We haven’t left Africa yet.
The trees are swaying in the wind outside as I look out of the window, and the fan blows warm air on me as I lay in the twin size bed with the yellow mosquito net hanging above my head. I hear the chatter of the other girls as they finish packing up their belongings, and the delicious smell of homemade lunch lingers in the house. I wonder what we are having.
It’s hot here. Like the sweltering kind of hot that sits on you and stays with you. The showers are mostly cold, which you don’t end up minding later, and you can’t use the faucet water to brush your teeth with. My feet have never been so dirty, caked with red clay dirt. The strength of the bug spray I brought took off every bit of toenail polish, leaving my toes naked and brown. No matter if you wash or scrub your shoes – they are still brown. I really don’t mind.
I lay in the little bed. Mind drifting to what has already become memories tattooed in my mind.
In the old land cruisers – it’s almost as if you can feel every rock you plow over. Every nook and cranny of the red gravel road bounces you around as you make your way to the main road from where we are. Once you get to the 2 lane paved “highway”, your eyes sprint from image to image.
There are people dressed in dusty clothes walking for miles. Some of the ladies are in clean, bright colored, patterned and tailored dresses also walking for miles un-phased. People ride on bicycles on the shoulders as the buses and vans swerve around them and honk. There are motorcyclists with usually 2 people on the saddle who rarely wear helmets buzzing past. There are Messai – Tanzania’s local tribe – cloaked in plaid blankets with shoes made of tires – standing or herding animals. Cows graze in the median tied to a stake, and there are children walking goats on leashes. There are some women with a child on one hand a baby in a papoose and some carrying woven baskets of bananas or personal belongings. Some children run free as my mind runs wandering where their parents are and if the kids are safe… they are. The buildings are mostly small and sometimes pushed together like a strip mall, and sometimes spread apart for what seems like miles. They are made of concrete or plaster painted in bright yellows, reds and blues. You pass fruit stands and art markets where people barter for every shilling, and a lot of people wave at our bus as we pass by. There are villages with hay roofs in the distance. On Sundays they wear their Sunday best – suits and dresses – as they walk to church. Some of the trees are crooked and beautiful, some of the colors are vivid, and there are bunches of aloe plants begging for you to cut them open if your skin has gotten pink from the African sun.
These images I will never forget.
We are finally packed up. So full. In so many ways.
After eating a feast for lunch with chicken, pork, rice, spinach, sautéed veggies, potatoes, okra, green beans, pineapple and watermelon, we all sit out in the front room as the ceiling fan buzzes and rotates side to side. Every meal is a feast here. They treat us like royalty and people willingly give you more than ever expected and more than they have. They are the literal meaning of “I will give you the shirt off of my back.”
We take one last drive to the airport.
I was tired, but I didn’t want to shut my eyes even for a minute so that I could soak up every last bit of this magnificent place.. I reflected as we drove very slowly for about an hour and a half. We had already driven 4 hours that morning from the safari back to Mama Lucy’s house.
Mama Lucy. She is the founder of First Chance Education Centre and oh so much more… Mama Lucy is a large, beautiful African woman with eyes that smile. She is probably late 50s or early 60s. She lives beside the school in a lovely house with an extra house in the back where we stayed. No AC, no TVs, not much hot water. Mama Lucy is always dressed in a patterned dress or a couple of different patterns that are loud with different colors. I can’t help but grin when I think of her and her husband holding hands. She always says “caribou” as we walk by, which means welcome. We felt very, very welcome.
(Photo below by Anna Molenti)
Our drive to the airport seems like forever. I let my mind keep going…
Only yesterday we were breathing dirt, getting thrown around in a safari land cruiser, hanging out of the roof and the sides with wild eyes searching for animals begging to get a glimpse of a lion or cheetah. We rushed to get a look at a rhino resting – only a 2% chance that you’ll see a rhino on this safari, and we did. Our driver Toni had old country playing on repeat…Dolly, Kenny Rogers and a strange mix of a few other very random songs. The whole day was perfect. Seeing the animals in their natural habitat was breath-taking. It was a bucket-list day that will never be forgotten.
On the way to the animals, we stopped at a Messai village to witness a jumping ceremony and take a look at their houses. We passed a boy begging for food, we passed giraffes and adolescents chanting with white face paint. We sang songs, watched the sunset, used up our camera batteries and marveled at the grace of the people and creatures that we got to see and experience.
