Pacific Crest Trail training hiking Oregon section

Training (We don’t use the “E” word here)

I’m looking out the window at the trees that are almost full of leaves, but not quite to their summer glory, whipping back and forth in an excited dance the wind swipes way the rain that falls around them. (by the time I finish this–there is just a calm breeze…)

It’s a tad muggy out, 76 degrees and 58% humidity but not too bad–still I wonder about what I will do for training today. Thunderstorms are predicted shortly–here in the Midwest, they can be a big deal–do I brave them anyway? After all, I can’t hide inside away from a storm when I am out on the trails.

Let’s back up a bit. If this is the first post of mine you’ve read, you don’t know my history or my goals. You can go back and get more detail, but I am 42 (almost 43!!!) and suffer from a variety of autoimmune disorders as well as struggling with weight and low energy. I have been working on doing better–staring with eating healthy followed by doing what ever I can do each day.

As I began to feel better, I decided hiking was going to be my go to activity. (Thank you Alee for planting that bug in my ear!) In fact, next summer I will hike 100-150 miles on the Pacific Crest Trial in my home state of Oregon with my 16 year old daughter (she will be 17 then). My older daughter might go as well–but I don’t know yet. Remember–I am severely out of shape, suffer from severe pain and weakness and this is HUGE deal for me. So I started small. Daily training for the next 13-14 months with local weekend hikes to prepare.

I started with just walking as far as I could, but staying close to home and in very little time have graduated to 2-3 mile walks on our railroad tracks going up and over the hump to imitate climbing (I am a flatlander out here after all).

Backpacking training, pacific crest trail, getting healthy
Walking the tracks. Some places the climb is 5 or 6 feet on each side, some are lower like here, but it gives Alee and me the opportunity to work climbing muscles in our legs ad on uneven ground. The rocks are really loose in some places adding to the challenge.

Fast forward to today–it’s stormy and I don’t have rain gear yet–it s on my list but so is pretty much everything a hiker needs because I have nothing. I also don’t have good shoes yet (this is higher on my priority list than rain gear). Is it worth going out in the weather and training? What if I get injured due to lack of proper gear? That will set me back and I don’t want that.

Stop making excuses. I know that is what is going through your mind right now, but honestly, I’m not. I actually am looking forward to training each day and these are honest, legitimate concerns I have that I am not sure how to answer. I know I need to train in bad weather because when I get to the point I can do a 5 day or 10 day hikes, or God willing, perhaps do a full hike-thru, weather won’t care if I am prepared or not. It will just come. Still, I do worry about being prepared to handle it in the safest manner possible.

That being said, my plan for tonight is to play it by ear–my iPhone is already showing that the thunder storms are coming later than originally projected. Get out there and if it seems too wet for my walking shoes to handle safely, I will stick to flat ground. If it does get bad before I get out there, I have a stairs I can climb and weights I can lift.

Everyday is a training day. No excuses–I can always do something, even on those bad days (rare now) when every movement is excruciating. Train to be healthier, train to be happier, train to meet a goal. No exercises, that word is banned from home–train, because when you are fighting autoimmune issues, every single movement you choose to make trains you to be a little bit better, a little bit stronger.

On days I can’t, I will lean on God and know that He can.

Life is good.


My Whole30 Experience

As I have said in my previous posts, I was not a fan of Whole30 because I hated the sugar withdrawals and I really don’t like being told “I can’t”.

I can’t:

  • have any sugar unless it is in a fruit or veggie
  • have any grains
  • have any alcohol (not that I drink–I’m 16!)
  • have honey (part of the sugar thing)
  • anything processed
  • have any dairy
  • have certain oils
  • and so forth….

The restrictions on Whole30 are hard because I accepted a challenge and yet I felt like I was put in a cage. Just the idea of “I can’t” almost becomes claustrophobic, wanting everything listed on the “I can’t”.

The funny part is, I like almost everything we ate over the 30 days. Actually, I liked everything, but some things not as much. For instance, curry I like the day it is made, but not left overs, while my mom really loves curry. Tuna steaks, I like but I don’t love. I will eat them, but probably wouldn’t crave them.

