Category Archives: nutrition

My elimination diet experiment

Four weeks ago, I set out on an adventure to live life gluten- and dairy-free. After a challenging 7 months of ups, downs, and life transitions, I had not been feeling my healthiest. I wasn’t ready to commit to a full Whole 30, but I felt these were 2 things I could reduce, if not fully eliminate, from my diet. After all, my endocrinologist suspects my thyroid disease could be Hashimoto’s aka autoimmune … and a gluten/dairy/soy free lifestyle support health in AI cases. (I’m generally soy free most of the time except the occasional soy sauce with sushi.)

At the same time, I stepped up my fitness. I took 13 Jazzercise classes, practiced yoga 3 times, and completed 2 sessions of a women’s health yoga workshop. I also did bonus activity by joining a second line in my neighborhood and logged about 21,000 steps that day!

My results:

  • Lost 3.7 lbs (at one point in the month I was down 5.5 lbs!)
  • Lost 5.25 inches (most notably, 2 inches from my abs and 1.25 from my hips)

Here’s what I discovered on my four-week journey:

It’s easier to be gluten-free than dairy-free. Particularly when eating out, I found it much easier to find gluten-free friendly options not requiring additional modification, but often would need to ask for cheese to be skipped. CHEESE. IS. ON. EVERYTHING. I never realized that before this experiment.

As for gluten-free choices, I started first by focusing on lean proteins, fruits, and veggies. It was only later in the challenge that I allowed myself first quinoa and sweet potatoes, and then rice and white potatoes. I think if I keep going most of the time on gluten-free, I’ll probably limit rice and white potatoes where I can. I didn’t always feel my best after having them.


I don’t want to give the dairy-free life a total bad rap though. I found I really like almond and coconut milk creamers; I feel this is a substitute I can keep in my life. I also found going dairy-free made it easy to avoid added butter, when it was presented to me.

Catered events are generally a nightmare. First, there is no way to know HOW the foods were prepared. Many times, butter is involved, so that kills the dairy-free plan. Second, I never noticed how many catered event options were gluten- and dairy-heavy until I chose to avoid them. Cheese and crackers. Pasta. Sandwiches. I attended a gala in this time frame, and had some gumbo from the buffet, even though the roux was made with white flour because there weren’t many more options for me on the menu. There were also a few bites of fried items during the month, which likely also were violations.

I did find I had more fruit during this time period than I normally do at such functions. And one breakfast meeting had Kind Bars along with the muffins. I did find in week 3 a few times where I did slip a half and half tub into coffee at such functions; I am just not a person to drink black coffee. But I normally would use two, so that was progress.

Meal planning is critical. One of the weeks, I had lunch meetings/events almost every day of the week, so I chose to skip grocery shopping and just stop to buy salads at various outlets each night. While I may have spent close to what I did for a week of groceries, it was a little exhausting to take on each night, and that didn’t really leave me snacks for the week. Snacks are important on this adventure! I really came to love popcorn and fruit.

The weeks that I spent the weekend prepping meals for leftovers, it was super easy to stick to the plan and avoid the temptation of eating out and possibly veering off plan. My lesson learned is to stay healthy, I need to plan nearly all my meals each week.

Adding exercise makes a difference. It was serendipity that at the same time I started this challenge, a Jazzercise challenge started. The goal is 40 classes between June 1-July 31. I set a goal to do half this month. I achieved 13 classes so far. While short of my goal, that is one of my most active months this year in class, and I think it’s where the inches lost came from.

I also signed up for a yoga studio membership at the end of May, so adding this to my workout schedule offered balance during times of stress and kept me from emotional eating. I noticed a few times where I craved carbs (evidently, I find po boys healing!) but I was able to stay on plan and avoid the temptation.

Abstaining makes treats worth it. I had breakfast tacos, queso, and fajitas today, and it was AMAZING. And, I’m also totally okay with not having those things again for a while! The gains I’ve made in how much better I feel are worth the tradeoff. I do think I’ll spend the next month experimenting with small quantities of dairy, such as butter on a baked sweet potato, or light cheese on a gluten-free pizza. At some point, I’m going to want that po boy, and when I have it, I’m going to savor it and then save the next one to be another treat.


Starting the journey back to healthy with self-care

It’s been a good 18 months since I’ve posted here. Much has happened in my life since then! Ava and I are now NOLA girls (though I’ll always be a Houdat at heart since most of my life has been spent in Houston). It’s been great to be in a city where living life to the fullest is a value, but jumping from one fundraising capital campaign to another, and everything that goes along with a major life change, have been rough on my health routine.

The facts: I’m at my highest weight ever, and my measurements are up there, too. Nearly 10 of those pounds have been since I moved here, but honestly, it’s been a steady climb the last 3 years with about 30 new pounds (middle age is cruel!). It’s to the point where I don’t feel the same in my body, or my clothes, and that needs to do a 180.

