Keto Before and After

ketogenic weight loss journey

I lost more than 30 pounds since starting the Keto Diet in October of 2017. If you’re unfamiliar… The Ketogenic Diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate way of eating that turns the body into a fat burning machine.

I’m also Pescatarian and call my way of eating “Clean Keto.” The backbone of my diet is organic leafy greens and veggies, sustainable seafood, and healthy fats. I also practice intermittent fasting and intuitive eating, which is basically just a fancy way of saying that I listen to my body and only eat when I’m hungry vs. eating at traditional meal times.

This is what an average day of eating and fitness looks like for me:

Morning: I tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with a La Croix sparkling water (Apple Cider Vinegar reduces inflammation)
Mid-Morning: Bulletproof Coffee
Gym/ Kickboxing
Early Afternoon (usually 1 or 2 p.m. post workout hunger begins to strike): 3 scrambled eggs with brie cheese and 1/2 avocado)
Afternoon: Mixed nuts snack
Early Evening: Teach group fitness class
Dinner: Fish or Shrimp sautéed in butter with a side veggie (like spinach, broccoli, zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice) and side salad with oil and vinegar dressing
Night Time Snack: A couple of squares of 90% or higher dark chocolate OR Lily’s Stevia sweetened chocolate. This brand rocks.

I also do two, mile-long walks with my dog each day. And while there’s no question that I’m stoked about the weight loss, I’m even more passionate about the way it’s up’ed my mental game. Through my own experiences, I’ve come to learn that there’s a direct correlation between food and mood, which brings me to my reason for writing today.

(If you’re mostly interested in the weight loss journey part, you can read the full story about my transformation here.)

keto before and after

A couple blog posts back, I mentioned that fateful day in 2007 when I was diagnosed with depression. When leaving the office after receiving the diagnosis, my psychologist handed me a sheet of paper which listed a variety of “good mood foods.” The list included things like salmon, nuts, and berries. It also recommended avoiding things like starchy vegetables, bread and pasta. At the time, I didn’t make the correlation between sugar & carbs being culprits in the “bad mood foods.”

The sheet of paper was prominently displayed on my fridge for years, and while I ate the “good mood foods,” I wasn’t diligent about cutting out the “bad mood foods.” Now, as I reflect on my keto journey and history with depression – I can clearly see that exercise and clean eating have always played a major role. But the clean eating part is where the discrepancies lived, in my world…

I’ve been an athlete my whole life (I played college tennis and I currently teach group fitness), and I always thought that I was “eating right.” When I was growing up, the low-fat movement was in full swing. Companies were constantly marking “low-fat” this and “low-fat” that. I thought, by choosing a granola bar over an avocado, I was doing the right thing. I never thought of fat as fuel, and no one really talked about sugar.

It wasn’t until, at age 38 when I started researching Keto, I realized sugar was the enemy in disguise. Sugar is what led to my consistent weight gain over the years. And I’m not just talking about sweet treats; I’m talking about the sugar that hides in the carbohydrates that I was so mindlessly consuming on a daily basis while thinking I was eating clean. Fat wasn’t making me fat. Sugar was! I won’t even get into the disease prevention part of it in this blog – but if you’re curious, I highly recommend the Netflix documentary The Magic Pill.

I’m embarrassed to admit that, when I was at the height of my depression, I’d sometimes “make myself feel better” with sweet treats like ice cream and candy. Little did I know that I was actually making my depression worse with these choices. Keto didn’t enter my life until I had already healed from depression (I haven’t had a depressive episode in more than a decade), but I can say, with certainty, that when I cut sugar out of the equation, my mood most definitely improved.

When I ditched the sugar and the weight began to fall off, I experienced other amazing changes too: My mental clarity skyrocketed. I was becoming more productive and getting more work done. My energy level increased. My skin cleared up. Monthly cramps went away, and I no longer craved carbs and sugar… my taste buds changed, and things that I used to love, like my favorite red wine, became too sweet. (Side note: I eat chocolate almost every day; I just make sure to get the 90% or higher cocoa kind. After my taste buds changed, this became totally satisfying, and I don’t even want anything sweeter now).

