Austin Half Marathon Race Weekend

Man oh man. It felt so damn good to be back in Austin.

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I have been reading “The Alchemist” (I know- I’m late to the party), and it has me lookin’ for good omens. On Friday, our first day in Austin, we ran into the UT baton twirler from when we were students who was TWIRLING OUTDOORS in this very spot. You guys. It was an omen.

I taught baton twirling in college, and I was maybe her biggest fan. Twirlers are a rare breed, and we literally ran into her, and then stopped to talk to her. Made my day. As weird as that sounds, it was an omen. Not sure what it meant, but it was a good sign- promise.

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We happened to be in Austin for two reasons:
1. Hope! She’s a friend that I met on instagram, and she flew to Texas to race.
2. And race we did! Pictured above, we were at the Austin Half Marathon expo on Friday.

Then we ate. That’s actually what we did the majority of the weekend, but I need to give special thanks to:
-True Food Kitchen
-Picnik
-Hank’s
These places were especially kind about my dietary restrictions, and the food was incredible.

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True Food Kitchen was so enthusiastic to help with my food restrictions. ENTHUSIASTIC. They didn’t make me feel like the difficult customer that I hate to be, and they were fantastic. They helped me craft my own menu item to suit my weird dietary needs, and I left feeling great knowing that the food didn’t contain the stuff that my autoimmune disease won’t let me have right now. If there’s something I can learn from this experience it’s BE KIND to the wait staff, and gently explain/advocate for yourself. Be vigilant. But be gentle, and people will bend over backward to help you and your health.

It was breezy and 80something degrees. We walked back across the bridge to the car and called it a night. Austin, ya look good.

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On Saturday, we ate at Picnik for brunch after a warm-up run, and had a very similar experience to True Food Kitchen- everyone was so helpful. Then we took Hope to see some touristy sites, like the Loop 360 Bridge overlook.

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And stayed hydrated via Juiceland. Pictured here: “The Rehydrator”.

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Sunday morning was race day, and it was a cool, crisp 55 degrees at the start on Congress Avenue. The first three miles were gradually uphill, but we were on South Congress, and there was live music. No complaints! All four lanes of the road were open for runners, so even though the start wasn’t in waves, there was plenty of room. I never felt crammed.

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I HIGHLY recommend running Austin without headphones- there was live music EVERYWHERE, and I loved the course. I stayed hydrated via my own sports drink: water, lemon juice, lime juice, and salt. I brought along banana slices with a smidge of peanut butter and rice cake in my spi belt for fuel once I got to mile 9, and it was perfect. I had previously been a tried and true gatorade gels fan, but I recently discovered that I’m sensitive to the dye that’s on the ingredients list (womp womp), so I have been DIYing my fuel instead, with great success.

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I wrote a positive mantra on myself for the race. I NEEDED this around mile 10 through the finish line, because those hills weren’t playin’. I ran this race because I paid for it, and I love to run. I love a good race- I do. But in all honesty, I had no business running. Let me tell you why:
– Shingles! I had the shingles virus, and while it was (almost/mostly) gone, my energy levels were NOT up to par.
-Symptoms. I had to go off my immunosuppressants to try to heal my body quickly from the shingles virus, and my GI situation was very touch and go.
-Training. My training for this race was very lacking.
-Rest should’ve been priority. Shingles + GI + a rough week of tests in grad school calls for ample rest, and 13.1 miles wasn’t ideal.

If you’re strugglin’- solidarity! One foot in front of the other, friend.

Am I glad I did it though? Shoot yeah. Can’t you tell? Honestly- I had the most fun.

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Hope had a really great race though! A new PR for a half!

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And Zack was at the finish AND a cheer station at mile 9.

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Afterward, we all went to Hillside Pharmacie for brunch, and I inhaled my breakfast and coffee so fast. We sat outside and the wind was COLD! But we had the very best time.

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If you’ve never been to Austin, you should definitely visit, but don’t move there. I’m planning on moving back one day, and there’s really not room for all of us to play.
Sorry not sorry.

Highly, highly recommend running the Austin Half Marathon. The more races I run, the harder it is for me to pick a favorite, but this race is up there. It’s not a fast course- very hilly, but the crowd is great, the live music is unbeatable, and there’s no place I’d rather run than under the sun in Austin on a 55 degree Sunday morning.

Keep moving forward!

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Some Things about Crohn’s

Okay, guys. I’m just as sick as writing about it as I’m sure you are about reading it, but here I am. Crohn’s is currently taking over my life, and if I don’t write about it, I’ll go insane.

If you’re easily grossed out, please keep reading. You’re exactly who needs to be educated.
xoxo.

When people hear “Crohn’s” they make a few assumptions:
– “That girl probably goes to the bathroom a lot.” True
-“Isn’t that a joint thing?” Yes. But mostly intestines. Yum.
-“Is that like…IBS?” No. 
-“Are you all better yet?” There’s no cure, Susan.
-“
I heard she got that from drinking and running too much.” Not how autoimmune diseases work. 

If you have IBS or gastrointestinal distress, I know that’s tough. But please, for the love of all that is holy, go get a colonoscopy, drink the chalky contrast juice and get a CT scan, and see a good gastroenterologist for a diagnosis. Then, I’m happy to commiserate with you, but I’m really not in a good place to dish out sympathy for “I think I ate too much chipotle once and I almost died.” That happens to the best of us.

I have been in a flare (symptoms daily) since last November after reaching “remission” (no active disease) last May. If you’re doing the math, that’s about six months of sweet, glorious, freedom. And then I had to find a new doc (one that would remember to write the gosh darn prescription for my Remicade infusion), had a hospital stay, toyed with the dosage of my infusion, quit my day job, started grad school…and that finally brings us here.

About a week ago I felt like I was literally drowning, rushing to the bathroom 29-36 times daily on the days that I was counting, juggling with grad school and running back and forth to a local lab for blood and stool tests (#glamorous). My doctor begged me to come to the hospital, so I did, even though I had a fun trip booked to Washington D.C. for school! SAD!

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Speaking of grad school, ^ here’s my books that I never get to read because I’m too busy with class and running to the bathroom currently…ha!

