3 reasons why my body comp went in the wrong direction

This past week, I met with Zach to do my body comp. The last time I had my body comp done was in December.

My latest body comp went in the wrong direction.

My weight is up, my body fat is up, and I gained inches everywhere — except in my hips, which defies explanation. I suspect there is SOME muscle gain. I am, stronger, but muscle doesn’t explain the increase in body fat.

Zach stared at the results with a confused and exasperated look on his face. “Are you pregnant?”


“Well, I had to ask because it could explain this.”

At the time, I had no explanation. But after thinking about it for a few days and talking it over with Andy, I think I have pinpointed the problems.

  1. Too much sugar
    SXSW was my downfall. I had been doing pretty good with avoiding excess sugar until March 9. I planned to indulge a little. I ended up indulging a lot. The sugar addiction came back with a vengeance, and the eating continued well past SXSW.
    Then, it became easy to justify “celebrations,” as my son calls it. He always wants to celebrate something with a dessert, and I fell into the trap.
    Heed my advice — beware the sugar beast.
  2. Too much stress
    I set a number of professional goals at the beginning of 2012. The good news is, I’m workin’ it baby! I’m very happy with how things are going for my career. However, the side affect has been a busy schedule that keeps my adrenaline at a level I haven’t felt since I produced newscasts.
    All that adrenaline and cortisol is wreaking havoc on my body because it’s telling me to hold onto and store fat. Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf have both written about this.
  3. Not enough sleep
    Beth likes to point this out often — I don’t sleep enough. And it’s true. I have passion for what I do, whether it’s working out, creating websites, or being a mom — and often I find I don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything without cutting something. That something often turns out to be sleep.
    I don’t talk about how tired I am because I’m so used to the feeling and because people don’t want to hear it anyway. But I am chronically sleep-deprived.
    Unfortunately, sleep loss limits fat loss, and according to research, people who lose out on sleep produce more of a hormone that makes you feel hungry.
    Conversely, sleeping more can help you burn more calories.

Any of this sound familiar? I’m sure I’m not alone here.

The question is — can I fix this?

I know I can tame the sugar beast. I’m already on my way there. I get offered sweets all the time, but I politely refuse or I gratefully accept and share with my wonderful and appreciative family.

Reducing stress is a little more tricky, but completely doable.

Sleeping more is going to be the hardest to changes, but that’s mostly because I’m stubborn. I don’t want to give up anything. I love my early morning workouts, I love my jobs, I love my clients, and I love my family. I don’t want to give up any of the time I devote to these.

Obviously, I have some tough decisions to make. Stay tuned.

Documentary looks at epidemic of obesity

Americans are fat, suffer horrible diseases because of it, and our children face a similar or worse fate if we don’t do something about it — that’s according to the HBO documentary Weight of the Nation, which debuts next month.

I had the opportunity to go to the world premiere last night at the Blanton Museum of Art. We watched Part 3 – Children in Crisis. It was about how obesity is affecting American children, and the stories were sobering.

I found myself thinking a lot about my own kids and how just because they’re thin and active now doesn’t mean they’ll always be healthy. There is pressure from many different directions to eat crappy food and live a sedentary lifestyle, and I started to think that only constant vigilance and awareness will help me guide them through childhood.

It’s not just about how you look. Really, it’s not. It’s so much more than that. Obesity can lead to diabetes, a horrible, horrible, horrible disease. When kids are going to the doctor and being diagnosed as pre-diabetic or type-II diabetic, and it becomes COMMONPLACE, there’s a threat at hand. But it’s not the only disease caused by obesity, and that’s even scarier.

There were were a lot of people in the film blaming outside influences for how kids get fat — federal law, food company and advertising pressure, underfunded school lunch and PE programs. Some of the parents found a solution in taking their children to pediatric weight loss clinics. Some blamed themselves. I felt sadness and frustration, but I also felt hope.

Andy and I talked a lot about the film on our way home. We had actually planned to go out to dinner afterward but because of how the film affected us, we decided to eat at home, because our food is always better. I am more committed than ever to staying on our current lifestyle path — it’s a path of nutritious, real food, lots of family activity and it also doesn’t involve screens and the potential to be exposed to a constant barrage of food-like substances that have nearly zero nutritional value.

