7 Day Vegan by Annie Hall

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7 Day Vegan was a fun experiment for sure. DISCLAIMER: I'm not going to remotely address my feelings toward eating animals in this post. That is a conversation for another day. This is simply my experience with eating 100% plant based food for 1 week, and how I felt/ tips for you. 

ENERGY 

  • I think I would be better able to comment on this after eating Vegan for a longer period of time. My energy was not really affected much during this week. 30 days would be the best test for my body adjusting to this lifestyle. 

DIGESTION

  • Digestion was horrible. TMI here, but just everything was flipped upside down during this week. I was super bloated, and felt like my lower belly was sticking out all the time. NOT GOOD. This is likely from all the raw veggies and beans I was eating, but if I were to eat this way consistently, this would be a huge challenge for me. 

COOKING

  • I would recommend avoiding processed meat replacements. I had Seitan once and did NOT care for it at all.  I've tried other meat replacements in the past and I feel they are too processed and opt for whole foods instead. (beans, avocado, hemp seeds, nuts, etc.) I can tolerate Tofu, and I often get it when I order Pad Thai. I try to avoid it for the most part, because it is made from soy which is one of the most genetically modified foods. We had one meal with Tofu during the 7 Day Vegan week and it was good, see: Stir Fry below!
  • Meal prep effort was about the same, with the exception of a little time saved not cooking meat. In my opinion cooking meat isn't hard, I actually find it a bit easier. I often times dread chopping a million veggies, but you gotta prep what you gotta prep! 
  • I highly recommend Lee From America's meal prep guide. I used it during the 7 Day Vegan week and pull recipes from her site all the time. Obsessed! 
  • Also, try fermented veggies or sauerkraut! I was hesitant about this but I love it. Add some of this smoked jalapeno sauerkraut to your next salad and thank me later. I also have heard from many that pickling vegetables if very easy, though I haven't tried it myself. 

PERFORMANCE 

  • As you know, I do Crossfit about 3 times per week. I was surprised that my performance wasn't really affected.  Our workouts are so demanding and I typically go from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and have a later dinner, so I'm always starving when I arrive home- that didn't change this week!  Again, it might be best to tell after 30 days eating 100% plant based. 
  • I used and am still using AlOHA protein in smoothies after working out or prior to working out. It is a bit gritty but contains good quality ingredients, 100% plant based, and tastes good. I can't tolerate it with just water, so into a smoothie it goes.  

Regardless of your diet, I feel it is super important to make sure you're eating more vegetables. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Michael Pollan, " Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." 


TIPS for adding more VEGGIES to your diet:

1. Add veggies to breakfast. Sauteing spinach takes 2 second and you can throw it in with some eggs (if you're not eating Vegan)  + avocado. OR add frozen veggies to your smoothies. They add great texture and more "filling power" (fills me up more than a fruit heavy smoothie). If you have time, steam fresh veggies and then freeze them. 

2. STIR FRY FOR THE WIN- Sam's favorite meal I made during this week was a Tofu Stir Fry. Basically tons of sauteed veggies + local Chicago made tofu (pressed and pan fried) + brown rice.  You can make so many versions of stir fry with any veggies left in the fridge, that's why I love it!  Use Edamame instead of Tofu to eliminate the soy. 

3. PREP your veggies on Sunday, or whatever day you do meal prep. You likely won't eat those carrots if they aren't chopped up! Chop some cucumbers, carrots, radishes, bell betters, etc. and have them with Hummus= my go to snack during 7 Day Vegan week! 

4. Open up to ZOODLES or other noodled veggies if you haven't already (where have you been?)! Check out  Inspiralized and give it a go.  

5. LOADED salads. Don't think too hard. Just buy your favorite vegetables at the store, chop them up and throw them on top of some romaine or spinach, add a bean or a grain if you like, and dress as necessary! I personally love to roast my veggies as much as possible to give them good flavor. (Roasted Broccoli coated in Garlic Ghee is my absolute favorite.)  