I drank the chalky, gross contrast, although my nurse Jen was a former bartender and did her best to mix the contrast with everything carbonated the hospital had in stock, and it wasn’t so bad. I had a CT which confirmed “severe inflammation” in some sexy spots in my intestines. Then I had to do a colonoscopy prep until 1:30AM. Then I was sick until 5 AM because of prep. Then I traumatized a newly graduated nurse who had to give me an enema at 6:30 AM. I cried in the bathroom because of embarrassment/feeling sorry for myself/pain. Then I had a colonoscopy and esophagastroduodenoscopy (did I spell that right?), which confirmed ZERO inflammation up top *praise hands* but “severe inflammation” over six inches in my colon, and the rest of the colon is “mild inflammation.” Small wins?

I begged and pleaded with the medical staff NOT to give me pain meds and steroids. I won the pain meds battle, but they gave me IV steroids anyway. Needless to say, I feel like a crazy madwoman. CRAZY, YALL.

What now? I’m out of the hospital. I’m trying to eat even though food sounds gross, and it hurts. Keeping weight on is another new goal for me after losing seven pounds a little too quickly. We brainstormed new treatment options yesterday, and I’m happy to announce:

*clears throat*

I AM NO LONGER ON INFUSIONS.

After six years of infusions, there’s a NEW oral drug that I take twice daily. Not reading the side effects list because it’s scary.
I’ll keep you posted on how that goes, but it’s been 24 hours…and maybe I’m crazy (probably)…but I *think* I’m starting to feel a little better. Fingers crossed!

I walked around my street today, and that’s a huge improvement from two days ago. Flares fluctuate from day to day, and I’m thankful that I was able to move my body today. The pup was happy, too.

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He was not thrilled about the paparazzi pics…clearly

More reasons to be thankful:
-I cleaned my house today
-Naps
-My dog
-Walks with my dog
-Fall weather + colorful trees

I’m still figuring this disease out. Life is tough right now, and honestly I can’t wait to look back on this time once it’s a memory and I’m past it…but I’m learning a lot. I’m getting stronger, which is always what I tell myself when things suck, including when I do burpees. This time in life is just one big, giant, rotten burpee. *checks abs*

In the meantime I’m feeding my body with as many nutrients and as delicious of food as I can possibly find. I’m hoping to be able to control *all* of this with diet and exercise one day, and my doctor is on board once we get through this time, over the hump, and into brighter days. I’m thankful for my friends, my Zack, my dog. I can’t wait until this flare stops flaring. I’m going to wake up and see what my body says tomorrow, but I hope it’s down for a short, small run…just because I can.

 

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First day of grad school! Please note: Christmas welcome mat, because clearly we have our lives together

Thanks for your support, friends! Any questions?

Keep moving forward!

 

Stacey

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Took a photo while driving yesterday in Dallas, which is dangerous…but this sky was FOR REAL.

 

 

 


5 Major Life Updates! Spoilers: Admitted to grad school & the hospital

Hi, Friends!

You may have noticed a few cosmetic changes on the blog (or not)- I’m working on creating a cohesive brand, and I’m an all-over-the-place kind of person, so please bear with me!

A few major things have happened since we last chatted. I’m going to start sharing blog posts more consistently now that I feel that I’m in the right headspace/ schedule to do so, and I’m pumped about it. For now, I’m going to catch you up on my life stuff.

  1. Grad school acceptance. Ya girl is finally done with all the biochemistry and organic chemistry and gonna be a registered dietitian nutritionist…soon! This has been many years of behind-the-scenes work while holding full-time jobs, and I couldn’t be more thankful to be here! Classes start in August.

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2. Another trip around the sun

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And I am so grateful! My sister came to town for celebrations, and she brought my dog niece Sophie (pictured above)!

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We went to brunch at Kitchen No. 324 here in Oklahoma City, and it didn’t disappoint.

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I had the avocado toast, and it was so good that I felt it deserved a spotlight in this life update.
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In 8 years of dating and 1.5 years of marriage, this is the FIRST summer that Zack and I are TOGETHER in the same house. WOW.

3. Hospitalization
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3 days of nonstop vomiting after an infusion resulted in a few days worth of electrolytes in the hospital. Not pictured: emergency colonoscopy (glamorous), which resulted in a Crohn’s? diagnosis, as opposed to ulcerative colitis. Not entirely sure though. Good news: Scope showed that I am CLOSE to remission again; there’s hope! On another positive note, this hospital stay was the most consecutive time that Zack and I had spent together probably since our honeymoon, which was nice despite the circumstances. Life is crazy.

4. Consistent movement: Since my hospitalization, I laced up and ran a 5K just because it felt good. Not pictured: yoga and barre a few times weekly, which keep me grounded during the crazy work weeks in the trauma O.R.

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I looked back at a ton of my old posts this weekend, thankful for the progress that I have made in a couple of years. I harped, “Doing is better than dreaming” and “Actions speak louder than words” and “You may not feel like moving, but keep moving forward” and A LOT of times, these words were written for myself as I sat paralyzed by anxiety from my couch. Since January, I haven’t stopped running/yoga/barre/moving, including walking the dog a few times weekly- even when I haven’t felt like it, just because I’d rather be out in the world uncomfortable (and often anxious) than sitting at home wishing I was out moving and shaking. I’m getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable, and I’m living a full life that resembles the life I actually picture having for myself. If you’re battling anxiety, know that you WILL learn to tame that dragon; just give it time. I’m no therapist, but doing new things, and doing things that make me uncomfortable have empowered me.

5. Crohn’s and Colitis Advocacy. 
Still fighting! I’m meeting soon with a state rep about the allocation of federal funding in an attempt to offer a patient’s perspective of “Hi, this sucks and we need to do better because we can.” With the help of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, I’ll also be leading a much-needed adult IBD support group here in OKC. We are still working through the logistics, but we are looking for things to kick off in September.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, friends!
I’m so stoked to have the support that I have!!! I am creating useful, good things to leave you feeling less hangry and more amazeballs, and I can’t wait to share it all…very soon.

Keep moving forward. 
Really, no really. 🙂

Stacey


Weekend 5K & Being an Imperfect Intuitive Eater

Hi, Friends!

Coming at ‘cha from the hospital break room at work today. If my photos are unusually ugly and my grammar is especially nightmarish, we are gonna still be friends, okay? Good. Real life:


Hope your weekend was restful and left you feeling rejuvenated! I went to (surprise, surprise) Dallas…again.


