Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend Thoughts

I often resist putting something up on the social media machines in regards to Memorial Day because I'm always scared of coming across as some self-righteous jerkhole. Though I've been touched by experiences with friends, colleagues, and family in the military, I really have no real claim to say I know anything about what these people and their families go through.  

I whole-heartedly believe our fallen heroes deserve a moment of silence and a full day of recognition, but a wistful "proud to be an American!"-ish Facebook post, to me, always feels a little forced... especially knowing the barrage of "back to the real world! (after a three-day weekend!)" posts are immediately to follow, leaving the patriotic sentiment to slip back in the shadows of life's daily chaos. Every Memorial Day I feel at a loss of how to really show appreciation, and, admittedly, let myself get swooped back into the daily grind without much thought.

I've been thinking a lot about next steps in life and that whole conversation of who I'm supposed to be, and it all comes back to a matter of choice. What am I choosing to do for my business, my purpose, my family, my friends, my community... myself? How am I choosing to handle those decisions? Who am I asking for help? What do I hope to accomplish out of it?



The point?
I have the freedom to make choices.

When I discovered, of the 6 billion+ people on this planet, there are really but a handful of us who really can get up every day and decide how we're going to tackle life, it really puts in perspective how important that is. Sure, making those decisions can be terrifying, overwhelming, and drive you to a bottle of merlot... but in the end, it's in your control, at least to some degree.

To fully understand just how much power we have in the ability to make choices for ourselves is to really understand how limitless we are.

And maybe that's how I can show my appreciation: Choose to become the person who's going to rock this world... and enjoy doing so. Because what's the point of being free to make choices if you're not going to do something bad-a** with it?

In addition, I made a donation from my CGP account to the Fisher Foundation because, well, there would be no business account if our service men and women (and their families) hadn't put in their all to protect and defend.

So, to all the families and friends of fallen loved ones and to all those who have served, I thank you.
To those of you who chose to fully immerse yourself in the day with family and friends, I hope you had a baller day.
To every one to waking up tomorrow choosing to take our country, our society, our communities, and our families in positive, uplifting directions, I know your energy is welcome and appreciated.


Hugs & High Fives,
C

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On a side note, I did go to my very first NASCAR experience this weekend:

Doesn't get more #Merica than than that!


Monday, May 18, 2015

The Whole Foods Meltdown

I had a breakdown at the grocery a few weeks back.

Well, almost.

And it was a at Whole Foods. 

Who the F%*K has a melt down in the middle of aisles of magical minimally processed, free range, gluten free GLOWING ORGANIC GODDESS NOURISHMENT of Whole Foods?

I do.

Almost.

The fact that May 2015 is already here (wasn't it Christmas like last week?) punched me so hard and fast that it left me feeling sad and sick and in a constant state of I'm-sorry-WHAT?. So many goals I had yet to scratch the surface of. So many people I haven't seen in months. So many things that have passed me by while I lurk in the shadows, glued to my phone or computer or planner trying to get life under control. So many moments I was completely not present, my brain ping-ponging between the chaos of life, the To Do's, the What-If's, the Have-Nots, the Never-Going-To-Happens.

And it all culminated in the snack aisle of Whole Foods. Seeing the hiker silhouette on the bag of freshly prepared trail mix made me lose my sh*t. He was strong, happy, free, surrounded by nature, looking up at an endless, boundless sky. 

I was washed up, droopy, and empty, wearing the same pants for the 2nd - questionably 3rd - day in a row.

That pounding in my chest and flood of water behind my eyes I've known all too well started churning, and the fear of looking like a complete idiot in the middle of this majestic foodie establishment (where I willingly paid $12 for a plastic bag of nuts and dried berries because it makes me feel like I'm healthy and have my life together) racked my very core. And here interrupts this tiny old Asian woman, squeezing between me and the aisle of highfalutin mixed nuts to grab her salted cashews - 

"Soddy!" she retorts (not really sorry at all).

DAMNIT, WOMAN.

I compose myself.
Just get through the list

A few aisles down and the welling starts again, this time even more ferocious for not having been released the first time. I'm half-way through my list and no where near a proper exit, so the panic adds the juicy pickle on top of the crap sandwich that was my neurotic episode in the making. Breathing deeply I open a freezer door in hopes the cool blast will numb the surmounting explosion in my temples. Tiny Asian Lady appears again, dodging in front of me to get the last jumbo box of cage-free brown eggs. "Soddy!" she exclaims again. I replied with as polite of a smile as I could with clenched teeth, lingered inside the diary section freezer door for a moment longer (what the Jay-Z is kefir milk?), and trudged on. 

The third and final wave came in the bread section; having the ever debilitating white girl struggle of carbs versus-no carbs, it was do-or-die. With the last scratch of the list, seeing the check-out line so close ahead, I started suddenly feeling like I just wasn't going to make it. This would be my darkest, weakest, stupidest moment = breaking under the pressures of life next to gluten-free hotdog buns.

As the flood of emotions rolled into my throat, as the tears began to protrude from the corners of my eyes, Tiny Asian Lady pops up one final time, eyeing the dinner rolls. This time she looks at me, waits until I've got what I need, and allows me to move through first. She offers a polite, encouraging smile - almost as if she'd been in my situation herself at some point. The empathetic look in her calm, old lady eyes was enough to make me realize I was going to get out of here in one - albeit frazzled - piece.

