The Books: January Wrap-Up

Alright, let's talk about a quiet goal I started with this year: read more.

It's so simple right? And for an absolute book-nerd like me, it should be easy enough.

I decided that I was going to try to read one book a month, but at the very least, I was going to read six books this year. And y'all? There was a time when I read six books in a month. And I miss that. I miss the constant immersion in a story. (I mean, Shondaland is nice and all, but waiting every week - ahem - months to see what happens on Scandal? Ya girl needs more.)

Frankly, I also have a ton of books on my to-read list, and ton of books that I have accumulated that I still need to read.

So, off I went.

And so far so good!

Here we are, January 31st, and I have nearly finished Chip and Joanna Gaines' The Magnolia Story. By which I mean I'll likely finish it tonight. Not done yet, but you know, death happened, and Scandal happened, and Greys happened, so yeah, the book took a back seat this week.

I also tried Audible for the first time this month - huge. fan. I plowed through Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone in less than three days.

Then, I downloaded Trevor Noah's Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Let me say this, if no cheesy Audible commercials have convinced you to try it yet, let either of these books do the job.

If you don't know, Trevor Noah is the current host of the Daily Show, and yes, South African. While his accent is a great addition to the story, it's his knack for language (of which he speaks eight,) and his perfect comedic timing that just make this audiobook so worth it. Seriously. I'll be recommending this book all year - but the audio version is going to give you a 100% better experience.

Side note: I don't read many autobiographies, so the fact that I have loved this one so much, and made it about half way through in less than a week, that says a lot. I've also learned a lot about the intricacies of South African apartheid culture - which I am loving. 

And I don't think you need an argument for immersing yourself into the world of Harry Potter at all - let alone via audiobook. But if you haven't reread in a while, get to it.

Next on the list?

Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit (a classic, which I started rereading just after her passing last year.)
The Ship of Brides, Jojo Moyes (I've ranted and raved about how wildly I love her books before, I assume this will be no different.)

The Run Down and The Return

I realized this morning why I haven't been able to write anything worth publishing in a is because I was keeping so much behind the scenes, every story, and every thing I tried to share was just too vague.

So here's the run down:

Since October I have been feeling pretty deflated, in some of my work, in my mental health, in my physical health, I've just been off.

In November, I went to Creative at Heart in Memphis and cracked my heart open. I hit my stride with some personal short and long term goals, and thought I was back on track.

I wasn't.

I don't know if it was the holidays, the weather, what I was eating, cutting down on my workouts, feeling less than at work, feeling like I wasn't doing enough as Miss Vermont, feeling like my body was just...gone, or all of the above. But I was off.

That's really mostly persisted until the start of January. And I've had a bit of a reset. I'm getting back up to 4 and 5 days a week in the gym. My diet is not holiday-goodies-and-comfort-food focused. I'm still doing my damnedest as Miss Vermont, and reminding myself every day that it goes in waves. My body, well, I'm working on it.

I still have rough days. I still get those feelings of, when the heck is this going to happen for me? But I'm working on contentment...again. I'm working on trusting the process...still.

And, frankly, we've never really done this before guys - but I'm gonna be honest - on a interpersonal level, things have been really good.

I mentioned that I'm trying to be more intentional in my relationships. I'm focusing on lifting others up, on connecting in more ways than tagging people in facebook memes, on generating something that...means something. I've always been the type of person who wants to do so much for the people she cares about, this year I am making it a priority.

Friendships are good, and are something I'm constantly trying to work on.

Miss Vermont, and Pure Barre relationships are something I am working on nurturing, truly, by challenging myself to just give more.

And yes, you might know about The Mountain Man. That's just been the brownie on this 2017 Sundae. But, because I feel like it's only 50% of my story to share, that one's gonna stay behind the scenes a little longer. But I'll say this, it's been really really really good, despite all the shitty things that have happened in the last few months.

That's it. That's the run down, now, let's get back to it.

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.