There’s something about this time of year

There’s something about this time of year that I love so much it’s hard to put the why into words. I’m sure many of you get it. Who doesn’t love everything that comes with Fall?

On the other hand, I find myself fighting a battle that’s more difficult this year than it’s ever been. Those of you who, like me, struggle with seasonal depression also get it. Who doesn’t love being stuck in bed and resisting the urge to hibernate forever?

This week kicked off with a total fail of a “long” run on Sunday, which ended up being approximately 1.3 miles of good and half a mile of hobbling to my car rock-hard, tight calves and feet. Forget the 4 to 5 I was supposed to get in. I’m learning that the less I run and the more I age, the more time it takes me to recover from things like extended periods of time on my feet. Nothing gets me going like acknowledging that my body isn’t capable of the things it once was, though of course I realize it’s still awesome to be able to train, run, and generally move as I wish.

Couple that failure with accidentally skipping a few days of the heavy dose of Vitamin D I take around the time change, and cool, it’s a recipe for seasonal depression and self-doubt so simple, it seems to have been ripped from the pages of Ina Garten’s latest cookbook. How simple is that?

Except in this case, the Ina question taunting me is actually how bad can that be? 

It can be bad, it turns out. Worse than in the past; worse than my senior year of high school, the first year I remember feeling this way in the fall. Earlier this week, I felt an otherwise inexplicable darkness and weight in such a tangible way it was nearly physical. The ridiculous part is that I can acknowledge it all I want, but it’s so difficult to escape sometimes. It’s not even real. My life is so good right now, it’s laughable. These feelings are not an accurate reflection of my reality. 

Years of experience have taught me how to escape the darkness. Today I’m in a much better place.

For me, the best thing I can do is to write these things down to get past them. I need to make a record for myself as a reminder that the darkness does lift, and to be honest about the (lack of actual magnitude) in what’s happening versus what I feel, which are two different things. This is especially weird to me because the darkness of depression seems to take over when life is really good or when I feel the pressure of something about to change. I also recognize and know it’s okay to feel this way, since it’s something I’ve been through before and will likely face again.

In the meantime, I’m taking steps to put myself back on the life-is-rainbows train, starting back with that Vitamin D, adequate but not-too-much sleep, and time like this where I simply pour the thoughts out of my head. Running helps, too. All of this helps. This too shall pass.

Anyone who’s invested in one of those light boxes or a tanning bed membership over winter, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

From the beginning

It should come as no surprise to you that I enjoy ritual. The familiarity and structure of a schedule is something I deeply need, almost at a level I feel is required for survival. Each day begins and ends with motions I’ve repeated so many times before, from mascara on my eyelashes in the morning to hand cream soaking into my palms at night.

It was during tonight’s get-ready-for-bed routine that I began to think about routine itself. I thought about blogging. I thought about how I haven’t written anything—not even something non-blog—for a month.

Then I logged in to my WordPress app and discovered it’s actually been more like two months.

What can I say; life gets busy. It’s true. For about the past year I’ve been working harder than I ever have, longer hours and more intense days just to get everything done. It takes a lot of energy. Sometimes it takes most of what I can give in a day.

I like the challenge. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it.

All that being said, I’ve been stewing on some ideas for blog projects and some frivolous side project-type stuff that could be fun. Whether or not I take the plunge remains to be seen.

I’ve also thought a lot about my goals for this year, and I’m not very forgiving of myself when I realize I’m not doing so well in a few areas. I think it’s time for more structure there, too.

For starters, I’m going to use my deferred registration from last year’s Louisiana Marathon half in January 2015.

I don’t think I’m in need of any specific challenges or goals to feel like I’m back on track. I just need to step back and actually pay more attention to the things that matter to me that I’ve written so much about over the years. I need to resharpen my focus.

Be More Fancy basics: skincare

Disclaimer: Block Island Organics sent me a bottle of their sunscreen to test in exchange for this review.

If you’re a longtime reader or someone who follows me on Pinterest or Twitter, you’ve likely seen me mention Be More Fancy, which is sort of a code name for the operation I started in January 2013 to thoroughly educate myself about all things makeup, hair, skincare, and fashion. It was an attempt to have some fun with all those things and I can honestly say it’s turned into a passion.

