One small step for mankind, one giant ‘hanumanasana’ leap for me

75 Minute Intermediate Class (Focus on Hanumanasana) p2

Friday.

I can’t remember a Friday when I have not had a glass of wine – oh yes I can, during the Primal Junction challenge – but before then I cant remember one I haven’t had a drink much less exercised.

Tonight is my first strong flow. Where the ultimate goal is to reach full splits.

As soon as Kristiarne told us this as we checked in for the class, Nisha and I exchanged a worried glance and raised eyebrows.

It’s the journey, Kristairne reassured us. Don’t worry.

As Nisha said, that’s going to be a long journey for us.

For me, who has only just learnt to touch my toes, whose hips still ache and knees inwardly bend at odd angles, it’s going to be a tough one.

Apparently the journey involves us using two blocks for support, which was fine until the class got so full we had to surrender one of our already claimed blocks to the later comers, or those who were not quick enough to snatch two.

I gave mine to Haydn. Probably a mistake in hindsight given his increased flexibility to begin with and his previous gymnastic experience.

His handstand walking at crossfit today made my attempt at kicking my legs overhead, much less walking, well, laughable. Plus he can sumo squat more than double his weight, so not sure why he needs a block to hold him up.

Anyway, I gave it to him. Odds are it won’t be the fact I am down to only one block that stops me from doing the splits. I have a better chance of splitting something.

I’m in the first row tonight. Nisha has dragged me here kicking and screaming so we can review our posture closer to the mirror. I’m not sure I like it. It’s too close. Especially if the destination is full splits, or as we are told ‘hanumanasana’ (hah-new-mahn-AHS-anna). 

Before attempting this peek pose we were told a story of a monkey-faced king, Rama, of India whose wife, Sita, was abducted by an evil demon king of Sri Lanka, Ravana. Like any good war story a battle followed and according to Wikipedia Rama’s brother was severely injured and his life could only be saved by a magical herb that only grew, alas, on the Himalayas and was an impossible journey given the time required to bring the herb back to save Rama’s brother, Laksamana.  

Enter the story’s hero, Hunuman, who was devoted to Rama and so took it upon himself to take the leap from India to the Himalayas, where unsure what herb to pick, he instead strapped the entire mountain on his back.

“It was the greatest leap ever taken. The speed of Hanuman’s jump pulled blossoms and flowers into the air after him and they fell like little stars on the waving treetops. The animals on the beach had never seen such a thing; they cheered Hanuman, then the air burned from his passage, and red clouds flamed over the sky . . .” (Ramayana, retold by William Buck).

Of course he made it back in time, saved Laksamana, rescued Rama and everyone lived happily ever after.

After I went through the motions, I am sure Laksamana, Rama and Sita were well glad they had someone with Hanuman’s flexibility, leg length and strength on their side instead of my own..

No block was required, because well, there was just no way I was getting anywhere close to leaping over my mat much less over a country or two.

I took a sneaky glance at Hadyn and noticed he was in full splits.

Without his block.

I really wanted to go home and have a glass of wine.

Saturday

I have never spent so much time in front of a mirror as I have since starting yoga.

It’s a bit confronting.

Not so much during the practice, but the time I spend in the room before is defiantly. I find myself staring at my own arms, wondering if they are any closer to Michelle Bridges.

Tonight, when I take a break from the scribble on my page and look up, catching a glance of my seated position, I almost think they do. But then I realize I have taken my glasses off and am probably looking at somebody else.

If anything my arms look a little too wide.

I’m prepping for the triple-header today.

My hips are a little cranky after last nights failed leap attempt. Fair to say the journey to find full splits might be over before it has really begun for me.

Laksamana must have had really long legs.

I’m also still recovering from my eating mishap yesterday when I ransacked cake and forgot my sugar free self.  Maybe that is why my arms look too wide.

Today sees a few familiar faces, a few new ones. I’m back in my regular, almost comforting place waiting for Nisha who I know will want to change to be closer to the front, but with or without glasses I know my arms are not like Michelle Bridges just yet, and after my embarrassing attempt at  ‘hanumanasana’ it’s safer in my corner.

After today’s triple-header I should be back on track to success.

Thank god.

If I continue the daily ritual, with a Thursday double and either a double or triple next Saturday then I should be far enough in front for the final weekend when I will also be away, and actually pass the challenge.

Knowing I would be starving by 11:30 I ate yoghurt with my paleo Primal Junction muesli, and washed it down with a long black before I came.

Not sure it was the best idea to have dairy before yoga, but I’ve been craving it lately and didn’t have time to cook eggs.

I also made a smoothie, spinach, banana, berry and chia seeds, although again I failed by putting it in the freezer and it’s not yet ready to drink.

I’m a little tired, maybe ill have a nap in meditation….

Sunday

I’m back baby! Back on track!!

I’m pretty chuffed with myself for making it back from so far behind.

I might even be ahead!!!

Mind you, I’m paying for it.

My legs are sore, my hips ache, I have a bruise on my butt that I think is from crossfit and hurts every time I rock and roll my way up to seated position, and my shoulders burn through my vinyasa flow.

And I’m exhausted.

It’s my 10th class for the week.

10 classes in 7 days.

Of course there was a Yin through in, and mediation yesterday, but either way that is a lot of airtime, dedication, flexing, stretching and sweating I have left on the mat this week.

So much so I have caught up. Am not a follower but back with the pack, a real challenger.

Thank goodness, if I was putting my hips through this for nothing I would be well pissed.

