Thursday, October 31, 2013

WLC Learning #5 & #4

WLC Learning # 5 - Rigid Nutrition Makes You A Beast

I suppose I mean this in the best and worst sense, but mostly the worst. On the positive side, my workouts have probably never been better. I feel better, stronger, faster at the gym. Any work on the bar feels like I've shed a 10 lb weight vest and my lifts feel more explosive.

Outside of the gym, the Whole Life Challenge turned me into the awful kind of beast. If I wasn't in a blood sugar-crash rage thrashing around my kitchen groping for anything to eat, I was breaking down mentally and emotionally at the feeling of lost control over my whole life, or I was in a Whole Life Zombie emotionless, energy-less state. That's like three monsters in one.

And I know that I wasn't alone in this beastly transformation, because I had the displeasure of embarking in this hell with my fiancé (whom I love).

WLC Learning #4 - Nutrition Is Terrible For Relationships

My fiancé (whom I love) and I did our best to support each other during the Whole Life Challenge. Make no mistake that I required much more support than Matt, who is about to win the whole thing. But he, too, experienced the sugar-crash rages and constant zombie state (also a steroidal-level of power, intensity and energy at the gym, a beast of its own variety).

So we took turns raging out about where our next meal was going to come from, doing our best but often failing to not snap at each other to feed the cats, wash a dish, put away laundry–You know, life-critical things that justify high levels of stress.

We otherwise would sit motionless and broken on the sofa watching TV, not talking to each other, with barely enough energy to rise and shuffle ourselves to bed to crash to sleep.

Matt was a saint for putting up with my ugly three-headed monster and on more than one occasion I voiced my half-joking concern that this Whole Life Challenge would cause him to break up with me.

On his good days, Matt would feel amped and talk about wanting to continue the Whole Life Challenge after it ends. That will not be happening.

Cumulative Deductions: 38

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ground Lamb Curry

Yesterday, during our almost daily ritual of roaming hungry through Jewel scavenging for something fast to make for dinner at 8:00 at night that is Whole Life Challenge approved and that we're not bored to tears of, I decided to free-form my own Mediterranean dish after being inspired by a package of ground lamb.

It's reminiscent of a curry dish you'd find at an Indian or Mediterranean restaurant, and I also likened it to a Lamb Vindaloo dish that I love (though not nearly as spicy). It turned out great! I bought some of my fresh veggies pre-cut in steamer bags to cut down on prep time–I was so hungry I would have just as soon diced my left arm.


  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 small-to-medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of pressed garlic
  • 2 firm roma tomatos
  • 1 bag of cubed, fresh butternut squash
  • 1 bag of cut, fresh cauliflower
  • a lot of curry powder
  • a lot of cumin
  • a moderate amount of chili powder
  • a little bit of cayenne pepper powder
  • a little bit of sea salt
  • a little bit of pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 T bacon fat
I never measure my spices, but this is a rough ratio. Use each to taste based on your desired flavor mix. Would also be good with some mint leaves.

  1. Brown lamb in pan with bacon fat, garlic and diced onion over medium-high heat
  2. While lamb is cooking, steam squash and cauliflower in the microwave per the bag's instructions
  3. Combine cooked vegetables and all spices into pan with meat and reduce heat to medium-low
  4. Let simmer for 5 min, stirring frequently
  5. Serve with Terra Original Vegetable Chips and Tribe Classic Hummus
Total prep/cook time: 10-15 min

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paleo Hot Chocolate

It's 9:00 on a cold weekday night. Following an awesome meal (I'll post that recipe next), I had the urge for hot chocolate. 

So I do what I always do. Throw shit that I have together and pray to Zeus it works. It did! 

Berka's Whole Life Hot Cocoa

• Microwave 6oz of pure almond milk in a mug for 2:45 on medium-high power. I used Califa Farms brand, found in the produce section of Jewel next to the Naked Juice.

• Slowly stir in roughly:
        - 1 T cocoa powder
        - 1 T cinnamon 
        - A pinch of stevia
        - A drop of organic vanilla extract

If you have come to this post looking for paleo recipes, surely you understand this is no Ghirardelli substitute. But it is a sweet, chocolatey beverage to warm a cool night.

WLC Learning #7 & #6

WLC Learning #7 - I'm Not Actually An Alcoholic

OK, let me preface by saying that I was never actually concerned that I was an alcoholic. Drinking, however, is part of the social culture in which I roll, and it's not uncommon for me to drink both weekend nights and one weekday night, especially in the summer in Chicago where patios scream your name.

I didn't know how I would react to the alcohol abstinence and, given how poorly I was reacting to the deprivation of everything else, anything could happen. But weekends came and went and I really didn't miss the booze. We did allow ourselves two cheat days that centered around the consumption of everything, especially alcohol. The good news is that, while I did feel the effects more quickly, I still managed to avoid the next-day hangovers per the usual. The trick to that, of course, is awesomely greasy food when the night is over. That's the first and most important thing you learn in college, I think.

