Christmas Fitness Challenge!

Six reasons I don't want my body back

The other day I was at the gym and after noticing my baby bump a man came up to me and said, "it wasn't hard enough to get your body back after your last baby so you decided to take the challenge again, huh?" He meant it as a compliment and I took it as one. Eventually though, that did get me thinking about those terms we see and hear everywhere... "How she got her body back after baby" or "Get your pre-baby body back". The term is used in various ways in fitness magazines about celebrities, for advertisement about weight loss products or even from a postpartum friend on Facebook. The more I think about the idea of getting my body back the more offensive I find it.

1. My body isn't lost. I don't need to find it, or get it back. It is right here, developing and carrying another human being inside of it. Infact my body has never been more obvious and present than it is when I am carrying a child. 

2. Though birth does require a recovery period, it is not an injury or an illness. Birth is a miraculous feat, a personal conquest. I was a warrior. I don't want to diminish that. Pregnancy and birth are both miracles. Yep, I said it. I am one of those who believes it to be a miracle. Why would I consider something a large population of the human race experiences once or multiple times in their life a miracle? Well, to answer that here is the definition of the word according to Mirriam-Webster: 

an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs, an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment, a divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law

3. It isn't possible. I will never again posses a body that didn't carry my son. Nor will I ever have my body back that didn't carry my daughter. I don't want that body back. Not all women get that opportunity. I would bet those woman would take all the stretch marks, wider hips, and extra pounds in the world to be able to have the experience I have had. 

4. I have more potential than that. My pre-baby body was one I was proud of. I was thin and had decent muscle tone. I worked hard on my physical fitness and nutrition. But there is so much more waiting for me! Personal health is about progression. I want to be the best I can be now. I don't want to revert back to the best I was then.

5. Stretch marks are permanent. Sure, they will fade over time but they will never go away. Go ahead and apply your expensive creams, and do your body wraps. They won't work. I am not ashamed to have an entire belly full of stretch marks and sagging skin. I have thought about getting a tummy tuck in the future. My reason is not because I hate my stretched skin and want to go back to my pre-baby body. My reason would be that I work really hard to get a strong abdomen and it is mostly hidden. If I ever did get a tummy tuck it would be to unveil my hard work over the years, not to turn back time.

6. No amount of exercise will take me back to a pre-birth pelvis. I can lose the fat around my hips or squat myself to a nicer back-side. Those efforts won't be in vain, but no matter how hard I try structurally my body is different than it was before. So what if I will never wear a size 2 again? Mom curves are sexy.

So no, I don't want to get my body back. That body is done and over with, I have been there and done that. There is a body after baby, mine has just yet to be built. 

What is Flexible Dieting, anyway? Your most common IIFYM questions answered.

What is Flexible Dieting?
Flexible Dieting, or If It Fits Your Macros, is when you track specific macronutrient numbers to gain a certain body composition. Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain weight flexible dieting is a foolproof way of achieving those goals.

Why is it called Flexible Dieting?
The science behind it (yes it is science) is that fat loss or gain is dependant on calories in vs. calories out. If you eat less than your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) then you will lose weight. Even if you are eating fast food everyday, you will still lose weight. Just like you can eat a surplus of healthy foods and gain weight. If we eat more than our body uses, it stores as fat. If we eat less than our bodies use then we lose fat. Calories in versus calories out. Period. Science. Therefore, this gives you some flexibility in your food choices unlike many diets that only allow certain foods. With IIFYM, you can eat it as long as it fits your macros. If you meet your macro goals, you will meet your body composition goals.

What are "macros"?
Simply put, macronutrients are Protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Also, in terms of flexible dieting Fiber can be considered a macro. Not to be confused with micronutrients, which are your essential vitamins and minerals. Micronutrient numbers are also very important for the body, but not the purpose of this post.