The mat placement etiquette seems to have been lost a little today. I thought about trying a different position but it’s a little bit creative, not straight lines, all higgledy piggledy and I couldn’t quite find the right area for Nisha and I to set up somewhere new.

Nisha is hung over. She is getting ready to sweat out all the bad boy toxins she consumed last night.

Me, I had one glass of red wine and it was enough to send me to sleep.  I didn’t even make my eyelids stay open for the last ten minutes of Carlton versus Essendon.

See, exhausted.

My body hurts and my entire being was cursing when the alarm went off this morning.

It’s Sunday! Rest Day!! Are you mad woman!!?? Shut that thing off!!!??

 

Sorry scary Stacey, you will have to stop poking me with your pitchfork because I am getting up.

My thought process before class today.

I really had to sumo slam the negative Stacey down, the one who was responsible for me eating cake. She had Friday, she was not having Sunday too!

It’s been a tough week.

Nisha felt like this week one. I am sure others did also. Tired, struggling, a little overwhelmed because maybe this entire challenge thing was taken bit too easily, with a little bit too much self confidence.

Week 1 challengers were all feeling like that while I was away for work, drinking wine, eating steak and sleeping in.

But now it’s my turn.

Maybe some others are feeling like me this week.  Maybe not, maybe everyone else is great as they are already well on their way in week two, and they prepared themselves.

Today Nisha said she defiantly felt stronger than she did before starting the challenge – which is great. She looks stronger, and I know she can touch her toes now. Her leap to the Himalayas was longer than mine, and she thought I was the flexible one.

I just feel like I have lost more sweat than my body weight, and are more tired than I normally am.  My arms are no closer to Michelle Bridges and my thighs area still causing me grief. So much grief I need to visit Lulu this week for some more suitable clothing.

Cleary I am also complaining more than I normally would. Or perhaps I always complain a lot and have not realised it…

Hopefully it’s not just me, that other challenger goers are having a mid mental breakdown too.  That other challengers are surprised at how much they hurt, how much they sweat, how stiff they can be and how tired at the end of a day.

On the positive – I am also surprised at much I like yoga.

How important it is for me to keep my fingers pointed at the roof, that my legs are in the right position. How hard I try to keep my elbows in during forward plank before going through my flow routine. How happy I was when Kacey mentioned I had good alignment in my vinyasa flow.

So while I am complaining (a fair bit) I am enjoying this challenge and my introduction to yoga. If I wasn’t I would have thrown in the mat by now and just moved on. Eaten more cake and not thought about it again.

But I really do like it, which means I really do want to succeed at this challenge.

So back to the mat ill go tomorrow. And the next day, and the day after that…

It’s one small step for mankind, one giant ‘hanumanasana’ leap for those of us in the challenge.

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Falling off the Wagon

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I just fell off the paleo wagon.

Well and truly.

It was not just a slight tip; it was a fully fledged stumble, tumble, fall down, unmoving lying on the floured ground in a sugar coma.

I am not even sure why.

Or how.

But now I am sitting here stomach popping over my jeans, head cloudy with a sugar hangover, having heart palpitations, drooping eyelids and breaking out into a sweat even thought its cold and raining outside.

I am bitterly disappointed with myself and angry all at once.  

I know the heart palpitations I am experiencing are just a result of my mental anxiety and not really a physical display of the fact I just ate gluten and grains for the first time in a long time. And I know the sweats is a physical reaction to the mental anguish that of course I just ate sugar too.  I have a headache, but of course that might just be mental also.

I’m lying on the floor, and the red horned wearing version of me has pinned me to the ground with her pitchfork, grin of achievement plastered all over her face.

It was cake I bowed to. Cake!

Cake that I never used to eat, was never interested in, never seduced by.

And not just one piece either…

Oh how I stuffed myself to the surprise, laughter and aghast expressions of those around me as they watched me go back for seconds. Self control gone, restraint not a word that looked familiar, I was on a rampage and nobody could stop me.

I started small.

A protein gluten free and sugar free muffin that had grains and fruit I overlooked hoping it would subside the sudden thirst that had awoke inside of me.

It didn’t.

So I cut a very small slither of Julie’s coconut and lemon tea cake, my knife slicing through the moist goodness and knowing immediately her country baking skills would be second to none. I ate that treasure and wished I didn’t because it was too good.  And I knew then also, it would be better than the cinnamon tea cake – caster sugar and self raising flour included – that I had made.

But just because I wasn’t sure, I cut a slice of that too and ate half of it. Memories of my childhood rushed back to me in that cinnamon mouthful that was exactly like the sugar filled cinnamon donuts I used to heat up and eat for breakfast.  What started as a treat  became a daily ritual until I ate so many of them for many years after I couldn’t stand to eat cinnamon. But now it was ok, and the memory was back and sent shivers running down my spine.

Perhaps to escape the sweet memory or maybe because I had opened a door that had stayed closed for too long and was having a slight – ok epic – relapse of my former self, I immediately cut half a chocolate brownie and ate it, replacing the cinnamon taste with the beautiful chocolate, nutty sensation.

It was amazing.

I have always claimed not to be a cake lover, and I’m not (usually) but brownies are another thing, and this one had me hook line and sinker.

Oh lord, what have I done?!

By now there was no turning back.  I was unstoppable. Not only did I not recognize myself, others around me, many whom have NEVER seen me eat cake, did not recognize me either. Those who knew I very rarely would indulge looked at me with surprise, but silent glee – was I the once again recognizable, reckless Stacey they knew?

In truth, I think a few were silently happy at my failure.

The brownie not only tasted amazing, it also looked better than my muffins, which were also chocolate hazelnut brownie muffins.