One of my main sources of information, inspiration, and trends that I haven’t discussed much is Reddit. Makeupaddiction and skincareaddiction are both excellent places to find tutorials, product reviews, and more from like-minded and often highly experienced and knowledgeable users. The journey into better skincare has been especially rewarding, since at 29 I still struggle with acne (which I’ve been able to pin down as a result of normal hormonal cycles) and have combination skin that can be extremely dry in places and oily in others. And despite my upbringing on the surface of the sun in the southwest, I’ve never really given a second thought to wearing daily sunscreen. Yes, I KNOW how bad this is and how irresponsible it is, especially since I need more than one hand to count the number of people I’ve known who have battled skin cancer, some also having lost that fight.

So I decided to try some new things this summer. Based on some skincareaddiction recommendations, I decided to try out a sheer-finish sunscreen on our first trip to Pensacola of the summer. I was so glad that I opted not to wear contacts to the beach that day, since the sunscreen irritated my eyes beyond words. It was simply awful.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I received an email from Block Island Organics, asking if I’d like to try out their products. I did some research on their website and read about their products and decided to give it a go. I was already in sunscreen no-man’s land and was also looking for something I could wear successfully in the sun without irritating my eyes as well as for everyday wear under makeup. I have primarily worn this sunscreen as an everyday skincare product, since SPF 15, which I received, is too low SPF for fair-skinned me to wear at the beach without having to constantly reapply.

I have been using the Block Island Organics SPF 15 as part of my normal skincare routine for several weeks. Before reviewing this product, I wanted to use it for an ample amount of time to ensure that it wasn’t causing breakouts or negatively affecting my skin in any way.

First things first: what’s the sunscreen like? The formula is thicker than most commercial sunscreens, but is creamy and not greasy. It goes on with a white sheen, indicative of the ingredients that make it work, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. If you plan to use this as an everyday product and are subject to flash photography at any point in your day, you little red carpet-going thing, you, take note. The active ingredients in this product are attributed to camera flashback (you’ve seen those photos of celebrities with what appears to be white powder around their noses, foreheads and eyes, which is setting powder that contains materials that reflect very bright flashes). Since there is approximately zero flash photography of my face on any given day, I was totally fine with this and it certainly wasn’t something I felt I should be concerned about.

So once the sunscreen was on my face, I was delighted to see that the white sheen disappeared pretty quickly and left a slightly tacky texture to my skin, which I was so glad about because it served as a wonderful primer for my foundation. Seriously, this was an excellent product to serve as a base for my makeup, even more so in the summer when I keep my product use to a minimum. Powder mineral foundation is my summertime go-to base, and the Neutrogena loose powder I use has worked incredibly well over the BIOS base.

Another thing I really liked about this product was the scent. While it’s technically unscented, there’s a little bit of a sweet but pleasant smell. It’s so faint that it disappears on your face, and my guess is it’s the aloe in the product, which naturally has a mildly sweet, fresh scent. There are also several other plant extracts that could be at work here. It’s really nice stuff and I’m glad it’s something I can wear to the office and not project I AM WEARING SUNSCREEN, CAN YOU SMELL IT all day.

As far as daily wear goes, I can also attest that this sunscreen did not melt off my face in situations when I was outside in the steamy New Orleans summer weather. There was no sunscreen-melt that irritated my eyes, and it was easy to wear this product with contacts. I was so relieved, especially after my beach day sunscreen disaster.

If you’re in the market for some new skincare products, I’d recommend Block Island Organics without reservation. Besides offering a great product, it’s a family-owned start-up business that’s concerned about the safety and integrity of their products. That’s something I can back. Through the end of this week, you can use the code kswims for 20% off your order.

You are my Liebster

One of my favorite things about the early days of email was those long lists of questions that you had to answer about yourself. Favorite candy bar? Who’s your crush? Least favorite subject in school? Years later, some friends and I found some of those old lists and provided some pretty ridiculous answers. I love a cry-laugh as much as the next girl, and there’s something really fun about answering questions about yourself and your life.

Naturally, I thought it would be fun to answer the questions Erin sent to me via awarding the Liebster Award for my blog. I think this has been on the internet for quite some time, and as such, I’ll leave it open to any of my readers who might want to answer my questions on their own blogs. Consider yourselves tagged (or answer one of my questions in the comments for fun).

