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?

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Lately

Lately

Hey, friends!

How on Earth have ya been?! I’ve been MIA, even through the holidays but not completely without good reason. Wanna catch up?

For starters:

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Is it gross to use an iPhone in a public restroom? Yes, yes it is. 

I started having a mega-flare around Thanksgiving thanks to my doctor’s office staff forgetting to send documents to the insurance company, resulting in the insurance company denying my remicade infusions (you know, the ones that my life literally depend on) and further delaying any forthcoming infusions.

The more time lapsed between infusions, life.got.real.

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A trip to the ER for dehydration in January, and I learned that hospitals no longer even carry my infusion medication because of cost, so that killed my hopes and dreams of receiving an emergency infusion. Back on the steroids we go (kicking and screaming- if you’ve ever been on the ‘roids I know you understand!). I called the doc to update his staff on my change in medical status/recent trip to the ER/weight loss from crapping blood constantly (sorry-x-rated), and received a “what do you expect us to do for you?” response, which resulted in me finding another doctor in.a.hurry.

My new doc was furious about my exacerbated symptoms to say the least (we are starting over, from ground zero and it is a lot of time-intensive, hard work). She prescribed me more oral meds to help my body not reject the infusion since it has been so long without the medication. Within three business days, the new doc had my insurance giving the green light for infusions for the rest of the year. MIRACLES! Ya girl finally got an infusion, only a month past due. But I won’t be without any future infusions this year. PRAISE HANDS!

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My new infusion center is located at my new doctor’s office in Dallas, three hours of a drive from where I live in OKC, but I don’t mind. My sister and best gal pal, Lindsay, lives in the Big D, so we make a fun sister weekend out of it. Here I am cuddling her dog Sophie while she’s at work, post-Remicade nap session and just after grabbing some juice from one of my Austin guilty pleasures in Dallas, Juiceland.

And if you know me, you know that infusion days= pizza days 🙂

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We went to Oak Cliff for some delicious pizza at Eno’s which was the cutest little area I’ve seen in a while (disclaimer: not all of Oak Cliff is this picturesque, but it’s on the up and up). We grabbed our pie to-go because, well, symptoms got in the way. And then we headed home to watch a healthy dose of Grey’s Anatomy and hang out with Sophiedog.

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The next rainy morning we went to a local barre class where we spent most of the hour huffing and puffing and laughing and feeling especially uncoordinated, then we headed to Mudsmith for post-workout coffee and conversation. I think Lindsay hated me a little for signing us up for barre (oops). Then I headed back to OKC for a biochemistry test.

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Which about brings us up to speed for this week! We had our first ice storm since I moved her a year ago:

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Y’all. I have never driven in ice. It was a big grown-up deal for ya girl.

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But I made it to work and back home all week just like a pro!

And today I wore sandals and a tank top to yoga class, because it’s sixty degrees again and life is good!

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I realize now that I should’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable and open during the depths of this past flare; it could’ve helped someone. When symptoms rage and I start to panic, I have a difficult time vocalizing and making sense of my thoughts. I even have somewhat of a guilty conscience for fear of sounding too negative and “debbie downer” but that’s real life! Chronic disease is a tough dragon to tame at times, but if you’re going through something similar, hang in there. Know that you may have to make sacrifices (e.g. sleep, meds, dietary changes, more exercise, eliminating stress, etc) but you and your health are worth it all.

I’m still not out of the woods; I am still fighting through symptoms, and if I think too much about where I’ve been and how it feels like I’ve taken three steps backward right now, I get bummed. But I’m not letting this flare get to me like the others, and I refuse to sit on my couch stagnant and sad (not that there’s anything wrong with that! Couches can be great for healing with a healthy dose of some Netflix, but it’s not what I need right now). For starters, I signed up for yoga (I’m really bad at it), but y’all, I LOVE it.

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The facility also offers barre and pilates, and I find it’s just the right speed to make me stronger without feeling like I’m having a near-death experience while exercising. I’ve also started running again.

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Self-timer took this pic after yesterday’s quick little one mile run because I felt strong. 9.56″ pace for a one mile up and down some little hills and over puddles of melted ice, and it was exactly what I needed. Starting from the bottom can be so scary and disheartening, but honestly. What is worse than being stuck at the bottom? Nothing. So I’m climbing my way up and up again, doing the things I love as often as I can, listening to my body, eating good food, trying new things, experimenting with new recipes, and finding joy in the journey.

Hope you’re finding joy in your journey, wherever you are! It’s so good to be back. xo

-Stacey

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P.S. These banana muffins are the stuff of dreams. Recipe is from Caroline’s Kitchen!

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

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

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

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

Dogs & Health

This post is dedicated to those dealing with autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, cancers, the flu, or the common cold. I hope this lifts your spirits!

When I was in college (against my parents’ wishes) I rescued Jaxon.

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Jaxon is some sort of maltese/poodle mix if I had to guess (Maltipoo?) and he’s deaf from being left alone outside for the first eleven weeks of his little life. The vet’s best guess is that grass mites actually ate his ear drums- poor, sweet guy! He’s been deaf ever since.
(side note: I’m certain there’s a special place in hell reserved for people who are mean to dogs)

Thankfully, my roommates were all on board to keep Jaxon, so we took turns feeding him nutrients via syringe depending on who was at the apartment from class. Before we knew it he was making his rounds to all the college parties, occasionally even sneaking into classes and workplaces. On more than one occasion I was walking him through West Campus when a complete stranger ran up to us, “Jaxon!!!!” He was quite popular.

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In the Fall of 2012 when I became sick and was diagnosed with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis, Jaxon slept on my face while I napped for hours at a time. He slept on my feet while I had symptomatic episodes from the toilet. He stuck his nose beneath the door when I locked myself in the bathroom. He knew I wasn’t feeling great, and he did his best to heal me.

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And in a way, I really think Jaxon has succeeded in helping me heal.

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Honestly, he’s Mister Independent most of the time. His favorite spot is alone on the back of the couch. But if he knows that I’m not feeling well he sleeps ON my face, and I swear I can hear his concern. When I was worried about symptoms, he was there to try to calm them, letting me pet his soft fur all through the night while he curled up into a tight ball by my stomach.

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And now that I’m feeling much better he’s still careful to keep a watchful eye, making sure his people don’t wander too far:

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Just knowing my little furballer was at home patiently waiting to greet me after doctor’s appointments, infusions, procedures, or just a regular day made all the difference in the world, and I’m confident that he’s a big reason why I’m able to be the positive patient that I am.

 

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For more, here’s an uplifting article about how pets can improve your health. Do you have any experience with an animal helping you better manage your disease or condition? 

To find a pet rescue near you, click here! Hope you consider adopting whether or not you’re ill; pets have a way of changing your life for the better!

Keep moving forward 🙂 I’m rooting for you! (and so are your pets)

-Stacey

PetCareChoice.com


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