Monday, November 25, 2013

The Slow Carb Diet

FINALLY! After months of eating well and exercising, I've lost all the baby weight (and then some!) How did I do it? The slow carb diet.

[Disclaimer: I've done ZERO research on this diet. I simply tried it because a friend of mine was doing it and it was working well for him. At that point, I was desperate to try anything because it'd been months since I had Noah and I was actually gaining weight instead of losing it. So I don't claim to know the ins and outs of this diet, nor the science behind why it works. All I know is that it worked for me. For more detailed information on this diet, check here and here.]

Pre-pregnancy: 115 pounds
Highest weight during pregnancy: 150 pounds
Two weeks postpartum (no dieting, no exercise, just nursing): 125 pounds
Three months postpartum (no dieting, no exercise, no nursing): 130 pounds (yes, I actually gained weight)
Nine months postpartum: 116 pounds (almost my pre-pregnancy weight!)
13 months postpartum: 109 pounds (less than my pre-pregnancy weight!!!)

(In case you're wondering what that mark is near my belly button, it's actually a scar I got from ironing. A little bit of steam shot out of the iron and burned my skin. The scar has since faded quite a bit, and is pretty much unnoticeable in the last picture).

I didn't actually start the slow carb diet until June. I did start working out in January, about three months after Noah was born. However, I still wasn't eating well (I was pretty much eating as if I were still pregnant). As you can see in the photos above, from January through May, not much had changed. It wasn't until I started eating better that I began to notice a significant difference in my body.

Here are the basics of the slow carb diet: 6 days out of the week, eat three meals that consist only of lean proteins and veggies. Avoid any type of carb or sugar, even from fruit. On the 7th day, you get a cheat day, meaning you can eat whatever you want. Fill up on carbs and sugar on this day because, trust me, you'll need it for the rest of the week. Oftentimes, I felt weak because I was strictly eating meat and veggies - no sugar to help me feel energized. You are, however, allowed to drink diet sodas and diet teas, so I (very) occasionally drank those if I needed to taste something sweet. Here's what I typically ate during the week:

Egg Whites mixed with One Yolk and Spinach, and Two Slices of Turkey Bacon (for breakfast every morning)

Grilled Pork with Arugula Salad (recipe)

Chipotle Shrimp with Avocado Salsa (recipe)

Chicken Marsala with Asparagus (from Carrabbas)

Grilled Chicken with Asparagus

Barbecue Chicken with Oven Roasted Corn

Baked Lemon Chicken with Oven Roasted Corn and Black Beans

Grilled Steak with Broccoli and Black Beans

Baked Chicken with Guacamole and Black Beans

Grilled Chicken mixed with Pico De Gallo, Guacamole, and Black Beans

Baked Tilapia with Squash

Grilled Steak Salad (from Chipotle) 

Grilled Tilapia with Pico De Gallo and Asparagus

Grilled Steak with Mixed Veggies

Chicken Lettuce Wraps (from Mama Fu's)

As you can see, a lot of what I ate was grilled or baked, accompanied with a side of veggies. Oftentimes, I simply bought frozen veggies in the steamer bags that you can quickly and easily microwave. So yes, this diet is BORING. I will not sit here and pretend that this was easy. It wasn't. I craved bad food every day, but I just kept reminding myself of the end goal.

I only did the slow carb diet for a solid month, but being on this diet taught me a lot about eating healthier. And I actually got used to eating better. To this day, I still eat egg whites and two slices of turkey bacon every single morning. Then for lunch I either eat baked tilapia or chicken with a side of veggies (every Sunday I prepare all my lunches for the week so I'm not tempted to eat anything else). I eat good during the day so I can eat bad at night. So dinnertime (and the weekends) are pretty much my "cheat" days, meaning I don't watch what I eat...that much. I don't completely indulge, but I do treat myself to some cookies or ice cream every now and then. I still try to eat healthy whenever possible, so I'll opt for a side of veggies with my meals, whereas before I used to eat potatoes, pasta, or rice. I drink water at every meal, with the occasional sweet tea. So is it hard? Absolutely. Do I wish I could eat cookies all day? Pretty much every single second of every day. So do I ever indulge? Of course. I'm only human, but everything in moderation. 

In addition to eating better, I also worked out. A LOT. I was exercising about 4-5 days a week. Here's a breakdown of a typical workout week: Monday - cardio and pushing movements (bench press, military press, dips, push ups, etc), Tuesday - cardio and core (sit-ups, crunches, planks, etc), Wednesday - cardio and pulling movements (pull-ups, rows, curls, etc), Thursday - cardio and core, Friday - core and legs (squats, lunges, leg curls, leg extensions, etc), Saturday and Sunday - rest.

I think a huge part of my success didn't come from just eating well or exercising - it was the support I got. My husband was with me every step of the way and the absolute BEST support system. Honestly, I don't think I've ever done anything harder. Not that it was physically hard - it was  just emotionally hard because it took SO much willpower, and oftentimes I felt discouraged because I never thought I would get my body back. But John was always there supporting me. Even when I felt like I didn't look my best, he ALWAYS told me I was beautiful. And that love and support really encouraged me and helped me stay motivated every step of the way. 