At the Kili airport. Hot. Have to pee. Everyone’s nerves are running thin. We are tired and have a lot of travel ahead.
As “Islands in the Stream” re-plays back in my mind, I sit with the girls at the terminal and use a little bit of very hard to find wifi before we board to post a picture of us from yesterday.
We board a bus that takes us to the plane – about 100 feet away. Everyone chuckles at how we probably could have walked faster. We board the plane.
I sit next to a lovely couple from the States and we start chatting as we take off. We exchange Africa stories and I tell her the main reason we came to Africa, and Tanzania specifically. The kids.
As we taxied, I showed her pictures of the kids and of Kilimanjaro. She ooooed and ahhhs at the picture of the mountain peaking out from behind the clouds, snow sitting at the very top as if it were just dropped on just for this picture op. I explain how we only did a day hike and show her a few more of the lush pictures of our 13 mile trek up and down the base of the magnificent mountain. Our guides – Paul, Eric and “Usher” truly made the day one to remember cracking jokes and feeding us information and Swahili words along the way. We were tired, dirty, and some of us already had the desire to come back to hike the whole thing. What a beautiful way to start the trip!
On the plane. 20,000 feet. Mind racing and ready to write some more.
The kids. How can your heart break and be full of so much joy at the same time? I think we know now. You don’t have to speak the same language to communicate clearly. Laughing, singing, and love come through loud and clear no matter the language barrier.
I don’t think one of us can put into words what we learned about human connection last week. Their eyes and their smiles spoke a million words. Some of the kids… you could see right into their souls. They wear uniforms – probably washed once a week at best, but they don’t mind. Their classrooms don’t have overhead lights, and their playground consists of 2 swings and a barely functional see-saw, but they don’t mind.
One boy in my class was having a hard time getting the heel of his shoe right, so I bent down to help. I pulled it off to fix his shoe and the entire heel of his sock was a hole. I choked back tears. He didn’t mind. (Photo below by Elise Zimmerman)
They just turned the lights out. My light goes on. Get it all out while you can still remember it, Megan.
Back to the kids. Every morning – breakfast at 7am, class starts at 8am and we meet in the playground to do yoga and wake up as a big group. “1-2 make a circle, 3-4, a biiiiig circle” they would scream with an accent as we tried to wrangle them into a large circle. They would run up to you and cling on to your leg fighting to hold one of your hands if it was free – or fighting with another kid if it wasn’t free. They would look up with their big, wide, brown eyes full of hope and excitement for the day. We would say “shine, shine, shine” to each other and feather our fingers around the circle when they were being good. Shine. Shine. Shine.
That they did.
8:45-10am we had time in the classroom working with them on a specific lesson that day with flash cards, songs and games. Some days they paid attention, and some days they didn’t. You could always expect one of the troublemakers to do something bad – eat a crayon, steal another kid’s chair, or just be loud. 10am they went to porridge and we had a tea break. Amos – our amazing cook for the week – would bring over hot water, African tea and a snack – sometimes homemade chipati or fried bread balls, fruit and toasted peanuts. 11-11:45am we had arts and crafts where we face painted, colored, cut and glued until we ran out of supplies. They would run up to us and yell “teachaaaa teachaaaa look!!!” We would gaze back with pride and awe at their creation. 11:45-12:30/1pm – they had outside time on the playground. We brought blow-up beach balls, jump ropes and bubbles, and it seemed like they could have played out there until the wee hours of the morning. We would say goodbye and head to lunch around 1pm where we would sit around the table laughing and telling our stories about our favorite kids. Something about them…
So much happiness and so little worldly belongings. We have a lot to learn from their culture. You can’t miss what you never had. Some of the kids had never had a nice notebook or played with a beach ball. Some had never seen fingernail polish and they would rub our fingers and stare at them with amazement. Some would braid your hair or just rub your hair because their heads are shaved. They were so appreciative of what we brought. They were appreciative of our time and love. Maybe they didn’t fully understand – hell, we didn’t even know why we were going (we knew our purpose, but didn’t have an agenda and set schedule until we arrived). We didn’t know what our days would look like, but in the end, I hope we spread some joy. Sometimes you have hopes of going to do some good, maybe change some lives, but really you are the one that is changed.
(BW photo above by Elise Zimmerman)
A fourth of a glass of white wine and my mind is still replaying all of memories of the week. I keep rewinding them like an old tape player.
