My Past, Present, and Future

Hello friends,

Over eight months ago was my last rambling in this lovely space, and I feel … stuck at how to begin telling you about the major transformation my life has taken in such a short time.

It’s like these stairs in my new neighborhood…

Singer Hill Creek Stairs
Up and up and up and up…
There have been challenges.
Physical pain.
Heartbreaking loss.

After it all, I have continued to climb this hill, and find myself in a very happy place.

I now own a home. I am finally running again! And a new sense of purpose is subtly finding a place in my mind, rolling off my lips, and it is finally time to make space for this new adventure on a page.

After the broken toe (and spirit), the healing solo vacation, and buying my first home, I now know what I need to do.

While I was on the journey through Yoga Teacher Training two years ago, I found myself contemplating creating (what I thought was) a new career: healthy lifestyle coach. I found so much joy in talking with my peers about what they really wanted to do and encouraging them to step forward, plus I was exploring cooking and baking without sugar, with success! And I really want to share my ideas and recipes with you, my friends.

So this is when I get to tell you: I am starting a new project.

Alwayslovinlife has fulfilled her purpose for the time being. She will stay here, and perhaps I will visit from time to time with notes or pictures from my running adventures (because I do plan to have many more).

This is a new adventure to share my real life with you (not just the running highlights):
– Recipes created without added (processed) sugar (using REAL FOOD)
– Reduce/reuse/recycle ideas and DIYs (Save the Planet!” because I have always been that   way. And now I have a house that needs furniture and fixing – on a budget!)
– Relevant ideas regarding mindfulness & self-care. This is a practice that is difficult for me to maintain, so I am asking you to help hold me accountable.
– And more developments to come, once I catch my stride in the new space!

That’s the scoop! I am happy to finally have the processed enough of the stuff of last summer/fall/winter, and have the mental clarity (and drive!) to start moving forward again. One step at a time.

Look for another post coming soon regarding where to find more updates from me in the near future!

(To all you friends and family that I have been talking about starting that food blog: Yes – it will be live within a week!)

Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive and patient with me as I spent time with myself, in my mind, in workbooks, staring out windows, and painting furniture to work through my grief for all this change, and process how to make my next steps. I appreciate all of you so very much.

Much love,
~Alaina

You Only Live Once; The Big Shift

This week, it happened.

I have had a green juice every morning this week.

Going Green!
Going Green!

I followed that juice with a no sugar added chia pudding if still hungry.

Chia pudding, pecans, almond butter, and strawberries
Chia pudding, pecans, almond butter, and strawberries

Each lunch and dinner was made by me, in my kitchen, so I knew exactly what was in each delicious bite.

I slept blissfully well on a new mattress that was delivered on Tuesday. (This is the first NEW mattress I can remember having … in many, many years. Why go for this now? Because I’m worth it. And sleep is SUPER important).

My body is sore from re-entering the world of yoga, and I am feeling more light and happy from running more consistently.

A view of the Steel from this morning's run.
A view of the Steel Bridge from this morning’s run.

I have made an ENORMOUS shift.

The past two and a half months have been a time of … introspection. Without the ability to get out and run and walk around my neighborhood (putting in miles just for the sake of wandering), I was consequently being rather sedentary and feeling the effects of food more acutely, as well as (to be perfectly honest) seeing them on my form.

And then it hit me.

While I know I have the power to make the choices that are best for Me, I was still ignoring all of the self-awareness and knowledge I have gained in the past year. 

Somehow, I felt that because I could not follow my regular work-out routine, I could let my usual “how I eat well” go by the wayside, as well. Sure, I knew when I was eating that gluten-free ice cream sandwich that I would experience physical consequences later that day… or the next… And yet… Acknowledging when your choices are bad does not make you feel better. 

Some may argue: But you only live once!

And I have to say, I agree. Wholeheartedly. 

We only have ONE life to live. ONE body to nourish and move with in this life.  ONE Chance to make a difference in the world in which we live.