Our cousin, Chance, came into town, and we ran a 5K- his first ever race! He’s mostly a weight-lifter, but has recently been adding running to his workouts and is pumped about the mental clarity and energy it has given him (his words, not mine!). No matter the reason, I’m so stoked to have a new running partner!!

This was a FUN race at Fair Park, home of the State Fair of Texas and the Red River Rivalry between The University of Texas (hook ‘Em!) and OU.


I actually lost Chance before we even made it to the starting line (FAIL)…so we didn’t run the race together at all. I did find him on the course though, and I was able to wave from afar!


Just a cool course! Highly recommend both the Rock ‘n Roll Dallas 5K AND Half-Marathon. I’ve done them both, and they’re some of my very favorite courses.

We grabbed some post-run salsa-filled, Tex-Mex breakfast skillets at our new favorite- Victor Hugo’s on the patio and then headed out for more adventure at White Rock Lake.


Sophie is basically a famous little Dallas dog with the sweetest personality. We made frequent stops around the lake for Sophie to greet random admirers.


We had dinner at Saint Rocco’s Italian outside on the patio, and we loved the atmosphere, complete with delicious merlot and spicy shrimp scampi…but the small portion sizes left us feeling bummed. I do recommend for a fun date spot with a view of the city, though!

We ended the night watching Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete” and sharing cheesecakes from Eatzi’s. All around, a perfect weekend!


I’ve been learning more about Intuitive Eating (read the book awhile ago, and I wasn’t at a place in life to be receptive). Basically, I’ve been focusing on eating without stressing about food…because it’s just food at the end of the day, and food is nourishing. Letting go of the diet mentality has been challenging (e.g. not beating myself up over delicious cheesecake, but rather ENJOYING the mess out of it, savoring each bite, because I don’t eat dessert or dairy often, and it just tastes good regardless of any justification).

Part of intuitive eating and letting go of the diet mentality is realizing that diets DO NOT work for long-term weight loss (disclaimer: I have not YET had a class on weight loss in my nutrition education, nor have I personally ever dieted for weight loss, so I do not feel that I can confidently comment on dieting specifically for weight loss goals, but I will say: if dieting gives you structure, and you feel healthy mentally, and you’re feeling nourished and strong- GO FOR IT. But choose a diet that is sustainable and inclusive of fruits, veggies, and all the macronutrients that keep our bodies the capable, strong beings that they are!).

If I’m being honest- I struggle with the negative stigma surrounding diet mentality. Actually-I can’t subscribe to the “diets are bad” mentality, and here’s why: my personal experience(s) with doing the Whole30.

I did the Whole30 to eliminate foods that could cause inflammation, and since I have an inflammatory disease, I was looking only for non-scale victories: more energy, less frequent poop attacks (explicit version included-you’re welcome), and more painless, restful nights. Did I accomplish this in 30 days? Heck yes I did. However-I did NOT weigh myself before, during, or after the program (fun fact: I do not own a scale). After the re-introductory phase, I did not stay on Whole30 for life because that’s NOT how it is intended, and I refused to give binary labels to food such as “legumes are bad” because THEY ARE NOT, and if you walked away from the Whole30 with that mentality, you missed the point.

As an IBD patient who is chronically trying to navigate this chronic, autoimmune disease (ulcerative colitis)- I try to include as much variety in my diet as possible. Including- I drink alcohol on celebratory occasions. Hell, I even have cheesecake (even though there are rough consequences for dairy desserts for me), but I DO NOT feel bad/guilty/sad about any of it, because I really do feel like I have learned how to enjoy food for being food. However, I do not appreciate the damning of diets- simply because diets DO work for some people, and certain populations REALLY need diets (e.g. the Mediterranean diet has documented successes on heart health; ketogenic in treatment of epilepsy; renal diets for kidney failure patients; avoidance/inclusion of certain foods for IBD patients; gluten avoidance for Celiac patients, and the list goes on).

I’m just a girl trying to work her way though nutrition school, healing my gut intuitively, sometimes with a little help from the Whole30, or low FODMAPs, or another science-based elimination DIETS to figure out what THE HELL to feed my stubborn gut to make it heal. There are situations when intuition isn’t enough, and maybe that’s because Crohn’s/ulcerative colitis patients aren’t part of the general population.  We are just a little bit extra. 

Does all this make me an intuitive eater failure? Hey- I’m a work in progress.
I’m educated AF, and I’m here to learn, even if I’m not perfect; This bite of cheesecake sure is.


Dallas Weekends

Hi, Friends!

Hope you’ve had a great week! Happy FRIDAY! I’m writing from the cutest coffee shop that I’ve ever visited, Murray Street Coffee in Dallas.

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This place feels very neighborhoody with a bohemian/Scandanavian flair, but I was greeted by a barista who affectionately called me “darlin'”. Still in Texas. If you’re in the mood for some warm coffee on a nice day and happen to find yourself near Deep Ellum in Dallas, come pay this place a visit.

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^this was TASTY, but I could only handle so much salmon and onion before feeling like I was suffocating from my own horrid breath. g-l-a-m-o-r-ou-s

This morning I had a check-up at the gastroenterologist in Dallas to review my blood work from the last few weeks. Things are looking great! I’m mildly severely anemic from this last flare up and will require iron infusions, and I couldn’t be more grateful to still be progressing. I know that healing isn’t linear (my gawd has that lesson been hard to learn over the years), but I’m thankful to have been able to keep doing the things I want to do: sleep, yoga, running, cooking, maintaining what little of a social life I do have. The life stuff has helped me heal.

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Last weekend we drove to Dallas (seems to be a theme lately) for my sister’s 25th and celebrated her the best way we know how: with the dogs!

We went to E Bar for fajitas, margs, and queso (all of Lindsay’s favorites), and I instantly remembered why I love this place: They give EACH person at the table their OWN bowl of salsa. I eat salsa so furiously and with such intensity that I almost need to ask for my own salsa anyway. E Bar gets me.

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Saturday we woke up and brunched (another Lindsay fave). We went to a highly rated bungalow called Johnson’s in Oak Cliff, but the wait was out the wazoo, and Victor Hugo’s was literally right next door with an open patio on a perfectly sunny day.
We made the right choice.