And because, like my cinnamon tea cake, the muffins were a new recipe, I cut one in half and promptly ate that too. I tried to tell myself it was to check they were ok, to compare them to the brownie I had just eaten, because I needed to be sure.

I was kidding myself. I had no good reason to eat that thing apart from the fact I wanted to.  And when last night I had been cooking them three of the muffins refused to budge from the pan and I had to scoop them out and leave them behind, I had already tasted the mixture then. I knew they were good (but not as good as the brownie brownie).

So let’s just recap.

  • 1 x protein & fruit mini muffin (this was gluten and sugar free, and where I was meant to start and end in the eating process)
  • 1 x half chocolate brownie
  • 1 x half chocolate hazelnut brownie muffin
  • 1 x small slither lemon and coconut tea cake
  • 1 x half piece of cinnamon tea cake

In the end I needed to leave the group crowded around the table, cakes piled high, fruit barely touched and return to my desk in case I went back for more. 

It’s no wonder I felt ill.

And morbidly ashamed.

Every now and then someone pokes their head over the partition and smiles knowingly at me, or mimic’s throwing up, or offers me another piece of cake just to stir the pot even further. 

I want to throw my spinach and blueberry smoothie all over them and watch it ooze over their smirking faces turning them purple like the awful gum chewing child Violet in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I can’t even stomach my smoothie at the moment and am trying to dilute this sugar swell by drinking bottle after bottle of water.

I need to put it out of my head and move on. To forget about this low point and pick myself up and dust the icing sugar off my pants (literally there is some there) but half of me is still too ashamed and the other half of me knows there is more cake and if I have failed already and eaten so badly already, then surely it’s ok to have just one more piece?

Later, much later, when I have packed up the remaining cake (thanks guys, you had to eat everyone else’s and leave mine!?) and gone home I sms my ‘trying very hard’ sister in law.

I ate cake. A full piece and half a muffin and a quarter of a brownie. Fail.

Her reply did pep me up a little –

I’ve stuffed my face with cake pops and lemon slice all day. Life.

I don’t even know what cake pops are, but the entire thing made me feel much better.  She is right, it is life. So I ate badly one day, its only one day. And the cake was nice.

Tomorrow is another day, and cake is not on the menu.

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It’s not back fat, I just can’t do my dress up. And I thought Yoga was easy…

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Monday

I’m back at yoga. It’s only Monday, the first Monday I have been, so not sure why I’m saying ‘back’.

My little yellow blocks of achievement haven’t progressed any further down the aisle.  I’m still showing 50 shades of white.

It’s early. Very early. For a 6pm class I left work at 5, quickly changed and came straight here, even though it’s a two minute drive. I remember Kacey saying classes could get busy and I have an embarrassing fear of coming so late I can’t find a place to squeeze in my mat.

I’m paranoid that instead I will hover, recently purchased, fresh still curling at the edges mat in hand, squinting through the dim lights because I forgot my glasses, trying to find a spot to sweat amongst everyone else.

I have always hated being late.

Even so, I was so early I sat in the car for 15 minutes and waited until I saw a few others with yoga mat in hand entering before coming in.  As much as I hate to be late, I also hate being the first one to arrive.

Like a creature of habit I put my mat down in the same place I have practiced the last two days I’ve been here.  Simone, a fellow challenger was taking her usual daily instagram so I left her in peace and instead ventured out back to the main room and took another woeful look of the scoreboard.

It’s so woeful that the moment new people start to arrive I venture back in the room, notebad and pencil in hand and lie on my purple sanctuary, trying not to think of how many make up classes I still have and how few days I have to do it in.  

I’m nervous again.

Not sure why, but I am. Maybe because I don’t have Nisha with me, she did the morning class. Maybe because I am so worried about not filling in my chart and I have always been bad at math and have not worked out how many double, triples and singles I will need to do yet. I think I need to pee again, even though I just did. It’s a nervous pee.

My hips and arms slightly ache from crossfit this morning, and holding my grey-led is slightly painful. The room is so quiet everyone can hear the scratch of my pencil. So much so, I’m conscious of it and move, causing both my knees to crack and send the sound vibrating through the room.

Ooops.

My pants are too big and not the standard lulu lemon edition everyone else has. They make me feel more like a novice. Especially when I only notice they are too big when I feel the top of my undies poking out from the back band and hope I haven’t shown the girl behind me too much of my butt as I bend over my tattered notebook.

Sorry about that if I have.

I need new pants because I am well on my way to crossfit legs. Eg thunder thighs and a small waist.

As the room starts to fill, it gets warmer. I’m already in this morning’s sweaty clothes, which were yesterday’s sweaty clothes, and I’m really hoping I don’t stink this beautiful room out…

Tuesday

Honestly, I thought this entire challenge would be one piece of paleo cake and no biggy.

I mean if I quit sugar and gluten and grain and soy and legumes and god forbid stopped drinking for 36 days then surely this would be a breeze.

Ding dong – wrong again.

How overly self confident I have found myself – a realization the last two challenges have clearly shown me through a rare moment of self awareness.

A bit of stretching, a few deep breaths. Nothing I, a lady with lats and too thick thighs couldn’t handle.

Right?

Wrong!

I’m still sore from yesterday.

I don’t know if it was the snatch or the pull ups at crossfit or the hot yoga from the night before or the ring dips and skin the cat from this morning, but my arms are not quite working the way they are meant to.

I couldn’t do my dress up today.

The bottom zip I finally managed to squeeze up after sucking in, but no amount of stretching or pulling could get my tight right arm into a position where it could effectively button the top of my dress.

