And the heavens rejoiced

While doing the Whole30 thing, I felt like a part of me died. I'm talking about the part that could spend hours looking through cookbooks, marking recipes I want to try, and then resolving to cook or bake my way through each day of my life, because there are so many recipes. Over the last month, though, I tried to shut that part of my brain off, or refocus it on all the wondrous things I could do with nuts, vegetables and meat. But there was a certain sadness I got each time I opened the pantry and glanced down at my baking drawer.

Now that I'm done with all that restriction, I feel like I can do anything. I'm trying to hold myself back a bit, but the other day I was mad with newfound freedom and thus decided to make a tea cake. Because something was missing with my afternoon tea, after all.

Maple and blueberries seemed wholesome enough (I know, it's still sugar), as did whole wheat flour (yes, it's still flour). It's a Melissa Clark recipe, and I can count on her to develop recipes to my level of sweetness (i.e., not too sweet). It's not mind-blowing, as I've made many loaves over the years that look a bit like this one. But for now, one slice of this for the day and I am happy with my lot in life.

Maple Blueberry Tea Cake
Makes one loaf

3/4 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. plus 2 T. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2/3 c. maple syrup (grade B, if you have it)
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 T. butter, melted
1/2 c. milk
1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries (see note if using frozen)

2 T. maple syrup
2 T. butter
3 T. powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease an 8- or 9-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a second bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Stir the wet into the dry until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely in the pan. Loosen the sides and invert it from the pan to a plate, then back onto a rack on top of a parchment-lined pan.

Make the glaze by melting the butter with the maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the powdered sugar, then drizzle over the cooled cake.

Note: if using frozen blueberries, do not thaw. Reserve a spoonful of the flour mixture and combine it with the frozen berries in a small bowl before folding in.


Whole30: Complete

I know the feeling, Margot

When I started Whole30, I had these goals:

1. To test myself on whether I had the stamina to change my lifestyle for 30 days.

2. Confirm whether eliminating certain foods could do certain things for my energy, sleep and mood; and to understand my emotional connection to food.

3. To develop greater sympathy for people who have legitimate allergies and health concerns related to food, and to help me add to my repertoire in finding great recipes in those situations.

On the first point, I'm patting myself on the back.  I didn't slip once in the grand scheme of things, unless you count that bag of veggie chips I desperately needed that one time (I don't). I have to especially thank my mom who kept me encouraged and checked in with me along the way as she was doing it herself. I got through the worst days, and there were quite a few.

On the second point, that was a yes in certain ways. I wasn't overwhelmed by any changes - maybe just delighted by a few subtle differences. Overall, my energy stayed pretty even throughout the process. I developed a greater understanding, which I already knew, that when I eat protein, I didn't get hungry as quickly and I didn't feel sluggish at certain points in the day. However, I never felt like my body ever fully adjusted. My headaches continued throughout the challenge, and during the last few days I had some serious digestive issues that made me wonder if I had a virus.

In terms of sleep, this was a good experience in that when I fell asleep each night, I didn't ever get jolted awake and spend an hour trying to go back to sleep, which happens frequently. I woke up each morning and felt ready to get up.

As for my mood, it was altered for the better in certain ways. But can I truly attribute it to what I was eating? Or the fact that the weather is changing? Or that I was getting a better night's sleep (which I suppose could be related to diet)? Or that I was finding other ways of spending my time rather than snacking or drinking, therefore contributing to a better day overall?

The emotional connection thing was perhaps the best revelation. In my mind, eating and drinking is ceremony, celebration, communing, but these 30 days reminded me of the times I just quickly grab stuff to eat out of the pantry without much thought, or pick a couple Corn Chex off the top of Joel's cereal (I know, weird), or drink a half a glass of wine without really appreciating it. After Whole30 and adding back in my regular foods, I hope to be able to apply this knowledge a bit more in making conscious choices, thinking about how the food I'm about to eat is really wonderful and meant to be savored, otherwise it isn't worth my time. And I do need to drink less. I think this is the number one reason I have problems sleeping, and it does affect my mood.

On the third point, yes, yes, yes. Those days that people brought treats to the office were difficult days. I instantly thought of my friends and family with celiac disease to whom this happens all the time - something delicious sitting right in front of them that they are unable to partake in. Or going to a restaurant and just trying to find something - anything - that might work on the menu, while not completely trusting that what you're eating really doesn't have gluten or dairy or whatever it is. Not to mention the high likelihood that the only thing you can eat isn't all that appetizing or filling (hello, undressed arugula salad with almonds and a squeeze of lemon). I am so much more aware now of these realities. And yes, I am glad I have more recipes in my arsenal that really are delicious without the offending ingredients.