I'm not eating Vegan right now, however, I don't consume much dairy if any at all and when eating meat and eggs, I do my absolute best to source the best quality possible. I research the brands and farms that we buy from and try to vote with our dollars when shopping for any animal products.  

Please send me your questions and experiences with eating plant based! 

Half marathon rundown by Annie Hall

I'm not a runner. I've never really aspired to be a runner, or to participate in any endurance activities. I would much rather run sprints than run 3 miles, but I'm always in awe of endurance athletes. One of my amazing brothers, Matt, mentioned that he was running another 1/2 marathon in St. Louis and challenged me to join him. Matt ran his first 1/2 marathon several months prior in Arizona and said it was an awesome experience. Knowing him, he hadn't ever really been into running, so it really impressed me that he jumped right in and completed this long distance race with no issues.

I'm the type of person to impulsively say "yes" to things, and then figure out the details later... so the next day I registered for the race. What impressed me most about this, was that my brother (43) was the one motivating me (26). Matt was diagnosed with CML (Chronic myeloid leukemia) in 2006 and has since been in remission, however, it has been a long road.  He has a family, a dog, owns and operates his own super-successful business, and has many other responsibilities (that I don't) that could keep him from training.  If he could train and run a 1/2 marathon, I figured I had no excuse not to! 

My family lives in St. Louis, so we signed up for the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon.  Growing up I have always played sports and have run here and there but haven't ever gotten into it hard-core. I'm currently doing Crossfit and running is of course a part of that but not to this degree.  I had about 9 weeks to train for the race, a little less than I would have liked but I jumped right in to one of Hal Higdon's Training plans. I mixed Crossfit and running into my training schedule, so I was running about 3 times per week, with my long run on the weekend. I was training in February/ early April in Chicago so I had to bundle up and run outside, with a few treadmill runs mixed in. (I HATE running on treadmills, but it was a nice break from the cold.)  Luckily we had a mild winter in Chicago, so the outdoor runs weren't too terrible and provided a good challenge. For me it was more mental than anything; who wants to abandon their warm bed + furry dog + fiance on a Sunday morning to go run 5 miles on a gray 35 degree Chicago morning?!  Certainly not me, but I did. It was also challenging training alone. Since Matt was in St. Louis we never ran together, but talked on the phone a few times about how our training was going. For anyone who is starting to train for a race of any kind, I would recommend having a training buddy for sure! 

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I found the whole training experience completely eye opening, humbling, and challenging. People are doing WAY harder things in the world, yet I dreaded my Sunday morning run the whole week. Why?! Every day I would think, " I can't run X miles...I've never run that far before.." and then I would go do it! It felt amazing. Matt said to me during one of our conversations about training," if you can run 10 miles before the race, you will be prepared." I saw the 10 mile run on my training plan and thought that there was no way I could run 10 miles without stopping many times.  On those long-run-Sundays, once I started running and got into my groove, I just worked toward that mental goal of whatever mileage I was trying to hit until I got there. (A good playlist and podcasts don't hurt!)  I definitely had to walk here and there (thank you Chicago crosswalks), but overall kept a steady pace (not a fast one!). I was able to get a 10 mile run in before the race and felt confident with where I was at before race day. 

Matt and I were up bright and early on April 9th, ready to run. The weather was mild, not too sunny, not too hot, and there were thousands of people participating and the energy was high. We were corralled in downtown St. Louis near the Mississippi river, and stood for about 20 minutes waiting to get started. (The anticipation was killing me and I had to pee but couldn't leave my spot in the corral!) Although Matt and I never ran together during our training, we ran the whole 13.1 miles together! Matt stayed by my side, and we only walked quickly through the water stations and then got back to running. I told Matt to not let me hold him back and pick up the pace if needed, but we kept our slow, but steady pace together finishing a bit over 2 hours. We "talked" in between breathing for the first 3 miles or so, and then popped in our headphones and got in the zone. My knees and feet were killing me, and I couldn't have been more excited to cross the finish line!  

