The Great Chocolate Race!

I know I’ve been rather quiet on here the last year or so, but rest assured my interest and passion for exercise, nutrition, and weight loss has never abated.

In fact, in the last few months, I’ve developed a love for running that has become nearly an obsession.

I have always wanted to be a “runner;” that is to say, I always wanted to find the joy in running that so many people I know had, but it always seemed elusive to me. I’d sign up for 5Ks and find myself snoozing my alarm clock, looking for excuses not to go. When I did get myself there (about 50% of the time, sadly, prior to 2016), I would hate every step of the run, and would count down the mileage like a silent prayer to the fitness gods.

But something changed. I don’t know when, I don’t know how, but something in me flipped. I think it was in the Spring, at the Winter Park Road Race. I think running the 10K without stopping, setting a personal PR of sub-55 minutes, was the catalyst I needed.

I think the main reason I disliked running was because I thought I was inherently bad at it, purely because I wasn’t the fastest.

But running, unless you’re an Olympic track star, is not about speed: it’s about going.

Once I realized that running was about the mind-body connection and not about the speed, running suddenly became an addiction.

I found myself amazed by my strength and endurance, and each run I managed to run longer, faster, and with less recovery needed.

Last weekend, I ran in The Great Chocolate Race, a 10+ mile course covering downtown Orlando. My only goal upon arrival was to RUN the whole thing; no stopping unless I truly had to (i.e. shoes untied or some halt-worthy emergency). I didn’t care about my time: I just wanted to be able to say to myself that I never stopped.

Well …it worked.

 

Per my RunKeeper app, I ran 10.52 miles (must have taken wide turns?) in 1:35:37.

1:35:37

That’s a 9:05 Min/Mile pace.

That’s more than a minute faster per mile than I planned, and it was one of the best races I’ve ever had.

I went into the run with the goal of finishing, and I ended up taking 2nd place for my age/gender.

SECOND PLACE!

Overall, I came in 45th place out of ALL runners, and came in 22nd out of all females.

When did I become a runner?

The day I decided I was one.

Bon appetit, my friends, and happy running (or whatever sport tickles your fancy),

~ Tori

Paleo Bar Review: MyHealthyEats Cashew & Cocoa Bar

Hi, friends!

So, I finally had a chance to crack into that shipment of Paleo Bars sent to me by My Healthy Eats over the weekend!

I decided to try out the Cashew & Cocoa Bar first, because, well … CASHEWS ARE MY JAM and who doesn’t love chocolate?

At a hefty 289 calories per bar, I will point out that these babies should likely be considered a meal replacement versus a snack – unless you’re a much bigger person. As a 135 lb woman, 289 calories is a substantial chunk out of my day, so I decided to have the bar as my dinner on Tuesday night.

 

First and foremost: these bars are moist, thick, and LOOK LIKE REAL FOOD.

If you recall my experience with Julian Bakery’s Paleo Protein bars, this is a DRASTIC –and much appreciated– difference.

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Seriously, this actually looks really good. Big chunks of nuts, NO MOLD (again, see my review of Julian Bakery’s bars), and a pretty substantial-looking bar.

I was most impressed by the TEXTURE: it was soft, chewy (think brownie, not tootsie roll), and had a dessert-like flavor on first bite.

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Similar to a LaraBar or the RXBars, the main ingredient of these bars is dates. This is what gives it a sweetness and the moist, thick texture that is such a departure from the Julian Bakery bars.

My husband tried a bite and thought I was having a dessert bar; so that’s definitely a vote of confidence!

All in all, I liked these bars, but I probably wouldn’t have them daily.

Here’s my voting/opinion in summary:

TEXTURE: Perfect! Moist, chewy, and brownie-like.

FLAVOR: Good, but not much different than a LaraBar.

CALORIES: HIGH – 289 is a substantial snack!

SUGARS: The bar is marketed as a “low carb” option, but this is NOT THE CASE. While it doesn’t have added sugars, the first ingredient is “date paste,” which is very naturally sugar-dense. This bar packed a whopping 24g of sugar, which is more than I normally aim to eat in a day. I would strongly advise against these bars if you’re following a Ketogenic or low carb diet.

PROTEIN: The bars are marketed as high protein, but with only 8g of egg white protein –it’s literally the last ingredient– I would consider these to be more of an energy bar versus a protein bar. I told my husband I plan to use the bars as carb-supplements while doing my marathon training this Fall.

