Even though I wasn’t one of the three winners selected from 8,000+ entries, I’m still happy I entered the contest. Of course, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take a free trip to the Balkans (because DUH), but more importantly, I’ve never entered a writing contest like this before. It was a great challenge for me, as it required me to hone my travel story into 2,500 carefully selected words. Plus, I researched the Balkans region a lot before submitting my entry and this part of the world is now high on my list of places to visit someday.
Since I’ve not had the chance to blog in a while, I wanted to share my entry here. You can also find it on the World Nomads site (and read some other submissions, too). I hope you enjoy it! (Note: the photos were not part of the submission, but I like them.)
We’re standing on (what feels like) the hundredth hairpin curve, halfway to the Pena National Palace in Sintra, and my husband is ignoring me. Gasping for air, sweat soaking through our shirts, the tension between us is as palpable as the sweltering humidity. The shade from the tall trees does little to cool our overheated bodies and tempers. As we silently fume, another air-conditioned bus filled with happy tourists drones past us towards the apex.
Sam’s folks were in town this last weekend, which allowed us to take advantage of doing some of the more tourist-y type things here in Chicago. One of our favorite places we’ve visited since living here is the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio located in Oak Park. There are so many perks to living here in Chicago, but access to historic buildings by so many renowned architects is something we’ve really grown to appreciate. We’ve done two river boat tours and visited FLW’s home twice since moving here. It’s fascinating learning more about the people who shaped and built our city into the space it is today.
Even though this is a short post, I wanted to share some photos from Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio. I tend to take more detail-oriented photographs, but I feel that FLW’s penchant for intimate details lends itself to this kind of visual documentation. I hope you enjoy the pictures and visit this beautiful estate-turned-museum yourself!
If you’re a regular reader of my blog (i.e. my dad, my grandma), you’ve likely noticed it’s been a while since I last posted. To be exact, it’s been over a month since I wrote on this blog. I’m not sure if I can even consider this a blog when that much time passes between posts.
While I don’t want to apologize for my lack of writing or come up with a bunch of excuses for my absence, I do want to fill everyone in on some updates in our lives. Maybe I needed a full month to fully process everything I’m about to share or maybe I just didn’t prioritize the time to write these past 30 days. It’s tough to say.
What’s important is that I’m ready to share some things now. Are you ready?
I thought we’d never get here: Day 31. The other side. It’s intimidating, a relief, and a tease all at the same time.
It doesn’t help that Week 4 still held a lot of challenges for us, including a near-quitting day for me and a work conference filled with the most beautiful vegetarian and vegan options I’ve ever seen in my life. Week 4 also had major breakthroughs for us both and we feel like we really did need a full 30 days to “see the light.”(Tiger Blood still feels like a myth, but that’s ok). My awareness about how food interacts with my body is at an all-time high, and I won’t be able to forget the things I learned on this journey.
I feel too touchy-feely saying Whole30 was “life changing,” but the truth is that I will never be the same. My life is different now, and I can’t view food the same way: even the foods I really, really love and truly cherished before I started this. Do I still want to eat muffins and pizza and cheap Mexican food? Well….I do, but I also kind of don’t. I know too much now, and I know what it feels like to fuel my body with real food sources. It feels good. It feels so good that it may counteract the temptation of foods I know taste delicious for a few minutes but make me feel crappy later. Time will tell.
We’re doing a slow-roll reintroduction plan. This means we’ll reintroduce certain food groups for one day, then two days of W30 so we can evaluate how the reintroduced foods made us feel. After investing this much time into cleansing our bodies, it seems like a waste to skip this step. We’re excited but a little nervous about this part, since it’s going to teach us what foods work well with our bodies and which don’t. What if I discover some of my favorite foods (hummus, quinoa, oats) actually make me feel like crap? There could be hard decisions to make. Anyway, for the next 10 days, our food schedule looks like this:
Day 1: Non-gluten grains (rice, quinoa, corn, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
Day 4: Legumes (soy, chickpeas, peanuts, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
Day 7: Gluten-containing grains (bread, pizza crust, waffles, oats, cereal, etc.) followed by two W30-compliant days
Day 10: Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.). I’m already pretty sure that dairy screws up my system, so I asked Sam if we could do this one last.