In thinking about adding foods back into my diet, I have been nervous about my body's reaction. Will I discover that bread makes me bloated? Will dairy make me break out? Will I get tired around 3 p.m.?

But now that I'm here, I can honestly say I am okay with all of it. As I said in the beginning, I love food too much to do this all the time; and really, Whole30 is a bit extreme by design and is only to be done for 30 days. However, on a more personal level, this experience was a good time to evaluate some skepticism I've been struggling with over the years, which Whole30 has fit right into, and that is how eating is becoming more and more a personal, scrutinizing journey of input-output, sometimes to the point of eating disorders in more extreme cases. I've been concerned about how we're losing the concept of eating as a communal experience, a time to savor and share with friends (dinner parties are so much more difficult to plan these days when you're trying to work around everyone's varied diets), and that we instead are plagued with fears that what we're eating is evil and will do damage to our bodies to the detriment of having a well-balanced life.

I came across this piece a week or so ago, and it captures much of this skepticism for me. It's a longer read, but definitely worth the time.

In the end, I do think that processed food has become too prominent in many of our diets, that sugar is indeed added to so many things that don't need it (it's kind of incredible, actually), and that food manufacturers are keenly aware of how to market and engineer food to play to our emotions. That knowledge is power, but it shouldn't paralyze us or make us feel horrible for eating a few things we simply want to eat. Calling sugar or gluten the devil, or "cheating," as the article discusses, is kind of a mixed-up view of our relationship with food.

In conclusion, I did learn a lot - about food, about myself, about how much meat I can handle in 30 days, about my bad habits. I am very, very glad I did this. I encourage anyone to do it, and to stick with some version of it if it makes them feel better than ever before. It's a great diet jump-start, an effective education, and it can change your life for the better with the choices you make down the road. I did lose about five pounds and am feeling really great about that added benefit, too. But I'm really tired of preparing and eating meat every day. I never thought I could get sick of avocados, or that the smell of coconut oil could be off-putting, but I need a break. I'm ready to be a true omnivore again, to take pleasure in every single thing that nature has given me to wield in the kitchen and over the grill - which may or may not include sugar, gluten, dairy, legumes, etc. - and adhere once again to my personal food mantras from Michael Pollan ("Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.") and Julia Child ("Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything.").

I started a couple days early with the dairy reintroduction (I figured I'd rather start over the weekend in case I feel horrible). I started with Old Amsterdam cheese (my favorite right now) and some milk in my coffee. No ill effects. And I also partook in a real aperitivo hour, with a real beverage, and did get a headache shortly thereafter, as can be expected. We had wine with friends last night, too,  and I also had a couple bites of bread. I'm trying to be as sensible as possible so I can still monitor my reactions to things, but this could be a rough week of choosing what to try next and being patient as I count the days to pasta or a sandwich.


Whole30: Week 3

On a non-Whole30 week, this would have been a week for wine. Instead, I found comfort in tea and toasted coconut flakes at the end of four very stressful days at work. I only cried once, for a few seconds, but it was all I needed to just release that pent up emotion I didn't know how to otherwise express. These situations are so much better when you give yourself a moment to acknowledge your emotions and to mindfully release them. Whole30 didn't teach me this, but I know that mental clarity allows for these kinds of revelations, which I do think Whole30 helped with. If I had come home and dealt with stress in a glass or three of wine, I still might have cried but it would have been followed by feeling sorry for myself and a headache and puffy eyes in the morning. And I would have been off on a grumpy, defensive foot rather than stepping boldly into a blessedly new day.

In all, this week was a good lesson in stress eating/drinking. I only bent the rules once in buying a barely-compliant bag of veggie chips while running errands on my lunch hour. I ate a few giant handfuls with great appreciation. Otherwise, I made it through and feel stronger for it. I let off steam with a couple good sessions at Bar Method, kept my hands busy with knitting and gardening, and Joel made pasta, like old times! Except my "pasta" was spaghetti squash. But that sauce was delightful. We also went to the movies twice and I didn't fall asleep either time, which has been a common occurrence for the last five or so years.

This week was also easier in having a ready-made breakfast for several mornings (that nut porridge I mentioned in the last recap), some good leftover dinners-as-lunches, and lots of La Croix in all sorts of essences (Target had a screamin' deal). I didn't find myself thinking about what I was going to eat as much as the past couple weeks. I just made stuff that sounded good to me and made sure I wasn't breaking the rules with it.