The Liebster Award is simple: state 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions of the person who tagged you, and present some bloggers with 11 questions to answer on their own.

Here’s my Q&A, which I thought would be fun to post, since I haven’t done something like this in a very long time.

11 facts about me

  1. My favorite social networks are Pinterest and Instagram. I love social media that shares ideas, experiences, and art.
  2. There are more than 1,300 fonts on my computer. No, YOU have a problem.
  3. I will pick the cherry-flavored Skittles and Starburst out of packages and feed them to you, or throw them in the trash where they belong because they’re disgusting and unfit for human consumption.
  4. My current favorite color is blush pink. I want my entire house to be blush and white.
  5. I’m fascinated with social psychology as well as concepts like motivation and happiness.
  6. As a kid, I absolutely hated chocolate. As an adult, I’ve worked in a chocolate shop and know more about chocolate than I ever thought I would. I unintentionally became a chocolate snob. Current fave: pretty much any dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt.
  7. Lots of people like to say they’re organized, but they have never seen my Outlook folder tree for my work email. I’m also a proponent of inbox zero.
  8. I’m a lifelong journaler.
  9. Most of my college teammates call me Fern. Still.
  10. A good way to get on my bad side is to tell me how to do something. Anything. It doesn’t matter what! I’m pretty independent and do not like being given orders.
  11. My favorite flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins is Daiquiri Ice, and has been since I was a little girl. Not sure how my parents were ever like, “Sure, get the mock alcohol-flavored ice cream, young girl,” but they did and the rest is history.

Here are 5 bonus facts from a 2010 post, just for fun.

Erin’s 11 questions

  1. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
    Provence and the South of France. I’ve never really traveled outside the U.S., with the exception of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I have ancestral roots in France and I’d love to experience the countryside, culture, and food of those regions and what lies beyond Paris. Plus who doesn’t want to go to the French Riviera?
  2. What is your favorite dish to make for yourself? What do you like to cook for company? Are they the same thing?
    It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I generally gravitate toward food that’s simple in both ingredients and preparation. Things like thick, toasted sourdough with very salty butter or room-temperature brie are favorites of mine. Or a perfectly medium steak with sliced avocado, sea salt, and lime. For guests, I like to show my skills a little more and serve something hearty and comforting. I believe in the power of food to bring us closer and make us feel loved because great food requires a lot of love and care. I’ve made risotto, meatballs and marinara, grits and grillades, bolognese, and other more involved dishes for guests, although I don’t entertain nearly as often as I used to. I also love to bake; I make apple pie for holidays and will always be happy to throw together a batch of cookies or bars.
  3. What is the most difficult dish you’ve ever cooked?
    It’s not the most difficult in the sense that it’s hard, but baking really great homemade bread and pizza is a science that requires patience, practice, and discipline. And for those reasons, I love working at it.
  4. When you’ve had a bad day, what’s the first thing you do when you get home?
    My bichon Pearl is the ultimate comfort. There’s nothing better to soothe my soul after a long day than cuddling with Pearl girl and and trying to avoid her sneaky ninja kisses. Step 2: wine.
  5. When you’re working, what kind of music do you listen to?
    Mostly Thievery Corporation, Beach House, or some other kind of dream-pop or loungey music. My latest guilty pleasure, though, is to turn up the Country Pop station on Pandora and sing along at the top of my lungs while I clean, cook, or paint. Judge away.
  6. Favorite mindless TV show… go!
    Revenge, Say Yes to the Dress, and So You Think You Can Dance probably all tie for first place. I think the hashtag to answer this question is #girl.
  7. If your life was turned into a movie, who would you want to play you?
    This is a tough one. Maybe Winona Ryder, because I’ve been told there’s a resemblance.
  8. If anyone in the world was going to bring you a dish they cooked specifically for you, who would you want? And what would you like for them to make?
    I’d want Ina Garten to cook me something that involves a ton of fresh produce straight from a farm. And cheese. Or a dessert. Or a roasted meat of some kind. Come to think of it, I don’t really care what it would be, because Ina’s food is the epitome of simple, classic, and comforting.
  9. What is the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
    I’ve been reading a lot, so out of everything I’ve read recently, I’d recommend The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The story kept me up past midnight more nights than I care to admit and was wonderfully told. I read it’s becoming a movie, which is unfortunate I think because there’s so much detail and imagery in the book that film won’t capture the same way words did.
  10. What is your favorite hobby?
    Writing is my creative backbone. I enjoy so many creative pursuits like knitting, painting, cooking, but writing is at the heart of who I am and how I best express myself. I’ve also been a huge fan of exercise for pretty much my entire life, and I don’t think that will ever change. I love feeling strong and powerful—that was the best part of being a swimmer, pushing myself as hard as I could and knowing I really excelled at it.
  11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
    Foremost, a wife and mother. I’ve always thought of life as a series of roles (athlete, friend, gracious upstairs neighbor) and these are the next two in line for me. I’ve wanted to experience life from both those perspectives for as long as I can remember. On the professional side, I think I could see myself working independently or with a small company in a marketing or management role. I’m kind of crazy about efficiency and doing things the best way they can possibly be done and I’d like to see where that takes me, along with my marketing education and experience, in the future.

