How I survived a month without alcohol or sugar (and lost a LOT of body fat)

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I know, you’re thinking: “she’s crazy, right?” Well… I might be, but it worked! Yep, I’ve continued to keep this going past the one month mark and had no intention of doing so. After moving back to Seattle, I realized that coming off of a huge 6-month traveling tour took it’s toll on my gut as well as my mood. I’ve spent hours thinking about how food affects my body and mind and I soon realized that it wasn’t about cutting out cheese and butter. After reading a few books outlining the benefits of a diet with no sugar or simple carbs and an increase in healthy fat, I finally decided to commit to it. Just like that…commitment happened.

This new approach to eating began with baby steps. When I started to analyze my habits, I noticed that every time I’d drink wine or any alcohol, the rest of my diet would slightly slip. On nights I omitted the wine, I’d usually eat a delicious salad with hefty vegetables and sugar-free, healthy salad dressing for dinner. But whenever I’d drink even one glass of wine, I’d sit one my couch and start snacking on processed popcorn or ‘healthy’ chips. Then, that jolt of energy would kick-start my cravings for bread, chocolate, parmesan, pasta, pizza and everything else I was trying to avoid. I had never associated the two habits before, but once I paid attention, it made sense.

The first two weeks of cutting out alcohol were easy. My routines continued without issue: working out, lots of decaf tea and plenty of new books. But once social events began to fill the calendar, avoiding alcohol became far more difficult than I thought it would be. My friends and I would go to dinner and everyone would order a glass of something. But rather than sip on a cabernet or merlot, I’d just order boring old water and sip it begrudgingly as the rest of them cheered with wine soaked smiles. To add more to the struggle, I traveled to San Diego on a weekend business trip, which was filled with evening parties, networking events and business dinners. This is where the learning curve made itself even more known. During moments when I’d normally think nothing of a drink or two, I was suddenly glancing around the room like an ugly duckling with no social safety net.

I didn’t drink casually because I necessarily wanted to, but because it is a cultural norm. Conversation flowed more easily, happy buzzed vibes gave me energy and I’d enjoy a night out a whole lot more. When I stopped drinking, there was a constant, uneasy feeling of FOMO, (fear of missing out) on nights where everyone would go out to bars. It just didn’t sound fun to soberly watch drunk people laugh and spill their beers all night. ‘Why don’t we go to the park? How about a picnic? Laser tag anyone?’ I’d think to myself.

Noticing the social expectations of having a drink made me feel somewhat frustrated. I’m not an alcoholic, but it was eye-opening to watch how much of society revolves around drinking alcohol.

Soon though, something interesting and unexpected occurred. Once I set the standard for not drinking, I noticed my friends absorbing my actions. When I’d say, ‘No thanks, I’m not drinking tonight,’ they would say, ‘Oh, yeah I don’t think I want anything either.’ Then, we’d order hot water with lemon instead and guess what… we’d STILL enjoy each other! How incredible!

Kicking alcohol was just the start. The confidence I mustered during those initial thirty days led me into my next challenge: NO SUGAR. Cringe-worthy, right? I didn’t know what shutting out sugar would be like, but I wanted to discover what else I could accomplish.

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Normally, I wouldn’t consider reading food labels because I usually eat whole, unprocessed foods, but once I started paying attention to what contained sugar, my habits again became even more obvious. Initially, I decided to cut all desserts. Yes, this was insanely challenging, but I remained bold and strict. (Even when someone brought Top Pot Doughnuts to work). Now THAT was excruciating. But every time I forced myself to walk away from those sugary foods, it got easier and easier. The first three times I nearly ruined my streak, but soon enough there wasn’t a question of whether I’d eat it or not. I just didn’t.

You’ll find that most items with heavy sugar content also are cakey, starchy, carbo-loaded foods like cookies, coffee cake, pancakes, pasta, etc. So cutting out alcohol led me to cut out sugar, which then naturally became cutting out simple and unhealthy carbs, all by association!

