WHOLE30 AT HOME – REFLECTION + CONCLUSION

And just like that, the 30 days are up and the results are in – I’ve finished #whole30athome! As with all successful previous whole30s, I’ve literally never felt better, and I’m asking myself, why don’t I eat like this all the time? My energy levels are high, my exercise performance is improving, my skin looks great, my body is leaner, my digestion is more regular, but most importantly, I’ve fallen back in love with fueling my body with healthy, delicious, wholesome foods – and I don’t want to stop. I love the challenge a whole30 presents, I thrive on structure and discipline, that’s the type A personality and (previous) straight A student in me.

But what comes next is the real challenge, life after whole30. I’ll be honest in admitting I have a looming sense of fear. I don’t want to face the emotional and physical repercussions that comes with returning to eating daily, grains, added sugar, and alcohol. I don’t want the bloating, GI distress, acne, and I especially fear the weight gain. Because, let the record show, I’ve literally always gained back the weight I’ve lost on a whole30. In 2015, I lost nearly 40 pounds through a combination of whole30-type eating and exercise and over the past 5 years, packed it all back on. From here it’s my job to be continue to be mindful of my eating habits, to be mindful of the way in which I perceive food, but most importantly, how I perceive myself and my relationship with food. *Takes mental note on the need to re-read Food Freedom*

Non-scale Victories [resource found here]

Numerical Victories
Weight: 183.2 lbs – 173.8 lbs = 9.4 lbs
Measurements: 3 inches lost between chest, waist, hips, and thighs
Resting heart rate: 62 BPM to 56 BPM

Discoveries
1. I love frozen fruit! Specifically mangoes, peaches, pineapples, and strawberries, but I have to be careful in not over consuming and mindlessly eating frozen fruit as if a replacement for ice cream or some other sugary-sweet snack in the evenings
2. I don’t mind eating repetitive meals. During the last 2 weeks of this whole30 I really found my groove with meal prepping. I switched between making a pound of seasoned ground meat (chicken, turkey, or beef) or making various types of meatballs to have with salads, a bed of kale, over a sweet potato, in a potato hash, etc – love the versatility!
3. A compliant sauce or dressing can really help spice up and revive leftovers – I liked to add sriracha, ranch, or barbecue sauce
4. A viral pandemic is definitely a great time for a whole30. Initially I thought the whole30 team was nuts for suggesting a whole30 right now, because who has the mental capacity to change their eating behaviors and habits at a time like this?! But then I thought, well, I do. I don’t have kids to feed, my hours were (still are) reduced at work, and I have the financial stability, so what better way to spend some extra time than focusing on a whole30? Plus, it was easy to stay on track since most restaurants were either closed completely or carryout only, pretty much eliminating the temptation to eat out.

I’m nervous for what’s next. My plan is to keep eating whole30 during COVID-19 quarantine. Maybe the occasional pat of butter here or there (Kyle’s preference is to cook with butter) but my goal is to just keep fueling my body how I had been and prioritizing healthy movement. In the future, I hope to be able to look back on my life and reference this period as the time when I lost weight, built muscle, created healthy, sustainable habits, focused on my health and well being, and treated myself with loved and respect.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


WHOLE30 ESSENTIALS + FAVORITES

A collection of my whole30 favorites – from specific recipes, to compliant products, to recipe developers and more!

Recipe Developers

Alex Snodgrass
The Defined Dish

Everything about this woman inspires me, both in whole30 and in life. Alex is so down to earth, real, and genuine when it comes to living a balanced life – we’re talking tacos and margaritas without food guilt. I’m the proud owner and user of her cookbook and a frequent visitor to her website for whole30 recipe inspiration.

Ronny Joseph Lvovski
Primal Gourmet

And first, a confession: I have never made a single recipe of Ronny’s. Nevertheless, I love love his whole30 and wholesome food content. His ‘low budget cooking shows’ (as he calls them) on instagram are so pleasing to watch – from the music selection, to the spinning onion (if you know, you know), to his knife skills. And he just announced his first cookbook (whole30 endorsed) is available for pre-order!

