Q + A

I’ve pulled together a few questions that I frequently hear. Feel free to comment or contact me to ask more. Thanks for reading!

General

Weight Loss

Food

Fitness

Blogging

 


General

Do you have a “real job”?

Nope! I am very, very lucky to be self-employed. I recently took the leap of quitting my full-time marketing gig (after six years) to be my own boss. Right now, I pay the bills by doing freelance graphic design, invitation design, food writing and recipe development for major brands and blogging. I’m also a way underpaid (read: free) assistant for my husband’s photography business.

What’s your degree in?

I have a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a Certificate in Journalism. I also dabbed for a hot second in a Master’s in Art Education and an Associates in Culinary Arts, but neither were great fits.

Why do you talk about Canada so much?

Because Canada is the coolest.

Okay, that AND I married a Canadian. Which makes me an hono(u)rary Canadian. My husband immigrated to the U.S. from Thunder Bay, Ontario in 2007 to marry little ole me, but both of us still love Canada! We visit often and try to see the country whenever we can. We’ve taken trips to Vancouver, Niagara Falls and Toronto.  I adore Canada and think the people are fantastic. I also think it is important to keep the Canadian heritage alive and well in our American household. You’ll see us celebrating Canadian holidays and eating Canadian recipes.

What’s with all the pet names (i.e. Babyface, Puppyface, Kittyface)?

That’s what I call them all in real life, so that’s what I call them here. Sometimes I slip in and out and call them by their “real” names (Craig, Rory and Sookie, in case you were wondering). When I’m feeling really lazy, I’ll just lump my whole little family together and call them “the ‘faces”.

Weight Loss

What’s your weight/BMI/body fat percentage/etc.?

Short answer: It changes all the time.

Long answer: I’m currently in weight loss mode and my numbers vary from week to week. As of updating this (in February 2013), I weighed 231.0 pounds. My highest weight ever was 272 pounds, my lowest adult weight was 216 pounds.  You can find a complete list of my measurements, body fat percentage, weight and BMR in this post. It’s an older post, but it was the most accurate measurements I’ve had done recently. I can’t honestly say if those numbers are still accurate or not.

How much weight have you lost?

Somewhere between 40-50 pounds. My highest weight was 272 pounds and now I’m charging through the 220s. Read more about my weight loss here.

What is SparkPeople?

Sparkpeople is free, health, fitness and weight loss website that helped guide me through the majority of my weight loss. I highly recommend it for anyone that is interested in losing weight or would just like to learn more about nutrition, fitness and their bodies. Did I mention it’s free?

How many calories do you eat in a day?

I track my food everyday and through multiple websites, I’ve calculated the correct calorie counts for my activity level, size, height and age. When I’m in active weight loss mode, I average between 1600-1800 calories on days without activity (with are, thankfully, few and far between). On active days, I like to stick between 1900-2100. When I’m not trying to lose weight, I  consume 2000-2200 calories daily, regardless of activity level.

What is your goal weight?

Your guess is as good as mine! I had always said that I’d go based on how felt. Some days I feel like I’m at my goal weight now, some days I want to lose 50 more pounds. It’s an ever changing goal. I once had a doctor tell me that she doesn’t believe in BMIs or height/weight charts, but she’d consider me perfectly healthy at 200 pounds because of my height and build. So right now, I’m just staring down that number. Once I get there, we’ll see how much further I want to go.

Food

Where do you get your little spoons?

I get this question SO much! My little spoons are from Crate and Barrel. They are called condiment spoons and you can purchase them in store or online. They rotate the colors seasonally.

What’s your food philosophy?

To quote Michael Pollan:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Make sure that “eat food” means eat REAL food. That is identifiable and readable. Not “edible food like substances”. That is basically it. Easy peasy. Want to know more about my food philosophy? Go read In Defense of Food.

Do you eat all organic? How do you afford eating like this?