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The brunch prices were reasonable; the food was delicious. I ordered a Mexican scramble thing with lots of spice and veggies under sunny-side-up eggs and ughhh so gooooooood. HIGHLY recommend Victor Hugo’s for their patio brunch on a sunny day; not sure why Dallas keeps re-visiting the crowded next door patio and leaving this place completely empty…but it really worked out in our favor!

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Afterward we headed to Community Brewery for a tour and quality time spent at picnic tables with friends and pups. The beer here was so great! We hated it so much that will be back tomorrow morning for yoga.

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^ I tried this red lentil pasta from Trader Joe’s this week, and it was great! I recommend! Lentils are an excellent source of protein and magnesium, and I’ve been trying to get more magnesium in my diet to help with muscle function and recovery since I have been moving more. I paired this with sautéed garlic, onion, mushrooms, and chicken, simmered with some red peppah and organic marinara, although the protein content in these bad boys is sufficient enough to not necessitate any animal protein with it. Easiest meal evahhhh.

I gotta keep this post short and sweet so I don’t get spanked by an upcoming biochemistry exam. Prayers and good juju are greatly appreciated. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve had to memorize the effing citric acid cycle- it’s a rough topic these days.

Hope you have a lovely, restful weekend, friends! Enjoy!

-Stacey 🙂

 

 

 


Mindful Movement, Trying New Things + An Honest Cyclebar Review

Hi, Friends!

HAPPY FRIDAY! Hope you’ve had/are having a pretty great week. This week has been a quick one, despite long days at work, and I’m so pumped about it because we will be jet setting for Dallas (again) this weekend to celebrate my sister’s 25th year of life!

Something that’s been on my brain lately is “mindful movement” and “try new things”. In my last post I mentioned that I had been taking barre and yoga classes, and I’ve been really enjoying them. I easily feel like I could be hooked for life. Barre and yoga break up the monotony of the work week and give me a challenge to look forward to after work before coming home and crashing. My body seems to be responding well to both yoga and barre (although they’re notably different), and I’m loving feeling stronger in my hips, legs, and abs, even mentally (thanks, yoga. namaste).

About a month ago in light of my “try new things” mantra, I purchased a groupon for Cyclebar classes. I had previously experienced Cyclebar as a charity event rider raising funds for cures to Crohn’s and colitis, and I knew that Cyclebar was a clean, welcoming place. When I happened upon a discount, YASSS GIRL! Sign me up! So here’s my honest, unfiltered review:

My first night at Cyclebar in OKC was a bit of a dud, but that wasn’t Cyclebar’s fault. I was INCREDIBLY symptomatic, but I desperately felt like I needed to move my body. Unfortunately, I was legitimately concerned about the real possibility of crapping all over myself and the bike and causing a scene, so I didn’t push my body very hard at all…but it was so nice to move. Since I have been feeling better after my infusion, I thought I’d redeem another class purchase, and I headed to Cyclebar yesterday evening after my twelve hour shift at the hospital.

First thoughts:
“Is it 80s night? Did I miss the memo about the blue eyeshadow and the leotards? I definitely did.”
The studio is bright and clean, full of fit and friendly faces, and there’s chilled filtered water with a spread of bananas and free glow-sticks welcoming me. I grabbed my size 6.5 black leather complementary cycle shoes, filled my water bottle and headed to the dark “theatre”.
I hopped on my bike and slowly started pedaling. This particular class had a d.j. and I was genuinely offended that he remixed Michael Jackson. Who DOES that? I managed to forgive the d.j. once he played some Sublime and Nirvana, sans remix.
I know what you’re thinking: Sublime and Nirvana aren’t 80s? I know. I know.
I feel old and thoroughly confused about the leotards.

I REALLY enjoyed the instructor. Katie was her name (I think). She gave just the right amount of motivation without sounding like an irate drill-sargeant. I spent entirely too much time wondering how she managed to get her fishtail braid so gosh darn perfect.

I felt like I kept up with the class fairly well, making sure that my resistance on the bike was within the recommended ranges as instructed by Katie. It took me a hot second to realize that I should’ve been aiming for higher RPMs, because I mistook that recommendation for another reading on the monitor and oops…oh well. My quads were burning, my heart was pumping, and I was sweating like a very fat man in a very hot and crowded room.

My sweat towel dropped on the floor, but I can’t reach it. My feet are strapped in, and I can’t get them out.

Mid-class:
BORED SO BORED.  30 minutes in and I AM STILL ON THIS EFFING BIKE.
Epiphany: cycling isn’t for me.  I think in my earlier twenties I thought that I needed intense, push-it-to-the-limit workouts, but I don’t feel like I need that right now, and I get a special kind of anxiety in a dark room with really loud club music while my feet are literally strapped onto a bike that I know I am too clumsy to actually appreciate.
I notice the discomfort concerning my feet being strapped in is crescendoing into full-blown panic, and about that time, my calves and feet begin to slowly, ever so slowly, cramp.

By the end of the class both of my feet and calves are completely cramped- definitely should’ve had more water in the last 24 hours.  I can’t get my feet off of the darn bike because of the shoes being clipped in, so I just decide to leave my shoes in the pedals. Screw it. I un-velcro myself to sweet, sweet freedom, and I hop off the bike to stretch with the class. My shoes are still pedaling along slowly on the bike without me in my periphery.

After we are done stretching, I drop to my knees and physically wrestle with the pedals and the shoes. I know what you’re thinking: it really can’t be that hard to get the shoes unclipped, Stacey. And I agree. It shouldn’t be this hard. CLEARLY I AM DOING SOMETHING WRONG. Brad (not sure if that’s his name) comes over about that time and helps me unclip my rental shoes from the bike pedals, smiling patiently.
“Oh I see! So it’s just like skiing?” I say.
“YES! Exactly- it’s just like skis!” Brad concurs.
But in real life I have only been skiing twice, and I can’t even manage to clip my shoes in and out of skis either. I am such a fraud.

I grab my purse, keys, and RX Bar out of my (really clean) locker and immediately reach for the bananas for some much-needed potassium and magnesium, and I head to my car. I’m thankful that I am experiencing new forms of movement, and I will happily return to Cyclebar in a week or two to fulfill my groupon purchase…but I won’t be committing to a membership (which is quite an investment anyway).
It’s not you, Cyclebar, it’s me. And I am not a cyclist.