Whole30 Recipes
✔ Chicken Lettuce Wraps – Life in the Lofthouse website (if modified)
✔ Mexican Cabbage Soup – The Defined Dish cookbook
✔ Pizza Meatballs – Healthy Little Peach website
✔ Pork and Sage Meatballs – The Defined Dish website (I prefer ground chicken)
✔ Sichuan Chicken with String Beans – The Defined Dish cookbook
✔ Sriracha Chicken Meatballs – Healthy Little Peach website
✔ Sweet and Savory Chicken Salad – Mary’s Whole Life website
✔ Whole30 Chili – The Defined Dish website
✔ Zuppa Toscana Soup – The Defined Dish website

Books and Resources
Whole30 website
Official Whole30 Recipes instagram
It Starts With Food book
The Whole30: The 30 Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom book
The Whole30 Fast and Easy book
The Whole30 Slow Cooker book
Melissa Urban, Whole30 co-founder and CEO – instagram

Compliant Products
Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil
Tessemae’s Organic Creamy Ranch
Tessemae’s Organic Avocado Ranch
The New Primal Classic BBQ Sauce
EPIC Chicken Siracha bar
EPIC Beef Apple Bacon bar

Until tomorrow, Meryn


WHOLE30 AT HOME – WEEK 4 RECAP

Another successful week of #whole30athome! This week was mostly spent eating seasoned ground beef and ground chicken on various combinations of vegetables – either as a salad, over top a sweet potato, or in lettuce cups. For me, this is a great way to turn one pound of ground meat into three different and delicious meals – just toss in a side of compliant ranch or barbeque sauce and you’re good to go! Hard to believe there are only 2 days left of this round of whole30.

Day 23 // black pepper chicken
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook

Day 23 // taco salad with seasoned beef, tomato, avocado, white onion, and cilantro

Day 24 // leftover taco meat over a sweet potato with avocado

Day 25 // chicken lettuce wraps
recipe inspiration via Life in the Lofthouse blogpost

Day 27 // 2 scrambled eggs with chicken sausage, sauteed kale, and tomato

Day 27 // sweet and savory chicken salad
recipe inspiration via Mary’s Whole Life blogpost

Day 28 // roasted sweet potato and carrot, seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and oregano

Day 28 // warm harvest salad complete with chicken apple sausage, roasted sweet potato and carrots, toasted walnuts, cranberries, on top of kale and boston lettuce

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 1 ISSUE 1

A quick review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth
Author: Jen Sincero
Publication Date: April 2017
Genre: self-help, nonfiction, business

Review: Not nearly as practical as I had hoped. This is just a self-help/motivational book with very minimal, tangible advice on making money – at least for the industry I work in (healthcare). I imagine the ideal audience for this book is someone who works in a more business, public relations, entrepreneurial world. This was not the type of personal finance literature I was looking for – I finished it, begrudgingly. It had some good quotes that I made note of but overall, I didn’t really walk away feeling like I gained solid, useful information for making more money. It gave my major Rachel Hollis vibes, not that that is a bad thing, just not what I was hoping for. I own the predecessor to this work, You Are a Badass, and I’m not sure I’ll get to that one anytime soon.
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Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Publication Date: September 2017
Genre: fiction, contemporary

Review: I absolutely, without a doubt, loved this book. I couldn’t put this book down, I was captivated by the story. I finished it in 3 days. The only other time I’ve finished a book faster was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I finished in like 25 hours (and don’t really remember the details due to the exhaustion). This book had so much of what I love in fiction: interplay between the present and past, mystery, and psychological thrill. And the cherry on top is that the story is set in Northeast Ohio (Shaker Heights). Ng’s other work of fiction, Everything I Never Told You, is definitely on my TBR.
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The Last Mrs. Parrish
Author: Liv Constantine
Publication Date: October 2017
Genre: fiction, thriller, mystery

Review: I feel conflicted about this book, it kept me entertained and I kept reading because I was desperate to know how the book ended but overall, this book was heavy. There’s a lot of backstabbing, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, violence, deception, etc. that made me uncomfortable. I understand it’s not uncommon to have these topics and themes in psychological thrillers, but it was just never ending. Honestly, I was relieved to finish this one and move on.
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Daisy Jones and The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Date: March 2019
Genre: historical fiction, fiction

Review: This was definitely a good change of pace after having read The Last Mrs. Parrish. This was much more fun and enjoyable in terms of the plot and character development. I’ve never read (not that I can recall) a book in this interview-esque format which was a welcomed change. I’ll be honest and say this book didn’t really hook me. It felt very repetitive with little development in the storyline and just when I was hopeful there might be a spectacular climax, everything fell short. I did, however, enjoy the 1960s and 1970s references to music, style, culture, etc. From the reviews on Goodreads, I think The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Jenkins Reid would be a better fit for me, already on the TBR.
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The Night Tiger
Author: Yangsze Choo
Publication Date: February 2019
Genre: historical fiction, fiction, fantasy, magical realism, mystery