Overall, I found the bar tasty and a decent option for those following a Paleo, Primal, Whole30 or vegetarian eating plan. I wasn’t floored by it, but I did find it substantially better than Julian Bakery’s Paleo bars.

That being said, I doubt I’ll be ordering any for myself. At over $4 per bar (almost double what Quest Nutrition and RX Bars charges), it’s definitely not in my price range. On top of that, I aim to eat less than 25g sugars MAXIMUM per day (realistically, I try to avoid sugar fully, as I’m following a hybrid Keto-Paleo diet), so these don’t fit well into my Macros.

For someone not concerned about carbs/sugars and who has more money to burn, these could be a good option. They do taste good, and I’m sure they’d be a nice treat warmed up, but they’re not a viable option for me to consume daily, both from a financial and nutritional perspective.

MY HEALTHY EATS BARS IN REVIEW:

PROS:

  • Paleo/Primal/Whole30 compliant.
  • Vegetarian option!
  • Natural ingredients (not 100% sure if they were organic, but I didn’t research it).
  • No junk fillers.
  • Available on Amazon for easy/expedient delivery.

CONS:

  • Very high in sugar (24g of sugars alone in the bar I ate)
  • High calories (between 250 to 289 in the three flavors they offer)
  • Relatively low in protein (only 8g)
  • Very pricey: Almost $37 for 9 bars! (yikes)

I do plan to try the other flavors this weekend (planned for the days I do my LONGEST training runs for my upcoming marathon), so I’ll post again if I have any additional feedback about them!

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

Product Review Coming: MyHealthyEats Protein Bars

Over the last twelve months, I’ve discovered most newcomers to my blog are the result of one of two things:

  • ONE: they read my weight loss story on either The Huffington Post or Daily Mail (or stumbled across my homemade documentary on YouTube) and came here to commiserate/join me on the journey. Weight loss and good health is a lifelong struggle/ambition, and I use this blog to chronicle my daily wins, losses, and draws.

  • TWO:  they have experienced the HORRIFIC customer service that is Julian’s Bakery and/or they’re deeply disappointed in their Paleo Protein Bars and want to see if others have shared in the terrible experience. I’ve been quite vocal about my ridiculous arguments with Julian Bakery about their subpar products, and I think, and many others agree, that the company practices fraudulent product reviews/social media praise to entice new customers, because everyone I talk to is disgusted by the majority of their products.

 

Seriously, CLICK HERE if you want to read some of the trauma I went through with Julian’s Bakery over a case of their protein bars that arrived moldy, rock hard, and with misrepresented calorie information.

That being said, I’ve made quite a few friends from fellow Paleo-advocates who’ve stumbled across my blog while looking for product reviews, or those who’ve also had bad experiences with the same company.

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Mr. Paul Easton, the producer of a NEW type of Paleo Protein Bar, who told me he planned to compete against Julian’s Bakery. Per Paul, his company, MyHealthyEats, would not only offer a superior product (anything beats the rock-hard, mold covered bars they sent, but I’m being silly), but that he would stand behind it 100% with a money back guarantee. In fact, he was so confident about the high quality of his bars, he offered to send me a sampler pack to try out and review on my website. I decided to take him up on his offer, letting him know I would provide a  100% honest review -not accepting any incentive or money to inflate my opinions- and he agreed.

Well, guess what arrived in the mail today?!

I already ate dinner (and a snack – whoops!) today, so I can’t dig into a bar right now, but wanted to let you know I’m SUPER excited to try these Paleo Protein Bars (the flavors sound awesome) and I’ll be posting a review for each flavor this week!

Keep an eye out, fellow yo-yos, and I’ll also give some life-updates this week, too!

Hope everyone is doing well! Bon appetit, friends!

~ Tori

Still Here!

I didn’t post Friday-Sunday, but it wasn’t because I fell off the wagon: I was literally just so exhausted each day from my action-packed weekend, I didn’t have the steam (or motivation) to post!

Friday my grandmother came to spend the day with me to celebrate her 74th birthday. She’s like the perfect combination between a crazy, eccentric German woman and a toddler; she’s brilliant and funny, but if you don’t keep your eye on her, she runs off and eats sand or something.

She loves the beach, so I took her to New Smyrna Beach!

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Kidding, kidding, but she does require a lot of energy and attention. She lives alone, so when we’re together she basically pummels me with conversation, which is definitely enjoyable but surprisingly exhausting after a few straight hours.

She’s also a diabetic who refuses to eat right, so I’m constantly aware of what she’s doing, eating, and drinking, making her check her blood sugar and cancelling her order (and getting herself she should be eating) when she turns her head at the restaurant.

