig I've been doing in my heart to set off on the right foot this month. This month. One month at a time, maybe even one week at a time. That's what I'm doing in 2017.

First of all, I got a new planner. If you want the deets, I'll share. But I super encourage you to go out, look for one that helps you align your goals, priorities, and heart song.

Then, I filled that badboy out.

I wrote down my goals. I looked at what happened in 2016. I looked at what I want in 2017. I looked at why I have been so challenged, particularly in the last few months. I looked at what was making me so unhappy, and made a really concise plan to cut it out of my life.

I said goodbye to relationships that don't serve me. I said goodbye to saying yes, just because I should. I said goodbye to negative self-talk. I said goodbye to feeling obligated to please those that have hurt me.

I decided I am saying yes to more workouts, more days off, more jobs that make heart leap, more intentional work, more honest relationships, more constant joy, more lovin on my friends, more encouraging, more grace, more mercy.

I decided that the best thing I did in 2016 was give until it physically hurt. Until I was so depleted, so worn out, so beat down, that I knew I had done it - I had given everything.

And you wanna hear something wild? When I looked back at my 2015 PowerSheets to find what I had wanted in 2016, I found that I had prayed so hard to give. It was on dang near every page. I asked for strength to give more. I asked for the ability to give even when I wasn't sure why. I asked for the confidence to give to others, even if I wasn't sure they liked me, or loved me, or wanted to work with me. I asked that I would be put to work as tool to spread His joy through my persistent giving.

Low and behold, I spiraled out of 2016 thinking, I can't keep going, I have given everything. 

I guess, then, that means this year was successful.

So you wanna know what's littered through my goals this year?

Vision, with grace. I am asking - continuously - for the courage to pursue these big visions I have for myself. In relationships, in work, in commitment to my state, in my pursuit of doing something that matters to others. And I already know I will need grace to get me through. Grace, to power through my tendency to get tired. Grace, to fuel me when it hurts like this. Grace, not just to pardon my countless sins, but to give me the power to turn away from things like that negative self talk. Grace, to recognize when regardless of what I feel, and think, and want, His plan is going to be far better than my vision.

Just like any year, I don't know what is coming. I don't know where these visions that I have for my future will take me. I don't know what my life is going to look like in March, let alone in December.

But I know I have a plan. I have goals. And I have the last year to look back on (and sure, the years before this.) I have the challenges, and the sucky things in 2016 to look at and say, yep, made it through that. And dang, if I don't have some successes to look at after this year too.

20 New Things I Did in 2016

1. Did my first juice cleanse

2. Became a Pure Barre Instructor

3. Went to Hawaii

4. Learned how to use *just about everything* at the gym

5. Became Miss Vermont 2016

6. Threw 3 first pitches

7. Rode in 8 parades

8. Met Senators Bernie Sanders and Pat Leahey, Representative Peter Welch, and Governor Shumlin (and Phil Scott,) all in less than two months.

9. Went to Greenville South Carolina, Washington D.C. and Memphis Tennessee for the first time

10. Visited the White House, met the First Dogs

11. Ran two 5ks

12. Ran a 10k

13. Ran a half marathon a week later

14. Attended my first industry conference

15. Went to Miss America

16. Got a massage

17. Spent 14 consecutive hours in Magic Kingdom

18. Drove over 25,000 miles around Vermont

19. Visited 101 Vermont towns

20. Made a friend in every state

Whole30: Why I Had To Stop

Yes, I stopped Whole30.

On the morning of Day 10, I made a bowl of steel cut oats with frozen blueberries, unsweetened almond milk, and salt.

Because my body needed me to stop.

I'm going to be 100% honest, the next few lines are slightly TMI, so if you are male or otherwise uninterested please scroll down to the Jim Halpert gif. 

I had my period for eight days, while on the pill. Which has never happened to me. Which is not normal for my body. And which my doctor and I concluded was because of Whole30. 

See, on the night of Day 8 I had had enough. I was exhausted, and I was quite frankly, over this period BS. So I did some research.

It turns out irregular menstruation is actually really common on Whole30. In fact it runs the gamut from women who spot through the 30 days, to women who menstruate for 30 days, to women who missed their period for that month or more. (Only read a few times that women were unable to properly re-regulate following a Whole30 month, but, worth noting.

And in fact much of the research and experiences focus on two factors: a hormonal imbalance because of lack of dairy, or because of lack of carbs. Well, I wasn't eating all that much dairy before hand. But I was very consistent with my carb intake. 