One thing I learned this week is that my diet apparently has no effect on my attractiveness to mosquitos and my over-reaction to bites (very red, very swollen). I am currently suffering from a vampire bite on my neck, and earlier this week I got one on my knee. I also get a couple hives when I'm working out and get a little over heated. They disappear after a few minutes so it's not a big deal, but if I thought Whole30 was truly going to be magic, it's proving itself not to be in these areas of what I consider to be inflammation.

I've also experienced a number of low-grade headaches over the past few weeks, the majority of them having been this week. Headaches are a very rare occurrence for me so that's not cool. It could have been the stress, but who knows.

I'm really glad to be in the final stretch.


Let's talk about crafts again

Usually when I decide to knit a sweater, it's the beginning of fall, and by the time I actually get around to finishing it, it's spring, and sweater season is pretty much over. This time I've somehow managed to start a sweater before summer hits. I hope I can count on it being ready by the fall, though right now I'm really motivated to get it done sooner. I'm excited about it. Perhaps it's the yarn, or my new knitting corner, or the need to keep my hands busy when they're otherwise tempted to pour a glass of wine, but let's run with it. Here are the elements.

The yarn: I must start with the yarn because I picked up something really special in Amsterdam, and it was what led me to find a pattern that would really highlight it well. The shop from whence it came was called Stephen and Penelope, named partly after Stephen West of westknits. [For those of you who don't read knitting blogs or listen to knitting podcasts or follow knitters on social media the way obsessive hobbyists like me do, Stephen West has been making waves for a few years now. He uses wild colors and bold geometric designs, sets up elaborate, makeup-heavy photo shoots to show off his patterns, and he makes knitting more weird and fun than it ever has been before, in my opinion. (Check out his blog.) Turns out he now lives in Amsterdam though he was born in Oklahoma.]

I bought a skein of this Hedgehog Fibers Skinny Singles in a colorway called Potluck 2. It's a variegated yarn, meaning that features multiple colors in one skein, and as I've seen in many of West's patterns, also features a really fun confetti speckle throughout.

The second color is MadelineTosh's Faded Parka, which I purchased after I got home having landed on a pattern. When I purchased the MadelineTosh yarn at Paradise Fibers, I had brought the Hedgehog yarn with me for color comparison, all the store clerks crowded around me when word got out that I had a skein in my possession so they could see it for themselves. I felt like they just found out I was related to a celebrity or something. #nerdville

The pattern: Breathing Space. This is an asymmetrical sweater which I'm nervous but excited to try. It involves alternating stripes of a solid color with the variegated colors, which is a great way to showcase all the different colors of my Hedgehog skein without overwhelming the eye.

Over the winter we worked and worked on my Kraft Zimmer re-do (or craft room, for those of you who don't come up with clever names for everyday rooms). I've since started decorating it just the way I like, and piece by piece, it's slowly coming together. I have my piano, my sewing desk, and a new chair with pouf ottoman. There are azaleas out one window (and the neighbor's trash), and a nice view of our front walkway and porch out the other window. It's a perfect space and I'm having fun with it.

(Flowers were not actually in the Kraft Zimmer, but they're going with the color theme)
So now that we've talked about crafts again, it's time to talk about cats again. Specifically, this one.


Whole30: Week 2

I didn't give up. That was the biggest win for me this past week. Other key highlights and takeaways:

1. There is so much sugar added to things. This becomes even more apparent when you're figuring out dinner at the last minute. My brilliant plan was for sausages and shrimp on the grill. Fast and assuredly delicious.  I specifically went to an actual butcher shop that grinds their own sausage because I thought surely these guys would only use natural ingredients. Only to be told, "Yeah, all of our sausages have sugar added," he said. "It's like the fourth ingredient on our list." UGH.  I headed to the grocery store to load up on shrimp and see their sausage selection. But again, all the sausages were sugared, and non pre-cooked shrimp was nowhere to be found. I was on Day 11 of this thing and was ready to quit right then and there as I stared at cases full of steaks, chicken and pork (which I'd had enough of). Wouldn't a simple spring pasta be nice, with bacon? (I ended up sending Joel out to eat on his own [pizza!] so I could suffer the consequences alone of trying a made-up concoction of chorizo, onions and tomatoes. It was actually pretty good.)
Chorizo concoction

2. From the Whole30 website: Fact: you are most likely to quit your Whole30 program on Day 10 or 11. By this point, the newness of the program has worn off. You’ve made it through most of the unpleasant physical milestones, but you’ve yet to experience any of the “magic” the program promises. You’re still struggling to establish your new routine (read: you’ve eaten eggs prepared ten different ways over the last ten days), and while you’ve been trying really hard to have a good attitude, today you are incredibly aware of all the foods you’re “choosing not to eat right now.”  Everywhere you look, you see the things you “can’t” have: the melted cheese on a greasy burger, the creaminess of that double-scoop cone, the cold beer in your best friend’s tailgate cooler. Dammit, this is hard! And right now you’re wondering if the results will really be as good as “they” all say it is.