Saturday, my husband and I spent the whole day at Disney World and had a blast. We ran around Magic Kingdom all afternoon, and then wrapped up our evening at Epcot. Despite our workout that morning, we still managed to get in an additional 20,000 steps (putting me at almost 38k for the day!) by the time we got home around 11pm. Yeah, needless to say, we crashed hard that night.

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On Sunday, we went out to lunch with friends (Vietnamese! Pho is my jam!) and then went to the Orlando City Soccer Game that night.

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Yes, I budgeted calories for that Jell-O shot, and it was worth it!

All three days, I managed to control my eating and stay on track, not to mention getting in a hardcore workout every morning!

After a successful weekend, I am going into my new work week back down to 134.2 lbs, down a staggering 7 lbs since Monday last week! I know it’s not realistic or sustainable to lose 7 lbs in one week, and I’m sure much of this is water weight, but it still put me in a great mood this morning and further reinforced my commitment to sticking to this as a lifestyle tweak, not a diet.

Hoping for another great week, and I’ll try to get back to posting daily from this point on, but I make no promises.

~ Tori

I Hate You, But I Love You

Dear Hide and Seek Alarm Clock,

I hate you. No, like, I really hate you.

You’ve ripped me from slumber four days in a row, and you’re planning to do it again tomorrow.

You yellow bastard on wheels.

Between your refulgent disco lights, your blaring, cacophonous siren, and the fact that you THROW YOURSELF OFF OF MY NIGHT STAND AND HIDE UNDER MY BED, you are guaranteed to wake me up, thus breaking a lifelong romance with the snooze button.

You abhorrent piece of cheap plastic and sticky rubber wheels.

I hate you, but I love you SO much.

Because of you, I’ve gone to work with my entire workout already finished, freeing up my evenings for personal time.

Because of you, I’m finding my sleep patterns to be slowly changing, and now I’m going to bed at 11pm versus my normal 1 or 2am.

Because of you, I’m feeling accomplished before the sun rises.

Because of you, my husband is happy as a clam: he no longer has to endure the snooze buttons of the 46 alarms I normally have set on my iPhone (no, seriously, it was bad).

Thanks to you, you wanna-be Roomba, I’m building the habits and behaviors I want, and not settling for the ones I have.

Today was a good day. I ate about 100 calories more than I planned, but I worked out hard and the food was good, so I do not feel guilty. This is life.

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

Three Days

Three days of feeding my body.

Three days of being normal.

Three days of planning for – and deeply enjoying – my dessert without guilt.

Three days isn’t much, but it’s big in my world.

Did I mention the Chocolate Halo Top is just heavenly after a sixty minute adventure on the stairmaster? Because it’s lovely, lovely, lovely.

I woke up early today (potty break – too much water in the day) and, since I was strangely awake, I went for a run …and, sort of like Forrest Gump, I sort of kept going just because I felt like it. Almost 12 miles! Just a tiny bit short. I felt so tired, but it was a GOOD tired, and after a shower, I was motivated for work even more than normal.

Shockingly, even 16 hours later, I still feel well-rested and energized. I guess fueling your body right – not over or under feeding it – really does optimize it.

 

I feel strong. I will love myself again, and I’ll do it three days at a time. 🙂

Bon appetit, my friends.

~ Tori

Halo Top and Happiness

Today was the first official weigh-in of my office Weight Loss Challenge.

I am hosting this challenge, not participating, which is an exciting turn of events for me.

There are currently 28 employees participating (out of an office of just 45), so I’ve created three different competitions to keep it fresh:

  • An Individual Competition: based on percentage of weight lost over 13 weeks.
  • A Team Competition: based on percentage of weight loss over 13 weeks for teams of three.
  • A Non-Weight Fitness Competition: based on number of push-ups, length of plank, and length of wall squat endurance.

I must say, having people weigh in (and take measurements – my personal gift to everyone who wanted it) was such an incredibly motivating experience!

Seeing people happy at their first positive successes or, in some cases, helping them understand that the scale staying still does not reflect the nutrition and wellness changes they’re making – which will have profound impact on their health long-term – has helped me put my own struggles in perspective.

My goal is a healthy, long life. Binging and purging won’t get me there.

As my beautiful sister-in-law reminded me last night, I have two gorgeous nieces who love me and I want to be a positive role-model to them in every way. I want them to understand that the number on a scale does NOT define self-worth, and that a truly beautiful soul goes much deeper than a smaller jeans-size. As a woman, I am greater than the sum (or the look) of my parts.