While it's great that I validated that I have no dependency on booze, I learned that I am addicted to (what else?) sugar.

WLC Learning #6 - Sugar Is In Literally Everything

You think you don't have a sugar addiction? You're wrong. We all do. Know why? THEY PUT THAT SHIT IN EVERYTHING. I will no longer claim that "I am a grease fiend–Give me pizza over sugar any day."

I believe I wrote during week one of this Whole Life Challenge that I would have killed a hobo for a cookie and in week two or three chronicled the Candy Corn Affair of 2013. I really had no idea that it was in my marinara sauces, random, unassuming snack foods, and in my bacon. My poor, sweet bacon! Once I took it out of my normal foods, I jonesed hard like I never have before, hiding in dark corners and plotting a raid of the solar skittle machine. The CPG industry has had me addicted to sugar all these years and I hadn't a clue.

Monday, October 28, 2013

WLC Learning #9 & #8

WLC Learning #9 - Larabars Are God's Gift To The World

It's 9:00 on a Wedneaday night. You're starving, staring piteously into a barren fridge with no time or will power to hit the grocery store. The post-workout shakes rattle the cupboards and drawers pulled open in vain until-There! Just there, wedged between the cutting board, oven mits and 8 year old garbage bag last Larabar! You thought they were gone since you poured them like candy into your bottomless pit of a stomach during the first weeks of Whole Life Starvation.

Yes, Larabars are the real winner of this WLC, saving starving souls at work, on business travel, during road trips. You name the diar food situation and the Larabar makes it all better with its datey, nutty, fruity goodness.

But why are these little nuggets of goodness necessary? Well, it's because:

WLC Learning # 8 - Americans eat like shit

I know this isn't news, per se. But the level of awfulness in the American diet was exposed as downright abysmal by WLC standards.

I'm not even talking about the obvious fast food offenses. There is no such thing as healthy food in a pinch, except for raw fruits and veggies, nuts and the Larabar. You think those plantain chips will be acceptable road trip food? Sorry sister, has sugar. Switch it up with a Kind bar? Honey. There is basically not a single packaged food that you can pick up and eat from the grocery store that is WLC approved.

It's truly maddening. Why can't we just stop loading our food up with crap? It's shocking how difficult it is to eat clean, and I'm not even including grassy-fed or organic meats in this equation.

Your options are to:
  • Spend a whole paycheck at Whole Foods, be broke, and spend your whole life cooking
  • Spend less money but significantly more frustration at a regular grocery store, be a little less broke, and still spend your whole life cooking
Doesn't that sound fun?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

WLC Learning #10

Whole Life Challenge Learning #10 - Business Makes You Fat

Friends, at this point, you know what I eat, that I CrossFit, that I'm a cheating, lying son-of-a-bitch and intimately how I feel about this WLC. For these final 10 days, I'm instead going to share my top 10 Whole Life Challenge Learnings. Beginning with...

#10) Business Makes You Fat

It's a wonder that every American business person doesn't weigh 300lbs. As I write this, I just arrived back to my hotel room following the kick off reception of a conference. A healthcare conference, to be exact. At this healthcare conference, I stood in an exhibit hall for three hours full of people munching on buffet tables of fried food and buzzing around the several bars with not 1, but 5 free drink tickets. 

I pregamed this event with a salad which allowed me to mostly stay away from the buffet table. As it ended, I emerged proud and triumphant for having maintained self control and sticking to my plan. Feeling finally free of temptation and slinking away to my room, I passed a crowd of conference-goers convening in a post-reception room full of free pizza, s'mores and booze whispering sweet nothings into my ear. Snap back to reality and I see it's not the food beconing me, but a client prospect.

"You're having some s'mores with us, right!?" she coaxed cheerfully, 

"For sure! I'll stop in for a bit," I internally crumbled. I made a quick lap, never looking a marshmallow or pepperoni in the eye, and shuffled desperately back to my room to get my 10 in pathetic minutes of exercise.

So goes business conferences, and I endured 2 during the course of the Whole Life Challenge. Business networking centers around unhealthy behaviors - happy hours, networking dinners, appetizers, baked good smorgasbords disguised as "coffee breaks." And don't forget the travel food and lack of time for any physical activity.

You think you're safe at the office, and you're wrong. You eat your feeble reheated lunch and are forced to combat birthday bagels and donuts, leftover sweets from client meetings, catered in deep dish pizza and a god-forsaken solar candy machine that only requires you to cast a godamn shadow for a hand full of Skittles, M&Ms or the candy de jour. I hate that candy machine. We are not friends.

Cumulative Deductions: 32

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 46

Tuesday, October 21st

1) What did you consume?

