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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!


Chocolate Chip Muffins: Before & After

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Muffins
The “skinnier” version

Yesterday, I posted about my very high calorie, chocolate chip muffin recipe.  I also posted some strategies for making any recipe healthier.  And promised a before and after comparison of my chocolate chip muffins.  (The photo above is the new, “skinnier” recipe)

My original chocolate chip muffin Ingredients:

2 cups flour (800 calories)
1/3 cup brown sugar (240 calories)
1/3 cup sugar (255 calories)
2 tsp baking powder (no calories)
½ tsp salt (no calories)
¾  cup 2% milk (98 calories)
½ cup butter,melted (814 calories)
2 eggs (140 calories)
1 tsp vanilla (no calories)
1 package (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips (1,610 calories)

Yield: 15 muffins;
Nutritional info per muffin: 264 calories; 33 g carbs; 13 g fat


The “skinnier” recipe:

2 cups white whole wheat flour (880 calories)
1/4 cup brown sugar (180 calories)
¼ cup sugar (194 calories)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup 1% milk (55 calories)
¼ cup water
1/4 cup butter, melted (407 calories)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (35 calories)
2 eggs, lightly beaten (140 calories)
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips (645 calories)

What to do:

1. Combine dry ingredients (flour, sugars, baking powder, salt).  Stir until combined.
2. In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients (milk, water, melted butter, unsweetened applesauce, 2 eggs, vanilla).
3. Make a hole in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet.  Stir, only until wet.  Do not over mix.
4. Fold in chocolate chips (or blueberries, apple pieces, strawberries, etc.) and fill buttered muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for 16-18 minutes.

Yield: 18 muffins;

Nutritional info per FULL-SIZED muffin: 141 calories; 21 g carbs; 7 g

Just by making these simple changes, you reduce the calories by nearly 50%. 


Make Any Recipe “Skinnier”

Sometimes, you have a great recipe, that you LOVE…but it just has too many calories!  For me, the culprit was chocolate chip muffins.  Delicious, but 267 calories each!  So, I wanted to “skinny up” my recipe.  I decided to share these strategies in case anyone else was interested.  These tips are geared mostly toward baked goods (sweets).

Flour:  You may not actually lessen calories here, but choosing 100% white whole wheat flour instead of white flour does make it healthier.  The whole wheat gives you “better” calories. When using regular whole wheat flour, I sub ½ whole wheat and ½ unbleached white all-purpose flour.  However, I have found that white whole wheat works well for baking, so I substitute it completely for regular white flour.  You can also change out part of the flour with quick oats to save calories and carbs, although this will obviously change the texture.

Sugars:  Generally speaking, you can reduce the sugar by a small amount in most recipes.  I like to reduce it by a bit at a time to find the “magic” spot (usually starting with around 20-25% less sugar).  If you don’t mind the “diet taste” you can also substitute stevia, splenda, or other low-calorie sweeteners.

Milk:  In many recipes, you can actually substitute water for the entirety of the milk.  If you’re concerned about taste or texture, start slowly, replacing half the milk with water at first.

Butter:  In most baking recipes, you can substitute unsweetened applesauce for the butter/oil.  However, it does change the texture a bit, so again, I would recommend to start with a small substitution (start by replacing 25%-50% of the butter/oil), then work your way up to your magic number.

Eggs: There are several ways to reduce/substitute eggs in recipes.  First, you can sometimes simply use less eggs with minimal impact on taste.  (For example if a recipe calls for 2, sometimes you can get by with only 1.  You might even search for other recipes to see if there are similar recipes with less eggs).  You can also use egg whites instead of eggs, or a combination (such as 1 egg + 2 egg whites in exchange for 2 eggs).  Finally, you can substitute milled flax seed for eggs (1 tbsp. flax seed + 3 Tbsp Water equals 1 egg), with little effect on taste and texture. If a recipe calls for only 1 egg, I generally leave it as is.

Baking Chips:  Baking chips (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, etc.) make up the bulk of calories found in most recipes containing them.  You can almost always reduce the amount of baking chips, with little negative affect on taste.  For my chocolate chip muffin recipe in particular, each muffin had over 100 calories of chocolate chips!  So, I decided to half the amount of chocolate chips.  There are still plenty, and they taste great.  You can also use “mini” chips, to help spread them out, while still using less.

Calorie-Free Flavorings: Using flavor additions such as extracts (vanilla, almond, etc.), and spices (like cinnamon) can add flavor, and draw out the natural sweetness without adding extra calories.

Yield:  Make more, smaller servings.  For my muffin recipe, I made each muffin a little smaller (but still a full sized muffin), and increased the yield from 15 to 18 servings, with a very small impact on the overall size of the muffin.

Another option is to make them half the size and double the amount (mini-muffins/ half-sized cookies, etc.).  This is a great “mental” thing as well.  Smaller sizes generally encourage you to eat less.  For example, I might eat 3 full-sized muffins (Yes, I know…please no “you’re a pig” comments!)…whereas I might eat 4-5 of the smaller ones (which would be the equivelant of 2-2.5 large ones instead of 3).

Come back tomorrow, where I will be sharing my before and after Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe!


Repost: Finish the Race


photo credit

This is a repost from a few months ago.  I’ve struggled this summer, between the move and other factors.  I’ve completely fallen off the wagon, and needed this reminder.  And, just an update, I am working to finish up my masters degree this semester…yay!