So that’s why I’m here, because the first step is to realize a challenge, and the next is to ask for help. Friends, I’m asking for your support as I make the baby steps back to the healthier me.

Today’s baby step was to focus on self-care. I read somewhere recently about “self-care Sundays”…and with today being the first day without plans in 10+ days, I went for it. I slept in, and took a nap! I’ve been hydrating, because I’ve been horrible about that lately. I used two of my favorite Beautycounter products: my sugar scrub and plumping facial mask. And of course, Ava was by my side all day.

My goal will be to add good habits back in over this next week, so I can enjoy fun days like Jazz Fest without guilt. My focuses:

  • 7+ hours of sleep a night
  • Activity every day…I plan to start with 30 mins and increase from there
  • Clean eating: smoothies for breakfast, lean proteins, fruits and veggies for other meals and snacks, at least 64 oz of water

It sounds simple, but I know it will take mindfulness. And encouragement. Feel free to join me in this adventure, or simply encourage me to do the best I can. I’m especially interested to learn what health hacks work for you, especially those of you who also travel or are in jobs where there’s often entertaining involved (and no input on menu offerings).

Delving into home food delivery

I feel like I’m busier than ever, and I think my scale and pocketbook are showing it. So when I heard about the concept of food delivery services, I figured it was worth looking into.

The concept: ingredients for meals are shipped straight to your door. No dealing with the grocery store, so that saves time. Only what you need is sent, so that saves food waste.

The catch of course is as a single gal, I need to be sure it is weeks I would eat 6 home cooked meals, as most services are a minimum 3 meals for 2 people. But…that’s at least more variety than me making one mega meal and eating it 6 times.

Noticing that many services have deep discounts (up to a week free) for trying them, I figured this could save me some big money upfront, and maybe some savings if I stick with any of them (with meals averaging around $10 a serving, it’s more than scratch cooking but less than eating out).

So starting in mid-July, I began my trials. I’ll post individual blogs on each as I go along but here’s the services I’m trying (along with referral links if you’d like to try at a discount!):

Better than Nutella?!

I may have found something I love better than Nutella:

2015-07-09 21.54.22

Disclaimer: I won $100 of Justin’s nut butter products thanks to their sponsorship of the weekly #bibchat on Twitter, run by the fine folks at BibRave. I’ll be reviewing my stash over the coming weeks so I wanted to be upfront about the source of my products. If you ever wanted to know what $100 of Justin’s looks like…

2015-07-09 16.21.26

But I digress. So, after unpacking everything into my pantry, organized by expiration date so I could prioritize what to try first, the Chocolate Hazlenut Butter squeeze pack was up first.

I was greeted with this text on the box: “Quick question: Do you eat cake frosting for breakfast? I didn’t think so. Neither do I. Yet some chocolate hazelnut butters have more sugar than cake frosting. Really. You can check. I’ll wait… see? So this is a warning that my chocolate hazelnut butter may not taste like what you’re used to – sugar. What it will taste like is a delicious combination of premium hazelnuts and organic chocolate for an addictive, skip the bread and eat it with a spoon delicacy.”

I was already intrigued! The description is right on though. Of course, I couldn’t get the idea of frosting out of my head as I squeezed my first taste out, as that’s what it looks like. That changed to, “this tastes like healthy frosting” on my first bite. Then halfway through the packet…”duh, Nutella is chocolate hazlenut spread!”

Except this was not as sweet, which was a plus. Because I love Nutella, but it can be too darn sweet sometimes. A quick analysis of nutrition labels clued me in to why: sugar is the top ingredient in Nutella. The hazelnuts are the top ingredients in Justin’s spread. Sugar is #3, and it’s organic cane sugar at that. The oil is farther down on their list than Nutella’s too. Also, Justin’s is gluten free and vegan as it skips the milk of Nutella, so that makes it possible for my friends with those dietary restrictions.

Nurition facts wise, calories and fat are fairly even between the two, and Justin’s has a little more sodium (due to sea salt). But Justin’s is a clear winner with less carbs, more fiber, less sugar and slightly more protein per serving.

One product down and 8 more to try. It’s my goal to try each one solo first, and then on other foods (breads, fruits & veggies, etc., though Justin is right here, you can skip it on this flavor!) … and I’d love to hear your ideas for how you would use each flavor!

15 weeks of a healthier me…

… looks like this! I have maintained a loss of 7.1 lbs, 6.75 inches and 2.2% body fat since my first 24 Day Challenge started 15 weeks ago. However, I’ve backslid a teeny bit these past few weeks (but the vacation was well worth it!). So, I’m rebooting today. 

So if you notice me without a drink in my hand the next 24 days, it’s because I’m working to get to my healthy goal. I’m pretty close to where I want to be to feel comfortable in my skin. And if I can do that by my birthday at the end of August, big bonus!