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31 Days of Real Food

31 Days of Real Food Series

On August 26th, I made a big decision. I decided that I’m done with wishing I could go back and change things that I can’t go back and change. Instead, I’m going to change it now, so that I won’t still be wishing a year from now.

I decided to start with something that would have a big impact for my health and that of my family–our eating habits. I’ve shared a bit about this before, but I have struggled with my weight for years. In addition to that, I struggle with chronic fatigue, migraines, joint pain, back pain, vertigo, and many other health problems. Many of these problems have been shown to be improved with a better diet. My family also has some things going on that could potentially be improved with diet.

My plan was simple: eat real food. 

The implementation, however, was a bit more complicated. 

Making the switch to real food was difficult for me (still is some days!), because of food addiction, and the emotional hold food had over me.

However, it was also difficult on a practical level. Logistically, it’s harder to eat real food.  To be honest, it felt a bit overwhelming at times, which is why I wanted to write this series to help inform and encourage anyone else who has a desire to begin your own real food journey, for yourself or your family. 

When I was getting started, I wanted a sort of how-to guide. I found a lot of great info and some great websites and blogs. I spent a lot of time searching, reading, and sifting through information and tips. However, I didn’t really find a resource that answered all my questions in one place.

Because of this, I have designed this series to answer these questions and more:

  • What is “real food” and why does it matter?
  • What should I expect?
  • How can I make the journey easier?
  • What should I do before I get started?
  • What can I eat?
  • What are the worst offenders that I should stay away from?
  • How will this affect my budget?
  • Are there any storebought foods that I can still buy?
  • What staples should I keep on hand?

I hope you’ll follow along over the next 31 days for these topics and more. Along the way, I will also be sharing tips, giveaways, resources, recipes, meal plans, and more!

In full disclosure, I’m still at the beginning of the journey myself. I’d love for you to join me. It is my prayer and hope that this will be a permanent lifestyle change.

All the posts in this series

I will try and add the posts to this list as they are completed. There probably won’t be quite 31 because I’m not blogging on the weekends.


The Time is Now {Building Healthier Habits}

Now is the time

Full disclosure–I’m writing this for me. It’s rambling, and it’s probably too personal and vulnerable. For those of you who don’t understand weight struggles, it will probably even seem ridiculous.

Oh, the pain of writing this post…again. But maybe we all have those hangups and issues that we just can’t seem to beat.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I’ve struggled with my weight and food addiction for a long time. I’ve written about it over, and over, and over. I’ve tried plans and books.

Having this struggle with food addiction goes against everything I stand for. But I still can’t seem to kick it. Yes, it’s probably related to depression, but I don’t want to use that as a crutch. The truth is that I’m weak.

It’s a constant source of frustration and discouragement to me:

  • My weight causes a lot of physical and health problems for me.
  • I am medically obese, which again, causes a lot of health risks and  complications.
  • It represents an area of failure, unfaithfulness, and when it comes right down to it, it’s sinful.

While some sins and failures are hidden, mine are out there for all the world to see and judge.

Three years ago, in the spring of 2012, I thought I had finally beaten this monster. I was inspired when I stumbled across a “workout jar” post on pinterest and I ran with it. I started working out every day and continued for 3 months. I changed my diet to eating mostly real foods and healthier  portions. I cut out soda and eating out. There were no more binges.

I had no cravings for the junk food I’d been so addicted to. As far as I was concerned, the battle was over and I had won. I’d never before reached a point where I looked forward to working out and did not at all crave those foods or even want them. I felt in my heart like I had the victory over this thing that has held me captive for so long.

But then one thing led to another. We found out we were moving and had to move across the state in about a month’s time.During this time, we made several long trips to try and get everything settled. I was stressed to the max and felt like I had no time to get it all together.  Little by little those convenience foods and eating out were added back in.  The stress of moving and all that entailed made it easy to fall back into the habits and addiction of comfort eating.

I had lost 22 lbs at that point. It took 5 months of letting it all go before I started gaining it back.

A Year From Now…

start today

Looking back, there are so many times when I wish I could have reached out and told myself to “stop it now while you still can, before it gets out of control.”

In 2000, when I was 18 years old and weighed 115 all through high school. I had the same horrible eating habits, but it hadn’t caught up to me yet. And it wasn’t quite an addiction yet. Just bad habits.

In 2001, when I was 19 and my abusive boyfriend berated me because I had gained weight–the traditional freshman 15– and was now fat. I weighed less than 130 lbs. I was not fat. But I felt bad about myself because of his damaging words. I maintained that weight for a few years before it started to fluctuate, reaching 160 before I got pregnant the first time.