Our dog Louie was a great spectator ! 

Our dog Louie was a great spectator ! 

The race was extremely humbling. The flag runners who run the whole race holding an american flag, the fire fighters running in uniform, the older runners running for a charity or just for "fun", the handicapped ; they are the true bad-asses in the world.  Not to mention the amazing athletes running a MARATHON in about the time it took Matt and me to run 1/2 that distance, incredible! It was a serious challenge to run 13.1 miles straight and I wanted to stop so many times, but didn't.  The discipline and the mental toughness that went into the training and the race itself was well worth it. I feel like everyone should challenge themselves to get outside their comfort zone in some way, and this certainly did that for me.  For now, I have no future races in sight, but I'm always up for a challenge! 


During my training I did experience some knee pain, but some help from my coaches at Crossfit CE, stretching, and new shoes + inserts helped me get over that. However, after the race I had a major problem in my right foot. It almost felt like my Metatarsal bone was broken, pain on the outside of the foot all the way back to the heel- I could barely put pressure on it during the 4-5 days following the race. I didn't go to a doctor to have my foot looked at, but iced it and stretched consistently for one month. Using a foam roller, lacrosse ball, and some Arnicare Gel, I worked to keep the pain away. I'm still not sure exactly what was wrong with it... Plantar Fascistic, or a bone bruise... not sure?  Have any of you experienced this pain? The pain/ discomfort didn't go away for about 6 weeks, but after that it was finally back to normal. 

Please send me your experiences with running, racing, or training I would love to hear! 

 

 

Non-toxic beauty favorites by Annie Hall

Over the past several years I've realized how important it is to be conscious about what I'm putting on my body just as much as I am about what I'm putting in it. The skin is the largest organ of the body and absorbs everything we put on it, good or bad. 

I'm also a huge animal lover/ advocate and it boggles my mind how many cosmetic companies still use animal testing as part of their methods. I've been trying to only purchases from companies that do not test on animals and that are not owned by a company that tests on animals. I could go on an on about the animal testing topic, but the main point is to make sure you do your research and only support companies that do not test on animals and ideally use natural or organic ingredients! I have found that Cruelty Free Kitty, and PETA both have good lists for cruelty free and non-cruelty free companies. 

It has been about 3-4 years of slowly eliminating more toxic products from my beauty/skincare/ hair routine and i'm finally almost there. I have a couple products that I'm trying to use the rest of, because they were expensive and I don't like to waste (I'm looking at you NARS Orgasm Blush). 

Here is a list of my beauty routine in the a.m. with my lineup of non-toxic beauty products (excluding body/ hair products-will have to have a whole separate post on that later!):