Can't I just count calories?
Macros = Calories, Calories do not = Macros. The caloric break down of each macro is as follows:
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
So something with 10 grams of carbs will have 40 calories. Something to be aware of is in America, food labels are allowed to round their calorie numbers but not their macronutrient numbers. Also, if you are using an app like My Fitness Pal, or My Macros to track your foods those too can easily be off on calories. That is why it is better to pay attention to macros, not calories.

What if I just want to eat all my calories in carbs?
Don't we all. Each macro has a big role to play.
Carbs give us energy. They help our bodies and minds function. If we eat too few carbs then we feel sluggish and foggy. This is why "low carb" or "no carb" diets are not safe for your body.
CARBS ARE NOT THE ENEMY! They will make you think sharper, run faster, and squat deeper!
Protein feeds our muscles. Without enough protein, generally .8 grams - 1 gram per pound of body weight, we will lose lean muscle mass. Protein is just as important, if not more important, when you are cutting weight than when you are maintaining or trying to gain.
Fats help regulate hormone levels. Fat is another macro that gets a bad rap. All of the systems in our body rely on fats to function. "low fat" diets are very dangerous to the body, especially for women.

So, what your saying is I can eat fried chicken and donuts everyday?
Well, that is a big debate in the IIFYM community. If your only concern is body composition, the way you look, then technically if it fits your macros eat whatever the heck you want. MY PERSONAL OPINION and that of many flexible dieters is to practice the 80/20 rule.

What is the 80/20 rule?
80% of the food consumed comes from healthy nutrient rich foods, and the other 20% comes from your "not so healthy" foods. For me, it's candy. I eat candy every single day. I also eat lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. I want to know I am also getting enough FIBER and MICRONUTRIENTS for my body. Both are VITAL for the internal health and functionality of our bodies. Health starts from the inside out. So I say.... Eat your veggies! ...and if you still have room for a candy bar at the end of the day, well then eat that too. 

What ratio of each macro do I need?
That will depend on your goals, TDEE and personal preferences.
The best resource other than a personal macro coach is the IIFYM website.

Fudge Toffee Cookies

Every time the holidays approach, so do the parties. Generally I sign up to bring a chopped green salad, that is something I know I can make well. Occasionally, something odd comes over me and I sign up to bring a dessert. Wait a second... I DON'T BAKE! I tend to forget that little detail. My mom can bake with the best of them, for some reason I didn't get that gene. Don't get me wrong I can cook, intuitively infact. I just do. not. bake. My baking skills are generally limited to baking with protein powder. With that being said, I turned to the old trusty box of cake mix.

This recipe is for those like me, who signed up to bring a treat before they remembered they were baking challenged...

Fudge Toffee Cookies 

Fudge Toffee Cookies
1 box of fudge cake mix
1 can of pumpkin
1/2 bag of toffee chips
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon
Taste the dough, because you can. 
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or use an oven stone like I did.
Bake for 15 minutes
let cookies cool on a cooling rack 
Dust with powdered sugar

Oh yeah, and save some for your holiday party.

Shhhhhhh no one needs to know you made these with a box of cake mix and pumpkin....

20 week bump update: Boy or Girl?

IT'S A.......

The anatomy scan could not have gone better, baby girl is big and healthy. We are so truly blessed. She is measuring 5 days ahead and is calm as a cucumber. Literally, she is either super calm, or super lazy! Little miss hardly ever kicks or moves around. Much unlike her big brother who was just as rambunctious in the womb as his now. Maybe she will be my calm little snuggle bunny. Waylon is too busy playing cars and body slamming pillows to cuddle with me these days. 

We had the names already picked out for either gender. Wesson Micheal Johnson for a boy, or Lillian Rae Johnson for a girl. We are so excited to meet Miss Lil Rae! It is safe to say that Daddy is slightly scared to have a little girl. I can't wait to watch him melt like butter over his baby girl. This house needs some softening up. Waylon and Justin are in Beast Mode all day long, every dang day! 

