November 15: in my own skin

For so many years, I’ve been uncomfortable in my own skin. I’ve been the one behind the camera, behind the scenes, hiding.

This year, more than I can ever remember, I’ve found myself handing the camera to someone else…getting in the picture…feeling confident in my clothes and in myself. I’ve even posted a few self portraits. Full body self portraits that are unposed, unplanned and unedited. It’s crazy.

I know it has a lot to do with my weight-loss, but I believe it also has a lot to do with my paleo diet. I’ve lost weight before, but never felt this comfortable with my body and my emotions. I’ve had struggles, especially with the emotional losses I’ve endured these past few months, but I’ve also been able to find tools to help and to turn it around more quickly.

This is a very good place to be, and I’m so thankful to have finally make it here.


five for friday: 08.17.12

five things that are making my life better right now…

This boy is back, and he says things like…

“Aunt Sam, it’s a good thing I came back. You need me! I smell things”
(while helping me cook)

“Oh, what a cute hamster”
(when looking at a picture of himself, of course)

“Finally! That’s where I’ve been sposed to be.”
(upon stepping on my scale and hearing that he weighs 38.4 pounds)

And this one started high school.

High school.

And so far, after one whole day, she’s loving it. All of her classes have at least one friend, she knows her schedule already and she’s excited.

She’s also the fifth generation in my family to attend DPHS, and I think that’s kind of amazing. Half of her teachers taught when I as there, though I never had any of them. And Aunt Carrie also happens to teach freshman English, and it’s just nice as a mama to know you’ve got someone watching out for them.

This one’s had a rough summer, after a rough year. He’s having some severe stomach issues – that he’s undergoing some extensive testing for – and some other stressors, and we made the decision last week to do virtul school with him. I’m not totally comfortable with the decision yet, but I know it’s what he needs right now. He’s been so sick since we moved back to California, and ultimately I know we need to find out why. His first day is a week from Monday, and he’s truly looking forward to school. After a long year of fighting to get him there each and every day, that’s enough.

Still loving Turbo Fire, almost seven weeks in. Also, loving my Polar FT4 heart rate monitor. And yes, that’s duct tape on the toes of my shoes – too much friction to do some of the turns and kicks without it. I’m a little frustrated that I’m still losing weight so slowly, but I can’t believe how much stronger I am and I know I’ve had some serious muscle development.

recipe here (big thumbs up from us)

And I’m still loving my paleo/primal/ancestral/anti-inflammatory way of eating, and considering another Whole30 soon. I love that I have energy and clarity of mind to deal with all of the craziness life throws at me. And seriously, if you’re interested in learning more about what it’s all about, please pick up a copy of Practical Paleo. Out of all of the books I’ve read on the subject – and there have been a lot – this one is just incredible. I wish it had been out a year ago when I started my own reading. Awesome recipes, solid info, infinitely adaptable…amazing.

What are you loving today?

And I promise – more regular blogging coming…soon. Still trying to get our new school year schedule figured out.

August goals

It’s August.

We did a little back to school shopping yesterday, for my freshman. I can’t tell you how over-whelmed I am by that. I am not possibly old enough to have a freshman in high school, and she is not possibly old enough to be a freshman in high school.

I always wonder how our lives can possible get crazier…and then they do. Back to school for the kids, a second church to pastor for Tom, more needs to fit in our busy hours, and hopefully back to school for me. I’m still not sure how it’s all going to work or what our days will look like, but I do know I’ve got to be on track with my eating and exercise to even attempt it all.

So I set a few goals for August.

Because, you know, my summer ones have just gone so well.

And by well, I mean mostly not at all…except the house isn’t a disaster and we’ve actually been eating fairly well.

But for myself, this month I plan to:

  • continue with month 2 of my Turbo Fire plan – which is harder and longer and will require me being up by 6 once school starts
  • lose 5 pounds – although more would be nice, but I’m being realistic
  • walk or swim 3-4 evenings a week – which seems to be helping me sleep better, burns a few extra calories and just seems to help my mental health in general
  • keep eating the way I have been, but cut back to 2 servings of fruit a day – funny, I think this will be the hard one. all of the fruit I love is in season right now, but I know I need to keep my sugar and carbs a little bit lower than I have been.

Have you set any goals this month? I’d love to hear about them! If you want to share, I’ll try to post a weekly check-in.

menu plan monday: 07.30.12

This Sunday, my husband officially becomes the pastor of two congregations.

The kids go back to school here in two and a half weeks.

If everything works out, I go back to school the week after that to pursue a degree in nutrition.

And I can’t figure out where the heck summer has disappeared to.