Greeted by the friendly young ladies of the check out line, I felt the pressure in my chest subside. Their energy was bright and happy and curious. To those magical check-out fairies of Whole Foods, I thank you. Your sweet disposition and big Sunday smiles made more of a difference than you'll ever know.

I made it to my car, the heat of the spring sun making my tiny car feel light and cozy...
and just sat there.

I had completely short-circuited.

My life had become a vapid, meaningless existence, guided only by the inertia of deadlines and color-coding and box-checking. I lost my identity, my focus, and my pursuit of plans and goals along the way... and had no clue where to even begin finding it.

Each new day and new week subconsciously terrifies me. The flood of requests I can't accommodate. The endless amount of tasks I'm inevitably going to screw up. The friends I'm going to have to "politely decline" for the 3rd or 4th time in a row because every ounce of spare time I've got goes into trying to get my head above water. The list of things I need to do to make my business thrive that seem so daunting and out of reach. The husband whom I literally have to schedule in "hang out time" during the week because I lose my mind if he excitedly suggests an impromptu little excursion. The random outfits I'm pulling out of the dryer because it's a small victory just to get my clothes clean in the first place.

Y'all, I hadn't lived in the present moment in months.
I was living in the distant land of "Someday" - that magical place when all the To Do's are crossed and I suddenly have all the resources I need to succeed... and all the late nights and early mornings would pay off.

The problem?
I've been doing this my ENTIRE life; on the brink of 30, the "Someday" has never come to fruition, and I keep pretending it's just around the corner.

The living in the "Someday" attitude has been my only way to cope - put your head down, check off the list, play by the rules, and eventually, you'll get there. Right?

Ehhhh....

When you look around and everyone's having magical experiences and scoring major life achievements and settling into beautiful little families -- while you're trapped behind a wall of the computer screen, sitting in your over-sized underpants, hoping you remembered to brush your teeth this morning -- it's easy to lose sight of the little things you've got going in your own life. It's easy to tell yourself you just need to work harder and maybe you're next. It's easy to start questioning every decision up until now, wondering if they have been stupid or bad or poorly made. It's easy to let silhouettes of hiking men ON BAGS OF NUTS make you feel like a giant loser.

(30 Rock- NBC)

And then the Tiny Asian Lady of your life pops up -
Soddy!

She's there to remind you we've all got sh*t to do; and if you don't stay focused, she's there to swoop in and get what she needs first. To bring you back in the moment to remind you why you're standing there in the first place. To get you out of your own head. You can either try to avoid her or accomplish what you came to do in spite of knowing she's going to try to get in your way. And she's not all bad - when you're vulnerable and not afraid to admit it, she'll help you.

At least that's what I got out of the experience.

The truth is I'm THE only person to hold accountable for letting myself implode. I've deluded myself into thinking I need to pile on more work and tasks and projects because that's what's going to get me to the next step. That what I need to do isn't going to be - and shouldn't be - fun and joyful because that's the end result of it all ("work" is "work" for a reason, right?). In reality, it's just distracted me from really making plans and doing what I feel like I'm supposed to do and being honest with the people around me. It's made me anxious and tired and FREAKED OUT. I buried my authentic self under the facade of being "productive" and "busy"....

... and it took a meltdown at the Chanel of grocery stores to figure that out.

To those of you who stuck it out reading this, I'm sorry that I really have nothing to offer you. I can't say I turned my life around and made a powerful life decision and the heavens granted me peace and prosperity.

But I did return to Whole Foods this past weekend. Quietly skimming the aisles for our weekly fare with my handsome darling in tow, I brought with me a new sense of calm, of hope, of being filled with joy to spend the morning uninterrupted by my To Do list surrounded by magical, and kind of weird, foodie goodness. I needed to replace the bad mojo I left in there; I think I did it.

And I swear the hiker silhouette gave me a wink.

Since then, it's been easier to see what the vision for my life is - and get serious about making decisions towards that, accepting my own responsibility for how it turns out. Asking for help. Taking time to research and get excited about the possibilities. Again, it's not easy - but easier.

(source unknown)


 With that, may you all enjoy a wonderful summer.
I'm counting on a proper sunburn and one-too-many margaritas myself.
And maybe a little soul-searching.
(Is that better before or after margaritas?)


Hugs & High Five,
C

Monday, February 9, 2015

The 3rd Grade-Self Reflective




Have you ever done a vision exercise in which you go back and talk to yourself as a little kid?

Of course you haven't. That's weird.

For some reason, I found myself on a long run recently and found myself in a total meditative state. I saw me, a 7 or 8 year old version of myself, and suddenly started asking 3rd-ish grader me all kinds of questions. We sat on the floor of my old room of our childhood home, a room in the top corner of the house that flooded with the most perfect sunlight.

I was a total weirdo. I put together stupid outfits in bright, crazy colors and insisted on not-less than a minimum of three accessories in my hair (unless I was wearing my helmet for horse riding, of which I resisted multiple urges to paint and bedazzle the crap out of - if my Mom wasn't killing my vibe of it being "soooo expensive"). I colored and drawed (yes, I DRAWED, dam*it), and wrote stories of awesome epics involving majestic horses, virtuous dogs, and badass heroines who wore dirty riding boots under their meticulous, sparkling gowns. I collected hoards of wildflowers (they were weeds) and fashioned jewelry and house goods for my dolls out of whatever craft and house project leftovers I could find.