The documentary series starts on HBO on May 14. I encourage you to watch it.

The effects of eating like crap


If you don’t believe that eating sugar, grains, legumes and even dairy can wreck you’re body, just look at my face.

For the past five days, I’ve been at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival. It has been an incredibly amazing experience as a web designer and developer. But I succumbed to temptation, and I ate foods that I normally avoid. And as a result, I am dealing with the consequences.

We’re not just talking about weight gain. To be honest, I don’t care anything about weight — except over the long term — and I don’t think my body composition has changed much. What I have noticed is a puffy face, skin breakouts, feeling like crap, fatigue, and some other unsavory stuff I would rather keep to myself.

I know it will also take me 2 to 4 weeks to work all of the crap out of my system and get back to feeling better.

Sigh. Why does sugar have to be so damn seductive and yummy? (And by sugar, I’m also talking alcohol, grains and dairy — because they also have A LOT of sugar)

Just so you know — even though I am cursing the effects — I have thoroughly enjoyed myself here at SXSW. There has been free goodies galore! The Cool Haus Austin Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwich truck has been everywhere, and I enjoyed an ice cream sammie with candied bacon ice cream on chocolate chip cookies. OMG — so amazing. The highlight has been the Ask.com Sugar Lounge where local sweet shops brought in tasty treats for us geeks to vote on. Over two different days, I tried popcorn from Cornucopia, pecan pie, mini cupcakes from Delish Bakery, a banana popsicle from Good Pop and mint chocolate bars from Sugar Mama’s Bake Shop. All were delicious, but if I had to choose… Sugar Mama’s would win. Andy agrees. It was THAT GOOD.

So now it’s time to start eating clean again. I’m tired of eating like crap. I’m ready for a cleanse. Any recommend a good cleansing routine?

My cholesterol

I’ve decided to laugh at the huge divide between my experience with nutrition and the gospel that organizations like the American Heart Association preach, particularly when it comes to cholesterol.

They say: Eat “4.5 servings” of fruits and vegetables a day.

I say: Eat tons of vegetables! Some fruit! Way more than 4.5 servings!

They say: Eat “at least three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day” of fiber-rich whole grains.

I say: NO! to grains. Read this, this and this. Then come talk to me.

But I was hired to do a job, and since I haven’t yet convinced my co-workers and company that Paleo is awesome, I still have to write articles that reflect what the company believes: stuff like “fat is bad,” “whole grains are good.” That kind of stuff.

So I found it kind of ironic when my doctor’s office (a different place) mailed me results from the blood panel they did on a recent wellcheck, and everything LOOKED AWESOME.

Total Cholesterol: 232 (This is high — it should be 125-200 mg/dL)
HDL (good cholesterol): 122 (range to be is is > or = 46 mg /dL)
Triglycerides: 32 (range to be in is < 150 mg / dL)
LDL (bad cholesterol): 104 (range to be in is < 130 mg / dL)

So the skinny is this: even though I regularly eat eggs and bacon, coconut milk, coconut oil, organ meats and other foods and other fats and meats despised by the American Heart Association, my cholesterol is high on the side of “good” and low on “bad.”


Rest Day Recipe: Jalapeno-Avocado Sauce

Dish of yellow-green sauce
Jalapeno-Avocado Hot Sauce

I absolutely love spicy food. The hotter, the better. But — alas! — I have children! When I cook, I cook for all of us, and they simply don’t have the tolerance for hot food like I do.

So instead of integrating spicy into my dishes, I add it after it’s been served.

I tried buying hot sauce. I like Cholula, but I wanted hotter (and I wanted to avoid the Xantham gum they add). So we found something called “Widowmaker” at Whole Foods. Turns out Widowmaker isn’t quite as badass as the name would have you believe. I really have to question Whole Foods buyers because it was weak sauce.

Over Christmas we picked up an excellent hot sauce at the Farmer’s Market: Hotvocado from Kala’s Kuisine. I highly recommend it. I tasted the Gingery Habanera, and I liked it too.

But that got me and Andy to thinking — we have a few jars of hot peppers we canned over the summer — why not make our own sauce? And then we could be sure it would be paleo and free of weird thickeners. So we did, and it turned out AMAZING.