On our first night after working with the kids, we had a parents night. The parents of some of the children gathered in white fold out chairs on the school grounds. Brittany – our fearless leader – explained why we were there and announced that we had fundraised to provide the teacher’s salaries for a year as well as a new van for the school. They clapped. A few stood up one by one and voiced their thanks to us as well as discussed school matters in Swahili. Then came the eating – always the eating with the East Africans. We insisted the parents, teachers and heads of the school go through the line first. At the beginning of the food line, there was a yellow water cooler filled with tap water where each person rinsed their hands before the meal. They took a paper plate and piled their plates high with rice and meat (probably goat) and everything else that was offered. After all of the teachers and parents had been served, we – the marengos (white people) – formed a line, washed our hands and tried as best as we could to fill our plates too. Much to our surprise, they had no silverware so we used our hands. We lined one of the stoops of the school directly in front of the parents and ate while they finished their plates. We felt strange. They served us on glassware and Amos – the humble and amazing cook – brought out napkins for “his guests.” Afterwards we laid out the kid’s artwork as the parents proudly came to find their child’s work. We tried to mingle with some of them, take pictures and talk in broken English. We waved goodbye as many of them left and we headed back to the house for yet another meal.
This snapshot has real significance. As we sat in front of the parents – we felt awkward and on display… But today as we pulled our luggage into the front room with sweat dripping down our backs – Mama Lucy came out to say goodbye. She cried. We cried. She had to step out she got so emotional. There were a lot of thank you’s and please come backs and we wills. She told us that never before had white people served and cleaned up after them. Never. There were more tears and some of us tried hard to choke back the emotions we had knowing that once we started crying – we probably wouldn’t stop.
Mama Lucy then explained to us that she had a gift for us – that it wasn’t much, but to an African – it was everything. It was a kanga. A kanga is used to wrap a newborn baby in… a man presents his fiancé a kanga when he asks for her hand and presents one to the mother as well. They are used to shroud a bride on her wedding day and many people bring kanga to the mother of the bride. They are also used to celebrate a funeral and death. It stands for a celebration of life and love. Each African came over to one of us and wrapped us in kanga. The significance of these beautiful cloths is that you are always wrapped in love even if you are apart from those you love.
Only 2 hours in to the first flight. A long way to go. Down to half a glass of wine. Still a long way to go.
The secondary school. This was day 2, and probably the hardest. We arrived and the headmaster showed us around the school and specifically wanted us to tour the dormitory that burned down earlier this year. I could almost hear the hearts break as we walked through the room of soot and belongings that had been destroyed. The headmaster explained how 50 of them live in one room and some are sleeping in a classroom now because of the fire. These children are boarded here because they have to travel too far. Africa is a very, very big continent.
We came back to where they had chairs set up for us. They had a fine-tuned schedule that quickly went out the window. African time is very loose to say the least. 10 minutes could mean 45. 3pm sometimes means 5pm.
They performed a song, dance and play for us, but by the end we felt like privileged white people being solicited for money. It was a rough day.
We didn’t know this would happen – no one did. We wanted to come, share food and community. They do need money, but this wasn’t our specific purpose. We did get to feed the boarders a meal with meat – something they usually only get once a year… They usually eat a diet of maize, stiff porridge, rice and the occasional vegetables. In the end – the takeaway was more positive than negative because of human connection. They freaked out over mechanical pencils, and we ended up laughing, dancing, sweating and working out together.
There’s a movie playing on the airplane. It’s old and there are subtitles. I can’t see it at all. I make a note to go to the eye doctor when I’m back. I pull out my phone to look at some pictures.
I have so many moments burned into my mind of this last week both in my mind and on film, but being able to communicate the human connection – both with the kids and people here and the people I’ve traveled with – is next to impossible. Hopefully some of these images will help…
I got caught up in editing photos. Inching closer to 4 hours on this flight. 2 more to go.
I almost forgot about the market. We went to the market on Sunday to check out the local produce, and I was seriously impressed with the array of fresh picks. It wasn’t as busy as I had imagined, but bursting with colors. There were fruits, vegetables and pastas in rainbows shaped like X’s and O’s and the alphabet. There were beautiful people with wide smiles trying to sell you whatever they had at their particular stand. There was everything from dried fish and knick knacks to cleaning supplies and every fruit imaginable. It was lovely.
It’s been a whirlwind. I had to leave writing for awhile. We’ve been traveling for over 30 hours and still aren’t home yet. Perspective. Little problem compared to some.