You’re cranky, you’re impatient, and you’re really, really tempted to just eat the stupid cheese.

This is where you really start to experience the psychological hold that your food habits have on you. You’ve put in a lot of effort to get to where you are right now, but you’re still waiting for the results you’re hoping to see. Your  brain tells you that you deserve some kind of reward (don’t you?) and, of course, we’ve been conditioned to think of food as the best reward out there. Right now, you’re craving that ice cream, beer, or whatever treat you think would make for just the right reward. But, instead of that treat, you’re standing face to face with the realization that you have 20 more days of deprivation ahead of you.

Yes, that happened to me. 

3. I got to eat out! Central Food in Spokane is a beautiful bike ride away from our house, and it also happens to have a completely compliant Tuna Nicoise Salad. It was so good to be out and about. After dinner, I even agreed to head across the street to Brain Freeze, where I would fill my nostrils with the smell of waffle cones, resist the ice cream and enjoy a simple espresso. 
View from the restaurant
4. My mom got me onto a really good alternative to eggs/meat for breakfast. It's a nut porridge made with cashews, almonds and walnuts, along with coconut, coconut milk, banana and sauteed apples with spices. A little goes a long way and it's all the flavors I love.

5. My pants are looser. I know you're not supposed to weigh yourself during the 30 days but I did. At the moment I've dropped five pounds.

6. Less food prep, more leftovers, lesson learned. After all that food-prepping the weekend before, I ended up tossing some meat by the end of the week because I couldn't stand the sight of it. I'm finding that I much prefer making more food at dinner and ensuring that I have some for lunch the next day. That way chicken doesn't get as gray (yuck), the solidified fat on pulled pork doesn't cast as much of an unsavory glow, and each day can be a new lunch. 

7. Toasted coconut flakes is the new popcorn. I eat a little dish of the big flakes, sprinkled with a little Kosher salt, each night as a little treat with my tea.
Coconut flakes with sauteed apples - deluxe!

8. Okay, okay, this is worth continuing. I really do feel good. I have good energy, I have a better handle on my mood, my face is smooth and clear, and I'm sleeping well. 

The adventure continues.


For the love of lemon

Traveling to any city, for me, often involves a hunt for something delicious that someone has told me about. This has made each of my visits to Paris that much more fun. I should really emphasize the hunt here, because actually fulfilling the mission has been hit or miss. During my first visit, I sought out Ladurée for the best little box of macarons I believed my money could buy (up for debate, of course, but the shop sure is darling and the macarons were yummy indeed). I also tried twice and failed to get the kugelhof at Vandermeersch. (At least I got a nice walk down the Promenade Plantée out of the deal.) On my second trip, we took a long detour to seek out that year's winning baguette to bring to a party - only to party so hard that we never broke into the prized bread stick. It still counts as a fun experience, at least.

This time, though: "Une tarte au citron, sil vous plait."

Last year an article in L'Express began to taunt me from the moment I read it looked at the pictures of the 10 best places in Paris to get a lemon tart. I resolved then that my next trip there would be a mission to try as many of them as possible. And so, with travel plans confirmed for another April in Paris with two of our dear friends, and the convenience of a personalized Google map, I covered all the arrondissements I might possibly traverse with lemon-yellow markers that indicated locations of the 10 prized tarts. 

When you're seeking out pâtisserie after pâtisserie, some tucked away and unassuming, you end up seeing a side of Paris you might not otherwise see. And tasting seven - yes, seven is what we were able to manage - in about four days really makes you an expert, I think. I can say, with much conviction, that eating a lemon tart is one of the most joyous, life-giving activities you can undertake, and doing so in Paris must be what heaven is like.

The proof
The following is a chronological account of how we ate our way through Paris via the tarte au citron.