This week’s menu plan is a little bit all over the place. It’s the end of what seems like a really long month when it comes to budget. It’s going to be busy and we’re going to be out of town a few days. Some of these meals might be dependent on when I can sneak in Costco and grocery trips.

So…this is probably more of a loose goal than an actual menu plan. As in the past, our meals are predominantly paleo or primal in nature (come back tomorrow if you want to know a bit more about what I’m eating now and why). We do, on occassion, enjoy sweet or red potatoes, sometimes white rice in small amounts and corn when it’s fresh and extra yummy. And I generally double the amount of meat I cook for each dinner in order to have leftovers for lunches.

Grilled Chicken
Corn on the cob

Mushroom Gravy Slow Cooker Roast
Mashed Cauliflower
Roasted Potatoes (for the kids)

Lemon Herb Rubbed Chicken
Cucumber Salad
Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Doctor’s appointment an hour away – either eating out or all beef hotdogs

Red Curry Glazed Chicken Skewers
Roasted Cauliflower (drizzling with coconut oil and my favorite vadouvan spice mix )
White Rice (for the kiddos)

Lime and Basil Beef Kabobs
Whatever fruit we have on hand

Mom’s Night Off/Leftovers

What’s on your meal plan for this week?


It’s been nearly two years since I cut gluten out of my diet as an experiment, hoping it would alleviate some of my fibromyalgia symptoms.

The result? After just a few days of my gluten-free diet, I was convinced I was never actually suffering from fibromyalgia – just a severe gluten intolerance.

Two years later, I still am.

Ten months ago, I went paleo after six months of vegeterianism/veganism and the results have been even better than I’d hoped. My energy levels – always iffy at best – are constant and high, my emotions are under control for the first time in my life, I’m actually present in my own life and I haven’t had anything resembling a fibromyalgia symptom in a really, really long time. I’m working out harder now than I ever have before and I’m seeing results.

But I’m not sure what to call my diet anymore.

I’m not strictly paleo or primal. With these harder workouts, I’ve felt the need for more protein – but just can’t stand to eat more meat. I’ve been adding in small amounts of cultured dairy, and my body is responding just fine to it. That puts me in the primal camp, but I’ve also been playing around a bit with occasional white rice and as a once in a long while food, it’s been okay and adds a bit of variety.

I am constantly tinkering and experimenting, trying to find where I feel my absolute best, and I think that’s been the biggest benefit of this past year. In a sense, I’ve reset my body – I’ve learned what foods I do well with and which ones I don’t, and I’ve learned to recognize them pretty quickly.

I still don’t know what to call it.

I’ve begun telling people I follow an anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense diet. It’s not about eating just what hunter-gatherer’s ate and it’s not dogmatic – for me it’s really been about eliminating inflammatory foods, focusing on good fats and properly raised produce and meats as our budget an afford them…but ultimately, it’s about discovering how foods affect me personally.

I agree with Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of (please, please, please read their new book, It Starts with Food) – all food has either a positive or negative effect on our bodies…and there’s really no in-between. We’re either helping or hurting with every bite we take. Rather than taking part in the science experiment that is the standard American diet full of foods that are created to sit on wharehouse shelves and not to nourish our bodies, I’m experimenting on myself with real food.

It’s working.

Most days, I eat eggs for breakfast, along with a little fruit and sometimes a little meat. Lunch lately has been a sandwich wrap with good quality lunch meat, avocado, and tomatoes with some string cheese or a salad topped with the dinner before’s meat and a little olive oil and balsamic. I’ve been having a mid-afternoon snack if I’m hungry – usually cottage cheese or greek yogurt with a small serving of fruit. Dinner is protein and vegetables.

For the past month, I’ve been logging my meals in at My Fitness Pal under the username skwidlund, and my food diary is open for public view if you’re interested in what that looks like day after day. My whole purpose in logging was to keep an eye on exactly how much protein I was getting a day, but it’s turned into a great tool to keep me accountable and has jump-started my weightloss again. If you’re a member, I’d love for you to send me a friend request.

This is what’s working for me. I do think it’s important to remember that  while our bodies may have many similarities, when it comes to food we are all individuals. A whole grain, low fat diet makes me physically ill. Processed foods make me bloat and dull my senses. The vegan diet that friends thrive on left me in pain, unable to think clearly and barely able to get through the day. A super strict paleo diet is something I can thrive on, but I do just as well with a few additions. It’s taken work to get here, but I think I’ve finally found where I need to be in order to be optimally healthy physically and emotionally.

It’s a good place to be, and a great place to continue moving forward from as life is going to start getting crazier next month.