With that being said, I’m leaving work with the plan of enjoying an evening watching Netflix with my husband and enjoying a pint of Halo Top Mint Chip ice cream: don’t worry, I budgeted for it in my eating today:

 

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

An Anniversary Thought

Today marks four years since I originally started this blog.

Four years of successes and four years of failures, all shared vulnerably and with the hope of connecting with others who are enduring the same lifelong journey toward health and wellness with me.

For the first three years of the blog, I was consistent: I posted several times per week, often daily, providing insight into the diets I’d tried, the recipes I’d created, and the emotional roller coaster that is an eating disorder.

And, during those first three years, something magical happened: in sharing my inner thoughts and secrets with the world, I was somehow freed from the pain (for the most part) of the eating disorder. By making it public, it lessened its power over me. For the first time in my adult life, I managed to gain some semblance of control over my eating (and obsessive thoughts about food), even hitting my goal weight in June 2014 and maintaining it for almost six months.

But, around the end of year three, I started to slip.

I posted less and less. And, as the time between updates grew longer, my relationship with my body and nutrition began to regress.

I watched my weight slowly climb up on the scale, and over and over again I tried to convince myself that I would take back control “this Monday,” always excusing each binge as my last fling with food.

My posts grew more sporadic, and I found myself spending hours at the gym, trying desperately to counteract the more frequent binge eating I was experiencing. I was logging 40-50 miles per week running, not to mention the time spent on the elliptical, stairmaster, and other random cardio, while watching my weight increase and my clothing get tighter.

As my good friend Fitz always tells me, “You cannot out exercise a bad diet.”

For me, this wasn’t a bad diet. My eating disorder was back, the demons had returned, only now it had manifested into exercise-bulimia instead of the more common purging through laxatives, diuretics, or vomiting. Regardless, I was punishing myself. I was losing the battle against my body.

I randomly posted on here, more out of guilt for my silence than genuine concern for my body, and I could tell I was losing my readership. Worse, I was no longer believing anything I had to say, because I felt like I had lost any validity or right to talk about health – considering I’d stopped carrying about mine.

Last night, while out on a date night with my husband, Fitz forced me to wake up.

After reading a message I’d posted earlier in the afternoon in a Facebook Support Group she hosts about my heavy workouts (and my overeating, which I tried to playfully minimize), she messaged me on Facebook.

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I don’t think she realizes it now, and I’m not 100% sure I fully grasp it, but I think having her call me out (with nothing but love in her heart) might have saved my life.

I was spiraling, and fast. I had recently purchased boxes (yes, that’s plural: boxES) of laxatives and diuretics. It was only weeks (or days?) until I started to purge in every way I knew how. And, let me tell you: taking tons of diuretics and laxatives while overexercising your body is probably one of the most dangerous things you can do. I know it logically, but, looking back at how I was feeling even 24 hours ago, I honestly don’t think I was very far away from trying it, trying anything, to make the guilt of the binges go away.

Her message, though, reminded me that there are people who SEE ME, people who CARE, and people who expect me to take care of myself. Not for the benefit of others – not so that I can be a role model or an inspiration – but so that I can be the healthiest, happiest version of myself.

I owe Fitz so much for throwing me a life ring, because I see now I was drowning. Which, looking back at it, I don’t know how or why I didn’t see it. I don’t know how I let my ED sneak back up on me so quickly, and how it managed to spiral so fast. In less than a year, I erased nearly three years of success.

Well, I’m viewing this as my second chance. My second chance to regain control of my life: not of my diet, but of my life. My relationship with food, my relationship with my body, all of it. Fitz gave me a second chance, and I’m not going to waste it.

Expect to be hearing a lot more from me in the coming days, but let today be the first good day of many to come:

Bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

P.S. It’s good to be back.

Office Weight Loss!

Starting this Monday, August 15th, my office is starting a weight loss challenge. Normally, I’d be excited to participate (the more motivation, the better!), but this year is different: they’ve asked me to host/lead the challenge.

Wait, what?

After years of experimenting with diets and developing a consistent gym routine, somehow along the way I became an expert, of sorts. Most people in my office refer to me with questions about nutrition, fitness, and health-related concerns and, without consciously trying, I realized I’ve developed quite a passion for helping others on their journey to good health.

When my colleague asked me to lead the Weight Loss Challenge, she jokingly referred to me as the Jillian Michaels of the office. Not in the “damn, you’re a hard ass” sort of way, but more the “you’re an expert and we know you’ll push us” way.