I’m a big believer in sharing the things that I’m passionate about, so if you’re looking to make one dietary change to improve your health and mood: try giving up sugar. I promise – you’ll feel so much better. And with products on the market like Lakanto MonkFruit and Swerve, you can easily make this lifestyle work for you without feeling deprived. That’s the reason why, after all these years struggling with my weight, I’m so passionate about Clean Keto. It’s been the most effective, easiest weight loss journey I’ve ever experienced. I could go on about it forever, which is why I started my own Keto Fit Tribe group on Facebook. It’s just community support and a place for us to share recipes, tips, and motivation. Join us if you feel inspired to do so 🙂

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog today.

be joyful

mural

Stepping Outside the Comfort Zone

Yesterday was a big day in my writing journey. It was the first time I received feedback from a professional editor. A couple posts back, I mentioned that I hired a pro to review my agent query packet. This was a big deal for me, for a couple of reasons…

First – I’ve never had a professional review my work before (aside from my college writing professors). Second – throughout my life, writing has been a private practice for me. Sharing my words, even with those closest to me, has been challenging. Maybe this is because, in the past, I’ve associated writing with my dark days. I wrote when I was depressed, which helped me process the pain. My journals housed my secrets and my privacy.

This is all changing now, and there’s no going back. I’m pumped to be pushing forward at full throttle, and I’ve never been more ready.

Seeing as though this book project has so much energy behind it, I experienced a mix of nervousness and excitement as I read through the editor’s comments. Here’s a brief recap:

She gave kudos to my author bio and query letter, with some minor changes. She also described my query as “very compelling with strong writing by an author who has a clear sense of purpose and vision for her project.” Naturally, this made me super happy!

As for her analysis about the manuscript itself (keep in mind: she only read the first three chapters)…  the long and short of it is this: I get to re-visit the beginning. I started my story too early, and I now realize that I can create a more compelling hook for the reader, coming out of the gate. I don’t need to give so much back story about my childhood.

Having never written a book before, I honestly didn’t know where to begin. When I started writing the book, my rationale was this: I’d rather write too much and cut sections than not write enough and feel like something is missing. It’s amazing how she clearly identified the areas where I held back and doubted myself, too. This was one of my favorite parts of her in-depth editorial analysis:
“You’re a strong writer, so stop using a crutch. Trust your skills!” This comment refers to a lengthy prologue that I wrote, which will now be re-structured or cut entirely.

The editor’s feedback helped me so much, and while I may be cutting a few thousand words from the book before I even submit the next round of agent queries, I think it’s necessary.

So, this is where I’m at… brainstorming new beginnings. My mission is to bring the reader into the story in such a way where he or she will be immediately invested. The editor also suggested that I hold off on querying agents until my manuscript is complete. This part is hard for me because landing that publishing deal is so wildly important, and I know that this will delay the process. Patience has never been my strong point, but after putting so much time and energy into the project, I want to do everything in my power to set it up for success.

I did the math, and I need to write approximately 850 words per day to reach my October 1 goal of completion. This is doable, with a heavy dose of self-discipline. It’s “go time,” friends!

As always, I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. I’ll leave you with a beautiful mantra that’s serving me in this moment:

“Everything Worthwhile Takes Time to Become”

What I’m currently listening to: The Portfolio Life Podcast with Jeff Goins 

crystals

Hiding Doesn’t Heal

I literally used to keep my writing under lock and key.

When I was in my deepest, darkest throws of depression, I wrote. This powerful outlet is one of the things that actually saved me from taking my own life.

In those days, one of my biggest fears was for someone to find and read my journal. I couldn’t bear the thought of my big secret being exposed. I knew that my thoughts weren’t healthy and that something was most definitely wrong, but I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to be told that I was damaged or broken in some way. I didn’t want to hurt my family even more after Brad’s death. They’d be worried sick if they knew I had suicidal tendencies too. A ‘depression’ or a ‘bi-polar’ diagnosis scared the hell out of me because then, it would be official. I thought, by hiding, I could trick myself into thinking that I was ok and that I could just deal with the pain on my own.