Now I am 4 days past the 30 and I am still doing it. I will actually continue on through to the 22nd for sure (I might cheat for prom) but I lost 17 pounds and I got into a pair of jeans I haven’t fit in since the 6th grade (not sure why I even still had them, but found them when cleaning my closet). For the first time in a long time I am under 200 pounds (190 on day 30) and it isn’t hard any more.

What sucks, is that I have to check everything. Food manufacturers sneak sugar in everywhere and choices I thought were healthy are packed with sugar.

Oh, I did try a sip of a Monster on Thursday, an energy drink I used to love and I had to spit it out. My taste buds can’t take the sugar anymore. I don’t know if I am happy about that or not.

Anyway, here is a bit of a summary:

First two weeks, I felt like crap. I hurt everywhere and had no energy. Headaches and mood swings all the time. Drank a lot of water to combat some of withdrawals. I don’t know if it helped, but it made me feel like I was doing something.

Week 3 was better. I still didn’t have the energy I saw my mom getting but I don’t think my energy levels were that bad to start so a boost in energy would not be as easy to see. Cravings were gone by this point and I started making meals myself and learning more on how to cook from scratch myself.

Week 4 I was pretty much the same as week 3 other than it felt like the longest week. That final countdown the last 7-10 days and I just wanted to no longer be in this “I can’t” challenge.

Even though I decided to continue the lifestyle longer, it no longer under the “challenge” and I won’t feel like I failed at all if I decide to have a cheat day. After I do have a cheat, I will go back to a paleo/keto type lifestyle because it works for me, and I NEVER want to have to go through sugar withdrawals again.

Would I do the Whole30 again? I don’t know. I hated everyday of feeling like I couldn’t even though it was still my choice. I didn’t feel like I had a choice because I made a commitment and I was going to stick it out no matter what. At this point, I want to tell Whole30 to shove it, but I like the results so I can’t.

Would I recommend it to someone else? Yes. I would tell them to understand everything about the challenge before they start though.

I guess that is all I have to say right now. 🙂

Whole30 Day 28

As day 28 gets closer to an end, I have compliant chili simmering on the stove and know there are only 2 days left of this challenge where I “have” to be compliant.

I am actually going to continue on with Whole30 probably through the 29th of May (It’s my birthday and I well, who knows, I might want wine).

I feel great other than my allergies which have kept me from posting. I live in a very small town stuck right in the middle of corn country and with farmers in the fields and what they spray on the fields, spring is has my eyes swollen, nose runny and lungs wheezy and looking at a computer screen outside of what I have to for work has been impossible.

So far the journey has done what I wanted, and I it is my goal to have a lifetime of healthy eating.

We have set a new goal, and I will post about that separately, but it is huge, exciting, and scary! I can’t wait!

I will post on Wednesday night with a more in depth over view of the last 30 days, what worked, what didn’t and Alee will have a post up by the end of the week. We will also have a reveal with out pictures!


Whole30 What do you mean no candy?

Whole30 Day 19–Shar’s Perspective

(Feature image: Aleesha’s best friend brought over Milk Duds–really nice when we are on Whole30–and she forgot them. Aleesha’s dog patches found them and her face when I snapped the picture! “What do you mean no candy!” She looks like she is growling, but she wasn’t. I took the picture to send to the friend saying “Patches says ‘Thanks'” and this is what I got)

Day 19 is coming to an end, and that means the end is almost in sight, but I don’t think that is always a good thing, and I’ll tell you why in a bit.

I feel great, Aleesha is still not seeing the benefits aside from extra weight loss. I think one of the big things is that we had already cut out so much stuff in the months leading to Whole30, her body was already doing a lot of healing. Another thing is that I have severe autoimmune responses to things like legumes, while she doesn’t, so some eliminated items that are really helping me are not necessarily making a big difference for her.

For years she has had unexplained stomach pain, and I was hoping that this would help, it hasn’t. I fear there another, yet to be diagnosed food allergy that is causing the problem. She looks great though. I see changes from my perspective that she doesn’t see.

As for me, as I have said before, this is about feeling better, but I do have clothes that are getting too big. To be honest, when you are as fat as I have been for years, it is very hard to visually see any changes though. Get up, look in the mirror–yup, still fat–carry on with day. I am no looking to be a size 5 again, or even a size 10. If it happens it does, but not dealing with the brain fog–that is worth turning down all the “bad” food I’m offered.