SO I ask you one question:

Why the heck is “YOLO” a Reason, a Rationality (a JUSTIFICATION!!!) to do things that will CAUSE HARM to our one and ONLY vessel allowing us to be here on Earth?

Granted, eating Ice Cream is certainly not the end of the world, but for me, sugar is a known adversary, and after the amount of reading I have done about substances that your body does not digest well, learning that they can get into the blood stream, and quite literally beat up your veins on the inside, WHY do I still choose to eat the things that cause me unfathomable damage?

So I started this week with a new intention: “You Only Live ONCE”.

I am feeding myself with vegetables and fruits that will help sustain and heal my body rather than simple sugars that can beat me down. I want to be (and feel) my Best, as much of each day as is possible. This week has been remarkable emotionally and physically, and I want that good feeling to continue. What does that mean for me?

I am giving up processed sugars. 

I am happy to say that although I have not been 100% this week (more like 90% – the evening dessert craving has bewitched me a time or two, and even the dairy-free ice cream was not consequence-free), I know I make this change pretty easily (must do more baking with fruit). Of course, there are always times to make an exception: for example, Grandma’s house for the Holiday dinner because you don’t want to offend family. For my own cooking,  there will be no sugar added. Last night I successfully baked an apple crisp without any added sugar (just banana for the crumble!).  Such a wonderful discovery (and triumph!).

I am giving up alcohol.

I know. This one is tough for most people to understand. I admit, I enjoy a nice cool drink from time to time on a hot summer’s day, but to give you a little perspective: I purchased a few bottles of alcohol – a couple of years ago (um… more like 4 years) and they still remain unopened in my cabinet. Whenever I buy a bottle of wine, I’ll open it for a glass and forget it is in my refrigerator. Plus, there’s the fact that I cannot get myself out of bed in the morning to run after having just ONE drink. (That is probably the most important part). I am perfectly happy having a glass of soda water with lime, or a hot latte. Friends, please do not be upset with me for not joining in the consumption of alcohol, this is for my health (and sanity – running is super important to my emotional state. Also, I have some bottles of liquor to give away…).

Both of these things mean consuming MUCH MORE whole foods, less abrasive vein-invaders, and overall, feeling …

Pretty much like a million bucks.
(And who doesn’t want to feel good?)

Now I put the question to you: what does “You only live once” mean in your life?
Is it an excuse to try whatever you want because you’re young and your body can “take it”?
Is it your motivation to keep working toward that PR?
Or is it just a silly phrase the kids are using these days?

I always love hearing how you’re working through your own personal battles, so leave a comment and help to start a conversation below.

Thanks for reading, and have a happy, healthy, fun and free weekend!

with Joy,
~Alaina

The Food Industry, Their Profits, and Your Health

I know this is a controversial and very heavy topic for many – and I don’t want to lecture anyone on what is right and wrong as far as food choices are concerned.  What I do wish for everyone is that you are informed about what goes into the products you eat and I am thrilled that processed foods are finally getting more scrutiny from health food advocates, whole food advocates, and even News anchors.

Photo cred: www.FoodBabe.com
Photo cred: http://www.FoodBabe.com

I follow a blog called Food Babe, by Vani Hari – you know her as the girl who got Subway to take the yoga mat chemical Azodicarbonamide out of their breads (it was not used in Subway’s bread in EU or other countries as it is banned there).  Vani is actively investigating our daily foods and corporations from Gateorade to Whole Foods to Starbucks to Kraft to Chipotle, and more.  Today in her post she brings us back to a Special Report on ABC News by anchor Peter Jennings on December 8, 2003 called How To Get Fat Without Really Trying.  I have to admit, I was surprised this video was produced over ten years ago, and yet so many Americans still are unaware of what they are actually eating – and why our nation’s people are becoming increasingly overweight.  I highly recommend you watch these videos.

Also, take some time to check out this video from Marie Forleo on Marie TV: an interview with Vani (this is how I came across this lovely lady) where she shares great advice on foods you may not suspect you need to avoid: Healthy or Not: 5 Health Foods You Shouldn’t Eat.  Some of the items shared caught me completely off guard!  This video is well worth a listen to know what you are actually putting into your body.