I asked "lil C" what she wanted to be when she grew up. Without hesitation, it was a journalist-TV anchor-Olympic equestrian-creative writer-veternarian. Of course, I'd be done with school and could devote my time to such pursuits, all while married to a handsome Zach Morris-esque stay-at-home hubs' who would tend to our four perfect kiddos. But, I cooked the meals, because that's my jam. All in a day's work.

Such confidence. Such gumption. No sense of limitation. Dreams bigger than Malibu Dream House. You wanna mess with this? Whatever. I've successfully managed a household of 4 brothers and a sister, while y'all play with that creepy baby doll that pees on itself (I secretly wanted one, just couldn't bring myself to ask for it - even though I blamed my parents for never giving it to me in the first place). 

Eyes sparkling, talking 80 bagillion miles a minute while organizing drawings and plotting the next masterpiece - how could I tell her what the world had in store for her? 

Somewhere between miles 6-7, a montage of life flooded between that moment of our conversation on the floor to present. The people who weren't so nice. The things I said that were mean and icky I can never take back. The moments where joy and innocence turned to dark, scary situations. The sense of overwhelming pressure, the feelings of not stacking up or not feeling included or belittled. The stupid, STUPID things I did to make someone else happy or think I was cool. The pain of loss, of failure, of defeat. It turned the later versions of me into this angsty, jaded person who only focused on what needed to be fixed or organized or better. "Good enough" was never good enough (not just from myself but from everything around me), and the bubbling well of resentment towards projects and things in which I worked so hard to achieve but ultimately fell flat came to a raging boil. Even in the running itself, I only focused on how poor my time was, how painful my knee felt, how sloppy my form must've been. I didn't notice the chilly breeze and breaking sunrise and the fact I was capable of running that distance at all - not until my sassy 3rd grader self swung her Scrunchie-tied ponytail and said, "HECK YEAH, YOU CAN DO IT!"

I picked up the pace and another montage followed. The people who made me laugh at only things we could understand. The well-earned victories, large and small. The hugs when they were needed most. The walks on the beach. The ideas and goals and accomplishments that were once floating ideas that became realized. The brilliant pangs of awe of often simple moments in simple places. The sense of wonder. Excitement. Empowering others. Connection. Gratitude. Waffles.

The pre-30 Celia has found herself lately slipping into waves of mini-depressions, feeling that yucky sense of loser-hood when things don't seem to come together. When peers seem to have it all and that comparison creeps into the core. When the wheels are spinning and gears are turning and things don't seem to happen.When people don't support. When nobody listens. When the pursuit of the perfect image becomes the priority. But with a little digging and mental decluttering, I can find the earlier versions of myself when she was happiest, proudest, most connected, most present. And my post-30 self and beyond is going to need even more of these moments to take the next big steps and future risks.

I finished that run in honor of "Lil C," to let her know I wasn't going to let her down. I may not exactly have foraged the path she had in mind, but it's because the world presented many other unique opportunities just for her. And it continues to do so, sending the right people - both the supporters and the "teachers" - who guide her every step of the way. 

2015... let's do this.

Hugs & High Fives,
C


Monday, December 29, 2014

Tis the Season Give Presence

This post was originally published over on FIG, Columbia's blog for a holiday recap of our event hosted by the lululemon Columbia showroom. While I'm happy to have it sitting nice and neatly over there, I think B@T was getting a little jealous. Plus, it was just so much fun and one of my favorite showroom events to date (hellooo, #joblove!), sure doesn't hurt posting another time.

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Do you hear what I hear?
The buzz of an overly active phone.
The honks of angry, rushed drivers.
The loud, chaotic commercials blaring through TVs and devices.
The silence of a crowded, apathetic sidewalk shuffle.
The icy anthem of: "I'm so busy."

Must be the holiday season.

Instead of the carolers and sleigh bells the yule tide songs boasted of so joyously, this time of year is often a muddled chorus of anxiety and hurriedness. Being in the business of retail, the social playlist of the weeks leading up to the respective holidays is a scratchy, heavy, frenetic sound on constant repeat. A sincere wish for a "Happy Holidays!" and "Merry Christmas!" is often met with a scoff and a stiff look -- one that says, I KNOW. It's the holidays. Do you have ANY idea how much I still have to do?

All I can do is offer a small prayer or positive vibe in hopes they find a little tiding of comfort and joy amid the tinsel-covered frenzy. And, of course, try my best to not think of my own lingering holiday To Do's... 

Then you get a rare, shining opportunity to realize your Cindy Lou-Who dreams of warming the hearts of those around you. A chance to share a message of peace, of joy, of living in the moment. (Of eating really, REALLY good food.) At the lululemon Columbia showroom, we were charged to communicate, on a local level, the message of our company's holiday theme: Give Presence. What is #givepresence? It's experiencing Life in its truest essence - The Here. The Now. 

hand-lettering by our talented showroom manager, Kelsey

How to execute such a grand idea? 
Really, it's pretty simple: Bring together the very things that cause one to slow down and appreciate the moment:

Yoga. Food. Conversation. Goal setting. Wine. Inspiring friends.