Watching Waylon and Lillian together will be a dream come true. A dream I honestly didn't even know I had. My little family is truly my very biggest blessing.

6 Healthy Living Philosophies - from the heart of someone in recovery -

Today marks a very important day in my life. Today, I have been sober for 6 years. I have officially been sober for the same amount of time I used. The full duration of my teenage years was spent drinking, drugging and starving away the pain that was my existence. For 6 years I tried to kill myself, daring my body to give up time and time again. Although I had given up on myself many times, my body never did. My soul never did. God never did. My family never did.

It was 6 years ago today that surrender became the most comforting word in my vocabulary. I had to start healing from the inside out. Once I cleared away some of my internal wreckage I was able to feel some solace.

Healthy living means more to me than looking good in a pair of jeans. I spent far too long hating myself. I used drugs and alcohol to numb my pain, and I used disordered eating to punish myself. I felt truly unworthy of love, all love. Living a lifestyle that pays tribute to my body, spirit and mind is the best way I can imagine living out the rest of my days.

In celebration of today I want to share 6 of my healthy living philosophies. 1 for each year that I have been sober, healthy and happy.

1. Above all else, nourish your soul
            Healthy living starts from the inside out. I had to clear out my internal wreckage and make room to allow God back into my heart. Maintaining a healthy spiritual practice is the most vital thing to my peace of mind.

2. Enjoy nourishing your body
            5 years ago I made a New Year resolution that changed my life. I didn’t resolve to lose weight, or run a marathon. I made the decision to start cooking. Before then everything I ate came from a can or a box. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with preparing and eating healthy foods. I am truly proud every time I sit down to a meal I've put thought and effort into.

2. Dedication does not mean deprivation
            The mentality of an addict is all or nothing. Early on in my journey to living healthier, I thought I had to deprive myself of those things that were considered bad for me. I tried all the “low carb” “sugar free” “low fat” ways of eating. Yes, they worked. I lost weight, I gained some lean muscle. I continued to look and feel better, until I didn’t. Depriving myself of anything is not maintainable for me. Today I eat what I want, when I want it. For years my parents tried to teach me “moderation” and it is safe to say these last couple years I have finally started to understand and live by that concept.

4. Find comfort outside of your comfort zone
            Anything worth having takes work, and work is not always comfortable. I adopted this concept early on in my recovery. I had to do things and feel things that were uncomfortable in an effort to grow. Getting out of my comfort zone has always proven to help me grow in any area of my life. I have grown spiritually, physically, in the gym, in the kitchen, at school, at work, in my marriage, in my recovery and the list goes on.

5. Building a strong body builds a stronger you
            Physical fitness has made me a stronger person on so many levels. Each goal I attain at the gym builds my confidence. Putting effort into exercise regularly helps me carry that concept into other areas of my life. I have learned not to take my successes or failures too seriously. I am going to succeed and fail on a daily basis, the real growth comes from taking tomorrow for what it is… a new day.

6. Self-care is a catalyst to self-love

            My idea of self-care has changed over time. In any stage of my life, when I care for myself I find it much easier to have respect and love for myself. When I exercise I feel accomplished. When I prepare and eat a good meal I feel grateful and proud. When I pray and meditate I feel humbled and worthy. When I simply take a shower after 2 days of cleaning up after a messy toddler, I feel renewed. Self-care reminds me I am worth something.

Introducing solids: Our experience with Baby Led Weaning

Seven whole months have passed since Waylon made his debut into this world! As I have shared many times before, the first few months were quite literally the hardest months of my life. Newborns, not my jam! Infants on the other hand, totally my jam!! The day Waylon turned 4 months old, he was a different baby, and I was a different mommy. Our world turned right-side-up and we began to enjoy this journey together! At his 4 month well-check the doctor told us to start solids. Start with some rice cereal then move on to veggies and fruits one at a time. That is exactly what we did!