Review: UGH, I loved this book, so much more than I ever expected. I downloaded it on a whim knowing it was on Reese’s Book Club list – I’m not even sure I read the brief synopsis on Goodreads before diving in. It’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve read a work of fiction set in Asia and/or written by an Asian author (hello AP lit and The Joy Luck Club) which was so delightful and another good change of pace from the couple books I read before this one. I loved the folklore, magic, superstition, and suspense. Not to mention the bouncing between perspectives of the narrators and between the present and dream sequences. I’ve added Choo’s first novel, The Ghost Bride, to my TBR.
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Reads On Deck: books I have physical and/or digital copies at the ready

Until tomorrow, Meryn


WHOLE30 AT HOME – WEEK 3 RECAP

As expected, the first half of my week was spent eating Sunday’s leftover soup and the pizza meatballs and dipping sauce I made. I’m not complaining, I have no issue with eating leftovers – I just try to change up what I pair with them for some variety. The egg bake/casserole I made over the weekend in the pie pan was surprisingly bomb. The red potato layered bottom made it so fun and beautiful – I plan to make another in the coming week! I’ve also been enjoying what I’m going to call a warm harvest salad – a blend of raw lettuce and kale topped with roasted sweet potatoes and carrots with seasoned ground meat on top, paired with whatever compliant dressing or sauce I’m trying to finish up. If you haven’t been able to tell, in no way am I a picky eater and I’m always game just to throw whatever on a plate and dig in (at least during a whole30).

Day 15 // leftover pizza meatballs with homemade mashed red potatoes
recipe inspiration via Healthy Little Peach blogpost

Day 16 // more leftover pizza meatballs with sweet potato and sauteed kale
recipe inspiration via Healthy Little Peach blogpost

Day 18 // ground turkey over boston lettuce and kale salad with roasted carrots and sweet potato

Day 19 // Chipotle Whole30 approved salad

Day 20 // egg casserole with red potato layers topped with kale, onion, and bacon

Day 21 // zuppa toscana soup
recipe inspiration from The Defined Dish blogpost

Until tomorrow, Meryn


#THE100DAYPROJECT 2020 – 1ST QUARTER UPDATE

Recap
And just like that, we are over 25 days into this project! Overall I would definitely say I’m happy with the project I picked. It’s simple, quick, and rarely leaves me feeling regret or second guessing my work. What started out as a random smattering of stickers and washi tape has turned into a simple but eye-catching monochromatic collage, progressing through the rainbow day by day, page by page. I have loved flipping through my Happy Planner supplies, hunting for and collecting one specific color – it has made the project easy and very straightforward, requiring 15 minutes or less each day. Below is a selection of some of my favorite monochromatic clusters so far, in rainbow order, of course.

Inspiration
As I got into the groove of this project, I started to see the similarities in this paper craft to what Amy Tangerine shares. Her craft projects are always very colorful and rainbow inspired, have layers and multiple pieces or embellishments. Here are a few examples from her instagram feed and the youtube video that I think was the unconscious inspiration for my project:

Plan
Moving forward I want to focus on the monochromatic clusters and collages because honestly those are the pages I love to flip through and I love seeing the rainbow build and flow from page to page – it creates a really fun visual experience (at least for me). I must admit I am getting kind of nervous because some of my Happy Planner sticker books are looking bare, which is good because that was the point, to use what I have in an attempt to not hoard. So far, I’d been selecting and including stickers that I didn’t think I would ever really use otherwise, but sooner or later, I’ll have exhausted those cast offs. Oh well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


CURRENTLY // APRIL 2020

Reading // You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine, Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Planning // #whole30athome meals, incorporating running into weekly workout routine, an update to my gallery wall with original watercolor art from @dawningrace and art print from Worthwhile Paper

Watching // YouTube videos on the tv via Chromecast, 2020 NFL draft (video conferencing edition), Leslie Jordan’s Instagram videos (basically diary entries and quarantine commentary, personal fav from March here)

Cooking // simple, Whole30 meals → egg casseroles, mashed red potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes and carrots, chicken sausage, seasoned ground beef, turkey, and chicken, chili, soup, meals from The Defined Dish cookbook and Healthy Little Peach blog

Eating // frozen fruit like mango, strawberries, pineapple, and peach, Ferris cherries, berries and nuts mix, take out from Durty Bird for our 6 year fake-aversay, whole30 approved Chipotle chicken bowl