  •  Wash my face with this amazing facial oil from One Love Organics (it is expensive but it lasts forever.) I'm absolutely sold on facial oils as cleansers but this is the best one I've ever tried. It removes makeup really well, and is gentle and doesn't dry my skin out.
  • Put cocokind MyMatcha stick under my eyes. This really could be used anywhere or as a general balm but I like to put it under my eyes to moisturize.
  • Cocokind repair serum , little bit over face and neck
  • Pai Chamomile & Rosehip Calming  day cream,  I bought this as part of a gift set around Christmas time and it is almost out and I'm not sure if I will repurchase. I like to use an SPF moisturizer in the summertime but this moisturizer really does calm my redness and is quickly absorbed which I love! 
  • I start with my eye makeup first to let my moisturizer set in. I use Pixi by Petra eyeliner in Bronze Beam. This isn't 100% natural or organic but it is cruelty free and works well for me. Let me know if you have a go-to non-toxic brown eyeliner! 
  • Next is W3LL People Mascara. I've tried many natural mascara's and I still haven't found the holy grail, BUT I'm loving this one enough to keep purchasing it which is saying something! 
  • I use RMS Beauty uncover-up on any red areas and under eyes. I just use my fingers to apply (later I blend with a sponge) . Again, this is an expensive item but mine has lasted me over 1 year. 
  • Then W3LL people  tinted moisturizer. I use these sponges (wet them first) , to blend the uncover up and the tinted moisturizer
  • RMS beauty un powder . I tap my largest face/powder brush in this and dab it on to "set" the tinted moisturizer 
  • Dap blush on cheeks with a blush brush if i'm using the last of my NARS blush mentioned above (toxic), or this non-toxic option that I recently bought which I would use my fingers to apply. (still haven't mastered cream blushes...) 
  • Lily Lolo bronzer.  (Miami Beach) I put this on a smaller more angled brush and apply on forehead, along cheekbones, and a little on the nose + neck. 
  • RMS Beauty Living Luminizer under my eyebrows and near the tear duct of each eye. 
  • EcoBrow eyebrow defining wax.  (color Sharon) I use an eyebrow brush and fill in my brows a tad and brush them smooth. I love this product and it has lasted a really long time as well! 
  • And my favorite lip balm is Eco Lips Mongo Kiss, Vanilla Honey

I have been using Detox Market a lot for non-toxic products and reviews, as well as Amazon. There aren't a tone of stores in Chicago that carry the products I want to try but they are starting to be sold at Whole Foods, Plum Market, and Target which is so exciting! 

I realize a lot of these products are more expensive than most drugstore options, but it doesn't have to be an overnight switch to non-toxic products. It has taken me a while to finally fine products that I like and that do the job!  I truly feel it is worth the money, and I think you vote with your dollar when you choose to support companies that do not stand for animal testing. 

Hopefully this list helps! Send me any of your favorite products or any questions you have! 

Brown sugar body scrub by Annie Hall

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Now that winter is here to stay, ugh, my skin is in desperate need of help! This recipe is adapted from the amazing people at  Scratch Mommy.  I've always been a fan of scrubs, but they sometimes can be so expensive and when reading the ingredients it seems most things can be found in the kitchen! I love the brand Now Foods for the oils listed below. You can buy this brand at Wholes foods and i'm sure other natural grocers in your area.

Brown sugar body scrub:

1.5-2 cups organic brown sugar

1.5 cup melted organic coconut oil

1 tablespoon sweet almond oil

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1/4 cup fine organic sea salt

contents of 2 organic green tea bags (I love Numi Jasmine Green Tea)

about 20 drops Lavender oil

about 10 drops Rosemary oil ( you can use any combination of scented oils you like!)

Mason jar or glass container of choice

Exploring natural beauty products by Annie Hall

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Over the last few years I’ve been trying to clean my beauty routine up, and have met some challenges. For one, I’m a young professional trying to live on a budget, not wanting to spend a fortune on foundation and the like. But, I care deeply about purchasing products that are cruelty free, and that have natural, non-harmful ingredients… AND I want the products to perform beautifully and last all day (can’t a girl have it all?!). I totally believe its possible to have natural + performance beauty products.  However, I do understand that we live in a modern world where we can’t always find or afford to purchase the most pure AND effective products. I guess I would say my must have is the product being Cruelty Free, but I’m always looking for the best. Below are a few of my recent favorites.

Do you guys have any recommendations? Looking for a go-to natural mascara.

Whole 30 final thoughts by Annie Hall

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We made it! I’m so excited and proud that we finally accomplished the Whole 30. I have talked about it so much in the past, but I was finally were able to follow through and actually do it. We definitely followed the Whole 30 plan to the “T”, and I’m certainly glad we did. In my opinion if you are going to commit to something this strict/ intense, why do it half-ass?