WOWOWOWOWOW. Somehow we’ve made it to Day 25! I can’t believe it! This month is definitely one of those “the days go by slowly but the weeks go quickly” scenarios. We’re a mere 5 days away from completing our Whole30 challenge. Spoiler alert: it’s still really challenging. Read on for more about our third week, and make sure to check out the short video!
OBSERVATIONS – WEEK 3
SO. MUCH. FLOSSING. Normally I floss before bedtime, averaging 5-6 times a week, but now I’m flossing after practically every meal. Chai seeds, salmon, spinach, apple…it’s like I’m storing my next meal in between my teeth.
My sense of smell is driving me crazy. Even though I’m 75% done with this challenge, it is still agonizing when someone eats warm, delicious, gluten-chewy pizza right next to you. Or even across the room. My nose is picking up all kinds of smells, and smells from foods I really crave are sensory explosions in my mind.
Well, we made it through two weeks on the Whole30! Halfway there! There were a lot of things on our minds this past week, so I’ll do my best to recap my observations. If you’re interested in learning more about Whole30 and my experience so far, check out my week 1 recap.
OBSERVATIONS – WEEK 2
Getting the Whole30 book is definitely worth it. Even in college, I used any excuse to not buy a book. Unless it was a textbook I would need every day, I put off buying (or renting) a book as long as possible, and sometimes I wouldn’t buy a required book the entire semester. I found a lot of great Whole30 resources online—enough survival tips to get me through the program—and I assumed it was enough. But you know the gym guy that Sam says I spend way too much time talking to? Well, he gave us the Whole 30 book, and it’s made this whole past week a lot easier. There are two great resources in here: 1. a fundamental breakdown of why the program is designed this way and why it will change our lives; 2. a calendar of what feelings to expect on each day of the program (and it is really on-point). To be totally honest, I wish I had this book before we started the program.
It turns out our first week was pretty normal for active, healthy eaters (but we didn’t know it until we had the book). We were hungry, irritable, and eating a billion nuts…well, at least I was eating a billion nuts. We wanted to quit on the exact days (days 10 and 11) that they estimated we would quit. We didn’t experience any of the major withdrawals of unhealthy eaters, but we still had the peaks-and-valleys kinds of energy levels they outlined in the book. If nothing else, I wish I’d known to expect these feelings during my first week —ESPECIALLY on day 10 for me—instead of feeling isolated and alone in my angst.
Essentially, Whole30 is a strict Paleo diet geared towards clean-eating. The idea is to cleanse your body of sugar cravings, fuel your body with real food, and eliminate common inflammatory foods so you can determine what types of processed food groups aggravate your system. By enforcing strict eating rules for a full 30 days, you detox your body from all the gunk in there and, supposedly, have “a life-changing” experience (according to 88% of people surveyed people post-W30).
We’re on Day 9, or just over a week in. The first week is commonly called The Detox Week, because your body is adjusting to using the fuel you provide—fruits, nuts, vegetables, meats, and a few other hippie-like foods—and coping with the loss of foods you can’t consume for 30 days. Here’s a brief list of what we’ve sacrificed eating for 30 days (text in the parentheses is pulled verbatim from the Whole30 website):
No grains. (This includes [but is not limited to] wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn and rice into our foods in the form of bran, germ, starch and so on.”
No legumes. (“This includes beans of all kinds (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.), peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts. No peanut butter, either. This also includes all forms of soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).”)
No dairy. (This includes cow, goat or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese (hard or soft), kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream”
No alcohol of any kind.
No real or artificial added sugars of any kind. (No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, etc.)
I’m going to come right out and say it: this is a commitment, and if it’s something you’re thinking about doing you’re going to need to plan ahead. But, it is something I’d recommend thinking about if you’re interested in trying it. Since we’re a week in, I thought I’d share some of my motivation to try Whole30 and what my initial reactions/thoughts are to the program.