My 11 questions

  1. What was the happiest moment of your life thus far?
  2. Pie or cake?
  3. Have you ever done something that absolutely terrified you?
  4. What’s something you never imagined would happen to you but did?
  5. What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
  6. Where’d you go to high school? *Special New Orleans edition question!
  7. Is there a song that moves you to tears?
  8. Why did you start writing your blog?
  9. What keeps you inspired to continue posting?
  10. If you started another blog, what would the focus be?
  11. In your dream life, what’s the best part of your day?

August and forever

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.” – Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Something clicked last Friday. Something changed so swiftly that I suddenly became aware of the length of days, which have gradually become shorter since June. A minor cold front reminded me one morning that fall will be right around the corner before I know it. Afternoon thunderstorms no longer demand our attention; instead, skies once occupied by the weight of rain that has yet to fall and sudden flashes of lightning and sound are now hazy and indifferent. Tourists seem to have vanished from our streets. And I’m left here, feeling a bit melancholy now that my favorite part of the year has passed and the next two months become a drawn-out waiting game for fall to begin.

Of course, there are perks to August, too. The quiet that pervades has given me space to think, space to feel stillness and accept it. Along with the cooler temperatures of September and October (let’s be real, it’s mostly October I’m talking about here) comes my busy season at work. Now feels like the time to prepare, to rest, to fortify my mind and body for the onslaught of what’s to come.

Today I enjoyed a leisurely lunch with some friends, fellow marketers at other area law firms. We scored the best seat in the house at Domenica, a perennial favorite of mine, and enjoyed great conversation and the thin, lightly charred pizzas from the restaurant’s wood-fired stove.

I don’t normally read horoscopes or take them seriously, but I recently caught these lines from a post on one of my favorite websites, The Hairpin, with some words that spoke to me (Aries). I can’t stop thinking about this passage:

You can lay down in the dark field of all your questions: who you’re supposed to be, what time is made of. Under countless winking stars, you might not get the answers you want, but you will get the ones you need.

On the walk back to my office, I stopped at Merchant, a quiet café tucked away among banks and offices and new residences in the CBD. Iced Americano and cream sweating in my hand, I walked up Carondelet and felt the sun on my shoulders. I thought about those difficult questions in my life that I don’t know—can’t know—how to answer and where the changing seasons might take me. Please, please, let this year be different than the last one. Please let fall be kind. 

domenica-exterior

domenica-looking-onto-street

domenica-window

merchant

Grilled pizza with prosciutto, mascarpone, and arugula

On the last episode of Cooking Over Literal Fire, I left you with a description of how our gluten-free pizza crust came together. Now we fast-forward a few hours and a short drive to Mid-City later, where our dough meets its fate.

Addie and I initially discussed that it might be fun to share some restaurant-inspired recipes from our favorite New Orleans pizza spots, since pizza isn’t necessarily a thing visitors seek in our city. That’s too bad, really, because from Domenica to Pizza Delicious to Ancora to Pizzicare to Crescent Pie & Sausage, we have so many wonderful options for different styles of pizza, each with their own memorable or signature flavors and combinations. And that list of restaurants isn’t nearly comprehensive, either.

One of my favorite local pizzas is the Maria at Freret Street star Ancora. I’ll absolutely spring for this one if it’s available, which it often is not because Ancora relies on a local producer for its arugula. And of course, when it does become available, indulging is that much sweeter.