Fast forward to a month and a half later and I feel happier than ever with a clean gut and far less excess body fat. I don’t weigh myself because pounds aren’t important to me, but I still FEEL fifteen pounds lighter, which should be the focus of getting healthier. Throughout this time, I continued my workout plan of exercising five to six times a week, switching off between yoga and weightlifting. Cutting out all this crap has resulted in far more energy, improved mood and lightened spirit, all because I decided to take the plunge and risk being the ugly duckling at a gathering.

In order to give myself some inspiration to continue my alcohol free lifestyle, I tried having a glass of wine while working at a restaurant one night to see how it would make me feel. Immediately, my body spoke loud and clear. One glass of wine after weeks and weeks of a clean liver made me feel foggy, slightly dizzy and again, pushed me to order a cheesy french onion soup that I later regretted.

So what does this mean for you? Start small. If you aren’t someone who drinks at all, (good for you), this domino effect system will still work. Starting with something like caffeine, sugar or bread is just as good as alcohol. Test yourself to see what you can truly accomplish. This system especially works when you have a buddy doing it with you. My boyfriend was the one to initially suggest cutting out alcohol to be healthier and his partnership in the adventure helped immensely. In those moments where I was about to give up, I’d think of his dedication and successes, and find the strength to say no. So, to inspire you further, here are three books you MUST read:

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Sugar Crush by Raquel Baldelomar & Dr. Richard Jacoby

Skinny Bitch by Kim Barnouin

Smart Fat by Jonny Bowden and Steven Masley

 

 

 

Eating well and regaining control of your diet takes small, intentional steps and patience. Upwards of 80% of fat loss can be credited to diet. Not only that, but mood and behavior is directly associated to what you put in your mouth. “Your mood comes from your gut,” my mother used to say. Cutting out something that is making your body sick, blended with activity and exercise will shove you into a new mindset, thus giving you the strength you need to be truly heathy and lose excess body fat.

If you need help getting started or some more information about health and wellness, write in the comments below so we can get connected! For more health tips, follow me on Instagram or Twitter !

T.

 

Secrets to tackling winter in Banff

Well, I definitely didn’t mentally prepare for winter in Banff. This place blew my mind and froze my face off! If you haven’t heard of it, you have to go there.

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Banff was way colder I realized it would be and far more beautiful than I could actually pictured in my head. A few friends warned me about the temperatures, but you have to feel -10 degrees Fahrenheit to actually understand what that means. I’m not a pansy in weather either! So in order for you to rightfully prep yourself and have the most incredible experience possible, here are some travel tips:

1. Rent a car

There are shuttles that take you from Calgary International Airport to Banff, but if you want to capture the most beautiful photography at Lake Louise, Abraham Lake or in Jasper, you’ll need a car with all wheel drive. I can’t tell you how many front wheel drive cars we saw on the side of the road, stuck deep in about 5 feet of snow and ice. Make sure you get insurance for your vehicle to avoid that mess. I think its about $30 a day (Canadian). The best rental service as far as speed, affordability and availability was Alamo, located right in the Calgary Airport. We went to all the services trying to get the best rate and they beat out all the other companies. You can’t really walk very far in the winter, as it’s way too cold, so a car is definitely a must.

2. Clothing

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You can’t mess around when packing for Banff. Pack a ton of layers, long johns, hand
warmers, hats, high quality gloves/mittens, face mask for skiing, a fleece, snow jacket, multiple thick winter ski socks, Sorel boots (or similar), waterproof snow pants, all camera equipment (including a tripod), hats, long insulated snow jacket and a GPS. There’s spotty service in the mountains!

3. Skiing/snowboarding

The first thing the locals told us was, “Make sure you have a face mask and goggles.” We didn’t prepare for it to be -15F at the peak of the slopes, so we had to buy those when we got there. My hands were throbbing and completely red with two layers of gloves on, so hand-warmers were completely necessary. You have to cover every tiny area of skin on your body with layers of clothing in order to feel comfortable in that kind of weather. Pack snacks and make sure you get to the slopes in the morning if you want to be on the mountain all day. For instance, Sunshine Village closed at 4:30pm, which felt somewhat early.