In fact, my doctor made a great point, I spent nearly a year accurately tracking a daily macronutrient amount of carbs, and then knocked it down to next to nothing (I was eating sweet potatoes during those 10 days) in a split second.

My body simply said, knock it off. 

And sure. I technically could have kept going. But flat out, it wasn't healthy for my body. There were plenty of people that I found, and have read posts from, that experienced nothing like this. Many people complete Whole30 without any hormonal imbalances like this. 

That just wasn't my experience. My experience meant that, for my health, I had to start eating carbs again. 

And frankly, I was mad. 

I cried. I was pissed. I wanted this. Not finishing felt exclusively like failing.

I was genuinely enjoying the program, and I truly wanted to finish. And I couldn't. My body was telling me I couldn't.

I would still totally recommend Whole30, but more than anything, I would recommend listening to your body. Some people aren't designed to eat  like that. And sure, maybe if I had given it 60 days I would have normalized my hormones. But that wasn't on the table for me. carbs are back on the table.

I will add that even 10 days on Whole30 sparked a deeper appreciation for the amount of sugar and processed crap that can be in our foods. And yes, I'm still eating as Whole30 as I can, but yes, that does include carbs. 

Whole30: Week One

Okay, I made it.

Let's just start there and say this, I am still alive on Day 8.

This has been much easier than anticipated. Seriously. No jokes there. I think that has a lot to do with pre-established pageant-based discipline. Not that that means you can't do it if you haven't competed. But, think about it, I have gone without bagels, ice cream, and string cheese for months before. So 30 days feels...meager, in comparison.

However, it's also just not as limiting as it sounds. I thought that with the lack of sugar, and the lack of grains, I was really going to feel like WHAT CAN I EVEN EAT?! And truly, that fear really rested in what I would have for breakfast. I love oatmeal. I live for oatmeal and coffee in the mornings. But, I am surviving just fine without it.

So a couple things to know if you're thinking of tackling this in January (or, whenever.)

Prep. Prep. Prep.

Write out a grocery list, go before your 30 days even start. Look up recipes. Make a Pinterest board. Heck, if you need to print those recipes, do it. The more prep, the easier the day.

So far, I have done one grocery trip and two big cooking days. I'm headed back to the store tonight, with new recipes and ideas in hand. But I know the first 8 days would not have been so painless if it wasn't for the prep I had put in beforehand.

Learn the ropes.

Read the rules, familiarize yourself with the easiest ways to slip up - and steer clear, obviously. Know your safe foods, (Larabars literally saved me on day two.)

Know your favorite fresh fruits, and veggies, and proteins, and treat those not as punishment, or a a food you have to eat, but as your fuel. I think one of the most powerful parts of setting your mind up for this is understanding that by pressing this hard reset button, you're really giving yourself exactly what you need. 

When you only know the rules, this can feel daunting. When you say, no grains, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no legumes, no MSG out loud, it sounds long and difficult. It sounds so hard.

So, really try to understand why you are doing this to yourself as well. Then the rules aren't rules, they are the steps you're taking to be better.

You will get cravings, move on.

Truthfully if you can't make it through a craving, you can't start with Whole30. This, like anything else, requires discipline. Particularly because you are detoxing from sugars and grains, it is going to suck. 

You will crave weird foods. You may want to cry because you can't have a cookie.

Move through it. Drink water. Leave the kitchen. Put down the phone.

Do something different - because you want to stick to this 30 days, and sometimes there will be cravings that make you think you can't. Walk away from it.

Understand your limits.

This one I learned yesterday. When I had a day-old migraine, a fourteen hour day, and a lot of miles to drive. I knew that I was going to need my snacks, and as much will power as I could muster. But I also knew the top two priorities were surviving the migraine, and still remaining the best Miss Vermont I could be. Whole30 was not a priority.

And a Whole30 purist will say that's wrong. Maybe if you try this, you'll think that's wrong too.

I know my body, and I know that if I had pushed myself yesterday, and not given my body the fuel and, frankly, the caffeine it needed... I wouldn't have made it. I would've been the girl pulled off at the rest stop crying into her steering wheel because it hurt so dang bad. And yes, I've been there.

Confession: I went to Starbucks. I got a tall mocha with coconut milk and a half pump of skinny mocha.