Does this culture think they have problems? They seem pretty happy to me. These people don’t have much when it comes to material possessions, and they are some of the happiest people alive. Some can only afford to buy 1 avocado a week at the market if that, and foods like meat and peanut butter are expensive treats. The kids beg to have their pictures taken because they don’t have smart phones and cameras readily available. There aren’t washers and dryers – you wash your clothes by hand and hang them to dry. A family rarely has a refrigerator so any kind of dairy or keeping fruits and veggies fresh is out of the question.
On the other side of this – their clothes smell like the sun, their food is always homemade and fresh from the market the day of. They don’t get caught up in social media, politics or anything of that nature. Maybe they have it figured out.
Flight canceled to Nashville. Nightmare. Re-routed through Miami and finally get back home around midnight. Exhausted beyond belief. Again, perspective.
I couldn’t have taken this trip without the support of so many. If you’re reading this right now – THANK YOU. This trip forever changed me. You have helped provide a new van for the kids to get to school, and now the ones that live too far away to walk will have a way to commute. You also have helped provide the teacher’s salaries for the next year so that these sweet ones can continue to have an education.
12 strangers forever stitched together by a couple of common threads – 1. Our friend Brittany and 2. The want to make a difference. Now we are rafiki – friends – who share an unbelievable and indescribable week of connection, love, heartache, belly laughs, chewed up crayons, ruined shoes, long skirts, braided hair, new words, too many carbs, lots of sweat and even more tears. Together we CAN.
Shine, shine, shine, my friends. Shine on.
Okay people. I can’t ever make this bread again because it’s SO good that I literally ate almost all of it. Sorry I’m not sorry. It’s light and dense and healthy and amazing and sweet and wonderful. There aren’t enough adjectives in the dictionary. So, bottom line – you should make this and then eat it. Maybe you should share a couple of pieces if you can. Or not. Totally up to you. Let me know how you like it!! I adapted it from the Food.com’s not so healthy version and just turned it into paleo banana bread! Enjoy!
- 1 1⁄2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup oats
- 2 mashed really ripe bananas (the riper the better!)
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 (or more!) cups chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 350. Spray a bread pan well with coconut oil spray.
- Honesty – there was no rhyme or reason to how I put these ingredients in the food processor… I added them all in except the chocolate chips and mixed!!
- Fold in the chocolate chips and pour into the bread pan!
- Bake at 350 for 40 min or until you can stick a fork through and it comes out clean.
I love summer!! And I love Tuesdays during the summer!! My favorite part about Tuesdays is the 12 South Farmers Market !! Every Tuesday from May until November, I mosey on over to Sevier Park around 3:30 with one of my friends and her daughter, and we shop the market for fresh finds. I LOVE going over there – from flowers to spices to farm eggs – it’s all there.
When I really started attending the farmer’s market and using different and FRESH ingredients – I found that the difference between FRESH food and store bought is unreal. It’s easy to say that, but until you taste a fresh egg and see that bright yellow yolk in comparison to a store bought egg…well, just go do that and get back t me. :).
One thing that I challenge everyone to do is to go to your local farmer’s market and try to make a dish entirely or almost entirely from ingredients bought at the market. It won’t disappoint! You have to do very little to good food to make it taste great.
Here is a simple summer salad that I whipped up with almost every ingredient from the farmers market!! This is cranberry maple crusted chicken over fresh greens with a balsamic blueberry basil vinaigrette. (Say that 5 times really fast!) I topped it with avocado, roasted cashews, salt and pepper, and a little more basil!
For the chicken (from Triple L Ranch) I used the cranberry maple spice rub from Galena Garlic Company and baked at 350 for 30-40 min or until done. You can throw the cashews on another baking sheet and roast for 5 minutes or so and have them ready to garnish. For the dressing – I used 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of #galenagarlic balsamic vinegar, a handful of blueberries from Kelley’s Berry Farm, 1/8 cup of fresh basil from Delvin Farms and salt and pepper. Food process this until smooth. The lettuce is from Bountiful Blessings Farm and the beautiful flowers are from Local Blossoms!!
So there you have it, a simple summer lunch or dinner that will make you sit on the edge of your seat until the next Tuesday comes around and you can go back to the market! I dare you to go to your local farmer’s market and make an entire meal from what you find. Let me know how it turns out!