I hid for more than a decade. Only my journals knew… that is, until the fateful day when I made a teary-eyed, drunken confession to my sister. I told her that “I think the same way he did.” My sister and my mother dragged me into a psychiatrist’s office against my will shortly thereafter. I was so angry with them because of it. I was furious, in fact, because my worst fear happened: my secret was out, and I received the dreaded, ‘clinical depression’ diagnosis. But guess what? I didn’t die. And as mad as I may have been in that moment, what I didn’t realize at the time of my diagnosis was this: That was Day 1 of my healing journey. 

Now, here I am: paying a professional editor, a total stranger, to read the very same words that I so desperately wanted to hide. Last week, I dropped some cash to have a pro review my agent query packet. I’m determined to complete this book in excellence by Oct 1, secure an agent, land a publishing deal and have it out in the world by the time I turn 40 (a year from now).

I find it so ironic that, today, the desperation I once hid has completely transformed into a burning desire to be seen. I suffered in silence for a decade due to fear. I’m now speaking out because I know that there are kids hiding right now, in this very moment. I’m investing in my story because I need these kids to know that if I can heal, they can too. Teenage suicide is on the rise, and my mission is clear: I want to be a voice for the kids who can’t speak for themselves.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today. If you believe in what I’m up to, I invite you to click the ‘share’ button below. The more people I can reach, the more kids I may be able to help.

P.S. – I’m currently reading “How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying To Kill Me” by Susan Rose Blauner. I highly recommend it.

Darkness Visible

I’ve logged close to 10,000 words this week. I’m breaking only for scheduled meetings and to teach my classes. I’ve shut off the outside, with the intention of going deep within. I’m in the midst of the most challenging part of my story, and I need total focus and quiet time for contemplation, reflection and clear communication.

I’m re-visiting some of my darkest days, and tears have been flowing… not because I still feel connected to the words that I once wrote. If anything, it’s the opposite. I no longer relate to feelings of self-hatred. I know that I’m healed from depression. I’m not on medication, and I haven’t had a mental breakdown in more than a decade. I don’t believe that I’ll ever experience one again.

I shed tears because I couldn’t see the things that are so clear to me now.

I keep thinking of Brad. What would he be like today, had he stayed here in the physical realm? Would he have discovered his self-worth too? Would he look back on his life, as I am, with compassion and a new perspective?

Being suicidal isn’t pretty, and it’s an interesting thing… having your whole life on paper.

My handwritten journals house words that some might say would be better to forget. I don’t believe that to be true. I think that we need to hold up the metaphorical mirror, in an effort to move through the pain and eventually heal. We need to fight our internal demons and win. In the midst of my pain and suffering, writing was the silent best friend that enabled me to release. It helped me to purge destructive thoughts, allowing me to move them from my mind to the page. 

I feel for my shadow self, but my voice is so different now. I’m no longer the suicidal girl who couldn’t see outside of her pain. Writing this book would not be possible if I was.

Authentically sharing my story means that there may be moments when the reader might not find me very likable or relatable. This sunshine-filled, sparkly life I’ve created for myself is a far leap from my previous existence. I’m writing the book for this very reason… to serve as an example that we can transform our way of thinking, and to illustrate that hiding doesn’t heal.

I think, by making our darkness visible, we can release it once and for all.

Love,
Abby

Self Reflection

The Power of Perspective and Self Reflection

 

I logged more than 5,000 words yesterday, and I’m on schedule to have the first draft of my book finished by October 1.

I wrote about my tumultuous relationship with my first boyfriend, which led me to a realization and some soul-searching questions…

As I reflected on my journals, re-visiting the words I feverishly jotted down in my journal at age 16, I felt as though I was reading someone else’s story. There was little emotional connection to what I was reading and preparing to share. I’ve made bad decisions, and I’ve done things that I’m not proud of. I’ve since taken responsibility for the choices I’ve made which caused pain to myself and to others. (Side note: If you’re the parent of a rebellious teenager, I feel for you).

There were so many things that I can see clearly now, but I didn’t see them at all in the moment. Having never navigated the waters of a romantic relationship before, I didn’t realize that love and pain need not be intermingled. That lesson actually took me a very long time to learn. Perspective changes everything, and I think there’s great power in the realm of responsibility and forgiveness.

forgiveness

Sure, I’m older now. Many years have passed, in fact, and I’ve grown up. My views have changed drastically, as to be expected with age and life experience.