A banana, a small chicken salad, almonds, a pumpkin bar, an apple, and fake nachos (sweet potato chips, shredded chicken tossed in Frank's hot sauce, refried beans, onions, guacamole and salsa)

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Tough Times with Tommy was at it again and we all got schooled on proper pushup form while blasting really terrible music. We got on Tommy about his music about more than usual. Tommy was not pleased. Tougher Times with Tommy ensued.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge?


4) Did you cheat/lie?

Gum and 4 Skittles. Its not my fault that Skittles just tend to fall out of the solar dispenser once a day when I walk by...

5) How do you feel?

Halloween has fast crept upon us and, for women under 30, that usually means organizing costumes once fitting only for cable TV. All TV is trashy now, so that analogy no longer works. In a moment of panic last night, I realized that I had forgotten my annual tradition of starving myself the week before in feeble efforts to shed any last-minute pounds.

Fortunately, it dawned on me that, thanks to this Whole Life Challenge, my fasting needs are not nearly as dire as in previous years. Oh, there will be starvation, make no mistake. Starvation and self-loathing wrapped up in a package called dysmorphia. That's how most 20-something women roll on Halloween.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 45

Monday, October 21st

1) What did you consume?

The banana, too many pumpkin bars, some almonds, a barbacoa salad from Chipotle and a scrambled egg.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Yes, I went to CrossFit and worked out with mediocre performance. But I realized that I forgot to brag (let's call a spade a spade) about having done 55 strict pull-ups during the WOD on Friday–A huge accomplishment for me. Basically it's like I've taken off a 10lb weight vest. All bar work feels exponentially easier.

Still not worth it.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge?

Yes, by my own standards.

4) Did you cheat/lie?

Gum and Skittles

5) How do you feel?

Feeling OK. But let's talk for a second about how awesome my dad is. Everyday, as I've said before, he brings me a banana, a bag of almonds and usually some additional fruit. The fruit always disappears, but I learned early into the challenge that eating too many nuts was giving me headaches. However, I always gladly and thankfully accept his food gifts for two reasons:

  1. Never, ever turn down free food. Ever.
  2. It's a really nice reminder of why I am doing the Whole Life Challenge and the amazing people in my life who support me everyday.
The end result, however is the absolutely hilarious amount of almonds in my desk drawer. Probably a gallon spread across a bevy of ziplock bags:

Rest assured these almonds will be eaten. And probably my dad will read this (thanks, Dad!) and decide tomorrow morning that maybe I don't need anymore almonds, per se. But those little bags of almonds and I have been through some hard times (First World problems), and I appreciate my family's support, since I know not everyone has that luxury (real talk).

Cumulative Deductions: 31

Monday, October 21, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Days 42-43-44

Second to Last Weekend in Hell

1) What did you consume?

Scroll to bottom for recipe for
Berka's Baked Good Frenzy Pumpkin Bars

I ate clean all weekend except for dessert at a family BBQ on Saturday. It included one of my future mother-in-law's pumpkin cupcakes and 2 s'mores (you can't have just one, as anyone who's seen The Sandlot knows). I'm grouping this cheat together as a combo dessert for 1 point deduction. If I had gone to I restaurant and ordered some slice of 5-layer chocolate cake with ice cream or something, that would only be a point. I'm merely adjusting for scale.

As far as supplements, I took the usual fish oil on Friday, vitamin D on Sunday, and on Saturday...Zyrtec.

Sunday night after dinner I scavenged the fridge for a piece of fruit to no avail. In a calm fit of desperation, I pulled out my food processor and set out to make something sweet and delicious with only ingredients available in my meager kitchen. Unbelievably, it worked. Scroll to the bottom for the recipe.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Not particularly. I worked out on Friday, but not Saturday or Sunday. I could have definitely found time either day, but I just didn't feel like it. I also didn't get mobility in on Sunday. Meh.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge and how do you feel?

The new lifestyle challenge is to spend 10 minutes a day doing "something you love." How touching. Clearly this is a challenge, like every other aspect of this challenge, programmed for people who don't work demanding full time jobs in Chicago. I wake up, commute about 2 hours round trip, work 8+ hours, hit the gym, scramble to find food to cram in my face at 8:30 or 9:00 at night, sleep and repeat. The WLC wants me to what, knit from 10:00-10:10PM? Learn how to play guitar in all my spare time? I'm counting my blogging for this because I enjoy writing and I've no time to add anything else.

4) Did you cheat/lie?

I'm deducting 7 points for the weekend–4 for workouts missed, 2 for mobility missed, and 1 for dessert on Saturday. However, I did also have 3 Skittles, 3 chocolate chips and 1 dark chocolate Hershey's kiss. Meh.

Also, those of you who think an extra Zyrtec can't count as as a supplement, you obviously don't have allergies like I do. And if that's not good enough, then I will propose my blood pressure medication as an alternative. But you'll allow one of them, and you'll like it.

5) How do you feel?