We canned pint jars of peppers, so if you need to buy peppers to do this, look for a 14.5oz can, packed in vinegar.

Jalapeno-Avocado Hot Sauce


1 jar pickled jalapenos, liquid reserved
1 small Haas avocado
1/4 cup reserved pickled pepper juice (vinegar) to blend


Combine the peppers and avocado in a blender. Add pickle juice to just lubricate enough to mix — maybe a little more. Blend and serve.

This should keep for about a week in a sealed container in your fridge. It’s good on EVERYTHING. Seriously. I put this stuff on my eggs, steak, salad, you name it. Delish.

How To: 5 steps to loving vegetables

Fork in plastic bowl of greens, carrots, cucumbers and meat
My lunch

I often hear people talk about how they don’t eat vegetables. I once had an executive producer who told a waitress at a restaurant that she “doesn’t eat vegetables” and wanted to make sure whatever she was ordering did not have a single one on the plate. Andy has similar stories of co-workers, and lately these stories come up when people see what we eat.

It’s like they feel like they need to defend their own eating habits.

It’s true that my family eats an insane amount of vegetables. They are a staple of nearly every meal, except breakfast, and only because my coach has me eating protein and fat only at breakfast.

But we didn’t always eat vegetables in large amounts.

It’s true my mom made vegetables available at every meal. There was always a salad or vegetable side — like lima beans, peas, broccoli or spinach. But when I was in high school, I rebelled, and fast food became a way of life when I was out with my friends. College wasn’t much better. I shudder to think what I ate. No wonder I hit my heaviest weight my freshman year and struggled to shed it over the next 10 years.

Even when I was a vegetarian, I didn’t eat as many vegetables as I do now. Grains were still a huge part of my diet. Pasta, rolls, rice were all featured on my plate.

When you go Paleo, meat becomes a natural part of your nutrition, but it does not comprise the majority of it, contrary to what many people believe. Meat MUST be balanced with fat and carbs, preferably huge amounts of leafy green vegetables.

While I never hated vegetables, I never LOVED them either. It took time for me to adjust my palette. It is possible to love vegetables. Here’s how:

Do a sugar-free challenge
(AKA junk-free, Whole 30, primal, paleo)

Vegetables taste sweet. I discovered this last year during the I AM Crossfit challenge when I gave up all chocolate, alcohol, dairy, and cut way back on fruit. Giving up sugar for a while totally changed the way I taste things. Without sugar to dominate my palette, I can actually taste other flavors. And guess what, vegetables taste sweet! Give me a bowl of Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, and I’m in heaven.

Kids look at vegetable bins
Kids don't hate vegetables! But sometimes you have to serve something 10 or 20 times before they will like it.

Sign up for a CSA

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) will deliver a share of whatever crops a farmer grows every week or every two weeks, depending on how it’s set up. Our CSA, through Johnson’s Backyard Garden, comes every week all year long. I don’t like food to go to waste, so I make sure that we eat whatever comes in our box. That means I’ve had to be creative and figure out how to cook vegetables I’ve never encountered before.

Invest in a good cookbook

I can’t stress the importance of a good cookbook enough, because if a recipe tastes bad, it’s much harder to overcome that aversion to vegetables. Not all cookbooks are created equal! I tend to shy away from celebrity chefs, many of whom write recipes that are hard to pull off on a weeknight (Yes — even Rachel Ray. 30 minute meals, my ass.)

My go-to cookbooks are from the editors of Cooks Illustrated magazine (Anything they’ve written. They’ve NEVER let me down), Deborah Madison (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone), and Rick Bayless (Mexican Everyday). Lately we’ve added two new cookbooks to our collection and so far so good:

If you want to go the primal cookbook route, there’s always a few from Mark Sisson, and the ones with “paleo” in the title, like Everyday Paleo and Paleo Comfort Foods. I’ll be honest. It’s all a formula. Meat, veggies, spices. Some recipes are well-written. Some aren’t. If you’re going just for innovative or well-written veggie recipes, stick with the cookbook authors that have a proven track record.