And I thought yoga was meant to make you more flexible.

It’s not back fat, I keep trying to tell myself, I just can’t do my dress up.

The only other time I can remember having visible back fat was in my wedding dress. When they make it so tight you need a ruler to push down your flesh into the fold of the dress between your shoulders.

One slight incorrect move and you have a second butt crack in your back.

Then you look back on your wedding photos and realize you are never going to be that size again in your life because you starved yourself for months to fit into a dress you would never wear again.

Oh the society we live in!

(Personally my dress was off the special rack, I ate everything I wanted to and am smaller now so look at those photos and am grateful my back fat is hidden).

But I digress. Back in the work change rooms I gave up trying to reach the button on my dress,  kept my hair down, my jacket on and snuck upstairs to find fellow crossfiter, brain child of ‘confessions of ladies with lats’ and understander of thick thighs, who in sympathy did the button up for me.

And then tonight, another clothing error – I think I have my pants on back to front.

I’m not quite sure. 

This no tag thing lulu has got going on really confuses me at times.

Just like the warrior pose does that I seem to only push into a second after everyone else is steady. My feet slip and slide on my mat, my new, purple, still curling at the edges mat, and as sweat drips off me I struggle to dig my feed into the ground.

I sweat more in yoga that I do in crossfit. Who would have thought?

And now I’m the strange glasses wearing, sweaty feet, pants on backwards large armed and thick thighs girl on the new mat in the corner of a yoga room with a notebook.

If my friends could see me now.

Wednesday

There is a team of us tonight. I’m not longer a loner. Nisha has switched to nights to break it up and two friends from work have also joined. I’m worried their girlish giggles and poses will make me laugh and I have strategically placed my mat right in front of theirs.

It’s hot tonight. Not outside, I mean in the class. I’m slightly worried because l have my long leggings and my sweating has only increased of late, if I was sliding in flow, tonight I will be sprawling.

And there are 28 of us in the room.

I did pack shorts to wear and went to put them on but my recent change in body structure and shape and size has caused them to no longer fit. Too big around the waist, a little too firm on my thighs.

I don’t need falling down shorts as I down my dog in the face of colleagues behind me, so I’ve taken my chances with the long leggings.

My mat is upside down. I’ve only just realized but not entirely sure it matters either. At least my pants are on the right way today.

 I think.

Thursday.

I ran out of work like a crazed maniac to make it here in time.

It was a struggle, I almost didn’t.

Firstly I put on my pants only to discover a very very VPL so had to ransack the spare emergency supply of sports clothing I leave in my locker at work to find new briefs. Only after I had successfully changed this wardrobe malfunction did I notice the singlet I once ran in quite comfortably now struggled over my back and shoulders and given it was going to be hot yoga tonight and it was quite thick, was just not suitable.

Maybe it shrunk in the wash, although given my recent failures at doing back buttons up, I think something more sinister is at play.

Back to the locker for a new top. Rummaging through the bag I find a gem I forgot I even had – loose fitting singlet much lighter weight. Score!

Finally dressed and ready for my two hour make up session, Yin then Hot, I realize on route to the car I had no water bottle with me after skipping crossfit this morning in preparation for a double up session tonight.

Bullocks.

I broke almost all safety regulations as I sprinted back to the car, up three flights of stairs and burst back through the office door. A few startled looks from pricing and my previous marketing colleagues before I jogged through office pods and desks to find my own and grab waiting water bottle, much to the surprise, strange looks and random commentary of my team.

Now if anyone from work is reading this, please replace ‘sprinted/ran/jogged’ with ‘walked briskly’, delete ‘burst’ and insert ‘gently opened’ and rest assured the handrail was held during all three flights of stairs.

Eventually I made it, flustered, only ten minutes early, trying to finish a last minute phone call (not while driving, while stationary in car out front) to my husband regarding his recent high cholesterol diagnosis and arguing with him over the doctor’s advice to quit butter and eggs and eat margarine.

Back me up here Lizzy, Bec & Primal Junction – please!

My overzealous behavior to get into the room even caused a too quick scan of my Kula tag while Kacey was registering a keen new participant and almost resulted in a computer malfunction.

Opps, sorry about that Kacey.

Slow down Stacey – this is Yin for goodness sakes. A yoga class, not a race!

That’s a voice in my head speaking. But my panting and racing mind from the to do list still on the work table has drowned her out. 

At least today she has left her pitchfork and horns at home, but she does have that scorn on her face and the librarian look my mother sometimes gets just before launching into a lecture.

It can’t be good.

First observation of my second light class – much more men get involved.

Second observation – I’m still on struggle street with challenge classes given there are three others who have all come in for the double header tonight and all three have more colorful representation that I do on that graph.

So thunder thighs, back fat, nervious novice and I thought Yoga was easy….

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Nourish, Navigate & Nurture – 30 Day Yoga & Meditation Challenge Week 1

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Starting a 30-day yoga challenge when I have almost zero yoga experience, and then going away for a week, is not the smartest thing I have ever done.

I have done worse.

Like the time I dropped my mobile phone down the wall behind a toilet in a bar and had to get a male bartender with a very large hook to help me retrieve it (in my defense I thought there was a shelf, not an empty cavity).

Or the time I tried to roll-start my old car by myself down a driveway and never quite got it started before hitting the main road (I kept jumper leads in the boot after that).

And most recently changing my internet and phone plans to iinet for what I believed was a cheaper deal than Telstra, but missing the not so fine print that shows the deal excludes telephone calls….

Anyway.