My husband and I eat about 95% organically. It wasn’t a swift transition, we slowly started incorporating more organic foods and it took about a year to fully transition our diet. The budget shift was not an easy change to get used to! We went from shopping at Aldi and Walmart (yes, really) to shopping at a local natural foods market and from local farmers. The price change was astronomical. It wasn’t until I read a statistic in one of Michael Pollan’s books about the average American grocery bill that I truly got some perspective. It stated that, as a whole, the U.S. spends massively less of their average yearly income on food than any other developed country. The percentages were shocking! European countries were spending almost twice the average over the American family, and had a ton less diseases and lower obesity rates. I immediately made the decision to make food a top financial priority in our monthly household budget. Now, I don’t look at prices. I buy what is important for us to live a strong and healthy life. It means we had to get rid of cable. It also means we rarely go out to eat or go to the movies. In our world, good food takes priority over nearly everything else in our budget.

I understand that even making food the financial priority doesn’t make eating organically and local achievable for every budget, but there are steps you can still take.

  • Grow a garden. Now, we live on nine acres and have a huge garden and orchard, so growing is easy for us. But before, we lived in an apartment and grew peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, butternut squash and even watermelon in containers on our patio. If you have more space, even better! Less space? Herbs grow great on the windowsill and you can grow tomatoes and cucumbers on even the tiniest patio.
  • Buy from the farmer’s market. There are deals to be had at the farmer’s market. Buy in season and buy in bulk. When red peppers are cheap in July and August at the farmer’s market, I buy tons. Dice them and freeze them for soups. Slice them and freeze them for fajitas. Roast them and jar them for pizzas.
  • Pick and choose. If you have to cut costs somewhere, remember that some produce items are worse pesticide offenders than other. Refer to the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists when shopping for produce. That being said, from an environmental stand-point, buying organic is always better. I don’t care if conventionally grown onions don’t show an signs of residual pesticides, it doesn’t mean the farmer’s didn’t spray the plants. And that is just as bad for this planet of ours.
  • Make your own. My husband makes our own whole wheat bread. We found an old bread machine in the garage of my Memaw’s house, it works perfectly. Every Sunday he plops the ingredients in and a few hours later we have a loaf of fresh bread. The ingredients for organic bread are much cheaper than the bread itself. Apply this to everything! We make our own pizza crust, our own salsa, almost everything!
  • If you can’t go organic, at least go whole. If these tips still make the budget tight, start with putting your focus on whole foods, even if they are conventionally grown. Buy from the perimeter of the grocery story. Produce, meats (limited) and dairy. Frozen veggies are a steal! Avoid things that come in boxes.

What’s your problem with artificial sweeteners?

I made a decision after reading In Defense of Food that artificial sweeteners did not constitute “real food” and proceeded to ban them from my diet. My philosophy is that I would prefer to have a little bit of the real thing (honey, maple syrup, unrefined sugars) than a whole lot of the chemical sweeteners. Also, I do not enjoy the taste of chemical sweeteners. I understand that some folks need to use them for medical reasons and some folks like to use them for personal reasons, if that’s you case, go for it! I think food choices are individual and personal and no one should be judged because of it. I still drink a Diet Mountain Dew every now and again.

Where do you get your recipes?

Usually I see some dish somewhere (restaurant, website, magazine, blog, etc.) and that sets off a spark in my brain that causes a chain reaction of thoughts until I get to what I actually want to make. Once that idea is formed, I usually Google it and see if someone has done it before (they almost always have) and garner any ideas from them. For example: I see Italian stuffed shells on a blog, then I start thinking about other things you can stuff inside of shells, and then I think of Mexican flavors, but then I think I want to make them meatless, so I stuff them with Mexican flavored lentils. The original “spark” for the recipe came from some unrelated recipe.

Sometimes I’m a little more direct with my inspiration and those will be credited as so in the recipe.

Are you a vegetarian/vegan?