Cyril Lignac, enjoyed in Jardin partagé de la Folie-Titon, a sweet little park on our way to the Bastille

1. The Cyril Lignac. What a way to start. We got to the shop and the pièce de résistance was on display in the front window. I instantly recognized it from the article. Here was a kind of deconstructed lemon tart with five perfect orbs of creamy lemon nestled on a graham-like crust (it's actually hazelnut shortbread) under a paper-thin layer of white chocolate. But I panicked a little when the display tart was much larger than the photo, with a sign next to it that said "6 servings." We nervously asked the woman working there how much it cost (something like $40) and was relieved when she motioned to the single-serving portions for a much more reasonable 6 Euros. (This, by the way, was the high range - most of the ensuing tarts were less.) She extracted the tart with surgeon-like precision from its neighbors and boxed it up in a take-away container that would become a very familiar vessel in the days to come.

We found a nearby bench to have my first bite. It was heavenly. I loved the crust perhaps most of all, but was also intrigued by these little dots of who knows what, perhaps a citrus syrup with flecks of vanilla bean? The lemon was bright but not terribly acidic. I could have stopped right there and have felt completely satisfied for having tasted the most unique tarte au citron of my life. This was only the beginning.

From Blé Sucré, enjoyed at a table outside the pâtisserie
2. The Blé Sucré. This one was a bit more traditional, and a nice contrast to the one I ate earlier that morning. The lemon was a bit brighter, the crust was a crispy shortbread, and the light dusting of sugar around it just made it pretty. The beauty was its simplicity - and the fun tray it was served on (I wanted to take it home).

From Sadaharu Aoki, enjoyed on a bench at Jardin du Luxembourg
3. The Sadaharu Aoki. Another delight - my third tart that day. This pâtisserie was a fun visit because it is Japanese, very minimalist and white, and beautifully designed with display cases all around and plants on the wall. We got in trouble for trying to take a photo, so just take my word for how lovely it all looked in there. The tart itself looks pretty traditional but when you bite in, there's a delicious surprise layer of fine praline crumbs between the lemon and the shortbread, providing a nice complement of sweetness to the citrus and the buttery shortbread.

Everyone's favorite from Des Gateaux et du Pain, enjoyed in a covered breezeway somewhere in Saint-Germain-des-Prés
4. The Des Gateaux et du Pain. You walk into this pâtisserie and wonder, Am I about to buy a lemon tart or fine jewels? This was indeed the Tiffany's of pâtisserie experiences. Dark walls, brightly lit display cases. I felt underdressed. The woman who sold these to us made sure we knew how special these were, that they contained Sicilian meringue, and that if we were taking them to eat later, we must bring them back to room temperature after taking them out of the fridge. No worry there - we headed out quickly and found a spot away from the rain to enjoy these tout de suite.

I remembered from the article that this one was made with Sicilian green olive oil as well. One bite of this and we knew we had found our favorite so far (and it would remain so). Everything about it was just right - the creamy lemon was perfectly fresh, and the beautiful mound of meringue in the center made it light and delightful on the tongue. Oh, it was just the best. It also helped that we were cold and wet and this was a trip to Italy. I will return to Paris and eat this one again.

From Gontran Cherrier, in Montmartre on our way to Sacre Coeur
5. The Gontran Cherrier. For as light and billowy as the lemon filling was on this one, the crust was the heartiest.
One thick crust
This lemon tart also contains juices of lime and yuzu (a citrus fruit from Asia) and is garnished with yuzu zest. So, exotic points for this one. It was delicious and very filling. But we saved a little room for the one we were to eat next:

From Arnaud Larher, eaten immediately after Gontran Cherrier's
6. The Arnaud Larher. Unfortunately that sweet little layer of meringue slipped off in transit (it was warm that day), but it was still another work of art. At this point, I had eaten so many tarts that it was becoming very difficult to measure each element against the others, but compared to the one I'd eaten just before, this was a markedly lighter experience. Again, I loved what the meringue added and the simple shortbread crust.

From Pain de Sucre, eaten while waiting in line at the Pompidou
7. Finally, the Pain de Sucre. This was another one that featured lime, as well as a layer of almond paste between the filling and the shortbread crust. Like the others, it was a wonderful balance, a perfect example of why a lemon tart is so unmatched when it comes to pastry. What better way to highlight a beautiful, buttery crust than lemon, or to let the citrus flavor shine than shortbread?