On a chilly December Monday night, our showroom team hosted an intimate "Give Presence" event at the Loft 201 by Rosso Trattoria, an effortlessly cool venue that's quiet and cozy. The evening started off with a mingling of Columbia friends with a overview of the message of "Give Presence," transitioning into a yoga class led by owner of Yoga Masala and lululemon Columbia ambassador, Kyra Strasberg. Emerging from the most wonderful presence-focused savanna, our guests, whom are showroom and Columbia-area influencers, found their way to a table. This table had posters in which to declare, in big, bold, fat permanent markers, their way to give presence into the holiday season and beyond. 








As our guests made their declarations, our friends of Rosso Tattoria, quite magically, set up tables of food and wine pairings inspired by the Give Presence theme. With careful consideration of decadent, savory flavors with specially chosen wines, the Rosso team created a wonderland of food & wine pairings to really bring home the essence of in-the-moment sensations. As the conversations and libations flowed, the sentiment of family, friends, traditions, special moments, and happy memories flooded the little space overlooking our fair Capital City. The night ended with our guests making future plans, on their own, to celebrate the connections and relationship-building of that night; and each got a stack of holiday cards to share with their communities and spread the word with new and old friends.








In the days following the Give Presence event, we received the sweetest, most genuine appreciation for sharing the message - and entrusting these special friends to be the messengers in their own circles. The screechy, chaotic "noise" of the holiday melted into that fullness and cheer of what this season it supposed to be all about. Certainly, it was incredibly cool to see how our simple gathering made its waves across the Midlands. For our little showroom team, it was humbling to provide such an experience for these amazing people who give so much to the Columbia community every day.

The cool part? 
Our charge to "give presence" hardly ends on December 25th. 

How can you be a part? Simple: Be present. Slow down. Don't hold back telling someone how they mean to you. Be proud of all you've gotten done. Enjoy the sights, smells, and simple joys of the season. Smile at a stranger. Put your phone away. Start your day with a positive thought. End it with a declaration of thankfulness and gratitude. Get excited for starting the new year with a new intention of presence.

(Pssst, you can also share by tagging your photos on Instagram and other social media outlets with #GivePresence.)

So, go worth wonderful citizens of the Columbia community - give presence and have a very merry, happy holiday.

PS. These photos barely cover the half of it. Want to see more AND how each of our guests decided to give presence? Check out the photo gallery here: http://celiagphotographie.zenfolio.com/givepresencelululemoncolumbia

And juuuuust in case you were wondering, here's how I decided to give presence:



Guests of the lululemon Columbia showroom Give Presence event included: Addie Fairey and Anna Reynolds of Pure Barre Columbia; Kim Jamieson of SC Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism;  Lacy Carbone of Bikram Columbia; Lauren Truslow of barre3 Columbia; Darby Graham and Jamie Scott of Jamie Scott Fitness & SWEAT by JSF; Sean McCrossin of Drip Coffee; Jonathan Kunze of Carolina CrossFit; Dr. Brad and Stacey Collins of City Yoga; Kyra Strasberg of Yoga Masala and Yoga Reaches Out - Columbia; Haley Staubach of Yoga Masala; Nicole Zimmer of Pink Lotus Yoga Center of Lexington; Jessica Lathren of Yoga Reaches Out - Columbia and FIG Columbia; and the team members of the lululemon Columbia showroom. | The event was hosted at Loft 201 by Rosso Trattoria. | Food prepared and provided by Rosso Trattoria's catering team. | Photography provided by Celia G Photographie

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Gift & Burden of Perspective

WARNING:
The following post is like an abstract piece of art - either you'll love and appreciate it, or wonder WHAT THA HALL were these people were thinking? Either way, that is the gift of being able to interpret it for yourself. Or at least give you something to read and look busy, and important (because you are).

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I have lived my life with an ardent need for perspective. I accept new opportunities and seek new adventures for the chance to experience something I've never felt or seen or sensed before. Indeed, it has kept me propelling forward, always exploring potential interests and blurting an excited "Yes!" without question. My insatiable appetite for feeling Life in its fullest has been one of my biggest blessings - and, ironically, my biggest curse.

As my lifelong quest for the new and exciting amplified with the world becoming seemingly larger and more interesting, I suddenly became a slave to my own need for travel. To attending every function. To being everybody's friend. To being the rockstar member of clubs and teams and boards and communities. To trying to stack my little experiences in a giant, lumbering tower hoping that, one day, my efforts would result in one big, HUGE opportunity of a lifetime. I didn't know what it would be, but I knew it was coming.

The problem?
It was coming from the wrong place.

My intentions were kind of stupid.

A little selfish, a little pretentious - a lot of "what's in it for me."

Though I have an honest need to serve and feel the duty to your fellow man is one of Life's highest priorities, I fell farther and farther away from that once beloved feeling of getting my hands dirty and truly listening to people's stories, learning far more from their tones than the words that poured from their mouths and their hearts.

Instead, I saw the  glitzy, flashing world spinning around me, wanting desperately to be a part, not knowing where to jump in. Thus, I began this horrible journey down the path of comparison - trying to keep up with the surge that then tipped the scales away from the dreams I thought I wanted to fulfill. Selfish dreams, perhaps, but damnit - I was owed these things in life, right? I worked hard, I followed the rules, I valued courtesy and decency, I never took the easy route, and I never slowed down... this is what a "successful" person makes, I determined.

Or, at least, that's what society said had told me.

The pieces of that wall of "success" started slowly falling away, in moments of humility or realization of what I have - and always did - and those moments of reflection on what in Life was going to give me the truest sensation of fulfillment. This fulfillment, mind you, is not the cliche "happiness" that those overly scripty Pinterest graphics tell us we need to seek. Rather, it's a maximization of talent, purposefulness, joy, surrender, and gratitude. 