In 2010 when my youngest son was a year old and I weighed 145. I had maintained that weight for a few years, except for when I was pregnant both times, but I still wasn’t happy. 2 pregnancies and c-sections had left me with a little pooch in my belly and I distinctly remember a lady at church asking me what I was going to do when I had 3 kids so close together. I wasn’t pregnant. Again, this was not an unhealthy weight for me, but my self-image was still very poor.

I wish I could go back to that point and tell myself that I still had time to get it together and get healthier before it got out of control. Because it would get out of control.

By 2012, I had reached 200 lbs. I weighed more than I did when I was 9 months pregnant and was medically obese. That’s when I got serious about it for a while and lost 22 lbs. I reached 178.8 and felt better than I had in a long time. I will never forget the joy of reaching that first goal.

I wish I could go back to that point and tell myself to get a handle on it now, before it got out of control.

Because it would get even more out of control as I gained back all the weight I had lost…and then some. A lot.

I would never have dreamed that I would look back at my 200 lb self and say “get it together before it gets even more out of control.” But I’m at that place now.

I can’t go back.

No matter how much I wish it, I can’t go back to any of those points and get myself together before it gets worse.

But as I was thinking of all this and longing desperately, the thought hit me, and I know it seems painfully obviously, now is the time. 

If I continue at this pace, there will come a day when my weight and health will be even more out of control, and I will look back even to this time and say, I wish I could go back and tell myself to get it together before it gets worse.

Now is the Time.

If you’re reading this and thinking that you’d like to get healthier, I just want to encourage you. Forget about tomorrow, next week, or the elusive “someday”. The time to start is now. If you are in that spinning out of control place where you haven’t reached rock bottom yet, I hope that you’ll listen to someone with experience. Now is the time to take your life back.  It will only get more difficult to do so with each passing day.

I don’t know if I can be successful this time in beating the food addiction, but I’m going to keep trying. No matter how many times I fail I will always keep trying. And now is the time.

Support and Encouragement

I’ve done the research. I’ve read, and read, and read. I know what to do, it’s just a matter of doing it. Maybe you’re like me and you know what to do and just need some motivation and encouragement.

Or maybe you’re newer at this journey and you really need some solid information.

I’ve just learned about this course that may help us both get started. I was able to preview it, and I think you’ll like it as well. It’s a free ecourse, 4 Essential Habits of Healthy Families, and the classes are taught by some of my favorite bloggers: Crystal Paine, Katie from Kitchen Stewardship, and more.


Weightloss Wednesday: Week 2 Update

Get Healthy

Click here to start at the beginning and read about how I am trying to get myself healthier with Healthy Wage.

Another imperfect week around here. There was a holiday involved, and some high stress days, so that’s the excuse this time. I’m trying not to allow myself too many excuses, while still not completely beating myself up and getting down about the “failures.” I know all too well where that leads and it’s binge city, which I’m trying to avoid.

Victories & Setbacks this week

Eating Out. I did eat out more than I wanted to this week. It’s so ironic, because I love to cook, and I deeply desire to eat all real food, but for some reason the junk food provided by fast food is just a huge stumbling block to me–I crave it. And, eating out almost always means soda/pop with the meal, which I know is just awful.

Snacks. I usually don’t keep a lot of snacks in the house, but when I went shopping I splurged on some treats for us to include with our fourth of July picnic lunch. Having those things in the house has resulted in my eating them way too much. Especially when I didn’t go back to the store to replenish the fruits mid-week. There were a couple of days that I did better on eating the fruits and veggies.

Exercise. Still going strong on  Jillian’s 30 Day Shred video. Today was day 9 and there have been a couple of days I probably wouldn’t have done it alone, so having my hubby to help keep me accountable with this has been huge. She says we should feel more endurance by now and I really haven’t. I believe it’s because (1) I haven’t been sleeping very well lately, partly due to insomnia and partly due to not getting in bed when I should; and (2) because my eating habits haven’t been that great. When I’m still fueling myself with sugar, soda, and junkfood, it’s going to be hard to do a workout like that right now. So, I need to continue to work on those things.

Meal Planning. I have been a bit better about meal planning, but have still had some slip ups. I need to be more pro-active about planning and having healthy, real food choices available and prepared beforehand.

Not a great week, but still moving slowly in the right direction and hoping for a better update next week! 

Results Week 2

My weight tends to fluctuate a bit. I weighed 209.4 for my Healthy Wage weigh-in video, and then the very next day I weighed 211.6. So, I really have even a couple pounds more to lose than I thought.

Considering that fluctuation as best as I can, I have lost approximately 1.5 lbs this week. Not very exciting, but still moving slowly in the right direction. And, technically is on track with what I need to lose per week to meet my goal (1.5 lbs).

Starting Weight: 209.4
Current Weight: 204.8
Goal Weight on 12/22: 169.4


Our Real Food Journey (Week 1)

Follow our Real Food Journey | Serving Joyfully

Well, we survived our first week of non-processed food! I thought I’d share some general observations from our first week. But first, I will recap our “rules.”