Drinking // Jamocha shakes from Arby’s (pre-whole30), Hi-Biscus! La Croix, Biggby black coffee, unsweeted vanilla almond milk

Pinning // whole30 meal ideas, Half Baked Harvest recipes (hello post-whole30), “must read” book recommendation lists, geometric art prints, gallery wall inspo

Crafting // coloring free color pages (@haveanicedayy_ with Pottery Barn here, National Park pages from @thelandmarkproject here, @morganharpernichols with Garden24 here, Happy Planner here), #100daysofcreativeclusters, weekly planner spreads

Going // to and from work, neighborhood walks, Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, Oak Openings, Biggby’s drive-thru, Kroger

Loving // reading on my NOOK eReader, $7 tulips from Kroger, Paige Poppe’s new spring collection, almond and honey tree hut sugar scrub, Zoom coffee dates with #girlgang, snapchat video calls with James and Rikki, book suggestions from Reese’s Book Club

Dreaming // traveling in the Midwest (Cincinnati OH, Milwaukee WI, Madison WI, Grand Rapids MI, Traverse City MI, Indianapolis IN), strolling the aisles of Target, girls trip to Waco, Texas this fall (plz don’t get cancelled, kthnx)

Feeling // more worried and concerned as the risk and likelihood for my buildings having a positive COVID-19 case increases day by day (rumor is there’s a SNF in Lucas county that is 75% infected and that’s not including staff), also feeling so grateful that for the entire month of April, both my buildings have had 0 patient cases

Listening // less podcasts (spending more intentional time on the phone with my mom during daily commute), this Amy Tangerine podcast episode with Kate Northup (inspired to read her book, Do Less: The Unexpected Strategy for Women to Get More of What They Want in Work and Life), Lauv’s single Modern Loneliness (on repeat), artists like Maggie Rogers, The Fray, Alec Benjamin, Michael Bublé, Spotify Playlists: Today’s Top Hits, All Out 00s

Celebrating // 6 year fake-aversary with Kyle, Milo the therapy cat’s life (he was estimated to be 14 years old and spent 7 years bringing joy to the residents at the facility), LOL not having COVID-19

Learning // stupid life hacks and catchy popular music on Tik Tok, the stock market is VOLATILE but, as Kyle reminds me, “it’s not about timing the market, but time in the market”, as a kid you think your parents have it all together so it’s kinda disheartening when you realize they don’t

Supporting // Steffi Lynn of @haveanicedayy_ (purchased a mystery bag which included a pin, 2 stickers, and a t-shirt for $25) Home Slice pizza for date night pre-whole30, @dawningrace original watercolor (snagged off IG for $38.50), California BFF with a LUSH care package because she’s a badass acute care PT on the front lines helping (proof here)

Monthly Mood Board // a new addition to the monthly round up, a collection of images I’ve saved on instagram, very excited about this

Until tomorrow, Meryn


WHOLE30 AT HOME – WEEK 2 RECAP

Week 2 in the books! Confession: during week 1 I was over consuming mixed nuts and dried fruit as a replacement for sweets – this was the culprit, so delicious but dangerous for me right now. After I finished the bag I promised myself I wouldn’t purchase the mix at the next grocery run because, out of sight, out of mind, right? However, I fell into another less than ideal habit of over consuming frozen fruits – strawberries, pineapple, mango, and peaches. While eating fruit doesn’t sound like a bad thing, I feel like it quickly became a substitution (see SWYPO) for ice cream, something about the cold and chewy texture reminds me of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. So, I did as the Whole30 suggests, and made a mental note of this habit and feeling and made a plan to change or eliminate the behavior moving forward.

I suspect week 3 is going to start off rather bland in terms of variety. I meal prepped 2 pounds of pizza meatballs and made a huge crock pot of chili which should cover 3 for 4 days of meals. I don’t mind eating the same foods day after day, but Kyle isn’t going to eat leftovers like that. He’ll have to fend for himself those couple of days.