Not the smartest thing, especially given my previous yoga experience consisted of a handful (literally) of classes and I am not really someone that can bend and flex and put feet and legs in strange places.

But I knew that I would be away that first week when I signed up, so I can’t plead ignorance.

I joined the 30-day challenge for a few reasons;

  1. because I had just finished the 30 day Primal Junction food challenge, with success, and was on a bit of a challenge high
  2. because my hips are in desperate need of some mobility and I thought yoga could help me which would then in turn help everyone else who sees me at CFHE and constantly hears the poor coaches screaming “Stacey open your hips!”
  3. because I am slightly bored and thought why not.

My first ever class at Kula Yoga was on Day 25 of my Primal Junction Paleo Challenge and apart from the one other I did in preparation before the challenge that was basically it.

As I pointed out not the smartest thing.

So August 10th I headed over to Kula bright and early for what would be the first of many many yoga classes over the next 30 days.  I was excited and a little nervous, but open-minded even if my hips were still closed. Overall, I was very much looking forward to it. And I had a friend doing it with me, someone who I could whine to, draw support from and do classes with.

I made it to two classes in that first week.

Both on that first Saturday and one that was actually the meditation following on directly from the class.

So really, I did one. One on the first day. One in seven days.

I was off to a great start.

I do really need to point out, that it was not due to laziness I missed Kula Yoga that entire first week of the challenge, but because I was on the other side of the country from Sunday to Friday.

Sure, I could have maybe made the 10:30am on Sunday class (probably should have) or gone to the Friday night 6:00pm class given I flew home during the day, but it was Collingwood v Hawthorn that night, and football always comes first.

I had to regroup, so on Saturday a full week since the challenge started when I finally got back to the studio I tried really hard not to get scared when I looked at the challenge tracking sheet pinned up on the wall.

Insert scared, horrified, wide eyed, opened mouthed and red face here. 

Colours, stars, shapes, shading of all different types to show what classes what challengers had gone to. Everyone was different in how they chose to represent their status, but there was one thing that was obviously clear as I gazed at that board, borrowed mat in hand. Almost everyone was well and truly on track and almost everyone had more marks than me.

Ouch.

I was loosing, and I hate loosing.

And with the current lack of marks (two yellow blocks) next to my name, I was failing. And I hate failing.

Ok so I know I am not really loosing – given most other challenges would have no idea I thought this was a competition – because its not!

But I am failing. OUCH.

So like an F grade student in Math who must get a D average to pass, I was in for some extra tutorial time. A lot of extra time. Given it was day eight and I had only two little marks that showed I was trying.

I knew when I signed up for the challenge the first week would see me making up classes left right and center, and at the time thought it was no big deal.  But gazing at that board made me have second thoughts.

Which were made worse when my fellow challenger friend told me how tired she had been feeling and that it was a lot more work than she originally thought….

The only thing that helped pep me up as I squeezed my mat into the room ready for the first of a three-hour yoga marathon I was about to embark on, was my ruthless and too fierce competitive nature.

Let’s be honest, I thought to myself, there is no way I am going to fail this challenge.

Again, not the smartest thought process.

Because even after those three hours on Saturday (flow, meditation and hot) and another hour on Sunday (flow) I am still only six little markers in yellow highlighter next to my name.

Only six. When I should have nine. At least nine, probably more. When some people have up to 15 (!!!) already.

I guess now is not the best time to point out ill also be away the last weekend of the challenge….

So my 30 day challenge, of doing 30 classes in 30 days – effectively one a day, is really 30 classes in, in, in 21 days…

Really not the smartest thought process.

Stay with me though people, one week down and yes I might be a tad behind, but I’m sure I can make up for the lost time and lost classes. Although not sure it will really help with my lost mind…

Mixed Berry Muffins

IMG_0458 It was a baking day.

Well really it was my mum’s birthday and the entire family was coming to my house for dinner, including Grandma. So that meant her homemade chocolate chip cookies that are AMAZING but defiantly NOT paleo, a homemade birthday cake (also from Gma) and most likely a few other sweet treats.

Nothing that I, or my sister’s gluten free boyfriend could enjoy.

So it was a baking day but but necessity. I whipped up the Glorious & Gluttonous Paleo Gingerbread Cake, as I knew that was a winner. But I wanted something more.

So I turned to my best friend to get their advice – Google.

I felt like muffins, something easy to make, something that was not too sweet but would make me feel like I was able to eat dessert and then also take it for work the next morning as a snack.

I stumbled across many different gluten free, grain free and paleo recipes that fell into the muffin category. Many had chocolate as a listed ingredient. Still being new to this paleo eating and baking gig, I wasn’t sure I was quite ready to tackle the paleo chocolate, so bypassed all of these for a fruit option.

I landed on one recipe, quite simply as I had all of the ingredients, and also because the recipe allowed for flexibility and change based on a) what you pantry held and b) what your stomach wanted. You could basically put in any optional extras, flavorings, herbs, seeds or spices as long as they are on the approved paleo list. Here is what I used –

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups almond meal
  • ¾ tsp baking soda (gluten free)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 large eggs (organic, free range)
  • 1 mashed very ripe banana (or just mash that puppy longer)
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar  (or honey, or coconut nectar, or maple syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (can also use fresh and just one type if you would prefer)

If you know how to bake muffins, then you know what the next steps are. Very easy, mix wet, mix dry, get temperature right, put in pans cook and eat. But if you don’t – here is a little reminder.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to about 180degree C.
  2. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  3. In a large bowl whisk the almond flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, banana, oil, agave nectar, vinegar and vanilla extract.
  5. For both of the above I used my kitchen aid again. It takes the hassle out of stirring, ensues things are well combined, and well, I spent so much money on that baby she better work for it!
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until blended.
  7. See note re kitchenaid
  8. Add your mixed berries.
  9. See note again re kitchenaid again
  10. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups.
  11. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes until your muffins are set and your poker comes out clean.
  12. Move the tin to a cooling rack and let muffins cool in the tin 30 minutes.