(After further research I found that the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests waiting until 6 months to start any solids. Research shows that at 4 and 5 months infants still have an "open gut" that is not fully developed to the point of digesting solid foods properly.)

Come to find out, Waylon really wanted to feed himself. 
So despite the mess, I let him.

We made our way through all the different fruits and veggies that they make in baby food, and I made some of my own. I had often wondered about Baby Led Weaning but being a first time mom I was unsure where to start. I figured because I had already started him on purees that BLW was out of the question as we had started the "weaning" process. Which means introducing solids, not actually weaning off of the bottle or boob. 

On day Waylon was teething and having an extremely rough day. I could not handle seeing him cry anymore so I gave him a banana. He LOVED it!

I had not yet fully decided to do BLW. I was still just as confused on how to do it and quite scared of choking. So I decided to make some homemade purees.

We also experimented with our mesh feeder!

Waylon turned 6 months old and I decided to take the plunge into BLW. I did some research and followed these simple suggestions:

- Cut food into spear like pieces that are easy for baby to grab
- Make food soft enough that you can mash it with your tongue on the roof of your mouth. If it is soft enough for you to do that, it is soft enough for him to mash with him gums.
- Avoid added salt/sugar
- The only food that must be avoided at all times is Honey.
- Know the difference between choking and gagging.
-Be present at all times.
- Do not put food into his mouth.

Our first meal was Pasta & Asparagus

Shredded chicken mixed with homemade broccoli puree

Steamed carrots and pureed mixed berries

Oatmeal with baked Apple's

Avocado Pancakes
1 Egg
1/2 avocado
2 T multigrain rice cereal
dash of milk


Watermelon & Cucumber 

Scrambled eggs, toast with butter, strawberries & a banana

French toast with mixed berry puree on top
 ( top right was his, bottom was mine!)

Oatmeal with baked pears

Turkey Alfredo Lasagna

Peach & nectarine pancakes with full fat yogurt and chia seeds on top.

Zuchinni Zoodles and Parmesan Chicken with a side of avocado

Lean ground beef, sweet potato fries & asparagus

Tilapia and green beans

Scrambled eggs & a bagel with mixed berry puree

Blueberry oatmeal with half a nectarine

Mini egg fritatta, avocado, halved blueberries, and rice puffs

Shredded zucchini cake with full fat greek yogurt & half a nectarine 

These are just some of the foods we tried our first month! We had a blast. Waylon loves to feed himself. Luckly we have not had any choking, though he gags often. He is learning so much and has almost figured out the pincher grasp. It may be messy but we get to enjoy meals together and that makes it worth it. If you are considering baby led weaning... I say go for it! Do some research so you are sure you can approach it safely. I still use purees from time to time, he really eats anything and everything! Our food adventure has only just begun.

Why I want another baby.

You told me it would get better. You promised me I would sleep again someday. You told me that he wouldn’t cry forever. I had no ability to see past the dark sleepless postpartum hole I was in. Then one day, I was out. The sun was shining and my little baby boy was laughing more than he was crying. It got better, I am sleeping, he doesn’t always cry. Being a mom is freakin’ awesome you guys!

I swore I’d never do it again. I was positive that I could never put my body through birth again. I was positive my heart and mind could not handle postpartum depression again. I was positive Waylon would be an only child. Now I am not so sure. I think I can do it again, I think I WANT to do it again. But why, if I hated giving birth and having a newborn, would I want to do it again? I AM a mom. Before, when I was trying to adjust to all of the newness that is motherhood I felt I would fail. I didn’t fail. I AM A MOM. I don’t have to wonder if I can do it. I know I can do it. I AM doing it.

A few things I HOPE to do differently when, God willing, we decide to have another baby:
-I will not be afraid to ask questions.
-I will hire a doula.
-I will attend La Leche League meetings
-I will use a midwife
-I will try not to eat everything under the sun
-I will track my macro nutrients during pregnancy
-I will be patient with myself, my baby, Waylon and Justin
-I will look at Waylon during the hard times and remember it gets so much better.