Where are you on your journey to health and wellness? Have you tried eliminating any foods that have helped or hurt you? Are you just starting our or are you an old pro?

menu plan monday: 07.16.22

It’s been over a month since I’ve committed to a menu plan, and – amazingly – the world hasn’t stopped spinning.

And we’ve eaten pretty well and usually at home.

It’s the time of year I can do that. We picked up a new grill a few months ago and, as long as we have some veggies for the side, it’s been okay. We’re finally to a week that’s going to be a little bit quieter, and I have a feeling a bit more structure will help.

As in the past, our meals are predominantly paleo or primal in nature (come back tomorrow if you want to know a bit more about what I’m eating now and why). We do, on occassion, enjoy sweet or red potatoes and sometimes white rice in small amounts. And I generally double the amount of meat I cook for each dinner in order to have leftovers for lunches.

Grilled Chicken, seasoned with Magic Mushroom powder from the Nom Nom Paleo app
Grilled Veggies (squash, onions and maybe an eggplant – all gifted from a friend’s garden)
Mushroom skewers (marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and a dash of balsamic)

Skirt Steak with Chive Butter (from Make It Paleo)
Steamed Broccoli
Green Salad

Red Curry Glazed Chicken Skewers
Roasted Cauliflower (drizzling with coconut oil and my favorite vadouvan spice mix )
White Rice (for the kiddos)

Rosemary Pot Roast with Cauliflower Butter Rice
Green Salad

Lemon Herb Rubbed Chicken
Cucumber Salad
Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Pineapple Bacon Burgers
Whatever vegetables are left in the fridge

Mom’s night off/leftovers

I’m excited – there are a few new recipes in there for the week. Anything new in your kitchen?

the summer crazies


I’m afraid to check the date on my last blog post – I know it’s been a while.

Just checked and it’s worse than I thought: it’s been exactly a month.

In my defense, can I just say that – short of months when I had new babies or was moving – it’s been the busiest month I can remember.

We had our churches annual conference and were out of town for four days…and I’m still pondering and praying about that and hoping to post about soon.

Followed immediately by Vacation Bible School…which I’m still pondering and praying about and planning to post about soon.

There was the Fourth of July and doctor’s appointments…a lingering cold…special church meetings…more doctor’s appointments even further away…culminating in a fun day yesterday with my parents and nephews to Old Town Sacramento to visit the Railroad Museum.


All of my brilliant plans for the summer have been thrown out the window…mostly. The kids are helping with chores quite a bit and earning rewards, but our schedule has been a mess our of necessity. I think we’re finally moving into a slower season of this summer, and I’m so thankful.

I’m also kind of impressed with myself, I have to admit.

I chose to go hardcore paleo again about a month ago, after realizing I felt like garbage and my weight was slowly starting to creep up after the stress of this spring. I also made working out a priority again, starting with a Couch to 5K app and then moving on to Turbo Fire for the last two weeks. I’ve also been tracking my eating for accountability on My Fitness Pal (my username is skwidlund if you want to friend me). More on all of this coming soon, I promise!

And while I’ve lost a few of those pounds again and absolutely love Turbo Fire, even more importantly, I’ve made it through this crazy month without any sort of emotional breakdown or anxiety – and even with an annoying cold, I’ve had consistent energy levels.

Those are the biggest wins of all.

I’m not just surviving what’s been a crazy summer, I’m thriving through this crazy summer.

That’s huge, knowing that come August our lives are going to get a little bit crazier.

I’m comfortable – for once – saying bring on those crazies!

I’m ready.

Menu Plan Monday: 05.21.12

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve gotten a menu plan together and, as always, we’ve paid for it. In the past 3 weeks, we’ve had three houseguests and enjoyed a short vacation, and have had just a whole lot of running around going on. With only three more weeks until summer break and the start of our No Excuses Summer, I’m working hard to get my own daily schedule in place and some bad habits taken care of before the kids are home all day.

A menu plan is always one of the best places to start.

I’m also working on keeping meals a little simpler – we were able to pick up a new barbecue, which will help immensely, and I’m starting to see farm stands pop up with awesome (and cheap!) vegetables. As I always do at the beginning of summer, I’m craving simple and fresh meals.