Here is a secret I need to share with you: I spend a significant amount of my “free time” watching and listening to Marie’s interviews to learn … New things.  About everything!

photo cred: www.marieforleo.com
photo cred: http://www.marieforleo.com

Marie Forleo is a wonderful business guru and advocate to help (us all!) Create a Business and Life You Love.  Her interviews are always informative and inspiring, and to any of you looking for advising on your “next steps” – take some time to explore what she has to offer.  Find videos on business and personal growth, how to be more productive, and even spiritual stuff to help improve your life.  Marie’s authentic approach makes every bit of her imparted wisdom (in writing and video) easily understandable and entertaining, and I.just.love.it!  Marie has also founded B-SCHOOL, an online 8-week training program for online business owners and entrepreneurs, which has received wonderful acclaim.

I am so happy to have stumbled upon both of these awesome women who are consciously working to make a positive difference in the world, and in our lives.  Their influence and impact on me has already changed my life, and they inspire me to make greater change Every.Day.

Who are your favorite online gurus?

Please share your thoughts on the ABC News special below; I am always interested in a lively conversation about how we can live – and be – healthier.

~Alaina

Sugar Free Two Weeks Complete: The Return to Normal Eating Conundrum

I feel as though at this moment, I have every right to celebrate and jump with glee – I made it through two weeks without eating anything with sugar.  No added sugar, no starchy-stuff that would convert to sugar, no fruit.  I feel fantastic.  My body is de-puffed, and all of my clothes fit better than ever (nice little side-bonus of not eating anything that makes your body react).

And now, fourteen days later, I get to add items back into my diet!  I met with my coach over the weekend, and she sent me home with my favorite apples – Gala – and this is going to be the first thing I add back into my diet.  I am so excited to get to eat my favorite fruit again!

… and I am terrified to learn how my body feels after I eat sugar again (albeit from fruit!).

I am truly afraid to eat an apple. 

The Gala Apple.  Poison or no?
The Gala Apple. Poison or no?

So even though I have already decided that the apple is my first exploration into fruit sugar again, I left it at home when I went to work today (apples at lunch were almost a daily practice pre-cleanse).  I am so comfortable knowing that what I am eating now does my body NO HARM, fear of reaction has caused me to not even try a bite.  Somehow, I have turned into Snow White.  Although, I suppose, she went ahead and dug into that apple.  Whereas I fear the post-delicious-‘crunch-slurp’-bite-of-apple coma.

Clearly, this is a little dramatic.

Eating an apple will not kill me.

But the fact is, for two weeks, I have been headache free, felt very even energy daily, and to put it quite bluntly, I have had no issues with gas or digestion.  And now… I’m afraid that I may soon find the very foods that were my staples before experimenting with no sugar may be foods I need to continue to eliminate (or that my body is still working on fighting bacteria and I need to continue the diet).  A fact that may indeed be true, and is a little disappointing to think about.

So, I will proceed with caution, care, and at the pace of a snail.  Only one new item per 3 day period.  I get to eat apple today, tomorrow, and Wednesday.  And then I have to decide what add back next… Blueberries?  Yams?  Carrots?  Beans?  So many choices!  (Presuming all goes well and I do get to keep adding items back to my diet).

For now, I will only test the effects of the apple on my system.
Here goes nothing…

To eat or not to eat the apple, that is the question.
To eat or not to eat the apple, that is the question.

(Will somebody please find me Prince Charming just in case I take a bite and slip into a coma?)
Thanks in advance. 🙂

with love and light, and to your health!
~Alaina

A New P.O.V.: Bliss and Gratitude

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For a week and a half, I have been experimenting with eliminating sugar, starch, dairy, soy, all non-fibrous grains, beans…  Pretty much everything except for protein and vegetables in order to sort out some digestive conundrums.  And truthfully, this has made running more difficult – the source of nutrition my body once found to convert quickly to energy is not available, and I have only run twice in the last week!  I have however, chosen to create an intentional practice of yoga while my body is learning how to move again with a different energy source.