It's getting even harder to follow the Whole Life Challenge as it's winding down. I'm feeling more defiant and even my fiancé pointed out my slippage. Which, for all the fiancés keeping track out there, does not earn you brownie points. Mostly because the brownies don't exist. There are no brownies.

But really, it was appropriate that we took a road trip to central Illinois both at the beginning and end of this challenge. It didn't get easier. There was still nothing sufficient to eat on the road except for fruit and nuts, which still annoyed me to the core.

Cumulative Deductions: 31

Berka's Baked Good Frenzy Pumpkin Bars

  • 36 oz whole pitted dates
  • ~ 1/2 c canned pumpkin 
  • ~ 2 T pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 eggs
  1. Blend dates until they become as smooth as possible .
  2. Slowly add in pumpkin and allow to blend with dates thoroughly.
  3. Add eggs and pumpkin pie spice, blend thoroughly. Batter should feel like really soft cookie dough or really thick brownie.
  4. Spread evenly across a 9 x 13 cookie sheet (I greased mine in coconut oil) and bake at 325 for 15-18 minutes
  5. Allow to cool and cut in to desired sized bars
The final consistency is like a lemon bar - Thin, a little gooey, and delicious.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 41

Thursday, October 17th

1) What did you eat?


2) Were you active and what did you do?

I was so sore from the last two days of CrossFit that I slept in compression tights and still couldn't move yesterday. Multiple people at work threatened to push me over with a gentle tap into a swift wind because I was so pathetically stiff.  So I took an unplanned off day to get laundry done and recover. Trust me when I say that the trips up and down stairs required for laundry were all of the exercise and mobility that my body could handle.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge and how it it feel?

Feels like this lifestyle challenge is really dumb. It must only benefit people who consume no media at all during the day.

4) Did you cheat lie?

I ate 6 Skittles and chewed gum. Also, after my diligence at ensuring a compliant lunch at Mezza the other day, it turns out that the woman on the phone was full of crap. They replied to my Facebook ingredient inquiry 24 hours later:

So, that's what I get for trying. And I didn't even find out in enough time to purge it and pray for my sins.

5) How do you feel?

Only 14 days left and the end can't come soon enough!

Cumulative Deductions: 24

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 40

T - 16 Days & Counting

1) What did you consume?

A banana, a Larabar, some grapes and strawberries, a handful of almonds, delicious white bean chicken chili from Mezza and a burger with a fried egg for dinner.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Squat day always puts me in a good mood. Probably due to the fact that it's the exclusive function of my ginormous thunder thighs. 

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge and how did it feel?

Yes, I studied up on some life hacks. None of which I remember. Obviously it was very useful reading.

4) Did you cheat/lie?

Gum. Again. But I actually CALLED Mezza to make sure their chili represented a compliant lunch, so that cancels out the gum.

5) How do you feel?

Is this over yet? I get it. My food is packed with appalling, offensive ingredients that are absolutely going to kill me before the age of 40, especially [gasp] sugar. It's shocking that people live long enough to procreate the human race. Can you BELIEVE that you are healthier for not drinking alcohol? This is shocking news to me.

I'm not sure I need 60 days to figure all of this out. 

Whole Life Challenge Day 39

Tuesday, October 16th

1) What did you consume?

Didn't eat much because work was so busy. I had a Larabar, a banana (I think), an apple, 1/2 of a chicken breast and, for dinner, a small steak fajita salad.

We also found pure almond milk at Jewel the other day in the produce section near the Naked Juice. I had some of that mixed with a little cinnamon and stevia and it tasted kind of like horchata, though didn't blend very well.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Sometimes a good workout is just the cure for a bad day and last night was no exception. 

3) Did you complete the lifestyle objective and how did it feel?

I perused some articles on the interwebs, now someone please tell me where that goes on my time sheet.

4) Did you cheat/lie?


5) How do you feel?

I feel like we're finally nearing the home stretch. Which is a terrible place to be, actually. It's like when you're running a race and nice volunteers who think they're helping tell you that the finish line is "just around the corner" but really it's a mile away. So you let it all out of your tank to kick towards the finish only to exhaust yourself half a mile later in front of another group of volunteers bidding you just around another corner.

Cumulative Deductions: 24

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 38

Monday, October Something-Or-Other

1) What did you consume?

Back to clean eating. Almost. I ate the last Entenmanns donut for breakfast because everyone knows that you can't leave an Entenmanns donuts in the trash.  What am I? Crazy?

Road trip eating is hard. There aren't many places you can quickly pull off. We stopped into Cracker Barrel and paid an exorbitant amount of money for eggs and bacon. Oh well.

For dinner we made burgers and, because my body was craving vegetables (a rare occasion, to be sure), had a giant salad.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Not really, I did minimal mobility and didn't work out at all. I might have counted the walk to and from Walgreens to pick up allergy medicine, but it wasn't all that brisk and I'm feeling honorable.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle objective and how do you feel?