Fajitas (just dumped on a big salad for me, with corn tortillas for the kids)
Tossed Green Salad

Grilled Chicken, seasoned with Magic Mushroom powder from the Nom Nom Paleo app (which is brilliant, by the way)
Grilled Squash – I have a bit of a glut already and summer isn’t even here yet!
Grilled Sweet Potatoes

All beef, no weird stuff hot dogs
Carrot sticks

Skirt Steak with Chive Butter (from Make It Paleo)
Steamed Broccoli
Green Salad

Red Curry Glazed Chicken Skewers
Roasted Cauliflower (drizzling with coconut oil and my favorite vadouvan spice mix )
White Rice (for the kiddos)

Easy Chicken Cacciatore
Quinoa pasta for the kids
Spaghetti Squash for me

Mom’s Night Off – leftovers or whatever you’re capable of making on you’re own

What’s your plan for this week?

five for friday: you need to eat like a dinosaur

Rat on a Stick, done as burgers, served with Zucchini Latke buns. I’m calling them Red Curry burgers because I can’t handle that name. *shudder*

I’ve been reading the Paleo Parent’s blog religiously since I found it early last fall. In fact, it was Stacey’s success story that convinced to stop researching paleo and start eating paleo. Along the way, I’ve fallen in love with their focus on family friendly ancestral eating and how hard they work to share what they’ve learned. I appreciate that they work so hard to create paleo treats and kid-happy meals, knowing that it’s not easy for anyone – especially kids – to make this transition.

It was a given I was going to have to pick up a copy of their book Eat Like a Dinosaur as soon as it came out.

Teriyaki Jerky – why did it take us so long to start making our own jerky!

This is more than a cookbook. There’s a lot of solid information about going paleo. There’s a great storybook section for younger kids to help them understand why they eat differently than their friends (my 3 year old nephew was enthalled with the illustrations). And there are the recipes.

I love a good recipe.

Kale, Bacon and Olive Pie – Easy, fast to throw together, delicious.

Even more than that, I love a good recipe that I can take and make my own. Every recipe I’ve made so far from Eat Like a Dinosaur is one that’s given me ideas for ways I can adapt it.

Golden Nuggets and Zucchini Latkes – a new family favorite

Those zucchini latkes? I made them twice. In three days. Instead of sweet as the recipe directed, I went savory – replacing the honey and spices with minced onion and garlic and a pinch of vadouvan (they’re divine and a perfect pairing with my chicken and cauliflower curry). The kale, bacon and olive pie? Swap out those items for sausage, mushrooms and spinach, or Canadian Bacon and diced artichoke hearts.

Chocolate Chip Cookies – you won’t believe they’re actually paleo

The only recipe that I don’t intend to play with is the Chocolate Chip cookies…and that’s because they’re perfect. Seriously. Better than the best “regular” chocolate chip cookies. That recipe alone is worth the price of this cookbook.

I still have a huge list of recipes to try (50/50 bacon burgers and frozen waffles are high on that list), and I can’t wait to cook my way through the rest of this book.

And I’m hoping they’re planning a sequel!

Lenten Challenge Check-In #1


Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

I meant to get this up yesterday, but Wednesday afternoon life got a little bit more difficult…in a spiritual-attack-what-do-we-do-now-can’t-we-just-catch-a-break sort of difficult. Everything is okay – or it will be, with time – but I responded in the worst possible way.

Wednesday night, we ended up near Chick-Fil-A and I had an ice cream.

Thursday morning I woke up with the worst headache I’ve ever had in my life. Almost considered a trip to the ER but got through, knowing it was a combination of the ice cream and stress.

Thursday night, I had a bag of m&m’s, my favorite comfort food.

To be honest, they tasted weird. I’m just not used to that sort of sweet anymore and when I do eat chocolate, it’s dark that tends to be at least 85-90% cacao.

I slept horribly.

Friday morning, the difficult got even more difficult.

And I ate two donuts.

Here’s the thing: I can’t eat gluten. I don’t have celiac, but I do know I am very sensitive…I just didn’t know where discomfort turned to pain. I’ve mistakenly eaten small amounts of gluten in the past year and half, and ended up with a little mental fogginess, headaches, some minor aches and pains. Nothing too horrible and, while I know it’s something I need to just stay away from, that question of where bad hits horrible lies.

Apparently, two donuts is the line. I ended up on the couch all day, my joints hurting and anxiety mounting. My headache banging. Hands shaking. Difficulty breathing. And the aches I get a few inches on either side of my elbows and knees and hips – the ones that seem to bore into my bones and that I haven’t felt in over a year – hit hard.

In my devotional guide yesterday, I came across Isaiah 30:21 again. It’s a verse I’ve loved and held to for a long time, but one that I sort of forgot about.

I read it on just the right day. I love it when God does that.

I wasn’t looking in the right direction – instead of turning to God to get through this difficult week, I turned to food.

I forgot that He brings healing and hope and peace and sustenance.

I turned instead to things that bring pain – physically and emotionally – and guilt and frustration.

My prayer and challenge for this week: to stay tuned into that Voice, the one that keeps me on the path He has set for me toward healing and wholeness and victory.