Is that the best I could have done? Probably not. Probably could've gone with a black cold brew. But you know what? I wouldn't drink it. And I still would've driven more than 2 hours down to Ludlow, and I would not have been my best when I arrived at that Rotary meeting.

So I went to Starbucks.

Then, I ate the pork at Rotary. And maybe there was sugar in the rub they used. And maybe it was marinated in maple syrup. (I honestly don't know, because I am not rude enough to ask.) But I was a guest, and I was the speaker, and I was Miss Vermont. And I sure as heck was not asking for a special meal for an elective diet.

But when I left, I ate my cashews and pineapple, and went on my merry way. I ate totally compliant for breakfast and dinner, and I drank more water than I thought I could. And I don't feel bad.

Hold on, back up, read it again.

I don't feel bad.

Because remember, I am doing Whole30 to focus on my approach to food. I am looking at fuel, not rewards. I am thinking about what is going to make me feel the best, and not just taste good in the moment. And yes, that meant I got Starbucks.

I don't think I'll be in a position to "cheat" again. I hope not anyways. But if I do, I do. I will make the educated and calculated choice if I need to. And I'll be honest about it, sure. But I'll be unapologetic as well.

Because frankly, this isn't about anyone on the internet deciding that I didn't actually complete Whole30 because of a single coffee. This one is just about me, being the best me.

If you're up for this, and what help, give a shout. If you think you will be up for it, but want to hear more, stick around. I'm pulling together a definitive list of pros and cons as I go, and I just know y'all are gonna love that.

Whole30: What?

Alright here we are… it has actually come to this.

I am doing Whole30 for the month of December. And, if you haven’t heard about it – here’s the skinny: no grains, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no legumes.

Which, if you know me, you know I live and die by bread and cheese, and could care less about alcohol and legumes. Also, slightly shamefully, sugar has been quite the issue in the last, eh, three months. 

So. My thought process pre-Miss America was that maybe I would try Whole30 when I got home. I love a hard reset (see: repeated fan of juice cleanses) and I knew this would be a way to keep myself disciplined in the ways that I really truly needed to be. 

Well, now that I am back, and I have gained weight, I figured it was time.

And let’s get just a few things out of the way here first….

Yes, I’ll be doing this through Christmas. 
Yes, I will be done on December 30th (mhm, today is Day 2.)

Look, I love a good challenge. I mean, I chose to compete in Miss Vermont the first time before I even had a talent. That being said, I also think Christmas is exactly the time that I should be doing this. I am a holiday food glutton. Stuffing. Cheese and crackers. Holiday cookies. Pie. Rolls. Christmas Eve taquitos (which I thiiiink is just a my family thing, but whatever.) So,  I knew that I didn’t want to wait until January – because frankly, December would just be month of guilt.

And, yes, I have gained weight. I have been to Miss America. I have come home, to continue to work three jobs, and know that I don’t need to be on stage in a swimsuit. I have enjoyed Thanksgiving.  I have eaten pizza, and bread, and cheese, and homemade cookies, and M&Ms, and Cheez Itz, and Starbucks, and mac and cheese. And here I am. 

I am nine pounds heavier than I was on stage at Miss Vermont.

That’s it. In the scheme of things, that’s not much. 

But, it feeeeels like a lot. 

And no this is not about losing weight.  This is about losing bad habits.  This is about breaking the cycle that I have set up for myself with pre-workout snacks, and rushed breakfasts, and unplanned lunches. It’s not about nine pounds.

It is about how I look at food, now that I know I won’t have 5 people staring at my body.

My body is still healthy. I still workout. There is nothing wrong with how I look – wait, let me say that again, louder for those in the back  there is nothing wrong with how I look. But I need to change what I am eating.

And finally, yes, it is just 30 days, without a few things. I’m still going to be eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and eggs. There is no lack of food here. It’s just a lack of bad stuff. It’s just a lack of the stuff that makes you feel like crap anyways.

Well, except for sugar in your coffee. 

That makes me feel like magic, and I can’t have it. But, whatever.

So, that’s it. I’m doing Whole30. I’m doing it in December. I’m doing it to press RESET on the way that I eat. 

My expectations are really simple right now too. I will have cravings. I will be tired. But at the end, I will be healthier, there’s really no doubt about that. I will be happier with my approach to fuel over food. I will be more focused on what is in my food. I might lose nine pounds – I might not. 

I’m hoping I have it in me to post at the end of each week. But nonetheless feel free to check-in, hop on, and give yourself a chance here. 