Rankings for ski resorts: 

1st Sunshine Village – best variety of blues, greens and blacks, 25 minutes from the town of Banff

2nd Lake Louise – great option if you’re staying close to Lake Louise

3rd Mount Norquay – mostly blacks

4. Find the good food

If you’re going to stay in the town of Banff, make sure you take a walk through the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It was built in the early 1900s, is definitely haunted, has a secret Gold Floor, boasts a beautiful outdoor heated pool in the snow and has some of the best restaurants in the area. Samurai, located on the first floor, has really great sushi. It’s not super cheap but worth it! (And I’m a sushi snob.) The town of Banff has mostly pubs and your average Canadian comfort food so we kept choosing the Fairmont restaurants time and time again. There are 12 dining options to choose from there!

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5. Be adventurous

Make sure you don’t simply go wherever the top spots to visit are. Lake Louise, of course isn’t something you want to miss, but get out there and drive a ways out of town to find remote places that you can make your own. We took a long walk into the woods, not knowing where we were going and it was a blast. There was a wolf warning (a first for us) at the time, so we were careful, but other than that it was perfectly peaceful.

Spots not to miss:

Lake Louise

Johnson Canyon (there are two waterfall locations, both beautifully frozen in winter. Prepare for a 30-minute hike to the lowest point and a bit longer if heading to the upper waterfall. Can be icy, be careful!

Jasper

Lake Minnewanka 

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Fairmont Banff Springs

Finally,

Leaving Banff can be hectic during the wintertime because airports and flights often get cancelled due to weather conditions. Our flight was cancelled and rescheduled for the next day. It might be safe to save a day after your trip for potential flight issues!

T.

 

Tips for traveling alone

What if we love travel,  but we wouldn’t dare to leave home by ourselves? It can be daunting to even think of going somewhere you’ve never been without a friend or family member with you. All I ever read in travel blogs are ‘must-dos’ before you settle down, and they often include a bullet for traveling alone. So why is that no one seems to do it?

Here are five tips to build up the courage to travel alone and to make it worth while.

1. Start your adventure in your own town.

Be a tourist in your hometown for a day. Take yourself on a date, don’t go to your typical spots and walk around without looking at your phone. See your hometown as if you’ve never been there before. Remember though, don’t look at your phone while you walk… take a look around and see how it feels to wander by yourself.

2. Find a place you’ve wanted to go for a long time.

There’s got to be somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Pick out a place that you would feel safe if you were there alone. For some, it’s Charleston, South Carolina, for others it’s Dubai. Don’t put limits on yourself!

3. Plan specific places to go.

Once you’ve chosen a destination, find some of the best spots to hit while you’re there. Whether it be certain beaches, museums, restaurants or hikes, find them and write them down. Don’t stop there though, investigate and document all the intricate ways to get there. Keep the directions in a journal so you can take it with you. (Use pictures and maps as well!)

4. Plan for problems.

Bringing extra money with you while you travel alone will help you relax in tense situations. If you lose your train ticket, you need a late night bite in a decent area, or you want to upgrade to a better hotel room to feel comfortable, allow yourself that luxury. Traveling alone can be stressful enough, so keep yourself packed with financial support. (Not with cash, but money in credit cards.)

5. Don’t be afraid to make friends when you get there.

Yes, being safe when meeting strangers is imperative. But there are so many incredible people who embrace lone travelers as if they were family. Find a cafe that matches your style, bring your laptop and get some work done. I’ve found that working in a bustling place encourages new friends to inquire about what you do. From there, you’re able to share who you really are with them and potentially create new relationships that could last a lifetime. Or – perhaps sit at a wine bar before the dinner crowd arrives and befriend the bartender. Bartenders seem to know all the ins and outs of a town. Start there!

Traveling alone is definitely for the brave. Luckily, you’re brave… so don’t wait for someone else to find interest in places you’ve always wanted to visit. Get out there and make life what you want it to be.