Given that we were on a 6 hour car ride and it's the year 2013, I'm taking a leap and saying that audio or visual consumption of content, so long as it's informational or motivating, is permitted to achieve my 10 minutes worth. Podcasts or audiobooks, for instance, should certainly suffice.

Now that I've sold you on audio content...We listened to Howard Stern. Which totally counts. I now know more than I ever wanted to know about the day-to-days of female owners of explicit websites. That it's not "porn" (gross), it's "beautiful erotica" (there, now that's much better, see?). I feel dumber but also infinitely more refined and classy by comparison for having listened.

4) Did you cheat/lie?

I ate the donut and didn't workout, which I am docking points for. I would be shocked if the Cracker Barrel bacon was clean, but I had to eat something that wasn't Arby's or McDonalds and I definitely did the best I could. No deductions there.

5) How do you feel?

I recently was kind of called out for letting things like certain bacons, gum or minor ingredient lapses (i.e. Occasional concession to natural flavors in non-organic meats) fly without deducting points.

Usually, there'd be some sort of witty or scathing retort that comes next, but it made me more disappointed than anything.

I'm not poised to win this thing. Even if I was, there's no real prize or even importance associated with it. Through this blog, I've been clear about my trials and tribulations with the Whole Life Challenge, explaining that the point system is so deflating to me that I would surely quit the whole thing or lose my sanity entirely if I couldn't follow a "reasonable person test."

I learned the "reasonable person test" from my father. And it's really simple. What would a reasonable person, from the outside looking in, say about a situation.

Certainly as the Whole Life Challange is concerned, a reasonable person wouldn't say, "You've done everything in your power to create a compliant meal, but the only meat available at Jewel says it was prepped with natural flavors, and you didn't abort your whole meal for a Larabar. You fail this time."

And so it disappoints me when I see people striking each other down. Calling people out in public or private, presumably to make themselves feel better, rather than lifting each other up.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 37

Sunday, October 13th

1) What did you consume?

Christmas finally came! We piled in a car and drove 6 hours to our friends' wedding in Columbus, OH. What did I eat, you ask? Oh, man. It went like this:
- Fish oil (still had to get the supplement point in)
- 3 Entemanns donuts
- McDonalds breakfast - #4
- Kit Kat Bites
- 2 pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
- Arby's regular roast beef with Arby's sauce and curly fries
- 3 pumpkin beers; the fiancé and I mixed a six pack from Binnys and shared them in a pumpkin beer taste test; taste test results below
- I don't know how many vodka tonics
- Champagne
- Chicken and green beans
- A little bit of wedding cake (I was too busy drinking vodka to notice it had come out, so I resorted to a few forkfuls of leftovers)
- 2 hot dogs from the late night got dog bar
- Approximately half of a large pizza from Danatos with sausage and double pepperoni

Pumpkin Beer Taste Testing Results:

- Punk'in - 6/10 more of a bite, subtle on the pumpkin
- Pumpkin Smasher - 7/10 wheat-y, not too hoppy, more pumpkin-y 
- Americas Original Pumpkin Ale - 6.5/10 pilsner-y, a little too sweet
- Horny-copia  - 7.5/10 good wheat ale, great mix of pumpkin spices, not overwhelming 
- Post Road Pumpkin Ale - 8/10, great ale with pumpkin overtones, some hints of spices but nice and subtle, a good overall package
- Ichabod Pumpkin Ale - 6.8/10, the ale itself was too overpowering for a pumpkin beer, in my opinion; in fairness, it was warm by the time we got to it and it didn't get a fair shake

2) Were you active and what did you do?

I'd say I definitely earned my workout points on the dance floor. No mobility though.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle objective?

I read some stuff during the 7 hour car ride. I think. 

4) Did you cheat/lie?


5) How do you feel?

It's probably no surprise that all of the crap I Injested made me feel sick by the end of the night. This morning I feel sluggish, but fine. 

I'd say the cheat day was a smashing success. The only thing that I'm disappointed that I forgot to indulge in was the chocolate chai latte from Starbucks. 

Some people who have done this challenge say that the junk they crave doesn't taste the same or as good as it used to after eating clean for a while. I couldn't disagree more. Every morsel was amazing.

I didn't blog yesterday because I was too busy eating and drinking. Sue me. But I did Instagram photos:
Cumulative Deductions: 21

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 35

Friday, October 11th

1) What did you consume?

An apple for breakfast, a shepherd's salad for lunch, and steak fajitas and half a sweet potato for dinner. Dessert was a sliced apple with natural crunchy peanut butter. 

Our office's Senioir Art Director/Master Baker was at it agian with bite-sized pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They were out of control. As I was I. My original plan was to put 2 in a bag and save them for my epic cheat day just around the corner. But, to confirm they were worth it, I needed to taste test. 