It's about choice.

I often find my most powerful way of shedding the anxieties and unwinding the tangles of frustration is the art of the evening walk. With my little four-legged, barrel-chested, fuzzy old man, I don my most comfortable, worn-in shoes and venture out onto the busy street of our little city and over to the Capital grounds. The quiet metronome of his collar tag jingle guides my stream of consciousness in a comfortable, familiar rhythm with our footsteps, loosening the knots and providing a soothing yet exhausting release. In the 15-20min it takes to circle the perimeter, I've left behind (most of) the parts that serve me no more, and take what remaining time I have left in the day to feel at peace with what was. Again, a new perspective.

A glass of wine and a repeat episode of an old favorite on the couch with the hubs often doesn't hurt with that, too.

Philosopher and Emperor Marcus Aurelius, author of Meditations, said, "Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself and your way of thinking." It takes practice - lots and LOTS of practice - but shutting down the devices and stepping into oneself... it's where the practice begins.

via Breakfast at Target | Celia G Photographie


So, what then, is a happy life?

I have no idea.

But I have a feeling it's the realization of moments in which time, space, connection, joy, and fulfillment collide in a real, almost tangible way. And it's not doing so for "likes" on a post or to situate yourself above others. It's not about adding filters of false perspective to impress passerby's. It is, I'd like to think, the strike of the purest sensation of a brief moment, like when that first sip of coffee hits your gut and tells your brain, "It's a NEWWWW daaaay!"

In the moments where I feel the most helpless to make any impact on the devastating things happening in the world; in the times where I feel like I don't stack up; in the periods where I second guess the positive I've tried contributing to the world, I disconnect and then reconnect - whether with an old friend, a trusted loved one, my camera, my kitchen table and coffee, my yoga mat, or even my own self. Because in these moments we can reach a sense of hope, and this "hope" helps subside the fear of it all. I think some would criticize that it's pretty lame to think that an interaction with one good person or one good moment of peace can simply brush off all the million things wrong with the world.

It doesn't.
But it's a step in a healthy direction.
And those collective experiences can create a magnificent tower to one big, wonderful, meaningful moment... coming from a good place. Built by positive, well-intentioned connections. A commitment of no longer retreating into a place of self-doubt and pity parties, but stepping into oneself to actualize a path to something pretty frickin' amazing.

May you always settle into your thoughts,
but NEVER into anything less than what you're capable of or for friends who don't value you for it.
(This also includes cheap vodka - cheap wine, on the other hand, is acceptable.)

I'm proud of you all.
I mean it.

Hugs & High Fives,
C

Monday, September 8, 2014

Breakfast at Target Does "The Whole 30" - Part 2




Good HEAVENS, friends.

I can't believe how many awesome people I've connected with since my first Whole 30 post a few weeks back. Seriously, one thing I love about this odd little excuse for a blog is the really cool people who stumble upon it and let us sit at the cool table of the internet.

As you recall, the first post focused on my overall experience: how I weathered the thirty day storm of detoxing and rewiring my brain (and gut) to consume more whole, healthy options. It's easy to get caught up in the downsides of the program while you're deep in the throws of it; but once you step back and reflect, the Whole 30 is life changing regardless of what you do on Day 31 and beyond.

I had originally planned a very different "Part 2"; but after the feedback from friends and new guests to Breakfast at Target, I tossed it and took it a new direction. You can read for yourself on the Whole 30 website and the accompanying book It Starts With Food all the do's, don'ts, expectations, knowledge-bombs, and nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty details you need to set your sails on the Whole 30 high seas. However, there were some things that, even though mentioned in some capacity in the resources available, made more impact on my experience than I expected.

Of course, to compliment the first post, I had to add the artistically crafted masterpieces to go along with it. We all know true art takes time, so I very much appreciated your patience as I worked tirelessly to make this post totally kick-a$$.

:: Breakfast at Target Does The Whole 30 - Part 2 ::

1. You will acquire superhero like wine tasting senses.

I actually did the Whole 35 - I was so nervous to reintroduce anything and was loving my Whole 30 nirvana I kept up a few extra days. When an opportunity to enjoy a wonderful meal at one of our favorite swanky farm-to-table places came up, I couldn't turn it down. We ordered a bottle of the featured Pinot Noir from northern Pacific coast - from the first whiff I swear I felt transported to the winery in Oregon. The cool, arid grapes danced on my tongue, greeted by the songs of the black cherry notes that floated in my nostrils and the dark wood barrel bounced over the chorus a'la the classic sing-a-longs of my youth.

Y'ALL.

I went into a lucid state of pure sensory overload, a happy blend of masterful taste sensations colliding with my thoroughly polished palate from 35 days of no alcohol consumption. The best part? It wasn't an "addictive" feeling of instant satisfaction; it was really tasting the ingredients and being fully aware of how it complimented the meal and the occasion. I learned I could create this experience over and over by doing a "Whole 7", maybe a "Whole 5" leading up to whatever opportunity to enjoy a really good glass of wine. The cleaner your system, the more heightened the sensation. 

Does this make me a lush? Maybe. 
Let's meet for happy hour to find out.