I have to say that I feel great! One thing I have been really pleased with is how full my meals keep me throughout the day. I said this in an earlier post but my non-Whole 30 diet was relatively healthy, but I would get EXTREMELY hungry in between meals which would cause me to have more snacks to tide myself over. During the latter part of the Whole 30 I felt very steady throughout the day and didn’t get so ravenously hungry in between meals. I’m not sure what the major cause of this is… more fats? more protein? Nonetheless i’m really pleased with this!

Another positive is that my headaches have significantly decreased. It is hard to say what it was exactly that helped with this. Grains, sugar, dairy? I guess the post-Whole 30 life will shed some light on this when/ if I reintroduce certain food groups. 

Whole 30 week 2 recap by Annie Hall

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Week 2 was much better than week 1 ! I am feeling lighter, never bloated, and my energy has been higher. I also find that I don't need to snack as often as I did in Week 1. The Whole 30 program doesn't really advocate for snacking between every meal, so i've been trying to keep that in mind. As I approach lunch-time I still get REALLY hungry (which is normal for me), but generally try to only snack mid-afternoon. (Sometimes I get caught up in work and forget to go grab whatever snack it is that I brought for the day.) 

The prep is getting to me a bit. I feel like i'm constantly cooking, and when i'm not cooking i'm planning what groceries to get for something that we need to make. It takes a LOT of preparation to have three meals a day ready to go for two people. This week we tried some awesome recipes (and some made up on the fly) listed below: 

1. Homemade breakfast sausage from the Primal Palate  : these have been a huge addition to our breakfasts considering we cannot find sugar free bacon (so far) anywhere locally. They smell amazing when they are cooking. 

2. Lettuce wrap tacos from Multiply Delicious: this is a super easy go-to. Even when we are not on the Whole 30 I love to make these 

3. Frie-cut sweet potatoes using Mandolin just slice (carefully!), season with coconut oil and salt and pepper and bake. These are a great add on to our breakfasts and a side at dinner. I can't get enough!

4. Local Salmon with avocado mango salsa: similar recipe here. We used frozen mango instead of oranges, and had broccoli as a side instead of bok choy. 

5. Pork Chops with Applesauce from the Whole 30 cookbook: I'm typically not a fan of Pork Chops, but these were so flavorful and amazing. The meal was quick, simple, and delicious. The Pork was from our local farmers market (Green City Market) and from Jake's Country Meats.  

Sam and I have found the weekends to be especially challenging on the Whole 30. In Chicago, our weekends are usually filled with outings with friends, trying the many new/ amazing restaurants, or watching some sort of sporting event.... all of which typically involve alcohol + delicious food. I'm not a huge drinker, but I'm realizing how much I miss having a glass of wine during the week, or my favorite beer. It's hard in social situations to always be the one who "can't" have something. Clearly, we are doing this by choice, but still, it draws attention to you when you are not partaking in something that everyone else is! 

Overall, Week 2 has been significantly better than Week 1. I have been suffering from on and off headaches for most of my adult life, and this week was a headache-free week. I don't want to speak too soon, but this is huge for me! My energy levels have been much higher than Week 1 also. I haven't been working out nearly as much as I typically do, so I can't speak to energy levels there, but hopefully I will have many Tiger Blood fueled workouts in Weeks 3 + 4. 

Ready to tackle Week 3!

Whole 30 week 1 recap by Annie Hall

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We’ve made it through 1 week. I normally would say that Sam and I deserve a celebratory treat/breakfast/pizza/etc. but NOPE! Not allowed. This week was hard for me. I felt hungry pretty much all day long, and really low energy. On Sunday, Sam and I had a family event and a lunch afterwards at an authentic Italian Pizzeria. It was so, so hard! Pizza is one of my favorite foods, and most of the food (and wine) that was served we couldn't eat. Leaving the lunch starving, we went to Chipotle for a quick-fix, Whole 30 approved meal [Lettuce, Carnitas, any salsa except for the corn salsa, and lots of guacamole]. It was extremely satisfying! Later that evening, I badly cut my pinky finger on my brand new mandolin (purchased specifically for the Whole 30), and had to go to Urgent Care to get it patched up. Needless to say, I was beyond “over” the Whole 30 by the end of the day. 