Cyclebar is for you if: 
-you like friendly people, and you don’t mind them greeting you
-you aren’t working out alone (this place is a little awkward to come solo. It feels very happy hour-esque)
-you like clean showers, restrooms, lockers, etc.
-you like fun, themed workouts (e.g. 80s night, Madonna Concert Series, etc.)
-you’re cool with instructors yelling at you through a microphone
-you don’t get offended by 90s music at 80s night
-you want a really good cardio workout with fun resistance thrown into the mix
-you like to sweat like a mofo
-you like to track your improvements (stats are emailed to you after each class!)
-bananas

By trying new forms of movement I’ve discovered that while I don’t like spin classes all that much, I’m 100% on team yoga and barre, which have been excellent cross-training for my one true love: running. My runs have been faster, and my hips don’t feel tight for the first time maybe ever. The pain that used to plague my right IT band isn’t there (although to be fair, I’m running short distances currently).  Yoga and barre are both challenging in very different ways, and I love knowing that I’m growing and changing with each class.

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^this morning’s tempo run, 35 degrees and beautiful.

I’m not a person who easily falls into and appreciates routine; I’m all over the place. I run because I can, and because it has always challenged me. Knowing that I have completed a training regimen and raced is such a feeling of accomplishment. But recently I began to feel guilty once I realized that I wasn’t looking forward to my runs, staring back at my calendar with dread instead of excitement over training for new races. I knew this needed to change (because I want to want to run, ya know?), and thankfully, I still VERY MUCH love running. I simply needed newness to break up the monotony. I needed to know that I was capable of being strong in other ways, and thankfully, this has made me a stronger runner, too. Life has been exponentially more flavorful and fun simply by listening to my body, satisfying it with the form of movement that it has been craving, and watching it respond accordingly. I’m thankful to be on the up and up.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to run some errands after chowing down on this very non-instagram worthy picture of my very purposeful and fueling food choice for this morning.

Go have a good weekend 🙂 Keep moving forward.

xo, Stacey

 

 

Questions:
How do you break up the work week or workout monotony? 
Do you appreciate routine, or do you you like to switch it up? 
Do you like bananas? How about pina coladas? Getting caught in the rain?


8 Simple Rules for the Aspiring Marathoner, as Told by a New York City Marathon Finisher

Hi, Friends! Hope y’all are having a wonderful week.

Today’s post is guest-written my friend and fellow UC warrior, Lizzy! She’s a recent first-time marathoner, and in case you were thinking about signing up for 26.2 miles, you get to hear firsthand advice and race recaps from a finisher of the New York City [freakin] Marathon today! So from one friend to another, here’s Lizzy :).

Oh- and if you can’t get enough of her, be sure to check out her blog HERE!

Hello, Internet Friends! My name is Lizzy, and I ran the New York City Marathon on November 5th. What?! It still feels so crazy whenever I say that out loud. I’m comin’ atcha today with my experience, things I learned, and key takeaways for those of you crazy enough to consider doing 26.2.  Hopefully I can give y’all a little bit of a better idea about what to expect when training for a full marathon.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

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1. Why did you decide to run the NYC Marathon? 

One of the biggest responses I faced when telling people I just wanted to do a full marathon (knowing I’m a slower runner) was “Well, why even run a marathon if you’re going to be out on the course for that long?” Fair enough. I’m a slow-poke runner.  But, I actually chose to do the race for a special reason, that had nothing to do with my love for running.  In 2014 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. The diagnosis came after almost a year of questions, miserable symptoms, an incorrect Crohn’s Disease diagnosis, and four different doctors and specialists. Stacey shares a similar diagnosis to me, which is how we met originally. Getting diagnosed with a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease is really tough on a number of levels, but one of the hardest pieces is it’s effects on your physical ability and energy. When you are flaring, you have close to zero energy. It is so, so hard to bring yourself to do anything physically challenging because your body is working so hard to keep itself healthy. I did not choose to run a marathon because I thought it would be a *fun* challenge. I chose to run a marathon to prove to myself that UC will not limit me in every aspect of my life.  This is why I originally started running 3 years ago; to show UC who’s boss.  The NYC Marathon was offered as a race through the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s Team Challenge program—where you fundraise for the Foundation and train for a marathon at the same time. I’ve done several half marathons with this organization before and they are a BLAST.  This felt like the perfect way to tackle my first 26.2!  I signed up and immediately hyperventilated.  I felt like I’d bit off way more than I could chew!

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2. What did your training schedule look like, and how long did you train? 

My training officially started in June of this year. I ran three days a week, cross-trained twice a week, did strength training one day a week, and took one solid rest day.  There are so many different training plans to follow, and I felt like three days of running was plenty for me.  My cross training consisted of low-impact activities (I usually flip-flopped between swimming/aqua jogging, the elliptical, and spinning), while my strength training was more focused on full-body movements that built up my core and lower body muscles.  For some context: I was returning to running after an injury I sustained last fall—so I needed the extra days of cross-training to make sure I didn’t re-injure myself. Thank goodness for my physical therapist. 

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3. What was the most difficult part of your training? 

The training itself was really, really tough. I felt like I turned down a lot of opportunities over the summer because I was so focused on my training schedule. Then, to add another layer to the crazy, I auditioned and got a part in a musical that was occurring in mid-November. Add weeknight rehearsals on top of marathon training, and I felt like I hadn’t seen my friends or live-in boyfriend in three months. Ack! The time-suck is easily the worst part of marathon training. You have to mindfully plan your time, and this can be kind of a buzz-kill. Spontaneity wasn’t something I could really afford myself this summer and fall. Training is really a part-time job. 