And somewhat astonishingly, throughout this giant change of diet, I have not been lacking – I definitely do not miss sugar (although occasionally I crave a dessert or some fruit at breakfast).  I have been preparing and cooking Every Single Meal for myself.  This is a big change for me (I like to go out and socialize with friends at places where they make food for you), and I am finding such great pleasure in spending this time – doing something good for Me.  I do believe this two and a half week change is going to make a lasting impression on the way I eat for the rest of my life.  This will be a change to better my health, and a shift to buying products with a higher consciousness of the food I choose to support and the effect my purchases have on people, animals, and the planet.

The parking lot - late evening at work (a.k.a. Everyone else already went home).
The parking lot – late evening empty parking lot at work.(a.k.a. Everyone else already went home).

Over the last few hot, beautiful sunny days I have found myself in a very different state of mind.  I feel mildly euphoric and incredibly grateful for the life I am living at this moment – regardless of whether or not I worked exceptionally late that day.  I find myself running into genuinely happy people of all walks of life, and enjoying my life in the city more each day (this includes the grey, bearded, homeless men smoking on the sidewalk early in the morning who politely apologized for their colorful conversation as I ran by.  They were lovely gentlemen).

This shift is awesome.

I am lighter, happier, more productive with my days, and sleeping incredibly well at night – and waking before my alarm every single day.

Isn’t it amazing how a small change of habit can dramatically change your perspective and the entirety of your surroundings?

What are you doing each day to feel good in your own skin?
How has this changed how your day-to-day activities?

~ with love, light, and delight ~
Alaina

The Long Up-Hill a.k.a. Running from SE Portland to the Zoo

Saturday my friends chose a challenging run full of hills.  Or one really long hill.  Starting from the flat lands of the close-in East side of Hawthorne across the bridge, through downtown, up Washington Park, and finishing (the first half of the run) at the top of the Portland Zoo parking lot.  The morning was surprisingly cloudy and cool.  I had been watching the weather forecast all week, anticipating the weekend’s delightful sunshine, but the little yellow ball of glowing happiness kept moving to the right, just one more day… every day.  As a native Oregonian, I suppose I should not be surprised by the peek-a-boo sunshine, especially since we have not yet reached the glorious Fourth of July after which Summer officially begins in Portland.  (We’re almost there!!!  Can you feel it??)

The path of great gains in elevation lead us past the well-known International Rose Test Garden, wherein visitors can gain a pretty perspective of downtown cityscapes while filling their noses with Eau de Rose Varieties.  (These roses smell so good!)

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View from the International Rose Test Garden

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We learned that bunny rabbits have a strong affinity for the rose petals, as well, but they find them much more edible than most of us humans.

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The cool, long down-hill.
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The prettiest grate that you ever-did-see.
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A brief appearance of Sun Beams at the end of our run.
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Set-up beginning for the Blues Festival weekend, with blue tents popping up on the waterfront.

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SE Portland
Crossing the Hawthorne Bridge back into the SE Industrial area.

I am so grateful that we went out and trekked our way up this never-ending hill.  It inspired me to endeavor to conquer more aggressive hills, on trials, with rocks and tree-roots, and mud (more on this soon).  I have resolved to make at least one of my weekday run adventures on dirt, with many hills.  With the Siskiyou Outback quickly approaching, I need to get a little more serious about proper true hilly trail running.

Does anyone want to run around Timberline with me?  🙂

The last few months have been a little frustrating.  I have found myself both loathing running and relishing the time spent solo, pounding the pavement.  My body has definitely adapted to the increased mileage on the weekends, yet I still find myself lacking the energy to get up and go on weekdays.  My new secret weapon for the long run is major carbs Friday night.  I tend to have a fairly simple diet of protein, fruits, and veggies, and over the last few weeks have found in order to keep up energy and stamina, I apparently need to add a few more calories than my normal diet provides.  (Who am I kidding?  When you burn an extra 3000-5000 calories per week, of course you need to eat more!)  