Having Waylon has turned my life upside down in the most amazing way. There are times when I don’t think my heart can fit anymore love, and then he sticks his big toe in his mouth and giggles... and I melt. I never thought I would be a stay at home mom, that was not what I wanted. Today, all I want is to be present every second of everyday. I am so blessed to be able to spend all of my time with my little boy. I get to watch him grow every second. It is bittersweet because he is growing so fast. This time is fleeting and I realize that. I went from total darkness to total joy in matter of months. Motherhood is unlike anything else. It is just... motherhood. 

I never wanted to be a mom. I never wanted to be a stay at home mom. I never wanted another kid. … What I want is not always what God sees fit for my life. Here I am. I am a mom. I am a stay at home mom. I am a mom who is currently dreaming of a bigger family. 
I AM. 

Don't be fooled by fake Before and After pictures!

Have you ever looked at a before and after picture and wondered if it was real? I have, countless times! Especially if it is trying to sell a product. Does the product really work? It is so hard to say. Sure, there are many legitimate before and after photos out there. BUT there are far too many that are bogus.

To prove my point I created my own. These pictures were taken only hours apart. I used a few detail changes I see in a lot of different before and after pictures:

In my BEFORE picture I am wearing low rise sweats, using poor posture, pushing my stomach out, and applied a filter to make my stretch marks stand out more.

In my AFTER picture I am wearing high-waist exercise pants, using good posture, flexing my stomach, and chose a filter to make my stretch marks appear lighter.

The next picture is just for good measure... me relaxed and unedited. 

So whats the moral of the story? If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Our bodies change if we make changes. Not by fad diets and over priced products. Don't fall for silly before and after pictures... it might just be an average sized girl with stretch marks poking her stomach out!

The Newborn Stage has passed at last!

Call me a bad mom, but the newborn stage was not my cup of tea. Even more so, the new-mom stage was not for me! I turn into a complete basket case when anything new and challenging presents itself. This has been a great fact for me my entire life. I walk into nearly every situation with doubt and fear. That is how I entered motherhood... doubtful and fearful. Those first couple months were far from enjoyable. Justin tells me today that he was picturing himself as a single dad because he thought he'd have to commit me to a nut house. Yes it was that bad. I was a W.R.E.C.K.

I read somewhere that a baby is considered a newborn from birth until 3 months of age. Well around month two I started to gain some sanity back. There was some joy in my day and I could see the darling light in my son's eyes. Physically I was feeling a little better and able to do more. Braving the outside world I ventured to the stores wearing a sleeping baby boy at my chest. Things were still hard, but I was adjusting. I still wasn't sleeping at all, but I was functioning. I only felt like a basket case about half of the time, which seemed to be quite an improvement.

Then Waylon turned 3 months old. My baby boy was no longer a newborn. I don't know if anyone would have believed he was just in that category because he was wearing 9 month sized clothes at this point! I have myself a big ol' baby! His smiles and laughs became more frequent, and motherhood started to feel like a good fit. Kind of like a pair of running shoes that seem to hurt more than they help for the first while. After you break them in it is like running on pillows. Motherhood finally started to fit and feel comfortable.

On Christmas day Waylon turned 4 months old. This is my favorite month so far! I finally find myself begging him to stop growing. I want to take in every facial expression. I want to breathe in the smell of his hair and kiss his soft little hands. Every moment feels fleeting and I am trying so hard to experence it all, terrified that I am missing something. Here it finally is, what all of those other moms have been talking about. It took me longer than most to get here, but I am here. Now I am scared to be anywhere else. Motherhood finally IS me. I am a mom. It's not a role, or something I am trying to make work. I AM. I don't know how to be anything else. I don't want to be anything else.