So here I am–the sun setting on day 19. My tummy and my coffee cup are full, dogs sleeping peacefully at my side, and I wonder–what’s next? Aleesha plans to actually go six weeks because she is getting school credit logging and discussing everything, but she can’t wait for that cheat day. The day that, despite her allergies, she can have the sweets she so desperately wants.

I fear that day. This is not my first time kicking sugar, and I don’t want to ever have to do it again. I don’t want to become complacent to the hidden sugars in so many things, and I don’t want the brain fog to come back.

Aleesha is 16. Whether she hops back on the sugar bus or not, she has learned a lot so far, and will continue to learn about how to live a healthier lifestyle. The last think I will do to her is place restrictions on her (yes, even if it something she has an allergy to since her allergy response is not life threatening), she is old enough to make those choices on her own.

For me, I look forward to very little… honey mustard (paleo compliant) and good quality cheese from time to time. I don’t plan on being totally Paleo, for a few reasons, but my after-plan will be similar. Ultimately, I want to eat clean, with no processed sugars and not a lot of added sugars regardless. There are some things that I will have though, like butter and cheese, although not often.

So, I don’t know if the end of the 30 days is always a good thing, because what comes next? After suffering through the months (and anyone who has had sugar withdrawals knows–you suffer), do you go back to what you were doing before? How many of things that you eliminated do you dare let back in? Will one binge day undo all 30 days? Answering these questions for both me and for Aleesha will be a big part of the next 10 days.

If any one has any suggestions, I would love the input!

Whole30 day 19

Whole30 Day 19–cravings are back

It is day 19 of Whole30 and I just had my supper of Whole30 Buffalo chicken and fries with some raw vegetables. I haven’t been feeling good today, like maybe I am catching a cold. Chicken wings sounded really good, so mom breaded some chicken breast chunks with flax, tapioca starch, and spices then baked it to get it crispy. After it was done, she tossed it in an olive oil and Frank’s Red Hot mixture (usually, it would be butter and Frank’s for buffalo wings, but Whole30 is no dairy, and I am allergic, so that wasn’t an option). It was good except the chicken we got wasn’t the greatest. We got it from a store we almost never buy meat from, and I can see why mom goes to specific stores not.

I don’t know if is the cold or what, but I want waffles and pastries, and just about anything sweet today. It is a hard day, and I am not a happy camper. On the plus side, I went down another size. My prom is May 22 and I don’t think I will know what dress to wear until a week before. Last year I wore a size 22, the dress I fit in now is a 16, so between my changes before and the boost of the Whole30, I am making progress.

My mom keep talking about how good she feels. I don’t think I notice much other than I am sleeping better most days.

I am learning how to cook more things on my own. I have made meals without help several times. I already knew how to cook, but always used recipes. This is teaching me to experiment and just go with it. The featured image is a pepper steak, topped with some avocado (for mom not me, yuck!) and Primal Kitchens Chipotle Mayo.

I guess that’s all for now. I need to go for a walk before I climb in bed.



Whole30 Day 16

It is hard to believe it is already day 16! WOW! It doesn’t seem like that long since I was getting my meal plan ready.

One of the rules of Whole30 is not step on a scale for 30 days, but I broke that for blogging purposes. At the beginning, I was 256 lbs, and this morning I am 242 lbs. Alee started at 207 lbs and this morning she was 199 lbs.

To be honest, I don’t feel like I have lost 14 pounds, though my clothes have gotten much looser. I just don’t feel like I look any different. I think since I am so heavy, it will take a lot more before I can personally see anything.

Again–the purpose behind doing the Whole30 is not for us to loose weight but to get healthy. Sure, a side effect of getting healthy is weight loss, but we have no goal or expectations other than a healthy lifestyle. The real benefits we are seeing is more energy, healthier skin, better sleep, and less autoimmune responses.

I will post pictures of us tomorrow. My internet is being difficult and a technician is supposed to be out tomorrow to try and fix it, but uploading a photo is just not going to happen tonight.


Whole30 Days 6, 7, and 8

We are coming to the end of day 8 of Whole30. I haven’t posted a lot because there have not been any major developments. We continue on and are feeling ok.