I wanted to jump through the pages, imagining they were a portal that could bring me back to the girl who I once was. I wanted to sit beside her, talk with her, and help her realize this: At any given moment, you have the ability to make a change. Make choices that empower you, instead of those that break you down. If it doesn’t feel good internally, then let it go. Check in with yourself, and trust your intuition. 

The girl who I once was hadn’t yet learned that her strength, power, and beauty were there all along. And I’m not talking about physical beauty. I’m talking about the spiritual kind – the kind of awareness that enables you to see and feel the beauty all around you at any given moment in time. The kind that forces you to contemplate your reason for being here on planet Earth. It’s the kind of beauty that, once we find it, we then have a responsibility to do everything in our power to share it with others. We never want to let that feeling go… it’s the kind of beauty that creates inspired action and a life worth living. I wanted her to see THAT kind of beauty.

beautiful sunset

So, here are the questions that surfaced after my writing session yesterday:

If babies are born pure, and they’re our closest connection to source energy (or God as you may prefer to call it), when does the human condition take over? When do we start doubting ourselves and when do we forget who we really are? How do we practice mindfulness when we don’t even know what mindfulness is? How does a young adult realize that she has the ability to change her way of thinking?

Maybe my 16-year-old mistakes needed to be made, to truly realize the value of self-reflection and the important lesson of forgiveness.

As I matured, embarking on a spiritual path in the process, I was no longer the victim of my circumstances. I’ve developed the tools necessary to deal with life’s challenges, and I’m doing my best. “My best” doesn’t always mean that I succeed in making the right choices, but at least I’m now able to learn lessons that prepare me for the next challenging circumstance that I might face.

In closing, I’ll share some wise words that my high school tennis team chanted before every match:

Good, Better, Best!
Never Let it Rest!
Until Your Good is Better
and Your Better is Best!

Thanks for taking the time to read and reflect with me, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A Letter to Brad, Twenty Years Later

Dear Brad,

I’ll never forget sitting at an outdoor bar in Cancun, Mexico with you, sipping on Long Island Iced Teas in super-sized styrofoam cups.  I was 17 and you were 18. We’d just graduated from high school, and the whole world was out there, waiting for us. I was heading to college at the University of West Florida, and you’d be off for basic training in the Navy soon.

Chatting excitedly about our futures, we imagined where we’d be in 5, 10, and even 20 years down the road. After finishing our drinks, we roamed the outdoor markets, checking out handmade goods from the local artisans. Just the two of us, drunk on tea and excited about the next chapters of our lives. You purchased two sterling silver dolphin rings that day, for your sisters… one for Shelly, and one for Chrissy.  I remember being impressed with your negotiation skills.  How did you even know how to talk those guys down on the price? I wondered. You always seemed to amaze me.

Now, here I am: Typing away on my keyboard as the summer rain pitter patters on the rooftop. I woke up thinking of you this morning, naturally. It’s been 20 years to the day, since you left us. Twenty years since you decided that your life was no longer worth living.

I’m not mad at you for the things you didn’t know. You didn’t know that LIFE DOES GET BETTER. You didn’t know the value of your own self-worth. You didn’t know that your decision was a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You must not have known how much we all loved you. And you couldn’t have possibly known the way your death would affect us.

Or maybe you did know some of these things, but the ‘knowing’ wasn’t enough to keep you here. I get it. I’ve felt this way too, and I know how painful life can be.

On that fateful day in Cancun, when we dreamed about the possibilities, I never imagined that your future would be so short-lived.  Now, 20 years later, I’ve finally accepted what is. I’m no longer resisting what happened, because clearly, we can’t change the past. But we can pave the way for a brighter future.

I’m writing a book to share our stories, Brad. I’m writing a book, and it will be dedicated to you… my guardian angel. In our memories and in our hearts is where you’ll always live now.