That's when it all fell apart, they were so delicious that I had to eat three, which I felt was a fair serving size for a single point deduction. So, in an epic fail, I lost a point two days before my cheat day. An I still tools some for the road. Typical.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Yes, went to CrossFit. Mobilized in the warmup. Kind of.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle goal?


4) Did you cheat/lie?

I started off trying to lie about the the cookie taste test. But it turned into a full-on cheat. Whoopsies.

Also, I ate the vinegarette dressing that came with the lunch salad. I don't know what's in it, but I'm not deducting a point. The salad's not the same with out it and there was no other option. Stop judging me for salad, jerk.

5) How do you feel?

We stocked up for our epic cheat day car ride:

Also stocked up on insulin shots.

Cumulative deductions: 14

Friday, October 11, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 34

Thursday, October 10th

1) What did you consume?

Probably too much fruit? Two apples, a banana, and some strawberries. But you know what fruit's not? Pizza. So I've decided to care a little less about my fruit consumption. Also on the fruit front, I've gotten in the habit, when I am craving a dessert-like substance, of peeling and slicing up a peach, then microwaving it for 1 minute or so on the medium-high setting with a little stevia and a lot of cinnamon. It's like warm, gooey peach pie filling and it's delicious.

I also had two buffalo chicken egg muffins that we made a while ago and froze. Made for a good, fast lunch. We modified this recipe from Fast Paleo to include diced jalapenos and red peppers. We also didn't cook and shred our own chicken. Ain't nobody got time for that. We used the canned stuff from Sam's Club and it tasted great.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Yes, I went to CrossFit and it was a great 7:30 group. The workout was 10 rounds of 10 overhead kettlebell swings, 15 situps and 20 double unders. The movements were definitely in my favor, but my superhero friend (that's you, Mac) murdered everyone. You couldn't even see the rope during her double unders.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge and how did it feel?

I completed it to the dissatisfaction of all two of my loyal readers. I hope I am making up for it now.

4) Did you cheat/lie?

No. But I am cheating/lying as I am writing this, so tune in tomorrow.

5) How do you feel?

CHRISTMAS IS COMING! CHRISTMAS IS COMING!  That's obviously false but exactly represents how I feel about the upcoming wedding this weekend. Just like Christmas, I've made a list, checking it twice, for my day of gluttony. It sits on a whiteboard outside of my office cube as a reminder of what I can look forward to. Here it is:

Also like Christmas, I have to remind myself not to cheat this close to the epic cheat day. "Christy, you can't buy that Barbie now, because what if santa gets it for you for Christmas?" That was exactly the mentality of the fiancé and I at dinner this week when the waiter waved the saliva-inducing dessert tray in front of us.

Cumulative deductions: 13

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 33

Wednesday, October 9th

1) What did you consume?

At work I ate a banana and a Larabar, then a crazy awesome dinner at Tango Sur, an Argentinean Streak house. The fiancé and I shared a huge cut of meat and roasted sweet potatoes after eating the prosciutto and melon appetizer.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Yes! Matt and I had our engagement photos last night and we were running all around Chicago, climbing things, chasing the sunset and moving around get awesome shots. I can't wait to see how they turned out.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge and how does it feel?

Yep. Blogging and reflecting away.

4) Did you cheat/lie?

No, I don't think so. I'm pretty sure the prosciutto at Tango Sur was legal. But if it's wrong I don't want to be right.

5) How do you feel?

My crazy work week has not permitted time for feelings. However the engagement shoot was fun and the dinner following was lovely.

Cumulative deductions: 13

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 32

Tuesday, October 9th

1) What did you consume?

I case you were wondering how many fun sized packages of M&Ms equal 1 Whole Life Challenge Nutrition point, the answer is 4.

Other than stress-eating those at work, I ate a banana, two small apples and a chicken avocado salad with mustard vinaigrette dressing from Pret. (Thanks, Pret, for actually having dressing without sugar). For dinner I had a ladleful of chili on top of a fried egg and some veggie chips and guacamole.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Yes, went to CrossFit and tweaked my shoulder a little doing jumping muscle ups so I had to do a lot of mobility out of necessity afterwards.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge?

Yes, but we really need to go back to the water thing. I clearly won't keep it up on my own, and now I'm getting dehydration headaches at a much lower threshold because the first lifestyle challenge trained my body to expect all the water that I'm no longer giving it. #WholeLifeFail

4) Did you cheat/lie?

I deducted 1 point for 4 fun sized packages of M&Ms. But let's be honest, everyone knows that those packages are not even close to a fair serving size. I had to get my fair cheat.

5) How do you feel?

Meh. The long runs and long row in tonight's workout felt pretty good. So there's that.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 31

Monday, October 7th

1) What did you consume?

A banana, meatloaf, 2.5 Larabars (fail), an apple, a handful of almonds and chili with some avocado.