Easter we avoided the family get-together. The Whole30 book and website will tell you that no one can tell you what to eat, but sometimes family pressure and guilt can destroy the best intentions. Knowing our family, I would feel like Eve as forbidden fruit was placed in front of me, singing a siren song, while family tells me “one piece won’t hurt”.

Better avoiding all of that than to upset someone for telling them to shove it! Instead, Alee and I worked on some meal prep for this week and we made a roasted chicken family meal that was really good.

Our two biggest struggles have been:

  1. Condiments.
  2. Not weighing yourself.

What is life without ketchup? I mean, I don’t put ketchup on everything, but if we do oven fries or hamburger patties–they just don’t seem the same without the sugar laden red wonder we all know and love.

If you consider Whole30 eliminates all added sugar, ketchup, bar-b-que sauces, and several other condiments are on the no-no list. If you are lucky enough to find a ketchup with no sugar–well, it might as well be called tomato paste, and it is not good for dunking!

We found that Primal Kitchens makes some condiments that are pretty good and Whole30 compliant. Aleesha is iffy about them because she does not like Avocado, and they are made using avocado oil and have a slight avocado taste. They also contain egg and she is supposed to limit her egg intake due to having a mild egg allergy–since the amount is negligible though, I am not having her worry too much about that. I honestly like them and would use them outside of Whole30.

Another thing we love is Franks Red Hot. It is Whole30 compliant and adds some kick to foods and helps with that dryness I associate with some things (even if they aren’t really dry). I’ve always loved Franks, and am so happy we can use it.

The last thing that has helped us with this is coconut aminos. I don’t think we would get through the month without it!

I am going to try some homemade condiments and I will let you know how they worked out later.

THE SCALE!!! Oh My–part of the Whole30 challenge is to NOT STEP ON THE SCALE FOR 30 DAYS! I am not a scale watcher. I never have been and I never will be, but when I put my jeans Monday and they fell off as I walked–I wanted to know! Never have I had a hard time staying away from that little devil, but I have. Aleesha did check hers once but she was not aware of that part of the challenge, and hey, she’s 16–we’ll let it slide.

Well, that’s all over the last few days. We’re over 1/4 done already! Life is good!

Aldi Whole30 shopping

Here We Go! #whole30

Let me start out by saying that we started a day later than intended (4/11 instead of 4/10). By the time we got home from our grocery shopping trip, it was early evening, we were tired, cranky, and hungry. We ended up finishing up some leftover chili. (Sorry my traditional chili–I love you, but I must bid farewell to beans!)

(Aleesha helping me get food on the conveyor at Aldi in the featured image. All those eggs and she can’t eat them! Did you know that eggs actually last far longer than the use-by date on the carton? You can tell if your eggs are good or bad by putting them in a bowl of cold water. If the eggs float, they are bad–don’t use them! But if they sit at the bottom of the bowl they are fine! Eggs that sit at the bottom upright rather than on their side are older and less fresh. These actually make the best hard boiled eggs because they peel easily.)

So, for accountability, we want to start out by giving our stats:


Age:  42
Height: 5’0″
Weight: 256


Age: 16
Height: 5’4″
Weight: 207

(I would put measurements, but I can’t find a measuring tape–I’m just torn up about that!)

I want to emphasize, WE ARE NOT DOING THE WHOLE30 CHALLENGE FOR WEIGHT LOSS! This is to help us feel better. Any weight loss is just the icing on the cake (cake–bad!) an added bonus.

Monday the 10th, we went shopping at Aldi and bought mostly foods in the whole30 approved category. Unfortunately, I did buy several frozen pizzas and other frozen microwave meals to get Dennis through the month. This will help keep me from having to prepare two meals when he won’t eat what Aleesha and I are eating.

In a perfect world, when preparing for Whole30, one would go through their house and remove or hide all the temptation. This is not possible for our challenge since the whole house will not be Whole30. That will make our challenge a little harder. When I have done this challenge in the past, days 7-14 sucked for me. I wanted sugar, and sugar called to me like a siren–“Come to me, my love. I will give you your deepest desires…” yes, I can hear her calling in my memory already.