Day 9 // roasted sweet potato and carrot with mexican ground turkey over kale
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook (seasoning combination from the mexican cabbage soup recipe)

Day 10 // chicken sausage stir fry with cauliflower rice, onion, celery, and broccoli

Day 12 // 2 scrambled eggs with sweet potato, sauteed kale, and sliced fresh tomato

Day 12 // turkey burger over bed of boston lettuce topped with diced tomato, potato wedges, not pictured compliant ranch for dipping

Day 13 // pizza meatballs over kale with homemade pizza dipping sauce
recipe inspiration via Healthy Little Peach blogpost

Day 14 // egg, hash brown, and bacon waffle with sriracha and diced tomatoes

Day 14 // whole30 chili
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish blogpost

Until tomorrow, Meryn


WHOLE30 AT HOME – WEEK 1 RECAP

Week 1 of #whole30athome is in the books! And it wasn’t bad, like at all. I’ve finished enough whole30s in the past to easily fall back into the routine. I know what I like and I definitely don’t mind eating leftovers. Nor do I mind throwing literally whatever on a plate and calling it dinner – Kyle and I differ in that way. The day I see him reheat leftovers is the day pigs fly. Here’s a quick recap of some of the meals I had this past week:

Day 1 // chicken sausage with sweet potato and sauteed kale

Day 2 // chicken fajita lettuce cups
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook

Day 3 // steak street tacos
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook

Day 4 // chicken sausage with homemade mashed red potatoes and green beans

Day 6 // spiralized sweet potato with sausage egg bake
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish blogpost

Day 6 // leftover sichuan chicken over sauteed kale with yellow potatoes
recipe inspiration via The Defined Dish cookbook

Day 7 // roasted carrot and sweet potato over raw kale with whole30 approved ranch

Until tomorrow, Meryn


SNF PT POV: COVID-19

Note: this initial post was written March 25, 2020. An update with more recent statistics can be found prior to the conclusion of this blog post.

I knew there would be obstacles in my career a physical therapist – people will fall, mistakes will be made, people will die – but nothing could have prepared me for COVID-19, the viral pandemic that has done so much damage with no end in sight.

As of 3/25/2020, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins, more than 420,000 people have contracted the novel coronavirus and at least 18,915 have died.  What initially started in mainland China has spread globally, continent to continent, to every US state. The Ohio Department of Health reports 564 confirmed cases in Ohio across 49 counties with 8 confirmed deaths.

As a healthcare worker, this is hard, in so many ways. I came to the realization that there would be a point that I may have to make the decision to step away from my patients and residents for fear of exposing them to this virus. I had a particularly hard day, where the reality of the danger of my job in combination with Kyle’s started to set in. A sense of identity crisis fell over me because as healthcare workers, all we want to do is help. And to come to terms with the fact that continuing to do my job with the intent to help others could result in spreading of this virus, or worse, is heart breaking. And on top of that, the ethical dilemma this presents as a supervising therapist is hard. I have assistants that work under me that could effectively lose their jobs and be forced into an unpaid leave of absence if I can no longer work and/or supervise – assuming another PT can’t fulfill my position for the time being. That has weighed very heavily on me.

What is so upsetting is that no one seems to be talking about the implications of traveling building to building as I have done daily for the majority of my career. I made the personal decision (and what I consider to be the socially responsible decision) mid March to stop traveling to more than 1 building a day, which honestly isn’t even enough. It’s infuriating to me that other therapists aren’t speaking out on the dangers of traveling building to building. While I understand everyone’s caseloads are low and they are desperate to find work, this has to stop.

According to article published by the LA Times on March 18, 2020, “Limitations in effective infection control and prevention and staff members working in multiple facilities contributed to intra- and interfacility spread” per a CDC report. The CDC confirmed 129 COVID-19 cases among people linked to Life Care Center of Kirkland – 81 residents, 34 staff members, and 14 visitors. The CDC investigation into the Kirkland facility found that infected healthcare workers had a broad range of occupations: doctor, nurse, nursing assistance, physical therapist, occupational therapist assistance, environmental care work, health information officer and case manager.

April 2020 Update
Today is now April 18, 2020, and according to worldometers.com, there are 2,330,986 COVID-19 cases globally with 160,757 deaths and 596,687 of cases have recovered. The US has had 30,104 deaths, 401 of those from Ohio.

I was deemed ‘high-risk’ by one of my job sites after Kyle had his first positive COVID-19 case transport and was I mandated to take a 14 day unpaid leave from that facility. Thankfully I was able to work in two other buildings (one building per day, I have continued to refuse to between buildings day to day) for that time, though hours have been low, 10-20 hours a week. After 14 days of symptom and temperature monitoring, I was able to return to the building that previously had not permitted me to work. That week I returned to sad news, 5 resident deaths, none COVID-19 related (or so I was told). That same day, our 14 year old therapy cat was laid to rest, which was the saddest ending to an already sad day. Things have been calm otherwise since then. Still no positive cases at either of my buildings, but that could change any day.

Until tomorrow, Meryn