The Maria has four simple ingredients: tomato sauce, mascarpone cheese, capicola, and arugula. The mascarpone, an unexpected pizza ingredient, mostly melts into the tomato sauce and the combination of the two is simply sublime. Prosciutto, which I used in lieu of capicola, provides a savory bite, while the arugula wilts on top of the freshly-cooked pizza and adds pepper and lemon notes.

Addie and I also concocted a fresh tomato sauce from Creole tomatoes, which I loved so much I couldn’t help but sample… several times. The freshness of the sauce added to the summery feel and flavor of the pizza, as well as adding the bite of fresh garlic that we all agreed was welcome.

While making this and another New Orleans restaurant-inspired pizza, which Addie will be featuring on her blog this week, we learned a few key things that may be helpful for anyone else grilling pizza for the first time:

  1. It’s possible to build a fire that’s too hot. You want the crust to have a good amount of char for flavor, but you don’t want to burn it.
  2. Making our fresh tomato sauce well beforehand was a good idea, since it allowed the tomatoes to release excess water, which ensured our pizza wouldn’t be soggy.
  3. Have all the ingredients you need on hand, ready to go, when grilling pizza, because it’s going to come together extremely quickly.
  4. The tongs/spatula combination is ideal for getting the pizza on, around, and off the grill.
  5. The ready-to-use pizza dough that comes in a pressurized can near the refrigerated biscuits in the grocery store is not a candidate for grilled pizza. We tried; we were curious. It burned too quickly to cook through, likely thanks to the amount of added sugar (HFCS) in the dough.

I imagine Addie, who’s excellent at developing recipes and sharing techniques, will go into more detail about the process in her post. If you’re curious about anything we did or the steps we took, I’ll be happy to answer your questions in the comments.

This was such a fun afternoon with Addie and her husband Jeremy, from building a fire on a very hot and muggy New Orleans summer afternoon to sharing craft beer and cheese and then grilling veggies and boudin following the pizzas. Addie and Jeremy are gracious hosts and I’m thankful we were able to get together over great food and conversation on a Sunday afternoon.

Grilled Pizza with Prosciutto, Mascarpone, and Arugula

Inspired by Ancora Pizzeria, New Orleans

Serves two people or one endurance athlete

  • 1 recipe gluten-free pizza crust, as prepared
  • olive oil
  • around 3/4 cup fresh tomato sauce (chopped tomatoes, minced garlic, sea salt, and I believe a tiny bit of olive oil)
  • 1 container mascarpone cheese
  • 3 slices prosciutto, cut into about 12 small slices
  • 2 cups arugula
  1. With hands drenched in olive oil like there’s no tomorrow, scoop pizza dough from bowl and place on a well-oiled sheet of aluminum foil. Press crust out with your hands, adding more oil than you ever thought possible because wow, this is sticky.
  2. Head to the grill. Over the hotter side of the grill, flip the pizza off the foil and onto the grate. Cook for approximately 2–4 minutes, until you begin to see a little smoke or smell the crust burning. It’s going to be a little burned, but that’s part of the process.
  3. Flip the pizza over and move to the cooler side of the grill, if there is one. Immediately—and I mean RIGHT NOW—spoon on the sauce, mascarpone, and prosciutto. Cook for another few minutes, uncovered. If your grill isn’t very hot and the cheese isn’t showing any signs of melting at all, cover for 30 seconds at a time.
  4. Using a spatula, tongs, and pretty much any heat-resistant flat implement you own, grab the pizza off the grate and slide back onto a cutting board, peel, or sheet pan.
  5. Back inside where the heat index is not 100-plus degrees, top the pizza with arugula and finish with sea salt. Let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving and devouring this incredible combination of flavors.

The weekend escape

Though summer weekends here are quiet, mostly, with fewer tourists and students, I yearn to escape from New Orleans, even if only for a day. Luckily, we’re within three hours of gorgeous white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

Over the weekend, we took a day trip to Pensacola. It was my first trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches outside of a training trip to Clearwater over Christmas break my freshman year of college.

When we’re en route to the beach, I’m at my happiest. Nothing could be better than the destination, of course, but the trip there isn’t so bad, either. The drive is meditative and familiar. I felt myself decompress as soon as we crossed the Orleans parish line. We followed I-10 across expansive Lake Pontchartrain, over flat, marshy watersheds near the Pascagoula River, and through lush corridors of green pines. Mississippi soon melted into Alabama, melted into Florida. My cares melted along the way, too.