I made some good free form chili in desperation to make a meal out of what was in my sparce kitchen without having to shop. It goes like this:

Berka's Hobo Chili of Desperation

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 package spicy chicken sausage from Trader Joes
  • 1 can Cuban style black beans w/ liquid (regular black beans would probably be the same)
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 normal sized can tomato sauce
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 3 T chili powder
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1 T cumin
  • 2-3 cloves crushed garlic 
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 T black pepper
  • 1 t sea salt

  1. Cook ground beef in crushed garlic and separately cook bacon, drain both
  2. Chop bacon, slice chicken sausage
  3. Combine all meats, diced red pepper and diced yellow onion and cook for about 10 minutes until onions are translucent 
  4. Add everything else 
  5. Simmer for at least 2 hours over low heat

2) Were you active and what did you do?

It's the start of a crazy work week with a huge amount of deadlines rapidly approaching. As a result, I didn't leave the office until 8PM and over indulged on the aforementioned Larabars. It was the Larabars or my left arm.

I didn't make it to CrossFit, but I walked briskly during my commute (no I didn't) and stood on the train both ways--active rest, people! (that's a lie too).

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge?

Yep, this blog is coming out late because I didn't have time to even format and hit the send button at work. But here it is. Mission accomplished.

4) Did you cheat/lie?

Yes, I refuse to dock a workout point, so I'm counting the commute walk.

Also, I had 6 autumn Jelly Bellies. One of each seasonal flavor. Had to. Not negotiable. Did you know you're missing out on pumpkin pie and caramel apple Jellie Bellies? I didn't either. You're welcome. Now aren't you glad I cheated?

5) How do you feel?

Still emotionally borderline, despite feeling a bit better lately. The drain on time and energy really takes a perpetual toll.

Cumulative Deductions: 13

Monday, October 7, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Days 28-29-30

To Hell, Now Back – Half Way Done

Mmmm. Paloma.

1) What did you consume?

A variety of things you don't care about. And a double tequila drink to celebrate the half way mark (Everybody cares about tequila).

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Yes, we walked a LOT on Friday, which was a CrossFit off day. Sunday, I went to olympic lifting class. 

Saturday, one of my favorite workout-partners-in-crime and I attacked a deceptively awful, but awesome partner WOD. It left all of us panting on the ground. During the workout, as we were huffing and puffing, we happened to notice that a small group of people had gathered who were waiting for the 11:30 intro class. The greenest of the green to CrossFit, they were looking on with horrified gazes wondering what they were about to get themselves into. 

I don't know about the other dozen people at the 10:30AM workout who also ended up in fetal position on the floor, but I know that my partner and I couldn't resist dramatizing our pain. We collapsed into our last step of the final prowler pushes into agony and languish on the floor. The agony and languish was real, but positioning our collapse at the feet of the intro class was for our own gratification. It was very effective. Welcome to Edgewater CrossFit.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge and how did it feel?

The new lifestyle challenge is practicing 10 minutes of "mindfulness" or journaling everyday. I have this blog. #NailedIt.

4) Did you cheat/lie

I had a drink to celebrate the half way point of the WLC. Minus one, hard-earned point. Worth it. I also almost caved and had pizza, so thanks to the honest waitress at Improv Olympics who told me that their ripped off frozen pizza sucks and saved me a cheat.

5) How do you feel?

The last week has been good. I don't know if it represents the overcoming of a plateau or a high in this bi-polar roller coaster, but I need to acknowledge it because of how terrible the lows have felt.

Cumulative Deductions: 13

Friday, October 4, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 27

Thursday, October 3rd

1) What did you consume?

For breakfast I had a veggie and bacon omelet. Lunch was a banana and a handful of almonds followed by an afternoon Larabar snack. I made a really baller meatloaf for dinner. I followed this recipe with the following modifications:
  • Sub chicken broth for olive oil & vinegar salad dressing
  • Sub Worcestershire sauce for Franks hot sauce
  • Sub 1 of the onions for 2 diced green peppers
  • Baked in a mini loaf pan for easier portioning and faster cooking time (35 min)
It was absolutely delicious and yielded a lot of food for the time to prepare and cook. We'll definitely be eating this again.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

Yes, I went to CrossFit where we got to back squat. I love back squats. They're my favorite. What I love significantly less is overhead squats, which were programmed in the workout. Despite the expletives muttered during the workout (you'd been forewarned, people), I actually felt good about tackling a metcon that forced me to work on my weaknesses.

I did some mobility as part of the warmup for the workout, but I probably should have done more. It's an easy thing to brush off and rationalize.

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge?


4) Did you cheat/lie?