I created Inspotats to help inspire people… to help them remember their WHY… to help them wear their inspiration on their sleeves… to help them stay motivated doing whatever they are doing. I want people to look down at their arm or wrist and physically SEE that reminder to KEEP GOING. That was my vision, that has been my goal. The stories that have started coming in are incredible, and I wanted to share this one in particular.
A month or so ago I got an email from Becky who shared her story, and her brother’s story with me and how they wanted to use Inspotats to help honor him. I’m going to let Becky tell you in her words about her brother Jimmy, about his life, his sacrifice, and her dedication run…
Earlier this year, we honored our brother, son, friend, teammate Army Staff Sergeant James Moriarty, better known as “Jimmy,” by running Ragnar Luckenbach. This past November, Jimmy, alongside Sergeant First Class Matthew Lewellen and Staff Sergeant Kevin McEnroe, was tragically killed while on active duty in Jordan.
Last year, Jimmy recruited half a Ragnar team, all connected through him in a unique way: a friend from childhood, one from high school, one from college, another from the Army, and one from his family. With Jimmy as the anchor, the entire team meshed seamlessly, despite not knowing each other before. At his memorial service, the team vowed to run Ragnar again #forJimmy. We pulled together a full team of 12 runners and 2 van drivers in record time. Friends and family were more than eager to participate.
As we relayed our way through 200 miles of the Texas Hill Country, Jimmy continued to be our anchor and inspiration. Despite lost runners, major blisters, sore legs and little sleep, we managed to power through and placed 2nd in the co-ed division and 6th overall! Thanks to Inspotats for the inspiring tattoos, a gentle reminder to us and those around us of what we were running for.
Born and raised in Houston, Jimmy attended the University of Texas where he majored in economics and was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2011, where he successfully made it through Qualification Course to become a Green Beret and member of the elite 5th Special Forces Group, based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. An avid runner and Ragnar alum, proud Longhorn and even prouder Army soldier, he is survived by his sisters Rebecca Moriarty and Melissa Moriarty, and his parents, Cindy Moriarty and James R. Moriarty.
Becky – God bless you and your family. May Jimmy’s memory continue to live on and inspire many out there. I am so sorry for your loss, and with deepest sympathy – I thank you, Jimmy, along with many others – for giving the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
To learn more about Inspotats or order your custom inspirational tats – you can visit our website here – INSPOTATS.
26.2 miles. Sometimes that distance can feel easy and accomplishable, and sometimes that distance can feel like 1,000 miles. A marathon all comes down to a perfect storm of everything going your way on that particular day. Even if you’ve trained, put the hours and mileage in – everything can unravel by just one thread. The weather has to be suited for you, you have to have something that settled on your stomach the night before, you have to have enough sleep, the right gear, hydrated, no injuries or flare-ups, your mind has to be in the right place…the list goes on and on.
26.2 miles. You can learn a lot about yourself in that distance. You have 3+ hours (give or take an hour or 2) to bargain with yourself, hurt, feel great, want to cry, wonder why you’re doing this, think happy thoughts, soak it in, get a little lost…among a lot of other feels. It’s amazing what the mind will do in only a few hours. The power of positive thinking is a real thing, and if you don’t believe that – go run a marathon and then we’ll talk.
26.2 miles People ask me why I run…. and why do I run marathons? (Answer to follow.) Do marathons hurt? Yes. Do you really have to train? Yes, if you want to somewhat enjoy it. Do I think YOU could do it? YES. So, going back to the first question…why do I run and do marathons in particular. I run because it’s my zen, it’s my “me” time, it’s where I figure things out or catch up with a friend or come up with song ideas. I run because I feel free. I run for others. I run because it’s a privilege. I run marathons because only 1% of the world’s population will ever run a marathon. While I’m on this earth – I may not make huge waves, but I want to live an extraordinary life and be an example that you really can accomplish anything if you 1. Want it badly enough and 2. Do it the right way. That is why I run.
26.2 miles. Humbles me… Every. Single. Time. If every race were easy and a good race – then PR’s wouldn’t mean so much… BQ ing wouldn’t mean so much… You have good days and you have bad days. Even on the bad days…especially on the bad days – I have to think about how I’ve always been a runner. If you run – you’re a runner. I didn’t become serious about trying to improve my time until last year. I had never even step foot on a track until last year. So, I went from a track virgin to a Boston qualifier in less than a year. If you’re reading this – let me be living proof that if you want something – really want something – no matter your age – you can do it. ANYTHING.