Remember, just because you didn’t like a vegetable in one recipe doesn’t mean you won’t like it in another. I had to try five different okra recipes before I found the one that everyone in my family raved about. Sauteed okra with tomatoes is now a family favorite, and it even managed to turn Andy from an okra-hater to an okra-lover.

Eliminate grains

When you get rid of grains, you have to fill your plate with something, right? Instead of making it meat — make it vegetables. And the more you eat them, the more likely you are to learn to like them. So stop filling your plate and stomach with grains and make room for more vegetables.
Variety of vegetables at famer's market

Try a new vegetable every week

Eating vegetables I like really helped me eat more, but trying new ones made meals an adventure. I credit my CSA with forcing me down that road. As the seasons change, our box of vegetables does too, sometimes with varieties I’ve never heard of. Romanesco cauliflower? Golden beets? Rutabaga? Okra?

It’s just more fun when you try something new.

Grow your own

There’s just something about growing your own food that makes you want to eat it. My kids will nibble leafy greens all day, straight from the plants. They get excited when they harvest something and then it’s served for dinner. Somehow, that personal connection makes us all more likely to eat our vegetables. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m definitely glad it happens.

I guess the key to loving vegetables is to open your mind and mouth to the possibilities.

And the scale goes up…

I stepped on the scale this morning for the first time in a couple of weeks. I really shouldn’t do that.

For months my weight has been pretty steady. This morning, it was up. Hmmmm….

My knee jerk reaction is that this Zone thing and eating lunch is not working the way I intended. Fortunately, part of me is a little calmer, and I’m considering the other possibilities.

For one, stepping on the scale once in the morning is just a snapshot. Weight fluctuates throughout the day. Secondly — maybe what I ate over Christmas finally caught up to me. Third — I haven’t slept as much lately thanks to a freelance gig I just took, so the cortisol is probably going crazy.

It’s only been a few days of zoning Paleo. I’m still figuring this whole thing out. To be honest — it’s a complete pain in the butt. I can feel myself getting a little obsessive. This is not something anyone with a history of eating disorders should go near.

However, portion control is the ultimate goal. I’m no longer breastfeeding, but my brain is used to eating a lot of food to support it. So really, I need to get my brain used to less food. And hopefully, this will help fuel muscle growth.

In the meantime, it’s been a front squat kind of week!

Hip Power Snatch + BN Snatch Grip Push Press + OHS 3+3+3×3 → 45/45/50
Hang Snatch below the knee 2×3, 1×3 → 55/55/55, 55/55/60
Clean Pulls 5×3 → 70×3
Front Squat 65% 4×4 → 85/85/85/85

Front squat 3×5 → 85/95/105/115/120
Team of 3 For Time:
2K row
100 Dual KB Thrusters
100 Burpees
Results: Team w/ Kat & Beth → 1500m row + 100 burpees+100 thrusters @ 25# DB (me), 20# DB (them)
Cutoff: 15min

The team WOD was fun, but what we did in class was NOT what they tweeted out the night before. It was supposed to be a 5K row and 250 each of the thrusters and burpees. We probably would have done it if there had been no strength component. But there just wasn’t time.

Well, off to bed for a little sleep tonight. G’night!

Don’t call it a diet

scale on stove
It's called a "diet" scale

It’s January 2, and that means I’m starting on my new goals — one of which is to Zone my food and hopefully slough off some more fat and hit my goal.

Andy ran out and got me a new scale because our kitchen scale broke over Christmas — with a little help. (It happens when curious hands drop it on the floor). I used the scale mainly for baking, and I expected him to just replace it with another all-purposed kitchen scale. I was a little surprised when Andy turned up with the scale you see above.

The package said “Diet Scale.” Gees, I can’t stand that word. But it works pretty well for what I’m doing. I weighed and measured everything at dinner — the chicken, cauliflower, collards and carrots. I actually don’t think I ate enough, since I’m supposed to eat 4 blocks of Protein, Fat and Carbs. But I don’t feel hungry, so I guess I’m just fine.

Today was also the first day back to my Olympic Lifting classes. We spent the time getting acquainted with the lifts — or I did, at least.