Nope! I eat animal products. But I generally believe that the American food culture is WAY too animal product-centric. I eat meat 2-3 times a week. I do eat animal protein of some sort (dairy, eggs, etc.) at nearly every meal and I am trying to cut back on that because I feel like it is too much. When I do eat meat, I try to only eat sustainably raised animals. I have considered going vegetarian multiple times and have yet to make the final leap due to the fact that I love the taste of meat and I truly believe that most human beings are biologically “programmed” to live off of animal protein. For now, my “eat meat that lived well” mentality is working for me. But you’ll find a ton of vegetarian and vegan recipes here. I’m all about experimentation!

Fitness

Do you use a heart rate monitor?

Sure do! I have a Polar FT4 model. I love it, and recommend Polar HRMs, especially if you are in a gym setting frequently. Most gym machines “talk” with Polar monitors and can display your heart rate on the machine.

Where’d you get your weight lifting gloves?

A good friend bought them for me as a birthday gift from Femme Fitale Fitness. I have the Leopard Print Fitness Gloves.

What’s the deal with you and running?

I started running after one friend started her running journey. She was the same starting weight I was, and was running. Not just running a few feet, she was running miles and miles and competing in race after race. I had always thought I had to lose weight before I became a runner. But she proved to me that you can be a runner at any size. I decided that I wanted to become a runner, too! I started the Couch-to-5K program and was amazed at how quickly and easily my body adapted to the running, even at 250+ pounds. Sure, I was sweaty and winded, but it wasn’t as hard as my brain had made it out to be. The program seemed to know exactly how hard to push me each week without making it so difficult I was discouraged.

I finished the Couch-to-5K program in April 2010 and ran my first 5K, the Indianapolis 500 Festival FinishLine 5K, on May 8, 2010. I’ve completed a handful of 5Ks and had fun at each one since. I decided to try my hand at longer distances in May 2011 when I completely my first half marathon. I dove facefirst into running culture. I bought the gear, I subscribed to the magazines, I became friends with the people at the running store. But through all of that, I never stopped and asked myself if I actually liked running. I felt like running was something a fit person “should” do. So I did it. The truth is, I didn’t love training or racing the longer distance. And that’s okay. Not everyone has to be a long-distance runner. Although it is hard not to be inspired to sign up for long-distance races when your sister is a marathoner and your brother an ultramarathoner.

Mostly, I’m happy I learned that I can run. Now, I’m trying to figure out what I like to do.

What are kettlebells?

Kettlebells are one of my absolute favorite strength and cardio workouts. From About.com:

Kettlebells are bowling ball-sized cast iron weights with a single looped handle on top. Kettlebells range in weight from two pounds to over 100 pounds. Common strength training aids in Eastern Europe, kettlebells are taking off in the West thanks to fitness programs like CrossFit.

The reason for the boost in kettlebell training it that it gets back to basic training that requires functional, whole body fitness. Kettlebells require an athlete to focus on whole-body conditioning because lifting and controlling a kettlebell forces the entire body, and specifically the core, to contract as a group, building both strength and stability at the same time. Kettlebell workouts engage multiple muscle groups at once. In this way, they are a great option for getting a whole body workout in a short time.

I fell in love with kettlebells after seeing a sorely underutilized set sitting in the corner at my gym. I went home, looked up some form and routine videos on YouTube and came back the next day ready to swing. In about 20 minutes, I had burned almost 300 calories and my muscles were quivering. Aside from the excellent workout, using kettlebells also made me feel strong. There is something very empowering about swinging around heavy cast iron weights.

Can you create me a running/kettlebells/etc. workout?

Sorry, Charlie. I wish I could, but only a certified personal trainer should create workouts for you and that I am not. I don’t know anything about your injuries, abilities or restrictions. I often get asked to post more about my kettlebell workouts, but I do not feel comfortable posting that considering I have no training.

Blogging

What kind of camera do you use?

I use four different cameras to produce the photos for the blog: my camera (which I use 99% of the time), Babyface’s camera, a point-and-shoot and my iPhone 4S camera. For those of you photography nerds out there, here are the official deets on the equipment:

I shoot almost exclusively with manual settings in natural light. You can learn more about my photography here.