I finally feel human. I can exercise. I can sleep. I can be a part of. I can enjoy. All because of my growing baby boy. He has given me all of those things. He has grown so much. I can sleep because he sleeps. I can exercise because he is patient and easier to care for. I can be a part of because he can come with me. I can enjoy because he is so enjoyable.

I must say the only thing I miss from that blur of a newborn stage is the rooting reflex. He would try to find a nipple everywhere and anywhere. We called it rootin' tootin'. I do miss that. Other than rootin' and tootin' I will happily say goodbye to that newborn. I am in awe of my growing baby boy and his developing skills and personality. I am a better mom to this 4 month old than I was a few months ago. Today I want nothing more than to be present and I pray that I don't miss a single thing. ... Hello motherhood, I have arrived.

Why Crying it out isn't right for my family.

In no way do I mean this post in offense to anyone who uses the cry it out method of sleep training. I am completely against mom shaming, that is not what this is. We are all doing the best we can. This is simply my experience.

Most moms are sleep deprived, stressed out, physically and emotionally wiped out. Despite all of that we do our very best to be our very best on very little sleep. I think all moms need, want and day-dream of sleep. Most days I feel like I'm running at about 30 percent. No, at 4 months of age Waylon does not sleep through the night. He no longer needs to eat at night but he wakes up just for the sake of waking up, multiple times! Sometimes he is really upset and screams, other times he just wants to play. So many people including our family doctor, parents and many friends suggest letting him cry. I have done the research and cry it out seems to have high success rates if baby sleeping through the night is your goal. Once you get over the hump of the first couple nights it seems baby sleeps perfectly!

I was reluctant about the idea to begin with. The goal of crying it out is that our little one will learn to soothe himself and fall back to sleep. Also, there is the thought that when baby cries out at night he is only manipulating me and he knows what he is doing. That is where I don't follow suit. I cannot get myself to accept the idea that a baby has the mental means to manipulate. I don't believe we are born with the ability to manipulate, it is a learned behavior. In my opinion there is a prerequisite for manipulation and that is malicious intent. On the other hand, are his screams selfish? They are sure. He gets to be selfish, he is a baby. His wants are his needs. He has no idea how tired I am, or how badly I just want him to stop crying and go sleep. His goal is not to stretch me to the point where I am running on fumes. Being considerate of others is also not a trait we are born with.

I have tried to let him cry a couple times for 20 minute increments, and he never calmed down. He can cry for hours with me comforting him. A "win" in cry it out would be considered that moment that he finally gives up and realizes I am not coming. What a terribly depressing thought! I never want him to feel that way unless he is truly doing something wrong. In this case he is 4 months old, I am not bailing him out, I am simply loving him. I cannot love him too much and I cannot spoil him. Until he has learned certain behaviors, his wants are his needs. Someday he will not want me or need me, why would I want to give up the opportunity now? 

Cry it out is just simply not for me. I am a comfortable confident adult and I get the blessing of sleeping next to my husband every night. Let me tell you, when he is not next to me, I don't sleep as well. Meanwhile, tender Waylon is down the hall by himself in his cold room with no blankets or stuffed animals to cuddle because he is too small. So as long as he needs me I will continue to lose sleep. I will continue to freeze my ass off every time I have to leave the comfort of my warm bed in the winter. When he cries I will come to his side, even if it is as simple as putting his pacifier back in, or as complex as a meltdown.

Being Waylon's mother is my job. I am supposed to nurture him, love him and guide him. I have the BEST job in the world. Despite how exhausting and hard it is, it was my choice. Now, if I was a working mom I might have a different opinion! You working moms are inspiring. All moms are inspiring. Raising a tiny human is in my opinion probably the hardest thing anyone will ever do. Cry it out or not, doctors suggestions or not, families suggestions or not... we are all doing the best we can. Give yourself a break, and do what works for you. In the mean time I will work on taking my own advice!