The problem with Dennis not participating in the challenge is that sugar will be in hands reach when the siren calls, and we have to be strong enough to walk away. The biggest key to success here is prep, prep, and more prep! Having healthy things at the ready without having to labor over them make telling sugar off so much easier.

Prepare a little more food than you will eat and store leftovers for breakfasts and lunches the next day.

Find a fruit that satisfies your sweet tooth without too much sugar in it.

DRINK LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER! THEN DRINK SOME MORE! (I will tell you about my love of Sole water in another post.)

I also want to add that I like to buy organic, non-GMO foods whenever possible. Let’s face it though, if you are on a budget, this can be impossible to do with everything. Don’t let budget stop you from doing the Whole30. First, challenge yourself to eat whole, non-processed food. That is the first step. I try to follow the dirty dozen list with what I decide what to spend the extra on for organic produce. Aldi is really good at having cleaner options.

If any of you have any suggestions, please let us know!

Homemade Pico de Gallo Organic Blue Chips

Beak of the Rooster??? (Pico de Gallo, Yum!)

*This post is by both Aleesha and Sharlene*

One of the hardest things about healthy eating for both us has been finding healthy condiment options. Even things that seem “healthy” are often loaded with sugars and preservatives neither of us need. One of our favorite snacks has always been chips and salsa, and while we try to limit our grains, sometimes we just crave the comfort of a well remembered snack.

In the past, Shar never liked Pico de Gallo because she is not a huge cilantro fan, but Aleesha has always liked it. We decided to try and make our own awhile back and the results were a two thumbs up for both of us. We actually read the ingredients off the back of a store bough package to see if there were any surprise ingredients (there really weren’t) and just went for it.

For this recipe we used:

-2 Ripe Roma Tomatoes

-2 Tbs Chopped Onion (we used red onion)

-1 Tbs Chopped, Fresh Cilantro (you could use more to taste)

-1 Fresh Jalapeno Pepper, Finely Chopped

-1 Clove Garlic Minced or Finely Chopped

The Juice of One Lime

Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Chill Powder(optional) to taste.

Put it all together and you can eat it right away or let it sit and it is even better! We used a lot of lime juice because we wanted the chili/lime flavor. You might want to use less depending on your tastes.

Homemade Pico de Gallo Healthy snack
Homemade Pico de Gallo, quick, easy and so good! Photo-Sharlene

For chips, we are so lucky to have a local business called Whole Grain Milling Company . They grow and make organic grains within a 20 mile radius of our home. In fact, the chips themselves are cooked about 1/2 mile from our front door! They are honestly the best corn chips we’ve ever had. With Shar’s difficulty digesting grains, if we are going to eat corn, we would rather have locally grown organic. All of their products are top notch though, so if you get a chance, definitely try them!

We also use Pico de Gallo for tacos and salads now, but nothing beats eating it with chips. (I found this great article on Whole Grain Milling Company. Aren’t you jealous now?)

Whole Grain Milling Company Blue Organic Corn Chips
We don’t eat grains very often, but sometimes, you just want corn chips! We are lucky and have organic chips made locally! They are the only ones we eat. Photo-Sharlene

Fun Fact: Did you know that Pico de Gallo is translated as “Beak of the Rooster”? Not sure where that came from, but I can never make it without thinking about it.

Give this recipe a try and tell us what you think! We have heard some people add cumin or hotter peppers, or even a splash of vinegar. Have fun with it and mix it up!


Once, when I was younger, my dad said “No one really loves salad” and I must have thought “Challenge accepted!”. I usually eat one salad a day and I make a point to make it as close to gourmet as a 16 year old is capable of.

I think one of the best things about salads is your imagination is really the limit to what you can make. I used to like to use a mix of French Dressing and Ranch Dressing and now I don’t eat either, so I go with a primal dressing or make my own vinaigrette. No matter what, I always enjoy a multitude of vegetables, fruits, nuts or meats to make my salad a sustaining meal.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to put together a collection of photos and posts on salads. I hope they will inspire you and help you to see that not only can you love salad, but they can be a healthy and filling meal for you to enjoy.

Artisan lettuce mix, celery, onion, yellow peppers, radish, pico de gallo, guacamole, one swipe across the grater of grass fed organic cheddar cheese (it was my cheat day) and a few gluten free french fried onions for crunch. I topped it with lime, ACV, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.