One of the simplest ways that I can say why this is going to be worth it…I am worth a 30 day commitment. I am worth 30 days of not putting crap in my body. So, let’s see where this goes.

Give Me Grace, and Give Me Carbs

I have been Miss Vermont for almost six months.

I came back from Miss America two and half months ago.

My body is different. That's it, that's the whole story. My body is different. It is not that I'm overweight. It is not that I am eating anything and everything in sight. But I'm not at stage-weight. I don't look like I'm about to be on a stage in a swimsuit anymore.

And that is hard. 

I know that plenty of girls stay at stage-weight through their time as Miss State. I would wager though that most of them don't also work two jobs while holding a title. And if they do - work, and stay at stage-weight - I truly hope they do it from a place of health and happiness. Because my weight right now? It's not stage-weight, it's just my weight. It's just my body. It's just what I look like now.

It is normal.

And while I would be the first to raise my hand and say that making this transition has been hard and has taken as much confidence as it does to get on the stage in the first place...I'll add that I would be no where near as comfortable with this if it weren't for the people that I have in my life. The people with which I surround myself are some of the kindest (and most forgiving, yes, I know I'm a whiner.)

The people that lift me up, the people that support me, the people that help me remember that I am busy, and I am working hard, and if that means I can't eat chicken and broccoli for every meal that is okay. Those people make this weird transition stage of life easier.

Because let's be honest, this "normal" is still hard to accept.

It's not hard when you remember you get to eat pizza again, and you don't feel guilty for eating a slice of pie. It's hard when you think about it in terms of "this is what I have time for." Listen, I'm still in the gym 5 days a week, but that takes effort, and it's rarely seven days a week. That is hard to accept. I'm still making as much of my own food as I  can. But not having time to go to the grocery store and having to ask other people to help me cook because I simply don't have the time, that is hard to accept.

That's a normal that I didn't see coming. I knew I wouldn't live at stage-weight. I knew that part would take a little getting used to.

But the not having time to...maintain some semblance of control over my day-to-day, and having that lack of time be the thing that really forces your body out of "prep," that has been hard. Truly, it forces me to remember that I have three jobs. I work every day. Y'all, I go to the grocery store maybe every two and half weeks. That is hard.

You think that the consequence will be that you feel obligated to look a certain way. You think you know that what about your body is going to concern you once you've won. It's not that I don't wake up and see abs every day. It's that I don't have time to put in the same amount of work now, that I was putting in for the eight months that lead up to the pageant.

It's that this being so busy so often just leaves me feeling so lazy in other parts of my life.

And that's not real. I still bust my butt seven days a week, but even then, I might not have time to get to the grocery store. I still might not have time to go three Pure Barre classes, and run, and get to the gym. That frustration is real. That disappointment is real.

However, six months into this, the understanding - the grace I have to give myself on this one - that is the most real. I'm human.

So sure, losing my leanest body ever, I expected that. I just didn't expect to feel like I'm constantly in a hamster wheel, never quite finishing every single thing on my proverbial plate. I didn't think that that is the feeling that would leave me looking in the mirror, and thinking, well this isn't the body I planned on.

But I've come to a place where I can say, as much as I was prepared to give my post-stage-weight body grace and as much I was prepared to learn to accept how that looks, this is different, and this is hard, but it deserves just as much patience. We all know there's no one path to being happy with the body you're living in. We all know is a fluid place, and some days you just won't be overjoyed by what you see in the mirror. But I think knowing where our sticking points are - knowing why it feels so hard some days, that's where our extra patience is. The extra push to turn away from the mirror today, to accept the body that you see, and make tomorrow a little better.

Thank You, Again

I'm going to do one of those grateful posts that you see around this time of the year because frankly, it's another day of the week that I get to say thank you, and I so appreciate it, and thanks so much, and every other variation under the sun to all the people that deserve my endless thanks.

But thank you....

...if you supported me before I won the opportunity of a lifetime.

...if you have supported me since they put that crown on my head.

...if you have helped me keep my head screwed on tight in the last six months.

...if you have cooked me food, bought me food, or otherwise fed me.

...if you have handed me clothes out of your closet.

...if you have let me whine about the exhaustion.

...if you have driven or ridden with me anywhere this year.

...if you have supported me from afar.

...if you even considered voting for me for People's Choice.

...if you have invited me to an event, fundraiser, meeting etc.

...if you have remembered that I am still just Rylee.

...if you have helped me in anyway, been part of this life at all, thank you.