Our Rules

(For now). We are not doing the 100 Days of Real Food pledge, but we are following similar rules as far as what constitutes “real food,” with a few exceptions.

1. We didn’t throw out everything. Though we got rid of 95% of the processed ingredients in our home, there are a few things we kept. Things that aren’t so bad, or things we eat a lot and just couldn’t bare to waste. These are things like peanut butter, cheese (with mold inhibitor and/or coloring), a loaf of whole wheat bread, and maybe 2-3 more things. We won’t be purchasing any of these again, but we didn’t throw them out yet.

2. We are making exceptions for social events. We are making exceptions for all social things. So, we will eat at church fellowship meals which is good food, but not completely whole, real food. Our kids still have treats at Sunday school and AWANA, and if we are invited to eat at a restaurant with someone, we’ll do the best we can but not stress about it. These type of things really aren’t that frequent for us, so we feel fine about these exceptions.

3. We aren’t eating all local yet. We’re working toward it, but we have a VERY tight budget, and we need to ease into some things budget wise. Eating all local meats is a goal, but not a reality just yet.

Positive Things

1. Now that we are being more conscientious about what we put into our bodies, it’s kind of hard to ignore all those yucky chemically, manufactured ingredients. One of the things we’d saved to eat until we run out and then not buy again, was some garlic bread that I had literally just purchased before we decided to start this.  The other night, we had a long day and I threw together some spaghetti and salad with garlic bread. We ate it, but it was hard for us to get past the fact that the ingredients list was a mile long.

2. Our kids are on board. For years, I have been the mom who says no to a lot of sweets, candy, etc. My oldest didn’t have his first sugary treat until he was 2. I am so thankful for that now! My younger son has my sweet tooth and he asked for candy one time and I reminded him that we’re eating healthier now, and offered him fruit. He was happy with that. Yesterday, I pulled out one of the things hubby and I decided not to throw away–homemade pancakes made with white flour, sugar, and a sprinkling of mini-chocolate chips from our freezer. Both of my children commented on how we aren’t supposed to be eating these anymore because they aren’t healthy. (I promise I’m not trying to turn them against treats all together!) I’m glad they have a base of healthy eating to make this easier for them, and glad they understand what we are doing. Though they still happily accept their processed treats at Awana and Sunday School.

3. It has been easier than I thought. I have to give God the praise here for helping me through it. It really is amazing how when I give up things during Lent it’s like a whole new outlook. It’s so interesting how much easier things get, mentally, when it’s completely off the table. Maybe one day I will try and share the extent of my food addiction, but it has been a major stronghold in my life. Obviously, there are things that each of us still miss, but overall it has been easier and without cravings.


I’d be lying if I said everything about this is easy! It’s possible. But it hasn’t been completely easy.

1. The budget thing is super hard. We’ve always cooked with mostly real foods, but had snacks and some lunch things (lunch meat, etc.) that were processed, along with having white flour and refined sugar as staples in our cabinets. The white flour goes on sale here every few months for $1.50, and I would stock up at that time. The whole wheat isn’t even available in my town, I have to travel half an hour to the next town over to get it and pay $3.69.  A 4 lb bag of sugar which would last me 3-4 weeks usually, depending on how much I’m baking, regularly goes on sale here for $1.50. A 32 oz. jar of honey that will last us probably half that time is $9. And 16 oz. of maple syrup is $7. That is a HUGE difference! I’m trying not to be a nazi about it, but for a girl who has been conditioned to be very frugal in order to make ends meet, it’s hard. I have found myself asking my husband things like “what? You put maple syrup all over your toast this morning? Do you know how much that stuff costs?” and “How much did you put in your oatmeal?” Need some more prayers on this one because my poor hubby works very hard and has been a great support in this HUGE lifestyle change and he really doesn’t deserve to be grilled about putting maple syrup in his oatmeal in the morning by a crazy person! Also, I know God led us to make this change, and therefore, He will provide for it. I’m super thankful for our maple syrup, too!

2. Trying to keep snacks available is hard. I’ve been so used to falling back on semi-healthy processed things–store bought granola bars, storebought popsicles, graham crackers, gummies, etc. They’ve always had some better things like fruit and cheese for snacks as well, but now we’re trying to replace all of those other snacks with new things for 2 boys who have bottomless stomachs! I have found some great recipes which I’ve added to my Real Food Ideas & Recipes pinterest board. But I haven’t tried them all out yet, and I have been so busy that we’ve mostly been having fruit or triscuits for all snacks, which means that they are probably eating too much fruit (I’ve been conditioned to limit fruit because of the natural sugar content…any thoughts on this?), and I’m running to the store several times a week instead of my usual once. This week I’m planning to get a better handle on the snack thing, so hopefully I can have a better report on this next week. My kids are usually super good eaters, but they do not like any raw veggies at all.