2. The food that was hardest to eat was the one that had faces.

I'm sure there were some red-blooded, hearty folks who LOVED that animal protein was such a significant part of the Whole 30 program. For me, this was one of the hardest parts to accept. I had been predominantly vegetarian for many years of my life, mostly due to the fact I don't agree with factory farming and the accepted industrial meat production standards. By not buying or eating meat, I didn't have to deal with the constant conflict of not being sure how the animals and workers were treated to get the products to my table. 

My pre-Whole 30 trip to the grocery store was nerve-wracking enough as it was, but I had a mental breakdown when I got to the meat section. I chose a store that "guaranteed" its organic products and sustainable practices, but my hesitation and suspicion still led me to read every. freaking. label. in the aisle. I stocked our fridge with the best meat we could afford (and that I felt confident enough to prepare) - yet it took me a while to get comfortable eating meat, and lots of it, again.

Worse was being away from the comforts and safety of my home kitchen, being at dinner with family or friends and not knowing where the meat came from - and not wanting to be a jerk asking all kinds of questions. I could often determine how kosher the meat was based on a few quick, seemingly harmless inquiries to the house host or the waiter. If it felt questionable, I opted for the most modifiable vegetarian option available, scrambling a few eggs when I got home or keeping snack bags full of nuts in my purse to get the protein I needed later. Dramatic? Probably. But the program itself is pretty over-the-top, so it was just one more step to make sure I completed the program in terms of its definition of success, as well as mine.


 3. Beware the saboteurs - especially the ones you least suspect.

When it was time to start my Whole 30 program, I explained it to a few people in my immediate circles, more-so because I wanted them to hold me accountable. People were mostly supportive, if not simply indifferent; but then there were people who are normally trusted, empathetic friends and colleagues who thought it was total hullaballoo. I told myself it was because they didn't really understand the point of the whole thing or how it worked in the first place. But the sarcastic comments and attempts to see me fail were very direct, often hurtful. It made the program that much harder, and often times I wanted to give in not because I actually wanted the non-Whole 30 food in front of me, but because I wanted the taunting and the snide comments to stop. 

I never did give in, though. The finish line was always in mind. I had to remind myself that food has such a deep-rooted significance in so many social and cultural settings. By, in theory, "refusing" the food at an event or gathering - birthday cake, grandma's mac 'n cheese, specially chosen wine, etc. - I was, in a sense, "refusing" to be part of the celebration. By not eating the "bad" foods, it came across like I "knew better" about what and how to eat... it was often exhausting explaining the Whole 30 and getting met with angst about it. But there's a quote in the ISWF book that guided me any time I wanted to cave: "There are no cheats, only choices." At the end of the day, I'm the only one solely responsible for what I allow on my plate and into my mouth... and for that, it was never worth giving in to the haters.

I can promise to those in the middle of their Whole 30 right now, the victory tastes far, FAR sweeter when you get to Day 30 with a clean conscience.

4. Bless you, Whole 30 angels in disguise.

Remember those supporters I told you about? I could not have done it without them. Even more surprising was the people who I avoided even mentioning the Whole 30 for fear of ridicule who turned out to be my biggest advocates. They prepared special Whole 30 approved versions meals, asked questions about menu options and sources on my behalf, provided alternatives so I still felt part of the experience, and often checked in on my progress. They listened in my times of frustration; they reminded me of why I started - to kick my sugar addition, to create better habits, to ensure a happier me - and, without fail, in the times I needed it the most.

More excitingly so, by having to make conscious and active decisions around them, they started seeing what all went into a Whole 30 adventure - and they wanted to start their own. I don't want to say I "inspired" others to do it; but let's get real, if a bumbling blonde such as myself can pull it off with great results, what's to stop the next guy? (The answer: Not a ding-dang thing, folks.)

5. There's a big, happy Whole 30 community out there - jump right in.

I was a total Whole 30 martyr when I first starting - lamenting my inability to drink my nightly wine, having to give up my morning toast, OOOOH WOOOE IS MEEEEE. Once I got tired of my own whining, I realized I was doing so because I felt pretty isolated. I also felt awkward every time I went out to eat with friends, modifying menu options until they were unrecognizable. Truth is, I didn't understand what my Whole 30 friends were going through when they did it - and not many understood me as I trudged through the experience myself. 

One thing I wish I had done way, WAY sooner is to make connections with the (official and approved!) Whole 30 community far and wide - Whole 30 alumni, super stars, all-stars, gurus, and current rookies like myself. With email newsletters, social media outlets (I've been incredibly impressed with their Facebook and Instagram), and official online resources galore, I had no excuse to feel like I couldn't find support. Once I did, I learned so much and got excited when people found their successes and shared their knowledge. So explore and connect, and if you can, find a Whole 30 buddy to help you stay focused and excited about your progress!