Keep in mind that this is what worked for me. Tailor this diet and these exercises to fit your needs and your body type. And get a great support system! Close friends and family are the best. For whatever reason (jealousy, spite?) people will try to drag you down along the way. Acquaintances, coworkers, and strangers will scoff and roll their eyes at your efforts and what you're eating, but just ignore them! Do what's best for you and what makes you feel GREAT! Good luck!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Paul Frank Birthday Party

Last month for Noah's birthday, John and I threw him a Paul Frank-themed party.

I was really torn on what type of theme to have for Noah's 1st birthday party. I couldn't decide between Paul Frank or teddy bears. I had lots of ideas already for both, but ultimately I decided to go with Paul Frank after being inspired by these striped straws that I found at T.J. Maxx.

A few years ago, Target had an entire line of Paul Frank party supplies. Of course, this was at a time I didn't need them and now that I did, Target no longer sold them. So I resorted to buying a lot of items on eBay or simply looking for items that looked Paul Frank-esque. These straws, with their fun characters at the ends, fit the bill.

I made these thank you tags on my computer and used some baking twine to tie them to all the party favors.

Mason jars are very trendy right now, and I knew I wanted them for Noah's party to display the straws. I also put chalkboard labels on each jar so everyone could write their name and keep track of their own drink.

Every Paul Frank sign you see in these photos was made by me on my computer and printed on card stock.

I also found some striped ceramic bowls and popcorn boxes from T.J. Maxx that, to me, looked very Paul Frank-ish. 

I filled the ceramic bowls with red Swedish fish and some individually wrapped Toblerone candies that spelled out the word "one" - perfect for Noah's 1st birthday party!

Again I had to improvise a little by placing some Paul Frank stickers I found at Target on the boxes.

Initially I wanted to buy some gourmet popcorn from Peterbrooke to place in the boxes, but found that that was simply far too expensive. So John and I found chocolate covered kettle corn from BJ's Wholesale for about $4 for a giant bag. We only had to buy two to fill all 24 boxes, whereas one $10 bag of Peterbrooke popcorn could only fill one box. 

The party favors were also accompanied by these little Paul Frank candy mint tins that I happen to find at JoAnn Fabrics. There were $3.99 each, but I kept using 40% and 50% off coupons to purchase them. It was a bit tedious collecting them because I only got so many coupons at a time, but I purchased enough of them to make the table settings look complete.

I found these red and white striped napkins on clearance at Target for $0.97 for a pack of 100. Perfect!

During the initial planning stages of Noah's party, I envisioned having these GIGANTIC balloons. I found these 36-inch balloons from Party City for $11.99 for a pack of 12. 

Blowing up these balloons was quite the feat. First of all, we had to call several places to check for pricing. The first place we called, The Party Shop, was going to charge us $10 a balloon to blow them up. Um, no thank you. So then we called Publix and they were only going to charge us $3 each. OK!

It took us two cars and two trips to transport the balloons, but we made it!

John and I joked that Noah would have surely floated away if he'd been holding all the balloons. They were THAT heavy. Even when I was holding them I felt like I could have flown away.

Part of having a lack of Paul Frank party supplies readily available to purchase meant I had to be creative and improvise. So I made these Paul Frank iced sugar cookies.

Yes, I made them, and I wanted to everyone to know that because I worked SO hard on them.

I did not, however, have to make the cake. A coworker of mine bakes cakes on the side and made this fondant cake for Noah. The flavor - french vanilla with Nutella filling - yum!

Again, I had to improvise a lot with the decorations so I used some Paul Frank things I already had around the house. What you see here is a Paul Frank blanket my sister-in-law made for Noah that I used as a tablecloth and a Paul Frank doll that my friend Katherine gave Noah when he was born. I also made a collage of Noah's monthly photos and decorated it with Paul frank stickers. If you look closely, he's also wearing Paul Frank clothes in a couple of the photos. It's all in the details! 

And a Paul Frank pillow sat in his high chair.

This banner I found on Ebay for $5.

We sang Happy Birthday once, but blew out candles twice. One for his big cake and one for his "smash cake."

We decided to get a cupcake for Noah's smash cake so it would be small enough for him to eat. We bought this one from Sweet by Holly, my absolute FAVORITE place to get cupcakes, and they custom decorated it for an extra $3 so this cupcake cost about $6 - better than buying a whole new cake!

And Noah of course enjoyed it! 

A couple other little details - we had music playing so I made sure that my Paul Frank cover was on my iPod.

And my Mom and I wore Paul Frank watches. My watch (on the left) I've had for years. The watch my Mom is wearing is actually the one that came with my McDonald's Happy Meal from a couple years ago. (Yes, I got a Happy Meal just so I could get the Paul Frank toy. I actually regret not going their multiple times so I could collect them all!)

A side note on what I'm wearing - I knew I wanted to wear a Paul Frank shirt to match Noah, but John and my family were such good sports that they also wore Paul Frank clothes to match.