I love you,
Abby

 

 

 

A Love Affair

My love affair with writing began during childhood…

I was eight years old when my name was called over the loud-speaker at my school-wide assembly. I didn’t even enter the Creative Writing contest, so you can imagine the shock I experienced when I was summoned to the stage. Under the bright cafeteria lights, I still remember the sweaty palms and awkward, shaky-voiced “thank-you” as I accepted my plaque.

Apparently, my third grade teacher submitted the story. My narrative was called “A Bear Who Could Talk,” and it was about a curious little girl who wandered into the woods one evening before dinner. She encountered a young bear in the forest and immediately began to scream with terror.  But the bear assured her that he was friendly, and he promised that he wouldn’t hurt her.  The girl was amazed that the bear was so gentle and kind. A friendship quickly ensued, and every day after school, the girl and the bear met in the woods for play dates… that is, until one fateful day, when the young girl brought the bear home to have dinner with her family.

Want to know what happens next? Too bad, So sad (as my 3rd grade self would say).

I may turn the story into a children’s book one of these days, so I’ll keep the end a secret for now. I hope you don’t lose sleep over it 😉

By age nine, I was gifted my first journal. It was hard-bound, navy blue with pink flowers, and I loved it from the moment I laid eyes on it.

I wrote my first journal entry in big, bubbly kid letters on December 20, 1988:

Communicating with the journal as if it were a person still cracks me up. I also don’t know why Jessica’s birthday on December 24 had anything to do with the fact that she wasn’t Christian. Maybe I was feeling empathetic that she wouldn’t get to celebrate the Christmas holiday. And I can’t help but smile when I read the last sentence, “Grandma Albaum told me to be surprised when I open it.” To this day, my family is THE WORST at keeping secrets.  Thanks to my journals (and subsequent role as family historian), I’m blaming this not-so-great family trait on Grandma Albaum’s influence.

Then there was my ninth grade typing class. My classmates moaned and groaned about how boring it was, but for some reason, I was in my element. I loved learning how to type proficiently. How many words could I type per minute? I consistently tried to beat my personal best. The quicker I typed, the faster I could get the thoughts out of my head and onto the page. I loved the click clacking sound of my fingers moving across the keyboard, too.

Creative Writing Poetry at the University of Florida was the absolute best, though. It was a 3-hour Monday night class, and my instructor was a young, likable man with dark, messy hair and glasses. At the end of each class, we were responsible for taking our work to Einstein’s Notes (a shop that sold cliff’s notes and also re-printed materials for classes). Then, a couple of days later, we’d pick up a bound book with everyone’s work included. Our homework was to anonymously critique each other’s writing before the next class.

When we entered the room on Monday evening, we’d sit in circle and pass the books around. We’d then tear out our page and read our classmates’ critiques. I found freedom in this process. I loved sharing my work without anyone knowing it was mine, and I was constantly surprised by the comments I received. It helped build my self-confidence as a writer (as opposed to Mr. Weston’s infamous Reporting class which did the opposite).

For the next eight years, my creative writing was mostly contained to the private pages of my journals. I worked as a Public Relations practitioner and Marketing Manager, so press releases and marketing copy became the new norm. I enjoyed that too, but creative writing will always be my true love.

No other living creature has the ability to express themselves through the written word. Writing enables us to provide a glimpse into our stream of consciousness, and I think it’s one of the most powerful things we can do, as humans.

As for the journals… well, they became my trusted allies. I have 17 of them now filled with my handwritten words. These pages house my innermost thoughts, feelings and secrets. And when life was at its absolute worst, I consistently turned to pen and paper. Suffice to say that my love affair with words saved me from myself in those dark days.

Now, as I prepare to share my story in the form of a book, the word ‘gratitude’ comes to mind. I’m grateful that I can literally turn back the pages of time. I’m grateful to have captured moments with the written word that I wouldn’t otherwise remember. I’m grateful that writing saved me from myself when I was suicidal. I’m grateful that the fear of failure is no longer preventing me from sharing my words with you.

Thank you for taking the time to read and reminisce with me.