Now here is a note – don’t expect these babies to rise like your normal full of self-raising flour muffins.  Also don’t expect them to look so perfect on the top like normal muffins. Personally I think I added too much fruit to the wet and hence my mountainous terrain on the top.  I think if you used almond flour instead it might make a difference, or if you were just more careful on how you put the goods in the tin.

The banana not only tastes good, but it also helps to keep the muffins moist. If you wanted something less sugary you could try sweet potato or pumpkin puree. I have also listed a few other suggestions above, but really these mixed ‘berry’ muffins could be mixed with ‘anything’ muffins.

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Packing Paleo

You know it’s serious when you change your flight dietary preferences to gluten free.

I wish, to be honest, there was more than just a drop down. Perhaps a multi select box, or a free text field and that way I could add in the additions. Gluten free also means dairy free, but of course grains, potatoes, and sugar all find their way onto that small plastic wrapped tray of ‘food’.  If there was the option to choose more than one, I could have gone diabetic friendly also, and hoped that I was left with more than a rice flour sugar fuelled cake and a thimble of soy milk.

Ok, so there was more. A few bits of lamb, some sugar filled sauce, a pile of greens and some potatoes that I really wanted to eat. The only thing that stopped me from pushing them onto my white plastic fork was the fact that if I was going to break for the starchy goodness, they were going to be half decent, not microwaved pre-prepared plane potatoes.

There was also a box of sultanas and a tub of two fruits. Both claimed they were natural and healthy, and I think even sported the heart tick approval, but the nutritional panel on the back showed more than just goodness. Lots more. Like sugar more. Like 63.5g of sugar per 100 gram.

Of course its natural sugar, but over 50% of those dried things is a little too much.

I ate the greens, ignored the potatoes, picked my way through the meat, left the gluten free bread, tried to leave the juice behind and eat only the two fruits and succumbed to the coconut gluten free macaroon.

Half way through the four and a half hour flight when I was starving (after the same flight attendant who had previously provided my gluten and dairy free meal offered me cheese and biscuits and a packet of Anzac cookies) I popped a few of those dried grapes into my mouth and was surprised and shocked at how sweet they tasted. Too sweet. I had to stop eating them.

I should have just had the free wine that was offered. At least then I would have forgotten I was starving.

Travelling with such a long list of requirements is hard.

A day trip to Sydney, not so hard. You can pack your full lunch in one bag and not have an issue with excess luggage. You can decline the meal and not risk starvation, and even though the security guards look at you strangely during the bomb check, they keep their mouth closed.

A week trip to Perth, not so easy.

Before my flight like general Sunday afternoons, I spent cooking my week’s worth of meals. An oversized smoothie that I froze and added extra chia seeds in it to help it last the plane ride and beyond. Some chewy mocha balls to ensure snacks during the week were covered. A few pieces of the left over paleo gingerbread and three of my paleo banana and berry muffins. The standard nut trail mix and a few tins of tuna.  I even went so far as to bake a new paleo crust-less sweet potato quiche and while I froze half of it for my return, I took a piece of that too just in case I had to (god forbid) miss breakfast at the hotel one morning.

I know it sounds crazy. It looked slightly odd also.

All these Tupperware containers full of food going through security, getting put in the overhead locker as I was sitting under a bulk head.

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When my stomach was rumbling so badly on the flight, and I took out one of my muffins from the bag overhead, the passenger next to me didn’t know what to think.

Personally I think he was a little jealous. Mine looked much better than his frozen/thawed/sugar preserved cupcake.

I was hoping my muffins would make at least the flight trip, so before I could be tempted by anything else I packed them away and tried to forget about them.

But I am not that strange.  There are others like me who also pack paleo.

Nom Nom Paleo recently called out to her social media following remarking “I may not have time to pack any food for my flight tomorrow….”

She got 56 comments asking for help to determine where she could get paleo friendly food.

I got about 56 odd looks for packing and travelling paleo style.

But despite the strange looks and carting my containers from customer meeting to office, to hotel and beyond, I was glad I had taken the time to do it.

My Perth friends did remark they had supermarkets and organic shops over here (yes even Perth is not that behind, just don’t try to visit one after 9pm) which also helped to fill my stomach paleo style during the day, and let’s just say nights – well I tried as hard as I could… it was the wine that got me in the end.

Living in the Post-Primal Era

This is what I miss from the challenge.

I miss coming to work, logging on and getting my writing notepad and Primal Junction food dairy ready next to my pc, ipad, water bottle and to do list. I miss having to open up word in case sudden inspiration pops into my head mid mouthful of my latest frittata, zucchini slice or over sized omelette and I need to type it as writing is simply too slow.

I miss completing my food diary. Something methodical about documenting everything I ate, and then when seeing it on the page glaring at me with slightly judging, and very messy, handwriting, knowing that I should really leave the nuts in the draw.

I miss (ironically) having to say ‘I can’t eat that’ or ‘that’s not allowed’ which basically means I miss having an excuse to justify my new eating behavior.