By the time we were on the beach and adequately sunscreened up, I didn’t want to sit any longer, so I stood for a while watching the waves roll into shore, koozied blonde ale in hand, marveling at how wind shapes water and how sunlight colors sea as far as the horizon. I felt so free, I thought I might take off and fly. And I thought about how difficult it will be someday when this small paradise is more than a few hours from home.

pensacola-beach

pensacola-beach-sky

Things I’ve learned in New Orleans

(likely part one of many)

Your appointment is for 9:30, not at 9:30.
Your appointment will not begin at 9:30.

Humidity is no joke.
Neither is the fat rain that falls heavily on hot sidewalks on summer afternoons.
Neither is street flooding.

Bars never close.
Food does.

People are fiercely proud to be from here. Above all, that may be the most important thing.
People who are not from here are welcome here, too.

Traffic laws are open to interpretation.
Cycling is probably best left to the levee.

Patience.

Open, warm kindness. Think conversations with strangers and making fast friends with other regulars at your favorite bar.

Adventures in gluten-free pizza crust

Hello, friend. Today I want to tell you a story. A story about pizza. I can tell you this story now because I told you about IIFYM and the fact that yeah, I do eat pizza sometimes, although this version is a little more friendly on my tummy.

The pizza looks like this, which is helpful for those of you who can’t read (looking at you, five-month-old niece):

The Maria

This is my version of local Neapolitan-style pizzeria Ancora’s famed Maria. It has crispy edges and melty goodness and a garlicky bite underneath it all. More details on all that will be in a forthcoming post. And to be fair, that photo was taken in Addie’s kitchen after we completed our latest kitchen collaboration of my dreams: grilled gluten-free pizza.

But of course, the story of how we got to grilled gluten-free pizza is a longer one than I might have expected, and begins not in Addie’s charming shotgun in Mid-City, but in my suburban, ’80s-built, oddly configured kitchen that is never draped in beautiful natural light but instead in the buzz of fluorescence. You could get lost in there in the daytime without a light on, but I digress.

The road to gluten-free grilled pizza, as I was saying, was more complicated than I’d envisioned. I’d made the dish in the past with regular pizza dough, which was pretty easy and fantastic because gluten is what gives dough stretch and structure.

I wondered if this might be something we could possibly try, and honestly, neither of us searched the internet to see if it was possible right up until we were ready to throw the dough on the grill. Just living dangerously over here.

The morning of our experiment, I made the pizza dough using this blend I found at Whole Foods.

photo 1

The resulting dough, as promised, was fast, easy, and delicious. I did not feel as though I’d been conned.

The issue with gluten-free pizza, then, was not in the taste, but the journey in getting various starches to bind and act like normal pizza crust. I whipped this together in my stand mixer using the dough hook, even though the instructions said to use the paddle attachment. Whatever, I thought to myself as I clicked the dough hook into place, thinking that I must know better than the instructions on a package from a company that’s actually, uh, made this dough.

The dough hook did not do anything with the olive oil, flour, water, and yeast mixture. I could’ve stood here all day looking at this.

photo 1 (2)

I didn’t have all day, though, so I set my ego aside and put the stupid paddle attachment on. I’ll give it to you, manufacturers. You were right.

Interestingly enough, the dough came together like a thick icing. This was different than the normally sticky, compact ball of dough that results when making a pizza crust from conventional ingredients. I was surprised and also terrified, because how does such a strange dough come together to make a pizza?

photo 2 (2)

Luckily, a silicone spatula and a generous portion of olive oil did the trick, and into a bowl the dough went. It rose for about 2 hours until I took it to Addie’s, where the real adventure began. Here’s a shot of the dough pre-rise, and reflecting the wonderfully harsh overhead light of my kitchen for ambiance:

photo 3 (2)

 

How issues with paleo led me to IIFYM

I guess I should start off this post with a preemptive clarification. It’s not that paleo and I don’t get along. In fact, paleo eating makes sense to me in a lot of ways. Paleo has also proven to work incredibly well with my body, especially during the Whole30 I took on around this time last year.

Here’s where paleo methodology and I aren’t compatible: portion control.