Hip Power Snatch + Push Press + OHS 3+3+3×3 → 35/45/55
Snatch + Hang Snatch 1+1×5 → 55/55/55/60/55
Clean + Front Squat 1+3×3 → 65/65/65
Back squat 65% 4×4 → 95

SIGH. Zach keeps telling me I change everything when the weight goes up. (See how he had me drop the weight on the snatch-hang snatch combo?)

I feel like I’m causing him great exasperation. I wish it would all just CLICK. How can I make it just click?

Week of December workouts

There are only a few days left until my week of rest. Yay!

I am very much looking forward to some time off from training. I’m taking advantage of the time off from Crossfit and Olympic Lifting with a full week of recovery. It starts Tuesday and goes through Christmas. I’ll be doing mobility and the exercises the guys at Next level Chiropractic want me to do for my hip, but other than that — I’m off!

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been adjusting to breaking up my meals via protein, fat and carbs. It’s been a struggle, to say the least, since I make so many soups and complex meals. Next step is to weigh and measure. Ugh.

Monday December 12
Sleep: 6 ½ hours
Activity: Olympic Lifting
Back squats w/ 5sec pause 65% 5×4 → 95
Hip power snatch + OHS 3+3×3 → 45/45/50
Hip snatch + snatch pull + snatch 1+1+1x2x3 → 50/55/55
Snatch power jerk w/ OHS 3×2, 2×3 → 55/65
GHD Hip extension w/ 10# plate 10×3

6:30am – 2 ½ scrambled eggs / 2 oz leftover garlic-tamari beef / 2 ½ strips bacon / coffee, black
9pm – 2 slices frittata: eggs, sausage, peppers, onion, cheese / 1 wedge steamed cabbage / 1 cup carrots / 1 ½ cups mustard greens braised in coconut oil / 1 tbsp habanero sauce

Tuesday December 13
Sleep: 6 hours
Activity: Crossfit Class
Double unders
Sit ups
Time: 11:54 RX

7:30am – 4 scrambled eggs / 2 ½ strips bacon / coffee
6pm – 1 chicken thigh (4oz) in 1 ½ cups stew: fennel, onion, mushrooms, kale & chicken stock / ¾ cup brussels sprouts / 1 ½ roasted beets / 1 cup raw carrots

Wednesday December 14
Sleep: 6 ½ -7 hours
Activity: Olympic Lifting
Front squats w/ 5sec pause 65% 5×4 → 85
Hip power snatch + BN Push Press + OHS 3+3+3×3 → 45/55/65
Snatch pull + Hang snatch 2+2×2, 1+2×2 → 6555/55/55/55
Snatch balance 3×3 → 45/45/55
Hang clean 3×3 → 55/55/65


Protein Fat Carb
6:30am 4 scrambled eggs 2 ½ strips bacon 1 tsp habanero sauce /
coffee, black
6pm 6-7oz beef skirt steak /
1 oz chicken (in soup)
1 tbsp olive oil /
1 tbsp chimichurri sauce
2 cups carrots /
4 cups salad greens /
1 cup steamed carrots, zucchini, broccoli /
1 cup Mexican lime soup

Thursday December 15
Sleep: 6 ½ – 7 hours
Activity: Crossfit Class
Sumo Deadlift 2×5
115-135-155-165-(no time)
Games standard box jumps
Barbell push press

Completed 3 rounds + 2 strict pullups in 10mins


Protein Fat Carb
(prepared by hubby: “Your gonna eat carbs”)
4-5oz beef steak tips ½ cup avocado 1 ½ cups sauteed zucchini, poblanos, onions /
coffee, black
7pm chorizo in 2 ½ -3 cups caldo verde (made w/ chicken stock) 1tbsp olive oil /
1tbsp walnuts
caldo verde: kale, red potatoes /
salad w/ carrots, cucumber, greens /
2 cups steamed broccoli

Friday December 16
Sleep: 6 ½ – 7 hours
Activity: Rest Day


Protein Fat Carb
6:30am 2 scrambled eggs /
2.5 oz pork pan sausage
12 walnuts coffee, black
12pm (work luncheon) chicken
ground turkey
chicken broth
in 2 ½-3 cups soup
⅓ cup sour cream Chicken stew: potatoes, peas & carrots /
Turkey chili: tomatoes /
Chicken tortilla soup: tomatoes, beans, corn /
corn tortilla chips /
1 cup tomato salsa /
3 slices gluten-free corn bread / ½ cup regular corn bread /
chopped onions
6pm 3 slices egg frittata w/ sausage & cheese ¼ cup ranch dressing Frittata: peppers & onions /
1 ½ green bell peppers, ½ cup cucumber slices, 1 cup raw carrots /
1 slice gluten-free cornbread /
10oz white whine