3. We are always hungry! I’m not sure if it is a part of the sugar detox or what, but we are always hungry. All of us. My boys are begging for snacks in between meals (healthy ones, but still) even more than usual and my husband and I have felt hungry more as well. I’m hoping that as our bodies continue to adjust, this will get better. I’m having a hard time keeping up!

4. Sugar Detox. For a junkfood junkie (and sugar addict) like me, this has been rough. I have felt absolutely miserable, physically. I have had even less energy than normal, have had horrible headaches, and just felt overall yucky. But, I have ever confidence that I will feel much better after I cross this hurdle.

5. Buying Local, farm fresh! Just yesterday, I bought my first farm-fresh milk! I’m very excited about that. We’ve also been buying farm fresh eggs, which honestly we didn’t make a priority before because it is so much more convenient to just grab them at the store than it is to drive all over creation to the house with fresh eggs. But, we’re just going to start doing it, because it’s important to us. Next on the list is to find local meat suppliers if possible. We are in a tiny town, so some things are more difficult in that area.

6. It’s a ton of work. It really is a lot more work in the kitchen when you are making literally EVERYTHING from scratch! I have always made most things from scratch, but that step from most to everything is a big one. When you eat every meal at home and from scratch there is a lot of cooking, cleaning, dishes, etc. But, again, it’s just getting into a better routine and I feel like next week I’ll be able to have a better report about this.

So, that’s the report from our first week! Sorry this is so long. I apparently had more to say on the subject than I though!


No Such Thing as Falling off the Wagon

No Such Thing as Falling Off the Wagon

A few weeks ago, I shared that we have kind of “fallen off the wagon” when it comes to not eating out. My friend Stephanie left me this comment:

We have also fallen off the eating out band wagon this holiday season. Or more accurately we’ve climbed on it and ridden it to McDonald’s, On the Border, Chinese take out, Chili’s — basically anywhere our taste buds want to go…

Her comment was written in fun, but it really made me think about it.

We use the phrase a lot in our society–falling off the wagon. Obviously, I’m guilty as well, and it’s just a phrase. But, our words are powerful, and that is something the Lord is constantly convicting me of. When I use the phrase “falling off the wagon,” I am removing myself from responsibility. Falling is something that we can’t control. When I fall down, it’s not a choice. It’s just something that happens to me, and I am a victim.

But the truth is that we don’t just “fall” into those bad choices. We make one conscious decision after another leading us down the wrong path. There is no falling off the wagon, only climbing onto a different one.

As with so many topics, God’s word has something to say about this one. Many somethings, I’m sure, but I’m just going to focus on this one. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

When we are tempted, He is faithful to provide a way of escape. There is no “falling into” bad behavior. When we choose those bad behaviors, we are not only consciously making bad choices, but we are also ignoring the alternative that the Lord is faithful to provide.


Some of you have been reading for a while and know some of my weight struggles. It’s one of the many things in my life that I just can’t seem to follow through to completion, even though I desperately want to honor God with my body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. You know that, right? You were bought at a price, and your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

I know this is important. It is important that I honor God with my body. It is important that I honor Him with my actions and not turn to food for comfort instead of him. It’s important for my physical health because I am around 80 lbs overweight, which places me firmly in the medically OBESE category. I have no energy, I can’t run and play with my kids. I’m often out of breath, and it’s ridiculous for an otherwise healthy woman my age to be feeling this badly.

It’s important for my mental health. There is a ton of research out there–both scientific and testimonials that link diet and depression. I truly believe that removing sugars and processed foods from my diet could help me regain my health and life back.

For all these reasons, I need to conquer this. Even if for no other reason than to take back what the enemy has stolen from me and to say, firmly, “NO, Satan you do not have any power or authority in my life.”

And so, here we go again. I’m not Catholic, but I do fast for Lent. I have often given up things that are detrimental to my walk with God, and/or that I feel are strongholds in my life. This year, I am giving up sugar and processed foods. This will include eating out, since it’s nearly impossible to eat out without eating processed foods. My prayer is that the change will last beyond the time of Lent.

My prayer this week (the first week is always the hardest!) is that God will reveal to me His way of escape in each circumstance I face. I will be honest. Food is a major stronghold in my life. It is an addiction in ways that only a few of you will likely understand. And I know that I will need His strength. I will need Him to deliver me and fight the battle for me, just like He promised the Israelites (Exodus 14:13-14).

But I know that He is able. Even though I have failed and failed, He is still faithful and able to help me get through it this time.

Have you gotten off track on something that you have committed to doing in your life? Wherever you are, you can turn around now and start making the changes to get back on track.

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