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So what's happened since the Whole 30? 
It's been a few months now since I completed it, and here's where I am:
  • John and I have mostly adopted a paleo-based diet at home; we still keep some grains on hand (low-sugar cereals, whole wheat bread, etc) as we're pretty active, working out 4-6x's a week. After some trial and error, I just found we needed the quick carbs for super early morning workouts.
  • Black coffee was too much for me to handle; it felt like I was drinking battery acid. So now we use a splash of coconut milk in our coffee - it's made all the difference and a huge improvement from the chemical laden creamers I used to dump into my coffee.
  • I've gotten better about learning how to prepare meats and feel more confident in knowing how to buy. When we have a little extra wiggle room in the budget, I'll get some fresh sausage or cuts of meat at our local farmer's market on Saturday mornings.
  • I still fight the sugar dragon constantly - the cravings are far less intense or frequent from before the Whole 30, but they still bubble to the surface daily. However, I have to say when I do partake in a treat - a piece of wedding cake, a birthday cupcake, etc. - I don't feel the need to wolf it down and go for another helping. I've learned to enjoy them and associate them with special occasions, limiting the intake and heightening the experience in the few bites I allow myself.
  • My sleep patterns are the most "normal" than they've ever been. I fall asleep much easier and wake up not feeling like I got hit by a bus (I'm not a morning person, so this is a huge improvement).
  • I've been plagued with painful, embarrassing adult acne for the last few years. Though I had started to finally get it under control, the Whole 30 almost completely cleared up my face with only the occasional, minor breakout since then (usually in response to the weekends I make poor nutritional choices). 
  • I'm a Greek yogurt fanatic and now it's the only diary we keep in the house. My body just knows what to do with the stuff, so I still have it for breakfast once or twice a week (or when I just can't handle more eggs) - plain topped with fruit and/or mixed nuts, a dash of cinnamon and honey for touch of sweetness.
  • Avocados, olive oil, and butter were huge no-no's for me before Whole 30 because they were "fatty." Now that I understand their function and have seen a dramatic change in my hair and nail growth (and glowing skin!), we keep plenty on hand. We got rid of chemical laden sprays and margarines and swapped for coconut oil and clarified/unsalted butter.
  • Overall? I'm simply far more conscious about what I buy and eat, reading labels and planning meals well in advance so I don't rely on "easy" convenience items. We spend a little more in our grocery budget to get whole, safe, quality foods, but we've saved a ton in not going out or ordering take-out. Meals are more fun because we experiment with more spices and veggies and meats. I feel more wholly satisfied and not bloaty and weighted down. If I fall off the wagon, I know where to turn and what to do to get back on track.

To those of you who have successfully completed the Whole 30, what were your biggest "a-ha" moments or things you learned?
How did you feel after? What have you done to maintain it?

To those of you considering doing it yourself, don't waste another day thinking about it. You can do anything for 30 days; and if your health is a concern, either for yourself or for setting an example for those around you, you really have nothing to lose. (Well, accept acne, pain, insomnia, YOU KNOW.)

Here's to your health, folks!

Hugs & High Fives,
C

Monday, July 21, 2014

Breakfast at Target Does "The Whole 30" - Part 1

It's been a whirlwind of a summer, folks. The dog days of summer are in full swing, and I'm finally in a place to enjoy the heat, the sunshine, and the general lazy, hazy feelings that can only be embraced in the south. With that, a little time for catch-up here. 
Let's get on with it.

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:: Breakfast at Target Does the Whole 30: Part 1 ::

It's no surprise I've got a thing for food. Well, and a thing for constantly talking, thinking, and obsessing over it. In a high school beauty pageant, I listed "lunch" as one of my hobbies (this was hardly the reason I didn't win - shocking, I know). On an application for a job, there was a question "What are you passionate about?" I responded: "Goat cheese."

All true stories, people.

As time wore on, I found myself in a complicated relationship with food. I would use food as rewards, as punishment, as a means of temporary pleasure and escape... sometimes as a means of control and restriction. Generally speaking, I ate fairly "healthy" and a predominantly vegetarian diet, but I ate just as much bad stuff as I did good. I convinced myself my constant on-the-go lifestyle paired with exercising 4-6x's a week gave me the excuse to carry on with my eating habits the way I did. After all, I wasn't overweight, I didn't have any disruptive/chronic medical conditions, I knew "diets" are stupid and don't work, and I figured I'd always deal with any potential problems when they arose. I was "too busy" and "too important" to let something like having Oreos stashed in my cupboard be a major issue.

(Did I just say "cupboard"? What am I, eighty?)  

Cue the symptomatic problems that showed up in college and got worse in the years ahead: Painful, constant acne; sleeplessness; headaches; exhaustion; irritability;  extreme muscle fatigue during workouts; anxiety; sharp, painful stomach pains that accompanied bouts of anxiety. I chalked it all up to the pressures of life and the madness that was my world. I tried desperately to address each of these issues: expensive creams and cleansers for the break-outs; sleeping medications for the insomnia; self-help literature for anxiety and irritability. The "cures" were short-lived and temporary. In fact they got worse as the conditions adapted to the remedies, creating more anxiety and depression from complete loss of control over being to fix the problems. Of course, I turned to my Chick-Fil-A waffle fries (and regular waffles) and other "treat-yo-self" foods. The cycle continued.

After hearing the buzz about Whole 30 and learning from a few friends who had done it and experienced great results, I did my research. After a couple of weeks of reading up on the plan, I made the decision to go for it. For those of you unfamiliar, here's the breakdown: No grains, no dairy, no sugars (of any kind, not even "natural" ones), no legumes, and no alcohol (YA HEARD RIGHT) for 30 days.

I know what you're thinking:
DEAR LORD, why would you do such a thing?

There's no easy way to nutshell the answer to that (seriously, just go take 30 seconds to skim the context of the program). Basically I was tired of feeling like a run-down old hag being a slave to poor food choices. If 30 days could break me free of this, what really did I have to lose?