Saturday December 17
Sleep: 8 ½ hours
Activity: Explosive Strength
A) 2-DB split snatch 3×5 @ 20# (45 sec rest between sets)
B) 2-DB push press 3×5 @ 25# (45 sec rest between sets)
4 sets:
C)5 x 1-arm DB bench press @ 25# / 8 x full depth toe pushups
D) 60 sec wall squat at maximum tension / 10 jumping squats
(60 sec rest between complex pairs)
Finisher: KB swings 15×3 @ 35#


Protein Fat Carb
8am 4 scrambled eggs 2 ½ strips bacon coffee, black
12:30pm 3oz steak /
1 cup pork pan sausage /
1 fried egg
ranch dressing ¾ cup cauliflower rice /
½ cup carrots /
½ cup spinach /
6oz white wine /
3oz peppermint bark /
carrots & green peppers
6:30pm 5-6oz meatza (beef & pork)
.5oz cheese
2tbsp walnuts /
1tbsp olive oil
½ cup peppers & tomato sauce /
1 cup broccoli w/ garlic /
3 cups salad: greens, cucumber, carrots, peppers, vinegar

Indulgence is so sweet

Madeline shoving pumpkin cheesecake with whipped cream into her mouth
Mmmmm... pumpkin cheesecake.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, because I sure did. I did just what I planned to do — hang out at home and eat a HUGE Thanksgiving meal.

First, a workout. I got it over with early Thanksgiving morning. I did not time it, but I went as fast as I could with minimal rest.

“Magic 50”
5 rounds
5 DB snatches each arm @25#
5 DB swings each arm @ 25#
10 burpees

Core training → 4 rounds: 5 wheel rollouts / 10 Russian twists @ 25# / 10 high-tension crunches w/ 5 sec hold / 12 supermans / 80 chinnies

Skillwork: 10 ring pullup hold-to-negatives

roasted turkey sitting on cutting board
Ready to be carved!

Then it was time to cook.

It was just the 4 of us this year, but that didn’t stop Andy and me from making a big meal. We picked up a fresh turkey from our friends at Richardson Farms and brined it overnight, then dried it for a couple of hours in the fridge. We followed a Cooks Illustrated recipe for roasting it, and after a couple of hours it came out perfect.

Also on the menu:

  • Roasted carrots
  • Mushroom-cauliflower-pecan stuffing
    (I changed up the linked recipe a bit. We used pecans instead of hazelnuts, cilantro instead of parsley, green onions instead of leeks, and we microwaved the cauliflower a bit in order to shorten the time in the oven.)
  • Mashed Turban squash
  • Gibblet Gravy
    (A modified Cooks Illustrated recipe, without the flour)
  • Sweet potato salad
    (This is so delicious: Roasted sweet potato wedges with roasted red peppers, scallions, mustard and olive oil)
  • Cranberry relish
    (A recipe from my mom that I modified to ditch the Jello and cut the sugar: Chopped cranberries, orange zest, peeled orange, peeled apple, apple cider & sugar)
  • Pumpkin cheesecake
Luke looks into the stand mixer bowl
Luke helped make our Thanksgiving dessert.

Dinner was a huge hit. We ate and ate and ate. I ate too much, truth be told, and my stomach protested for a while after dinner.

Fortunately, I made room for some cheesecake and homemade whipped cream.

The kids had a fabulous time, and to be honest, we are not inundated with leftovers.

Andy made a stock from the leftover bones after the kids went to bed.

I’ve got plans for the leftover turkey. How about turkey omelets for breakfast and coconut curry with turkey for dinner?

I’m sad my day of indulgence is over. I don’t plan on eating any more of that cheesecake. That’s OK — Andy and the kids are more than happy to oblige in eating up what’s left.

Madeline and Luke sit at table eating
The dessert was a hit.