The bacon in the omelet was probably not legal, since most bacon is cured in sugar or other illegal substances. Frankly, however, I don't give a damn. I eat it so infrequently and in such small quantities that I'm letting it fly without deducting a point. It adds so much flavor to my veggie omelets that I can otherwise get pretty bored with. Before you tell me that there are so many other WLC approved things I can do to add flavor to my omelet, know that I get the thing made from the cafeteria in my building and am beholden to those available ingredients. So, I'm doing my best to work with it.

5) How to you feel?

Another good day, thank god. Although I was exhausted taking the time to prepare the meatloaf after a 12+ hour day and we had to eat late (like 10:00 PM or so), it was totally worth it. This time, anyway.

Cumulative Deductions: Still -12

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Day 26

Wednesday, October 2nd

1) What did you consume?

Let's see–Had an apple, a handful of almonds and coffee for breakfast; chicken salad from Chipotle for lunch; an afternoon Larabar and, for dinner, rotisserie chicken, 1/2 a sweet potato and some salad. A banner day after about 4 straight days of docking points.

2)  Were you active and what did you do?

Yes, I went to a great 7:30PM CrossFit class with many of my favorite WOD buddies. We did heavy power cleans on the minute for 10 minutes followed by Elizabeth (21-15-9 power cleans and ring dips).

3) Did you complete the lifestyle challenge and how do you feel?

Yes, but my work schedule this week is making me extra tired, and I require more coffee in the morning.

4) Did you cheat/lie?

Okay, so, the salad dressing that I found at Jewel after reading approximately 3,761 labels was the only one without sugar. All of the ingredients were fine, but the label said "canola oil or soybean oil," whatever-the-hell that means. Do they switch it up at the factory so that people don't get  bored? They like to spice things up on Fridays and go a little crazy with the soybean oil instead? Anyway, I put my bet on the canola oil and ate it without regret.

5) How do you feel?

I'm in a little upswing, thankfully. I've felt pretty good the last few days, minus being exhausted all the time. My fitness is continually improving, which is nice, and I felt really strong on all of the cleans yesterday.

In reflecting on this challenge, I've determined that an issue I am encountering has to do with the psychology of its structuring. I'm not a psychologist, but I moonlighted in more than a handful of classes in college and consulted with one of my best friends who's completing her PhD in psychology, so I'm basically an expert.

The issue for me is that it is mostly based on a conditioning model of punishment (mess up, lose a point) versus positive reinforcement (do well, earn points–the Weight Watchers model). There are instances of positive reinforcement, as in the bonus points for journaling, but not in the nutrition component, which is my arch nemesis. And those bonus points are positioned to correct screw-ups and reverse punishment. So, before you get to use bonus points earned out of positive reinforcement, you first have to get punished. Operant conditioning research consistently shows that positive reinforcement is more effective at shaping behaviors than negative reinforcement or punishment. Here's some more info on that.

Now, some of you may be thinking that I'm missing the point of the Whole Life Challenge. That it's about finding a balance and developing sustainable behaviors. But I'm following the rules, and the rules do not reflect that goal. If they did, bonus points wouldn't exist to fix screw-ups. The WLC would instead build in 1 cheat meal a week, and 1 totally missed day of working out with no punishment–Variables to achieve a goal of balance and sustainability. There are probably some small changes the WLC can make to reframe their conditioning model in a more positive way and I hope they consider it in the future.

Cumulative Deductions: Still -12

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Whole Life Challenge Days 24 & 25

September 30th and October 1st

1) What did you consume?

I somehow managed to only get 1 point off for each remaining day for the work conference that I attended–Quite a feat considering the schedule of events. Each were on stupid appetizers, but I was starving. The first of the two days I could have opted for raw veggies instead of the hot appetizers that we're floating around. But eff that.

2) Were you active and what did you do?

It can generally be very challenging during conferences to be active because your schedule is booked solid for 12 exhausting hours. Fortunately, since this one was in my hometown of Chicago, I was able to do some goat training (8 push-ups every minute for 20 minutes) in my living room on Monday and made it to CrossFit last night.

3) Did you compete the lifestyle challenge and how did it feel?

Yes, but I think I should have jut been pretending that the water challenge was in effect the whole time, because my hydration has totally fallen off and the sleep is not a change in behavior.

4) Did you cheat/lie?

I'm deducting two total points for the appetizers I ate, estimating that each offense equated to a serving.

5) How do you feel?

I felt better yesterday and we're approaching the halfway point on this thing. To help understand the effect of this Whole Life Challenge on me and to appropriately set expectations with coworkers, I made the graph below to display outside my cube.

As you can see, I've discovered that my level of profanity is almost directly proportionate to the duration of the Whole Life Challenge. This makes sense due to the research out of Harvard and a host of other academic institutions, which demonstrated that swearing clinically reduces pain. You can't fault me for science, people. Just keep me off client calls for a while.

My original graph would have what those in the math field call a "best-fit" equation that is linear. But my coworkers correctly adapted my original graph to reflect the relief I will feel from the epic cheat day that is my friends' wedding.

Cumulative deductions: 12