My tips for week 1 :

1. JUST. DO. IT. Don’t contemplate quitting because its too much work, or you don’t think it will be worth it. You’ve already committed, so just do it .

2. prep, prep, and don’t stop prepping 

3. have a partner in crime (even if its someone no in the same state or city as you, you can talk and complain your way through it all !)

Whole 30 prep day by Annie Hall

The Sunday before our first week was a ton of work, I must say. We just had a birthday party for Sam at our apartment the previous weekend, so I was attempting to purge our house of beer/wine. I contemplated having a “drink our booze” party, but that didn’t end up happening.  I tossed everything that wasn’t whole 30 compliant that was perishable, which wasn’t much because we did a good job of using all of our groceries the previous week. I also threw out anything in our pantry that would be potentially too tempting. I didn’t throw out all of my traditional baking supplies, quinoa, rice, beans, etc. because I didn’t want to waste them all and will potentially use them in the future depending on how life-changing these 30 days are.

After doing some “light” meal planning, I made a grocery list and headed off to the store.  I also stopped at Bed Bath and Beyond and bought this mandolin that a friend had recommended to me and I highly recommend it!! Already used it for week 1’s salads.  I’m typically not one of those people who plans every meal of everyday in the week, so I just picked a few recipes from the Whole 30 Book and from various websites, or my brain, and went for it!

Got loads of groceries (Saturday we purchased our meat at the farmers market) and headed home to prep/ chop/ organize our pantry and refrigerator. It was already overwhelming to me how much preparation this required, but hopefully it will be worth it and I will adjust. When you work Monday- Friday, 9-5 you really have to use Sunday as your prep day because it is so hard to do serious cooking at night after work. It seems as though we will have more than enough food for the week, but we will see.

I think I am most nervous about the no-grains. We don’t eat a ton of them, but we usually always have them with breakfast which really seems to work well energy-wise for me. Nonetheless we are ready for week 1 ! Stay tuned….

Whole 30...we're doin' it by Annie Hall

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Just a quick background on my eating habits... I was a vegetarian for about a 1.5 years in college, and then transitioned into a “weekday” vegetarian, and now I’m a full on omnivore. However, I have strict standards for the meat that I eat and try to source as locally as possible and look for meat/ dairy/ seafood with high animal welfare standards. I wish I could say that I NEVER eat meat when eating at a restaurant if I don’t know where it comes from, but that will have to be something I strive towards. If I could summarize my eating philosophy in a nutshell, it would be Michael Pollan’s Food Rules . I have always been hesitant to try anything where meat is the reigning ingredient in every recipe (i.e. Paleo diet). But i’m open to trying a new eating program if it will make me feel/ look/perform better!

I’m sure the majority of you have heard about the Whole 30 , but if you are not familiar with the program I will break it down briefly for you. The idea is to eliminate foods that are potentially harming your body, for 30 days, and see how (hopefully amazing) you feel. The foods to be eliminated over the 30 days are sugar, grains, dairy and legumes. That leaves us with meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, good fats, nuts, and seeds. Basically, you’re eating only “whole foods” for 30 days. Nothing processed or unnatural. (Oh and no alcohol!) This is really a short term “reset” of your diet.

I have had many friends complete the Whole 30 with raving reviews, and have contemplated doing it for a while! My boyfriend Sam and I have always chickened out with endless excuses, and now we are finally taking the plunge. Being in the working world makes these types of resets hard because of client dinners, outings, and events, and the endless planning that is required, but when isn’t there an excuse?

Stick with me as I breakdown the preparation for the Whole 30, and the progress of the 30 days. I know its going to be hard, but i’m excited to see how my body reacts!