Every paleo book/website/blog/sermon I’ve ever come across talks about the importance of portion control on paleo but also preaches “eat as much [vegetable/meat/fat] as you want!”

For many, this isn’t an issue. For me, this was akin to a free pass to overeat. I get why this approach works, why it makes sense, and how a lot of people really can eat as many non-starchy vegetables as they want, because it’s actually quite difficult to eat your fill of them and make any sort of negative impact on your daily nutrition and/or goals. The problem lies mostly in the amounts of added fat consumed and how this gently winding road suddenly turned into a slippery slope of too-large portions of meat, too much fat, and overeating carbohydrates in general every day. It’s also easy to do when one non-paleo meal becomes two, then another, and of course the portions are off in those meals as well.

I don’t need to give you more background on my background, since by now you know I spent years training as a competitive swimmer, which translated to upwards of 20 hours per week in the pool at my peak. Since those days ended, I’ve always struggled to figure out how a normal person works out, how much a normal person works out, and especially how much a normal person eats. The formative years of my life were spent eating 3,500+ calories a day to maintain my energy levels, and I think my body and mind must view this as canon. I’ll probably always be someone with a large appetite and an immense capacity for food.

I know this because I’ve been battling it for 7 years.

Contrary to nearly all advice in the paleo community, I began to track my intake earlier this year, just as I was ramping up the squats, deadlifts, and bench in the gym. I realized how much I’d been eating slash overeating, and at my boyfriend’s suggestion, looked into If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) as a new approach to help me figure out nutrition in terms of numbers.

IIFYM

IIIFYM is simply this: eat the proper amounts of fat, carbs, and protein each day, based on your body weight/height/age/activity level, to help you meet your goals. For someone like me who’s lifting heavy things with occasional running and focusing on fat loss, this means a set of numeric goals that help me figure out exactly what I need to eat every day to reach my physical and training goals.

Initially, the most striking thing I realized was that I wasn’t eating enough protein, even at 0.8g/lb bodyweight (generally a good goal for women). In fact, my daily intake was probably around one third of recommended intake for someone my age, height, weight, and activity level, with the same goals I have. Wow. So what I was really eating, then, was too much fat and carbs to meet my body composition goals. Since then, I’ve tracked everything I’ve eaten for nearly every single day for a few months, and at long last I am seeing results. It feels good to know that my work in the gym isn’t going to waste. It feels good to learn what it feels like to eat proper amounts of food for fueling my body and reaching my goals.

It also feels great to know that I can eat a sandwich for lunch and not worry too much about bread—come get me, paleo police—because I can have a reasonable lunch that fits my macros instead of something that’s paleo yet blows fat and carb macros out of proportion for the day.

Here are some points I want to clarify about IIFYM and why I feel it’s a sensible approach.

What IIFYM IS

  • Eating more than 1,200 calories/day
  • Preventing me from getting skinny-fat
  • Fueling my workouts and rest days with the same amount of energy
  • Eating something I want or crave as long as it brings me toward reaching a macronutrient (protein, fat, carb) goal for the day without going over it—this normally means about one small thing per day, like a small scoop of ice cream
  • Basically a framework for defining what most people think of as “moderation”

What IIFYM is NOT

  • Restrictive in terms of what I eat, like dairy or grains, although I still eat mostly paleo because it helps me reach high protein macro goals
  • Guilt about food
  • Eating Pop Tarts, ice cream, and protein powder all day—it actually only works for my goals if I pretty much do the opposite and allow something like ice cream occasionally
  • Counting calories and obsessing over them; while calorie (energy) intake is important, it’s almost like a game to make my intake fit the macro intake goals every day
  • Exercising to compensate for additional food I’ve eaten*
  • Justifying food with exercise*

*These last two, in my opinion, reflect both a dangerous mindset toward exercise and food and are mistakes that many athletes and casual exercisers alike make every single day.

In conclusion, tracking what I eat is the one thing that’s started to make a real difference in my routine and body. It took calculation and some trial and error to lose these first 15 lbs. I’m a more firm believer in the idea that you can’t improve if you’re not measuring what you’re doing and have no idea where you are.

I’m curious to hear from any of you who have played around with IIFYM or who have also experienced some pitfalls of paleo. I’m also happy to talk about this stuff via email if you prefer to keep it private.