4. What were you most nervous about? Advice?

The day of the race was next-level. I was so, so nervous.  There was a lot of excitement, too. But mostly nerves. I knew I needed to trust my training, but I was feeling a bit discouraged because of what my time goal was. I wanted to finish around the six-hour mark. Listening to others at the start who’s goals were two hours shorter than mine was tough, I won’t lie to you. It messes with your head a bit and made me wonder if I was really cut out to do this.  But, I was excited to deliver a big “eff you” to Ulcerative Colitis and prove to myself that I could finish.  I’m happy I went in with that attitude, because the race exceeded my expectations. The crowds were so supportive, and it didn’t matter that I was running with the six-hour pacer. There were so many of us in the back of the pack! I wish that I had seen more stories about slower runners before I attempted this—there are a lot of us!  The energy was infectious and for the first 19 miles, it didn’t matter how slow or fast I was. I fed off the New York energy and felt like a total rockstar. Running these larger races can do that to you.  It also helped to see family and friends on the course. I would absolutely recommend bringing a hype squad with you, especially for your first race. 

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My mom and her sign on the course!

5. What was your least favorite part of the marathon? Best part?

I started to have a really tough time right after mile 19. For whatever reason, my hip gave out. I had done all my training runs, I felt healthy going in—it just goes to show that sometimes things don’t go as planned.  I tried to run a little bit, but I ended up having to slow down to a full walk (I had been doing a walk/run interval prior to slowing down) and that was really, really disheartening. It slowed my time down significantly, and put me finishing about 45 minutes after I thought I would. The last 7 miles were the worst for me mentally. After doing so well, having to slow down just as you’re about to hit the wall was not a fun feeling and I’m not going to lie—it was a struggle.  There were many tears and I considered just giving up.  But, all of this emotion was followed by one of my favorite parts of the whole race—at mile 22 a very nice lady in the Bronx offered me a slice of cheese pizza. It was exactly what I needed, and made me smile. I was able to stay positive for rest of the race. 

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6. Mental or physical- which did you rely on the most for this race?

What everyone says about the mental game of the marathon is true. It doesn’t matter how slow or fast you are, the most important thing is believing you can do this.  I bawled when I crossed the finish line. Physically, I was so tired. Mentally, I was spent. It was such a mix of relief/exhaustion/frustration/elation; it took me a while to fully process what I felt after finishing.  I was so glad to have finished, to have done it, to have shown my body that I could do it. No matter how hard it was, I did it.  UC limits me in a lot of ways, but it didn’t keep me from finishing my first marathon. And for that I was grateful.

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Me right after I finished, post-cry sesh!

7. Did you have a finish time goal in mind? If so, did you meet it?

Try to not have a set finish time in mind. Take it from someone who was told this—it is so, so hard to not go into something like this with a time goal. I had one, and I so wish I hadn’t. I think if I had gone in with the ONLY goal of finishing, I wouldn’t have beat myself up so much after I had to start walking at mile 19. I finished an effing marathon, and my concern for those last 7 miles wasn’t finishing—it was finishing quicker. That wasn’t fair to me, my emotional state, or my body at that point in the race. My biggest regret with this race is that I didn’t just try to enjoy the last couple of miles. I was positive, sure, but I was so anxious.  Besides the nice lady offering me pizza, I don’t remember a lot from the last 7 miles. I wish I had.

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THE BLING!

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8. What’s the best advice you can give to someone thinking of running a marathon? 

For those of you who are thinking of doing this, I have three pieces of advice: train well, stay healthy, and for the love of all that is holy, try not to go into your first race with an exact finish time in mind.  Train well so you feel confident going into the race. It’s ok to miss a run every now and then—I missed a long run about a month before my race and had to shorten it because of a bad cold.  This leads to my next piece of advice-STAY HEALTHY. You are not doing your training a favor if you run with the flu. Give your body a break. You know what’s best for you. I’m glad I shortened that longer run with a cold, because I was able to crush my 20-mile training run the following weekend since I wasn’t sick. 

Give yourself lots and lots of grace while training for a marathon. LOTS AND LOTS OF GRACE. This is a massive undertaking. Surround yourself by people who support you and encourage you. Make sure you take your full rest day each week.  When that’s all said and done, ENJOY THE HECK out of the race and wear your medal for as long as physically possible. I’ve carried mine with me the last week because I’m so proud of myself. Wear your finisher’s gear. Own that pride. You just finished a flippin’ marathon! Will I do another one? Heck yes. But for now, a half marathon is still my favorite distance, and I’m going to give myself a break. I want to focus on staying healthy with UC. I also want to treat myself to a big ole’ plate of cheese fries. Priorities.

-Lizzy

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HUGE shoutout to Lizzy, for not only taking the time to write this post, but also for making marathons sound far less intimidating and attainable, even for us mere mortal slow-pokes who just wanna make a difference. You are an actual badass.

And now, I’ll dream of that mile 22 New York style pizza all the live-long day…

 


Hormone-Balancing Chocolate Mint Drink

Hope everyone’s week is off to a good start!

Today feels like a Wednesday, but thank goodness it’s only Tuesday-packed full of organic chemistry! I have decided to finish the rest of the semester up in the next two weeks before I start a new job that I just accepted (more on this later), which means I don’t have much free time. However, I did manage to procrastinate just long enough to whip this baby up.

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I started off this cold, chilly fall morning thinking, “I’m going to make hot chocolate” but it turned into a frothy morning drink thing. We’re going to call thing a “Mint Chocolate Hormone Balancing Drink”.

This concoction has hormone-balancing ingredients like coconut oil and maca root powder. I read several articles on maca and finally ended up consulting pubmed for more conclusive/reliable research. Many of the healthful claims about maca haven’t been scientifically proven [yet], however, maca does appear to be beneficial in elevating mood (1), regulating estrogen levels, especially in menopausal and post-menopausal women (2) as well as serving as a helpful alternative for persistent pain management (3). Until we know more about maca scientifically, take all the “maca will change your life and your energy levels and help you grow strong, Rapunzel-like hair” with a tiny grain of salt. Yes, it’s a great root starch from the Andes mountains, and yes, it does provide health benefits (and I’m hopeful that with more research we will know more). But remember that in most areas of life, “too much of a good thing is a bad thing”…so don’t make maca your daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner situation.

Okay. Recipe time. This one is quick and easy, and the balance of the nutty flavor of maca with the cacao powder and mint gives such a satisfying taste without being overbearingly sweet. If you do find your sweet tooth in need of some TLC though, just add a couple of tbsp of organic maple syrup to this recipe- I’m sure that would be a treat!