In May 2014, I dove head first. I ripped the non-Whole 30 foods from the cupboards (what? again?) and stuffed the fridge full of colorful veggies, fruits, and high-quality meat. Little did I know the struggle that would lay ahead.

As the 30 day challenge is a lot to cover in one post, I've broken it into two: Part 1) What I experienced during the Whole 30*; and Part 2) What I learned from the experience. Below is a recap using artistic renderings crafted carefully by yours truly. (I know what you're thinking - despite my lack of future in beauty pageants, I should've been an art-TEEST.)

*Disclaimer: These results are not necessarily typical, and that's the thing - everyone experiences it differently.

Days 1 - 3: Come at me, brah.

Whole 30 Breakfast at Target

I am ALL about a challenge; I'm also obsessive about planning. So, OF COURSE, being armed with a bevy of knowledge and a plan AND clear-as-day rules, I knew I was going to kick this Whole 30 in the face. It took a little extra preparation and research to stick with the meals, read labels, and do all the other things you need to do for optimal success... but ultimately, I hit the ground running. The next month was going to be a breeze.

Days 3 - 4: The Junkie Phase


Having gone my first 3 dinners successfully without ending them with dessert, I started jonesin' for a treat. I have the world's WORST sweet tooth, but knew I just needed to ride it out. I went to bed that night and kid-you-not, had the most bizarre dreams about chocolate chip cookies, cake, buttery, cheesy mashed potatoes, YOU name it. What proceeded was 48 hours of shear torture and hysteria - I swore I smelled brownies everywhere and heard ice cream trucks circling our apartment. I broke out into full on sweats, shakes, and crying fits. I called John some pretty offensive names when I found him snacking on some leftover Easter candy (oh, right, did I mention he was NOT doing the Whole 30?). The cravings for sugar and carbs were so violent my muscles tightened and sensitivity to noises and light heightened. I was devastated both by my need to just get a morsel of chocolate and realizing just how much of an addict I was. 

Days 5 - 10: Just Let Me Die


I have never, EVER, experienced the devastating exhaustion as I did during this point. As the last of the sugars and simple carbs and processed junk left my system, my body essentially went through a giant reformatting. As it struggled to operate without the addictive foods I normally consumed and process the highly nutrient dense foods I was now shoving in (i.e., no "quick energy" carbs and sugars), I was in a cloudy funk. Y'all, I was TIRED. I felt heavy, sluggish, and defeated. There were many points during these days I thought I should just give up because the fatigue was so debilitating, but I trudged onward.

Days 11 - 15: The Whole 30 High


I distinctly remember waking up one morning feeling light and being totally alert. No heavy, groggy, hazy funk. I felt clear-headed, focused, and efficient. The cravings had gone away as had the fatigue. I wrote down two pages of "To Do's" on my trusty legal pad and blazed through the entire thing in one day. I was hyper-present in the moment, and the path to getting seemingly chaotic and confusing projects tackled became clear and direct. Some people note a "burst of energy" at this point, but for me it was more that I was energized by my ability to focus and get sh*t done. It was AWESOME.

Day 16 - 19: The Betrayal


Just as my magical superpowers of productivity and focus reached their height, I was slapped down by my own body deciding it had ENOUGH. My gut rallied a strike with its rag-tag team of other digestive system buddies, refusing to cooperate any longer. I was gassy, bloated, and constipated... not a single thing helped alleviate the pain or the alien-esque distention in my belly. I literally had to stop eating for a day because there was no room in my stomach to put it. I felt dizzy and sick, wanting again to throw in the towel... I just didn't think this was worth it. But with the days getting close to single-digit range, I had to see this through until the end.

Day 20 - 23: Paranoia 


As the "Betrayal" phase finally wore off and I stabilized again, I started to develop a weird nervousness and anxiety. Being so close to the end and having gone through everything thus far, I lived in a paralyzing fear of screwing it all up. I had people rooting for me and wanting to see me successfully complete the Whole 30. I needed to do it for them as much as myself. Similarly, I was following the Whole 30 Instagram and other social media outlets; I wasn't experiencing the same "dramatic," sunshine-and-butterflies results or pulling off the gorgeous, amazing meals as others who were completing the program. I felt like I was falling behind or simply doing it all wrong. Failure felt imminent... 

Day 24 - 30: Peace, Love, and Whole-iness


Then, thankfully, a restful calm spread over my Whole 30 experience. I floated through the remaining days of the program feeling centered, peaceful. Food and I found a balance with one another, a mutual understanding that what we eat is about nourishment and cognitive responses to happy times with good people -- not a drug or device to be abused and manipulated. I started sleeping more soundly, my skin started clearing up, and my body felt efficient in using the energy I was putting into it. In fact, I extended the program another couple of days to make sure I really sealed in the effect; I also wanted to make sure I fully prepared myself for the reintroduction post-Whole 30. Okay, and maybe I was just really enjoying the zen, man.

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To sum up the 30 day experience: It was intense. I mean, you eat - generally speaking - 3 times a day  and have been for quite some time. Completely overhauling the way you approach food is something you have to give lots of attention to... and you find yourself analyzing every food choice you've ever made. Obviously, too, what you put in your body has direct, sometimes immediate effects. In essence, it's a major shock to the system. Not just the physical body, but mentally, too... 

And we'll get more into that in Part 2.

So, stay tuned friends. 
Stay tuned.

Until next time, 
Hugs & high fives.
-C

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