26.2 miles. BOSTON. This marathon was a tough one for me. I started out trying to run the 7:30 pace that my coach wanted me to and couldn’t maneuver around people…so for the first 4-5 miles I was mad and used up a lot of energy that I really needed later. I felt behind before I could even get ahead. I felt defeated before the race even really started. By mile 10 I knew I was too far behind to PR or to qualify again. It was HOT. It was HILLY. The medical tents were packed, and I didn’t want to be one that had to stop by one. At some point, I decided to try to enjoy it. I texted people, called a couple of people, took pictures, took Instagram stories and videos, and tried my hardest to soak it in. I knew I’d finish – not with a good time – but I’d finish. And that’s exactly what I did.
26.2 miles. Almost there. I rounded the corner on to Boylston and thought about all of the runners before me and those to come after me… I thought about the moment I qualified for this race… I thought about 2013 and the moment I heard and felt the boom in my chest from the bombs…. I soaked in all of the people on the sidelines yelling for me…. I looked at the man beside me who was injured and hobbling to the finish… I thought about my WHY. Did I have a good time? NO. Did I have a good run? YES. Would I want it any other way? Of course I’d prefer a better time, but all in all – I soaked it in. I am honored, I am grateful, I learned something with every mile, and I was reminded that I am STRONG. I am Boston Strong.
26.2 miles. BOSTON. I’ll be back for you again one day…
First things first – CONGRATULATIONS to all of the participants of the New Year’s Revolution Challenge! You all blew me away with how hard you worked out and how committed you were to eating a Whole30 or Paleo-compliant diet. For those of you who have read my blog before, you know that I have done Whole30 several times and I know firsthand the difficulties this kind of lifestyle change (it isn’t a diet!) can bring. Asking me to give up chocolate is a big deal! But I also know firsthand how incredibly rewarding it is to truly care for your body by nourishing it with whole, natural foods. I know how much better my body feels on Whole30 – during the day when I’m active but also at night when I sleep…so it was very exciting for me to see so many of my clients experience this change for themselves. In total, participants lost a combined 54.3 lbs and 27.9% body fat. Holy crap!!! That’s so awesome! Here are the final results… special congrats to Emily for being the overall winner, and to Derek for hitting his goal of going from 12% body fat to 8%!!!
Body Fat % lost
People – I don’t sell a bikini body, I promote a HEALTHY LIFESTYLE…and that’s exactly what these incredible people did in just 6 weeks. THEY CHANGED THEIR LIVES.
“I realized how much my diet affects every single aspect of my life.”
One of the most common statements in their responses after this challenge was the realization that what you eat makes such a significant difference. Most people have heard that getting and maintaining a healthy body is 20% exercise and 80% nutrition, but it is a hard claim to believe that until you live through that change yourself. And it isn’t just about losing weight. We TRULY are what we eat, and I think Whole30 makes you really realize what you’re putting in your body MATTERS. The food we consume is what gives us energy to go about our lives, so the better food we eat, the better lives we are going to have.
To read the full responses of some of the participants, just keep scrolling!
1. What did you learn/experience from this 6 week challenge?
Allison: In the six weeks, which included Whole 30, I realized how much my diet affects every single aspect of my life – from my sleep to my moods to my mental sharpness and my energy for workouts. Changing my diet made every part of my life better and gave me the energy I needed to work out harder and more often.
Emily: I learned that it really IS all about what you eat. I had always been able to exercise my way around all the baked goods I wanted to eat, but after getting older and having a baby, that just didn’t work anymore.
I also learned that you can do anything for 30 days/6 weeks. I really DON’T need a glass of wine (or 3) after a long day. I really DON’T need a snack every time I walk through the kitchen. I really DON’T need to bake (and eat) brownies to make myself feel better or to show others I care about them.
I have also given up my guilt about food, for the most part. I used to feel so bad about myself and bad in general when I would over indulge. Now, I have a few chips or a glass of wine and don’t beat myself up afterwards. I also don’t punish myself for a “bad food choice” by saying I have to run X number of miles the next day because I ate something.
I also don’t reward myself with food or alcohol. Instead of saying “Megan really killed me today in our training session, so I can eat whatever I want tonight”, I enjoy the way that I feel and don’t want to mess it up. So I’ll try to go get a pedicure or go shopping (which is fun again!) or go to bed early knowing I’ll sleep like a baby until the baby wakes up.