I guess there is an adjustment period to learning exactly how to eat MORE food.  (As I write this at 10:30pm, my stomach is growling…  Time to have a late night snack!)  Before the Newport Marathon I was baking bread for snacking on, and I think it may be time to do so again.  This coming weekend is conveniently another 36 mile weekend, and our famous fireworks holiday.  I plan to go to bed very shortly after all the loud popping noises cease.  🙂

To my friends: I hope you are adjusting to summer training, feeding your body well, and finding joy in the everyday…!

Happy Running!
~Alaina

Carbo-loading, OSF, and My Favorite Meal. Ever.

A runner’s tradition, the pre-race (or pre- long training run) dinner often is thought of as the “carbo-load” meal.  Of course, recent studies have shown that spreading this out over a few days (meaning: eat more carbs and store more energy, a few days prior to your big run/race event) is actually more helpful for storing that energy.  Despite this fact, there always seems to be a pasta feed somewhere within the 24 hours before a big race.  Pasta, spaghetti, meatballs, lots of marinara, and rolls to soak up all that extra red sauce – filling, delicious, and satisfying.

Well, I can’t say that I don’t fall for the same old dinner trick and participate in some grain-carb consumption.  I mean, who wouldn’t?

My absolute favorite place to get my pasta dinner is at the OSF – The Old Spaghetti Factory.  (Now offering Gluten Free pasta options!!!)

Old Spahetti Factory & the signature Blue roof!
Old Spahetti Factory & the signature Blue roof!

Growing up, my Dad’s family took relatives to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner, and so it became an individual tradition for me, as well.  Since graduating from college, I can say I have celebrated more birthdays there than any other location.  We continue to go to the OSF as a big family group on Grandma’s birthday.  These days, I choose the atmosphere of the bar (dark, polished wood, and much more quiet) upstairs over the caboose my sister and I always wanted to sit in during our youth.

Caboose! OSF.
The caboose! http://www.osf.com

A few years ago, I paid a visit to the restaurant on my own – It was a rainy, miserable day, I worked late, and did not feel like cooking, so took myself out for a bite.  I always get the “complete meal” (soup or salad, comes with sourdough and delicious garlic butter, coffee/tea/milk, and a scoop of ice cream!), and when the waitress came to take my order, without looking at the menu I answered “the A la Homer”.  She looked at me, and said “you have been coming here for a while, haven’t you?”  When I glanced at the menu the next time I visited the establishment, I noticed they no longer called out my favorite meal with the Homer reference, it is simply called “Mizithra Cheese & Brown Butter”.  Yep, I’m a regular.

I know what you’re thinking – The Old Spaghetti Factory’s Butter and Cheese dish?  That’s your favorite meal?
My answer is – Yes.  I know this is not the healthiest choice, and I definitely sometimes feel like I need to eat some green vegetables, but… It feels like home.  Butter and Cheese on pasta, OSF style, is familiar, comforting, and downright tasty!

In fact, I missed this dish so much when I went to college I sent the restaurant an email asking what kind of cheese they used!  Someone was kind enough to respond, and also included the recipe of how to make pasta “A la Homer”!  I was shocked and delighted to be honored with such a gift.  (The cheese can be found at Whole Foods, New Seasons, and occasionally Fred Meyer).

I now make the dish at home as often as I visit the big, blue roofed OSF.  (But it still tastes better on location.  I just don’t have the technique!)

What is your favorite restaurant?  

Do you have a place that you visited often growing up that has become tradition?

Enjoy the pasta feed, and happy running!
~Alaina

(For those of you who enjoy indulging in Pasta and Beer – Check out one of my favorite races: Pints to Pasta 10K  It is mostly downhill, and you get a pasta feed and free beer at the finish!  The weather is usually beautiful, the race is quick, and the people are great).