Mint Chocolate Hormone-Balancing Drink

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Print

A smooth, mildly chocolatey and refreshingly minty morning drink with hormone-balancing benefits.

Ingredients

  • high speed blender
  • 1 C water
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder (I bought a bag for $3.99 from Trader Joe’s, right by the hot cereals)
  • 1 ½ tbsp maca powder (also purchased from Trader Joe’s for $3.99)
  • ½ tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (favorite is linked here!)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • small handful of fresh mint leaves, trust me…
  • 1 C ice cubes

Directions

  1. Pour water, protein and remaining ingredients into blender
  2. Blend on high until ingredients are mixed well. Note: This will be frothy and smooth, not thick and creamy.
  3. Pour and serve. I like to top with fresh mint leaves. Enjoy!

This has been perfect for today’s cold weather. Let me know if you decide to give it a try yourself!


Vega Probiotics

A note on maca powder or cacao powder: make sure the only ingredient on the bag is “maca powder” or “cacao powder”. Sometimes sneaky ingredients like “sugar” will find their way into you pure ingredients, and sugar deserves to be somewhere fun and celebratory-like cake. 🙂

-Stacey

Also note: this isn’t a miracle smoothie that will solve all your hormone troubles. It’s ultimately up to you to eat a balanced diet consistently from whole food sources under the direction of a doctor or a registered dietitian, and I am neither.

Sources
(1)
(2)
(3)


Ulcerative Colitis: 5 Years Later

Happy November!

Is this the fastest year ever for anyone else? Just me? It’s flying by in a hurry!

I realized today that it has been five whole years since my ulcerative colitis diagnosis– woo! So much has changed in the last five years, and today I’m making a post about five obstacles that I have overcome and you can, too! But first, here’s a timeline of all the significant moments of life in and around an ulcerative colitis diagnosis:

-September 2012: Began experiencing severe symptoms (x-rated version: bloody stools 30x daily, loss of appetite, quick weight loss, fatigue, night sweats) 

-October 2012: Diagnosed with “moderate to severe ulcerative colitis”- began remicade infusions, pain medications, steroids, and mesalamines to get symptoms under control

-January 2013: Tried stopping all medications and healing with holistic approach (without doctor’s permission) Stupid, stupid, stupid

-April 2013: Hospital stay for dehydration due to symptoms; back on remicade infusions every 8 weeks with steroids. Decided to stop eating red meat, fried food, processed meats, and cheese

-December 2013: GRADUATED from The University of Texas at Austin, despite pleas from family to take a medical leave of absence. My GPA even improved after a diagnosis.

-March 2014: First post-grad job, a night shift at a Houston hospital. Here is where I learned that I did not want to be a nurse but instead decided to pursue dietetics. I declined my acceptance to a post-bachelor’s nursing program and began scoping out dietetics programs.

-June 2014: 2nd colonoscopy revealed active and increased inflammation; diagnosis modified to “Crohn’s disease”; removed from night shift schedule and increased dosage of steroids

-March 2015: Registered to run first half-marathon and fundraise for cures to Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis; began talking publicly on social media about disease and realized that I could help encourage people through my journey with a challenging diagnosis. 

-July 2015: Completed first half-marathon in Sonoma, California after fundraising over $3,900 for Crohn’s and UC research

-February 2016: Completed second half-marathon in New Orleans after fundraising over $2,500 for Crohn’s and UC research

-May 2016: OFF STEROIDS! 

-July 2016: ENGAGED! 

-August-December 2016: “Is remicade working?”

-January 2017: WEDDING!

-February 2017: 3rd colonoscopy confirms “ulcerative colitis” diagnosis, but with significantly less inflammation

-May 2017: REMISSION! 

-October 2017: 5 years of ulcerative colitis diagnosis

Much has happened in the last five years, and I get bummed when I live through an experience and think, “why didn’t anyone tell me about this?!” which is why I [probably] tend to overshare on social media-you’re welcome. I believe that leaning into the vulnerability of real life challenges and sharing the experience with others helps create a community of empowerment. My life isn’t filled with bright, celestial light and like-it-to-know it worthy outfits (currently sporting dirty high-top converse and yoga pants); my life is peaks and valleys, a balancing act of chasing chocolate chip cookies with probiotic green juice and just trying to stay the eff in remission while I navigate life as a normal twenty-something year old newlywed while remaining a girl boss in organic chemistry. My life is far too much to pretend that it’s instaperfect.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling. Here’s five obstacles that I have overcome with ulcerative colitis:

1. Fear of pain. I remember freaking out as a child every time my mom would take me to the dentist, “Will it hurt?!” Grown adults still ask me this about colonoscopies

(No, Debra, you’ll be fine).

I honestly go into procedures/infusions now knowing that at some point I WILL feel discomfort, possibly even pain, and I don’t even care. Pain is temporary, even if it doesn’t feel that way. P.S. The most painful part of the infusion is the end, when the nurse takes the tape off. Think of it as a nice little wax job.

 

2. Fear of needles. Before UC, I would get so nervous to have by blood drawn annually at my physical check-up. One time I almost passed out. But I realized quickly that I would be seeing a lot of needles after my diagnosis, and I needed to woman-up and get brave. Now I can look at needles all day long- no problem. I don’t even care if the nurse has to try four times before hitting a vein, that looks like hard work anyway.

Pro tip: If you ARE afraid of needles, don’t look at the needle when your nurse is trying to thread it, because this triggers a fight-or-fight response from your sympathetic nervous system and your veins vasoconstrict, making life more difficult for you AND your nurse. Also be sure to hydrate well the day BEFORE a procedure so your veins are happy, plump and hydrated.

3. Being my own advocate. If you know me, you know that I have a soft voice, AND I have a resting nice face which means that everyone smiles at me all.the.time. Strangers frequently strike up a conversation, like we’re old friends. My naturally semi-extroverted self is STOKED to have these encounters, but because I LOOK so.damn.friendly. it’s a real challenge for people to take me seriously. When the nurse says “let me check on the order for your medication” I take notes of who I spoke to, when I spoke to them, and then I call back later that day to make sure that homegirl actually checked on the order as promised. People get busy and forget, but my body isn’t going to forget that it needs an infusion to function. If I show up to an infusion appointment only to find out that an order had never been written and insurance had never been contacted for prior-authorization, I WILL craft an email to the head of the infusion center, call my doctor, or show up in person with an order ready for him to fill out and sign. Whatever it takes, I leave my dignity at the door, and I fight. It’s too easy to get lost in our American Healthcare System, so go to bat for yourself. Take good notes, talk to understanding people, and make your case sound.