I am also so much more aware of what I’m eating. I’m obsessive about reading labels and now know that just because something is organic or purchased from Whole Foods doesn’t mean there’s not added sugar. I also don’t unconsciously finish off my 1 year old daughters Mac and Cheese or muffin, etc. All the little things really do add up.
I’ve learned that how I feel now is the best reward that I could ask for.
Brian: I became more aware of what I ate and how my body responded to it. I felt like I had good results and became more disciplined on every aspect of my life because I wanted to see and more importantly feel the change.
Derek: Meaningful changes can occur in a short period of time
Katie: I learned how my body feels running on different types of food. The whole 30 process was really eye opening.
2. What was the hardest part of the challenge?
Allison: The hardest part was losing convenience. I did not have cravings for non-compliant food, but I craved the convenience of takeout or a sandwich instead of planning ahead to make sure I was eating clean foods.
Emily: The biggest challenge was the pressure of social situations. It’s really no fun to meet girlfriends for happy hour if you’re not drinking or eating chips and dips! I told lots of folks that I’d need to take a raincheck on their invites until mid-February! I really became a bit of a hermit for the first part of the challenge because I didn’t trust my willpower and didn’t want to be seen as “not fun”. But by the end, I would go out and just drink water and eat before I went so I wasn’t tempted.
It was also a challenge when I would go home to visit my family and have to turn down my Nana’s sweet tea, my mom’s delicious cooking and my dad’s stellar wine cellar. All of which are things that I associate with being at home.
Brian: Learning to relearn the power of food and not just looking at the big picture but just one day at a time. Small victories lead to major wins!
Derek: The diet; It was the hardest but most important part.
Katie: Finding time in my day to workout and then having the motivation after a long day of work!
3. What would you say to/advise someone wanting to make changes?
Allison: My advice for anyone challenging themselves with a certain goal “deadline” like a six week kickstart program is to have a game plan for after your goal period is over. I had such success in my six weeks but I have struggled to stay committed in the weeks after because I realize now I had no goals or plan for my life after the revolution period.
Emily: [M]y advice for others embarking on this journey: you need a village. I would not have been successful if my partner wasn’t committed to this as well and was eating, and for the most part, preparing our healthy dishes. The encouragement from the FB group made a huge difference as well – knowing there were others who were doing this as well or had done it before. When I did go visit my family, my mom made sure she stocked up on things I could eat and no one ever pressured me to “just have X”. My friends all told me how proud they were of me when I would meet them out and drink water.
Brian: Get your mind right first. You need to want it in order to make it really happen. Baby steps and have realistic goals. We all want instant results, it’s more of a lifestyle change which long term will provide a heathy, happy life. Having a support system/ coach def helps! It’s a team effort.
Derek: Make small, attainable goals so you don’t get discouraged.
Katie: Try the whole 30. If you are focused on being healthier it is the way to go. You have nothing to lose!
4. What will you continue to do from here on out?
Allison: I am continuing to make better choices in my diet and working out more often. I have mixed in Orange Theory and Bar Method along with my Megan workouts and trying to be more active. I plan to do Whole 30 again soon!
Emily: My plan going forward is to stay Whole 30 compliant 80% of the time but not sweat it when I go off plan. But I’m also not going to go all out and “eat all the things”. I’ve added back in some sprinkles of cheese on salads, a few glasses of wine here and there and, ok, a few margaritas, but only one at a time! I’m still trying to avoid gluten and sweets/baked goods. But when you feel this good, it’s really not worth it! I’ve heard that for years, but now I really believe it. This momma needs a good night of sleep every night!
Brian: I want it more. This process has opened my eyes more than you will ever know. You only get one body/ one life, why not maximize it? The past 6 weeks has improved my life on every level and allowed me to achieve more. It’s been unbelievable and like I mentioned before eye opening. It’s not easy but it’s about the commitment.
Katie: I have transitioned a little to Paleo. I have also kept up with weight training three days a week.
Can you believe these amazing people?! It makes my heart beyond happy to share what these people did in just 6 short weeks. Most of them have set goals from PRing a half marathon to losing a few more to building some serious muscle… THIS is what makes me grateful every day to do what I do. THESE PEOPLE continue to inspire me and hopefully you as well. Stay tuned – I will be doing another 6 week challenge soon! Congrats again to everyone who participated and changed their life – I am SO proud of you, and so grateful to be a part of your journey.