XOXO,
Abby

 

 

Dad’s Best Year

One of the things I love most about writing is that, by doing so, we get to freeze time… kind of like a photograph.  We have the ability to save the moments we cherish. And today, I experienced a moment that I’d definitely like to keep…

“Dad, out of all of the years you’ve lived, what’s your very best year so far?” I wanted to know.
“1978,” my father answered without hesitation.
“Why’s that?” I asked.

We were sitting at Cheesecake Factory, obsessively checking flight updates, trying to determine if Morgan’s flight was delayed.  Did we have just 30 minutes left with her, before she had to leave, or was it an hour and 15 minutes?  And ultimately, my dad wanted to know: Was there time for low-carb cheesecake and coffee?

“1978 was the year I married your mother,” he said.  “It wasn’t long before she was pregnant with you.”

“It was incredible,” he continued in his thick New York accent. “I mean, I know people have babies every day, but it felt like a miracle. You were my first kid, ya know?”

No, I didn’t know. I actually had no idea that my dad felt this way, but I’m so glad I asked.  Asking questions is important, and it opens up possibilities for conversations like this one.

There’s a book called Live in Wonder, by an author named Eric Saperston.  After college, Eric spent a year on the road, following The Grateful Dead and asking questions along the way.  He had the opportunity to sit down for coffee with some of the most powerful people in the world.  He wanted to find out the values they lived by, and the struggles they overcame. Ultimately, he wanted to know what advice they’d pass along, to prepare others for the road ahead.  I’m super inspired by that.  So, I recently decided that I’m going to start asking more questions.

Meanwhile, Ness was looking our way with a raised eyebrow.  She must have sensed that I was having a moment with Dad.  “But shhhh…. Don’t tell your sister that you’re my favorite,” Dad said loudly with a chuckle.  “Wait! What?!” Vanessa squealed and playfully nudged Dad in the ribs.

“But seriously,” she said. “What are you guys talking about?”

I freaking love my family.

Turns out, Morgan’s flight WAS delayed.  We got the extra time with her AND the low carb cheesecake 😉

 

Seeing With New Eyes

As living creatures, we are constantly growing and evolving.  When we are open to change, we have the ability to see things from different vantage points.  To experience this, we must first surrender control.  Then, it’s possible to find freedom in the unknown and be accepting of what is.

New possibilities are constantly available to us, and most of the time, we don’t know the details of how it will all play out.  It’s ok to not know.  Surrendering to life’s unexpected moments, challenges and opportunities is a major aspect of growth and transformation.  Coming to these realizations has enabled my book to take on new meaning; it feels like a living creature now.

My perspective has shifted during the writing process, and I finally feel as though I’m creating the book that it was always meant to be.  It looks nothing like I thought it would, when I first starting writing.

I’m sharing dark days from a place of love.

Feelings of fear, judgement, anger, resentment and guilt exist, in writing, from a different place and time.  Scribbled in hand-written journals, I reflect on the days when life was painful, and I was confused.  In those moments, when I poured my heart out on paper, I didn’t see the world as I do today.

I look through eyes of love, without self-deprecating thoughts, resentment or blame.  I am grateful for the words that I wrote years ago.  I appreciate the path of self-discovery that began with pen and paper, and I believe that light is born from darkness.

The thoughts and feelings that I had when I was depressed are long gone.  I’m not as attached to my history and my old thought patterns anymore.  When I reflect on my journals, it often feels as though I’m reading someone else’s words. I can visualize my present self sitting next to the little girl version of me, drying her tears and helping her to see that the sun will shine again.

I now get to communicate without attachment to beliefs and ideas that do not serve me or the world at large.  It feels amazing.

I think, perspective shifts in physical form too.  I just returned from a family visit to Inverness, my home town.  As a high schooler, I couldn’t wait to leave.  I didn’t see beauty in my surroundings because I didn’t see beauty in myself.

Yesterday morning, I meditated with my sister underneath an old cypress tree with Spanish moss canopies hanging overhead.  We sat cross-legged facing the lake, eyes closed, and in silence… breathing fresh air and going inward.  When the meditation ended, I had tears in my eyes as I took in the beautiful place that I will always call home.  There were butterflies dancing nearby and fuzzy little caterpillars crawling on our blanket.

Beauty and love surround us always.  Where we choose to focus is what makes all the difference.