4. Hair loss. Many, many people experience hair loss; it’s just part of life. I could write an entire post dedicated to “How to make your hair healthy after you’ve been REALLY nutrient depleted and it thins and falls out and breaks off in clumps and makes you cry really hard in the shower but it’s going to be okay, Stacey- IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY. YOU’RE OKAY.” Honestly, hair loss was a tough little challenge for me, and friends and family members were so kind about it “I can hardly notice”. My older sister bought me expensive, old man hair growth shampoo- bless her. But to me, hair loss was an outward expression of how desperately unhealthy I was on the inside, and it was hard to wash my hair knowing that I had balding spots, and I could feel it thinning by the handful. In retrospect, it could’ve been so much worse. I wasn’t bald! Let’s review:

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Ten months before UC diagnosis

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One year after my diagnosis. I started parting my hair on the opposite side and got bangs to hide a bald spot. It worked!

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Three years post-diagnosis. I remember loving this picture because my hair looked like it was growing, even though it was wispy and thin compared to before my diagnosis, I knew I was getting much healthier!

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Five years post-diagnosis. I’ve never been this healthy, and I think my hair agrees. *flips hair*

5. Health is comprehensive. Being healthy has been another challenge, but I FINALLY feel like I’m getting it down. In college I stressed and slaved so hard over science courses to get into nursing school, and I sacrificed quality sleep and my diet suffered (but isn’t that the tale of so many college students?)

Post-grad I learned that I felt better when I was physically active, and I started sleeping more. I now feel like I’m balancing sleep, productivity, physical movement, spirituality, and time with people I love better, and each facet is an integral part of overall health. Taking care of myself is getting easier. Three cheers for adulting!

If you’re dealing with a diagnosis, managing a disease, or you just feel like you have a one-way ticket to Struggle City, USA, know that I’m here to help you feel like you’re doing a thing, and you’re doing it better than you think. Life is a continuum of learning, and if we can manage to learn together…well, I’d say we’re doing something right.

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5 years, 40 pounds, and a crap ton of life lessons in between. Pun intended…

Here’s to five years of learning and living! Hope your day is a good one! 🙂

-Stacey


Weekend Recap + Mint Chocolate Smoothie

Happy Monday, Friends!

Hope you had a great weekend!

I drove to my hometown near Houston, TX for an impromptu visit this weekend. My dad was in the hospital fighting an unknown bacterial infection in his pinky bone. A couple surgeries and a lot of antibiotics later, the pinky is saved! Hopefully he will be released sometime this week, but infectious disease is keeping a close eye to ensure the infection is contained without spreading throughout his body.

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He was in good spirits, especially after his Astros beat the Yankees to win the pennant! He cried real, happy tears. If you’ve been an Astros fan for your entire life, I’m sure you understand- so many feels.

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View from Dad’s window- Houston has been through too much this year thanks to Hurricane Harvey. So proud to come from this strong, diverse, vibrant community.

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I love the Texas Medical Center- I’ve been a patient here, I’ve worked here, and I’ve volunteered here. There’s no place like it. Truly.

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We stopped by Pronto’s on Holcomb Blvd for chopped salad with salmon, one of my all time favorites by the med center. I also got a piece of tiramisu, and I highly recommend.

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Then we popped over to a hometown football game to watch my cousin’s homecoming halftime show performance (how cute is she though?!). LOVE small-town football!

The next morning my sister and I went through old boxes of keepsakes in the garage that my parents stored from our childhood. My mom wanted us to go through everything and decide what to keep…still not sure why…but it was entertaining. I learned that I am not particularly a sentimental hoarder about most things, but I did fall victim to Barbie nostalgia. Not pictured: Scuba Barbie, Shaving Ken, and Dentist Barbie.

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Then we found this quaint little spot right behind my old high school for lunch. WHY did places like this not exist ten years ago?! 421 Coffeehouse was fantastic.

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If you ever find yourself in West Columbia, TX, stop by this place! Their chicken salad was divine.

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I stopped by my older sister’s salon to wish her a happy birthday and updated her pricing board for her:

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And then we drove back to Houston to hang out with Dad some more. Sunday morning we began the long drive back to Oklahoma City. Oh- CHECK OUT MY COPILOT:

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Her name is Sophie. She’s 11 weeks old, loves to play fetch and cuddle, and I want to hold her every day. She’s my sister’s dog, and she did fantastic on her first long road trip!

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This morning I caught up on some (much needed) sleep and managed to whip up a mint-chocolate chip smoothie. I actually used some vanilla pea protein from Trader Joe’s for this recipe that was VERY affordable (but not my very favorite taste). Honestly, you’ll appreciate this recipe much more if you use some sort of chocolate-flavored protein. Because of all the nutritious ingredients like frozen cauliflower and frozen avocado (fear not- these are tasteless additions, I promise!), I was quite full after this smoothie.

Mint Chocolate-Chip Smoothie

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Print

A creamy, nutritious chocolate chip smoothie full of healthy fats, veggies, and tasty goodness.

Ingredients

  • high speed blender
  • 1 C almond milk
  • 1 C frozen cauliflower
  • 1 small handful of fresh mint leaves, trust me…
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ C frozen avocado (you won’t taste this ingredient, and it adds rich, creamy texture with healthy fats, keeping you fuller longer!)
  • ½ C ice cubes
  • ¼ C deep dark chocolate chips OR raw cacao nibs
  • one-two hefty, violent shakes of the ground cinnamon bottle
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein. (!!!This would taste better with chocolate protein though!!!)

Directions

  1. Pour milk, protein and remaining ingredients into blender
  2. Blend on “high” until thick and rich texture is visible
  3. Pour and serve. I like to top with melted deep dark chocolate or cacao nibs. Enjoy!

Let me know what cha think if you give this smoothie a shot!

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Cheers to a productive and great Monday! On the books for today: Organic chemistry, laundry, slow-cooker taco soup, banana bread, a 5k jog, and more organic chemistry.

-Stacey