In conclusion. Thank goodness that each day in Paris automatically came with 7+ miles of walking, because I certainly wasn't thinking about what this might be doing to my waistline. It simply didn't matter. After traveling to three more cities over the next 9 days, we all agreed that this experience was one of our top highlights of the entire trip: the way it fit into each day there; the variety of pâtisseries in all sorts of neighborhoods; how different something so basic as a lemon tart could be from place to place; and the fun we had "cheers-ing" our pastry crusts before biting in.

I was a little sad that I left three on the list, but I have three reasons to return (as if I needed them). And there's still that kugelhof...


Black coffee and SO MUCH MEAT

Life is, indeed, too short to drink bad coffee. I decided that for myself, once and for all, after buying a Costco-sized bag of Starbucks beans in an effort to be frugal, grinding the not-so-fresh beans each morning and pouring a terrible cup of French press. I got through the entire bag after a couple months  and promptly returned to one of my favorite coffee shops to get locally roasted beans. Suddenly I was looking forward to breakfast again. I normally Aeropress my coffee and top it with foamed milk in my version of a cappuccino, but now that I'm on the Whole30, I'm drinking delicious French press, straight up. It's pretty much the simplest part of my morning, and one of the things I look forward to most when I get out of bed to face another day on the Whole30.

So, how has the rest of my first week gone on this regimen? Here are a few things I'm noticing.

1. I am already tired of meat and veggies. I mean, meat and veggies were what I ate before this started, but to have meat be the main star of pretty much every meal is kind of exhausting. And I feel kind of...gluttonous. It's not that I'm craving grains and dairy, but I am craving the option of these vehicles, and I'm missing variety of the flavors they add. On some days, it feels like Whole30 is kind of an insult to people who genuinely love food and trying new tastes and flavors. I know the people who designed this have said it's still about loving your food, and really tasting it, but still, I feel so incredibly limited.

2. I really miss my routines. For the last few years, Joel and I have enjoyed our little aperitivo hour when I get home from work, which is when we talk about our days and unwind a bit over a glass of wine and some light snacks. And again, after dinner, making tea and having a modest sweet treat. We can continue to do these things with modifications, but it is just not as fun. On Friday we went out for a walk when I got home, so that's probably a better thing to do than snack and chat.

3. Planning is your friend. I hate food prep, the kind where you batch cook a bunch of stuff and package it all up for portioning. But, I must admit, it's been pretty nice throughout the week to just assemble and go. On Thursday when I was running from the gym to a happy hour with my friends, before I got there it was nice to scarf down some leftover pork loin I saved from the night before, because I wasn't certain I could partake in anything on the menu.

4. Happy hours can still be happy, but pregnant ladies: I salute you. I suppose I didn't mind not being able to drink as much as I minded not being able to eat the pizza I was smelling. But as a fairly reserved person I also do well with some wine to lighten up my laughter and be more outward in conversation, so I had to work extra hard here. Also, there was one item on the menu I could have - arugula salad with almonds and lemon/truffle oil dressing, sans the shaved parmesan. That cheese would have made all the difference. And along with it, sparkling water with lemon. Thank God I ate that pork loin earlier. Pretty much any socializing at a restaurant sucks, because there are so few options. I am getting a bit of cabin fever from eating at home all the time. I miss going out. Sigh.

5. Workouts are better. There was one session in particular where I felt like I could have done more reps and didn't feel tired at the points I normally do. I'm drinking more water throughout the day now, so that's probably helping, too.

6. Two things at bedtime: I can read longer without falling asleep mid-sentence, and my body relaxes more when I lie down. I'm not sure how to explain this second part other than I feel like a dead weight. The first night this happened, I was so surprised by it that I was kept awake by my excitement about it. It felt so cool! Since then, I've gotten more used to it.

7. My stomach doesn't growl with hunger between meals. This may be the biggest win for me so far. I had a hair appointment after work one night and I was waiting for that awkward moment around 6:30 when my stomach said hello to the entire salon. But it never happened. And I didn't even feel hungry until I got home and started assembling my meal.

8. My mood has been generally even and upbeat, though I'm not sure what I can truly attribute that to - the weather, the people around me, not feeling tired or hungry, etc. Either way, that's good.

Other than that, things feel pretty much the same. I know it's just the first week and things will likely continue to evolve. I'm pretty excited that my mom started this a little bit ahead of me and is experiencing noticeable results. I found some new recipes that are making me feel like I can get a little more variety throughout the week, and I'm starting to think about how this may be able to affect some general food decisions down the road. But the main takeaway for this week is food appreciation - as in, I'm really going to savor the food I'm currently denying myself (in modest proportions, of course) when I start reintroducing them in about 23 days.