Several people have commented on what they perceive to be my weight loss goals, mostly well-meaning people commenting on my facebook page telling me not to focus on getting skinny.  Their assessment is so far off base, so I am just going to pour my heart out here today.  I’ve already shared that it’s more than the number on the scale.  In fact, my goal is mostly a spiritual one.  Getting into a healthy weight range has many tangible benefits, but my real goal is to prove myself faithful.

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.  Luke 16:10

Over the years, I have acquired a nasty habit of not following through with things. I wanted to be a “professional” scrapbooker.  I got pages published, served on many design teams, etc.  Right in the thick of it, I lost my mojo and it’s been 2 years since I scrapbooked.

I wanted to get my masters degree, and we’re in debt nearly $20,000 because of that decision.  I finished all my classes, and all I have left is the final quarter of the work on my thesis-like paper and my comprehensive exams.  I’ve been at this point for 2 years now, and if I don’t finish by next year, my credits will “expire.”

I’ve always wanted to write a novel.  Last summer, I did it.  I wrote an entire, full-length novel.  I worked on revisions for a few months, but there are still some things I need to tweak.  I’ve been stuck at this point for the last 6 months.  It’s hard to find quiet time to focus on such a tedious task, but that’s mostly just an excuse.  The truth is that I lack follow through.   

Depression has played a huge role in all these things, but regardless of that struggle, I have not proven myself faithful. 

One Sunday in church, I was praying, and God called me out on this.  I said I want to be used by Him, and I felt a gentle chastening…  “You have not shown yourself faithful in the little things, therefore you also can’t be trusted with the bigger things.”

This was and is a devastating truth to face.  I know, in my spirit, that the victory of reaching my goal weight is going to be, more than anything, a spiritual victory for me.  It’s what God has called me to do to prove my faithfulness to Him.  

“let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  (Hebrews 12:2).

The Christian life is referred to throughout scripture as a race that requires endurance.  Losing a substantial amount of weight is symbolic of that.  It requires discipline, dedication, and follow through, all qualities that are necessary for walking with Christ.  God has really placed this on my spirit.  My weight is a hindrance to me.  My reliance on food is something that easily ensnares me.  I have a need in my life, both physically and spiritually to lay that aside, and finish this race.  I need to do this in order to be more useful to my Savior.  Not because a “skinnier” person is more useful, but because a faithful person is.

How I long to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

(Please note that I am in NO WAY judging anyone for their weight or anything else!  This is something that God has placed on my heart for my situation and nothing more.)

Now for the numbers:

Heaviest Weight: 201.8 (I am 5’6″, so this put me in the category of being medically OBESE)
Current Weight: 180.8
Next Milestone: 170
Final Goal: 135 (Healthy weight for my height is 115-145)

I had lost a total of 23 lbs, reaching a “low” of 178.8 or so.  Over the past few months of completely backsliding, I have gained back 2 pounds (and a lot of belly inches…).  Either way, I consider this a victory because I have been back to square one with HORRIBLE eating and virtually no exercise for nearly 3 months, so it could be much worse.


(also check out: Weight Loss WednesdayWorks for Me Wednesday, Women Living Well, Women in the Word)


Has anyone seen my Motivation???

When you’re lacking motivation.

This is a different kind of post, because I don’t have any revelations or answers to share, just questions and struggles.

When I started out this journey, 3 months ago, I was very motivated.  I was excited and committed, and working out nearly every day, an average of 6 days a week. 

But now, the honeymoon is over.  The excitement is gone.  And I’m trying to figure out how these healthy habits are going to fare in the face of real life, minus the excited boost of new victories.  It’s not going so well.  I’m hanging on, but barely.  There aren’t any victories lately, just a maintaining.  Better than gaining, but I don’t want to settle for that.  I have a long way to go and I don’t want to give up now when I’ve come so far.

Figuring out what is slowing me down

1.  We went on an 8 day trip to my in-laws, and despite my good intentions, our routines were slightly messed up while we were there, and we had to eat out and/or eat unhealthy things when there were no other options. 

2.  Our AC went out twice during the 2 weeks since we’ve been back home.

3.  We’re moving in about a month, so we’ve been packing up boxes for our big moving sale this weekend, and other things to prepare for our move next month. 

4.  I’ve lost my exercise routine.  I have had several different routines going over the past few months, but mostly it was just cardio and Jillian is mostly strength/resistance (even the cardio has strength/resistance).  It’s hard and I literally dread it so I think I’m at the point of subconsciously putting it off because I hate it so much.  Just being real.  So, I may go back to my old routine of walking/running, but I don’t like to do that by myself and my old workout partner doesn’t workout anymore.  So, I’m not sure yet how to solve this problem, but I know I need to do something…maybe just buck up.

At any rate, I’m also trying to focus on the positives:

  • I have lost 23 pounds.
  • At 178.8 pounds, I have now surpassed the weight I reached the last time I “dieted” in Sept. 2011, which only reached 180.4.
  • I have lost 2 inches in my waist.  Although I have MANY more inches to lose, at least I can see progress.
  • I have lost a pant size.
  • I feel better.  I can breathe easier and do more things before getting tired and out of breath.

What do you do to revive your failing motivation???  It doesn’t have to be weightloss related, but I’m really anxious to hear your tips and ideas.

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