When the word challenge is lifted, and I no longer have an excuse, this is what happens –

1 x Tim Tam goes missing from the container in the fridge not because I really want it, but because it has been staring at me every time I fill up my water glass and because soon I know the entire container will be eaten by husband and have an irrational fear of missing out

1 x Chocolate bullet is eaten from the bowl in the middle of a friend’s coffee table because they are apparently so good she purchased the last 21 packets of them from the supermarket and I just have to find out for myself

1 x piece (size of 50 cent piece) of Red Tulip Easter Bunny is eaten before realizing that I actually don’t like Red Tulip chocolate

1 x drink on Friday night turns into 1 x bottle (or more) of wine and leaves me with a headache so bad I miss boxing the next morning, sleep horribly and are well reminded of how much better I felt off it, and no I am not 21 anymore so stop acting like it

1 x adjusted flexibility leaves me with pork belly and cauliflower puree that is dribbled with maple syrup sauce and sends a sweetness shiver through my entire body and no amount of scraping that sucker off helps, and no amount of mineral water drives the sickliness from my mouth, and yes it was gluten free but that was about all.

1 x dinner party means I end up eating a handful of organic, sugar free popcorn before my blonde brain is replaced by the rational me, and I remember that corn is a grain.  The same dinner party sees me actively choose to eat two full of sugar and nothing else lolly snakes, but refuse the homemade chocolate chip cookies and carrot cake courtesy of grandma and the small lovingly diced potatoes my sister prepared with their herb encrusted goodness.

Instead I drank two glasses of wine and four pieces of that double brie cheese I finally unwrapped from the fridge.

All of that and only 13 days after the challenge.

I have also been routinely asked since my 30 days were up – but I thought you had finished? And you are not STILL doing that are you? And so you are never going to eat those thing again? And when will you stop?

So why am I still trying to eat clean?

Because I feel better.

Because for longer than 30 days I have been able to keep the Imodium in the draw and the buscoapan in the packet – too much information?

Because when my skin fold tests results came in, while nothing too major, they were enough for me to see there had been a difference. It was real.

And while I hadn’t been one of those people who had made such a lifestyle change they lost four to six kilos, (well done guys!) that is mostly because I would look quote cadaverous if I did lose four kilos, and I should really just be happy with one.

I lost one.

In 30 days.

And when I was already below 60kilos and approximately 170cm tall (ok its 169.5 but I round up) this is enough for me.

But the weight wasn’t why I was doing this. Apart from the note above regarding the change in my previous irregular bowel moments and minor IBS, I could see a difference in my body. I did look leaner. My arms did look more toned (although not yet Michelle Bridges worthy) and I was putting on muscle (in some areas so much my skin fold actually went UP!). It might have been my hopeful imagination but I could see the outline of what could one day be a six pack and my stomach overall defiantly felt and looked flatter.

Here is the before and after nothing to hide–

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So like I said, nothing major, but enough.

Personally, I’m pretty happy with 15% body fat. And while my ‘boring blog’ brother reminds me he is was 7% in his prime, his prime was 5 years ago, 7% for males is the same as 15% for females, and my prime is now, despite being older.

You might also notice, that in typical crossfit fashion my thighs actually got bigger…

But now 13 days after, when flood gates have opened and potatoes have almost entered my mouth, I suddenly have a vision of my long ago ‘tuck shop arms’ making a return.

Already I think the outline of the muscle is fading, and when most girls say it goes on their hips or their butt, mine goes on my arms and I promise you it is just as bad. There are shirts in my wardrobe that quite simply do not do up around my arms, and you know the ‘fat photos’ we all have and cringe over when they come out again – mine are all focused on my arms.

Sometimes when I see those photos I want to slap myself and yell WHAT WAS I THINKING, then I want to slap the person next to me in the photo for not telling me my arm fat was almost suffocating them. Of course they couldn’t say anything thanks to the flesh in their mouth and blocking their nostrail, but anyway.

It’s in my genes.

So apart from feeling better, I’m convinced the four pieces of double brie, and the Tim Tam, and the sugar that has found its way back in my food and my diet is going to send my ‘guns’ to ‘misfired cannons’ and then nobody will be happy.

Which is why I’m trying to stick with the primal diet in the post primal era as much as I can.

Yes there is vanity in there, but I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing because health and well being is the underlying reason. So as long as my arms and my thighs don’t overtake the size of my waist, my head looks like it is the correct size for my body, and I feel as good on the inside as I do now, then I’m happy. And if that means I stay ‘almost paleo’ ‘most of the time’, then great! But if I do want to eat four pieces of cheese or a couple of jelly jubes along the way – then I will.

Glorious & Gluttonous Paleo Gingerbread Cake

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If you read day 29 of my blog you know that during my 30-day primal/paleo challenge I was enticed, seduced and ultimately fell in love with a sweet treat introduced by a friend of mine, paleo gingerbread.

If you haven’t read day 29  – then get on it!

The seduction itself occurred on day 21, but I was too in lust and love with the dessert to bring myself to post about my forbidden love and treachery.

I admit, weeks after I ate that wonderful paleo gingerbread that my ‘almost always’ paleo friend made for me, I thought perhaps I had just imagined the goodness of it given I was in the middle of a tempting feast of sugar (dinner party) and was in day 21 of a 30 day paleo challenge.

So when the challenge finished, and I along with fellow challenges were invited by Primal Junction, to join a celebration, I thought I too would try my hand at making the gingerbread goodness, and see if a) I was a good as cook as my friend and b) if it really was three slice worthy and that good.

So I pulled up the original recipe, and just as my friend did for me that day made a few modifications. The modified list of must have’s is below –

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup coconut nectar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract or vanilla bean (I have used both)
  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Now the recipe we had, said stern words like follow the ingredients exactly, and make sure you do everything just as I have blah blah blah, and while I very much appreciate the author had taken the time to experiment and find a great paleo option for us all, there were adjustments to be made.