I’ll admit it: I’m flattered.

While my own weight fluctuates between 125 lbs and 145 lbs depending on my eating habits, I’ve managed to stay between a size 4 to 6 (down from a 22) for almost four years and I’ve kept my overall fitness – my health and strength – at a very high level, even when my “love chub” is a bit higher than I like.

As a result of this consistency and perseverance, many people now look to me for guidance and inspiration, which is mind-blowing to me. The student has become the teacher? I feel like I’m still learning, but others feel I’ve learned enough to help them on their way, and that’s a very humbling and rewarding feeling.

To help motivate and lead the weight loss contest, I’m looking to develop a “double prize” program:

  • We’re going to have an INDIVIDUAL contest, which looks just at individual weight loss percentage. (Not pounds, but overall body weight percentage, to be fair.)
  • We’re also going to have a TEAM contest, which will match up three people and encourage them to motivate one another to lose weight.

I’m working to figure out additional challenges/contests for the TEAM participants, as I want this to be more than just about a number on a scale: I’d love for this to be about seeing your body grow stronger, healthier, and more vibrant.

Does anyone have ideas for office-friendly contests or challenges I can introduce for a team?

I would love any and all feedback! Thank you for reading and bon appetit, my friends!

~ Tori

Trying Something New

Well, as much as I was ENJOYING the Dine N Ditch meal plan service, they unfortunately closed up shop just a few weeks in. Not a permanent close (I hope), but they needed to relocate their kitchen, hire new staff, and take a step back from the service for a few weeks to restructure the entire business model.

I was doing exceptionally well on the meal plans, dropping almost 10 lbs in my first four weeks, but after the deliveries ended and I was left to my own devices …well, you can imagine what happened.

Today’s weight: back up to 141.2.

Yikes. It’s hard to believe that just two years ago I hit my all-time low of 123.4, and now I can barely get (and stay) in the 130s anymore.

I know it has been a combination of factors: stress, overeating, and, shockingly, overexercising.

For those of you who have followed the blog a long time, you know I’m a cardio-junkie and, as my weight started to slowly climb at the beginning of 2015, I started to seriously step up my cardio, hitting more than 3 or 4 hours on some days.

Well, as I’ve learned, you not only can’t out-exercise a bad diet (or, in my case, a healthy diet, but in MASS quantities), over-exercising can actually sabotage weight loss by making your body freak out and think you’re fighting for your life on a daily basis. Hence my weight creeping up and up, even when my diet was in check. Yeaaaaaah, that fucking sucks, if you don’t mind me being frank. Ugh.

So, with less than 5 weeks until my 32nd birthday, I am trying to switch things up and break out of my rut.

For the next 34 (well, basically 33, since it’s 11:35 pm EST as I write this) days, I am going to drastically reduce my cardio (think 10-30 minutes per day, versus my usual 90+) and look to integrate substantially more strength training, yoga, and stretching. My body has been in a perpetual state of stress for over a year as I pummeled it with intense bouts of cardio, so now I’m going to try to give those slow-twitch muscles a bit of a break and focus on building lean muscle mass.

In addition, I’m attempting to modify my diet slightly, increasing my fat in take and leaning more toward a Ketogenic plan. Not full Keto – which involves like 70% of your calories from fat – but definitely hoping that incorporating more healthy fats, like avocado and coconut oil, will help with satiety and appetite control.

Yesterday was a rough start, only because I have absolutely no will power when it comes to nuts, so my “single handful” of almonds before bed turned into half of a can, but today’s been better:

Calories: 1,611
Carbs (total, not net): 72g (about 17% of my daily calories)
Protein: 136g (about 33% of my daily calories)
Fat: 93g (about 50% of my daily calories)

I prepped all of my food for the next two days (salmon and green beans, chicken and broccoli, shrimp and sauteed cauliflower, etc), so hoping that having quick, easy to grab meals will help me stay on track. I’m aiming for 1,350 calories per day, but happy as long as I stay under 1,700, as I am exercising pretty consistently.

Fingers crossed I can reset my system and get back into the 130s before I hit 32. I feel like it’s only getting harder with age, so I need to really get control of my weight now before it becomes an impossibility, you know?

Any advice, suggestions, or feedback is always welcome.

Bon appetite, my friends!

~ Tori

P.S. The photo is totally my dinner tomorrow night: shrimp sauteed with basil, garlic, coconut oil over a bed of chopped cauliflower and orange pepper. Much noms. Many yums. So delicious.