For instance the original recipe called for 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses, which we substituted for coconut nectar, and also for maple extract, which we left out completely. The first time I made these I also omitted the baking soda (by mistake) but it didn’t seam to matter and I didn’t have cloves so just added in extra cinnamon. So basically, you can just work through the spices to your taste and don’t get too hung up about it.

And best of all, its very easy to make.

Simply combine the eggs, coconut nectar, coconut oil and vanilla and beat well until its combined.

While your kitchen aid is churning that goodness, combine the rest of the dry ingredients in another bowl and mix with a spoon so it is combined.

While your blades are still churning, add the dry ingredients to the wet slowly, until it is combined and mixed well.

Now the recipe I had also was very particular about cooking this in a glass greased dish, 13×9. I used a metal non-stick square loaf pan that I greased with a coconut oil. On one occasion, because I was scared it wouldn’t come out cleanly; I also used baking paper to line the tin. Again don’t get too hung up about what you cook it in – but it does effect cooking times.

Choose your tin/pan/dish and spread the batter in evenly as best you can.

Bake in your pre-heated oven at 180 degrees and cook for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to about 110 for another 30 minutes.  Personally, my tin takes a little longer at this temperature so keep checking and don’t stress out if you need to keep the oven hot for a little while longer.

I also found this temperature and time often did not darken the cake enough, so would crank up the heat again to get a nice dark colour. You know its cooked inside if your poker/prodder/toothpick comes out clean, so if you do like a darker colour you might like to do the same. Word of caution however, this baby tans quickly so keep your eye on it or your brown will soon turn to black….

Once cooked, let the cake cool enough that you can safety take it out of your pan, but not completely or it might get stuck.

If possible try to let it cool completely before cutting  – more harsh words from the original recipe author – although again the first time I made this I was running late and cut it as steam was rising from it, and it still got rave reviews.

So, back to my original questions.

A)     Was I as good a cook as my friend? – No. Her colour was better, and its always nicer when someone makes it for you.

B)     Was the paleo gingerbread cake as good as I thought it was? Yes. It was snaffled up by most of the challenge celebrators and the recipe was asked for. Even my sugar loving family and Great Baker Gma complemented it the second time I made it for a family dinner.

The only problem with this little puppy is its so easy to make and eat, you will end up doing both WAY too much!

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Preparing Primal Food

I have been one of those annoying serial facebook food post pests of late.

You know the people that cant eat anything without taking a grainy photo and snapping it to their wall or linking it to a random comment.

While it can be – most often – is annoying, there are times these photos might also help. If you are anything like me (there is a scary thought) when you first tried to go primal you went a little rabid by mistake. You needed planning, you need preperation, you needed guidenace. The moment that was taken from you the pantry and the fridge and the freezer turned into evil sugar holding zombies waiting to attack.

Relax.

There are LOADS of places you can get help.

Tons of receipes (try the new world google) if you search for them and need to plan them step by step. But again, if you are like me, you can, but dont always, and sometimes dont want to, follow a reciepe.

I personally dont always have every time of vegetable in my house and when my spice rack runs dry of one, I try to substitute for another. I improvise. My improvisiation led me to that annoying photo bombing of food on other people’s walls, and eventually a comment was made that perhaps I should start a receipe section on my blog.

Bingo.

Not sure if it was a polite way of saying “there are only so many photos of eggs one person can take” or if it was real encouragement, but either way it lead me here.

In the week or so I have been left to fend for my primal self after the 30 day challenge I have found times when improvisation was needed, and that it actually worked.

Of course there are some staples you must have, and others you must stay away from, but largely you can mix and match and make food just like you would have before grains were greedy, gluten ghastly and sugar was actually satan in disguise.

Now lets just put some perspective in place. I am not Jamie Oliver, Ramsey would not have me in his kitchen and Masterchef contenstants would laugh me off a mystery box challenge. But thats the point.

If I can do it, then you can too

The ‘Almost Anything’ Omelette – Sweet Potato, Bacon and Tomato

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So this little bad boy does not look the best, but I blame that on travel rather than taste.

I made him the night before, and carried him to work in my trusty Tupperware container ready for a warm up at work the next morning.

Problem was, my trusty Tupperware container was too big to fit in said microwave, and getting Mr Omelette out of container onto plate for heating was more of a challenge than making it in the first place.

Omelette’s are great for breakfast and not bad heated up, making them versatile for those of us who have office jobs. They are also versatile in you can literally put ‘almost anything’ in them.

This Almost Anything Omelette is sweet potato, bacon and tomato.

There is some method in my madness which is below –

  • 4 x Happy Eggs from Happy Chickens
  • 1 x small brown onion
  • 4 x Rashes of free range bacon diced
  • 1 x Tomato
  • 1 x Cup diced sweet potato
  • Herbs of your choosing

Heat and grease pan with coconut oil

Brown your onion

Add sweet potato and fry until it starts to soften

Add bacon and fry until it gets to the level of crispiness you like

In a separate jug or bowl add your eggs, salt pepper and any herbs or spices (with no hidden extras) you like.

Whisk away.

Dice tomato and add to your whisked eggs.

Pour into pan over bacon and sweet potato. Use a spoon to evenly distribute chunks in your omelette.

When the sides start to bubble and have set enough, flip your omelette and cook until egg is set and cooked through.

See – really not Jamie Oliver worthy…

But you can also add kale, zucchini or whatever else your fridge or vegetable crisper holds.