5 Life Lessons for a Healthier Life

I have a special treat for everyone today. My first guest blogger!

The guest blogger for today is my best friend and twin sister, Lauren. Lauren was recently diagnosed with lupus. If you don’t know what lupus is, she explains it rather nicely in her post. Lauren approached me about writing a blog post about her recent journey with lupus and how it has changed her approach to life. Her journey has been focused on a healthy life and something I think we can all learn from.

5 Life Lessons I learned After Diagnosed with Lupus

I have Lupus. See, I said it.

My newly diagnosed disease can be very complex, frustrating, painful, exhausting, emotional…. simply put, a rollercoaster.

For those who do not know, lupus is a non-curable auto-immune disease which affects joints and organs.  Or how I like to think about it, my immune system is hyperactive an overachiever. My body thinks something is wrong, so my own body attacks my joints and organs. Since June I woke up with hand pain which spread to my elbows, shoulders, feet, knees and multiple joints. By September I was in so much pain I could barely put toothpaste on my tooth brush and I even dreaded my boss giving me a high five because it hurt so much. I tried everything I could think of: icing, heat, ibuprofen, chiropractor, ace bandages, massages…. Nothing helped. My family and boyfriend encouraged me to see a doctor and after three months of pain, I finally realized they were all right.

I started with an orthopedic who ruled out carpal tunnel within two minutes of our appointment and took some blood tests. The initial tests indicated a high ANA (Antinuclear antibodies which are made by white blood cells) count which led me to a rheumatologist. Within a week of taking yet another intense round of blood tests everything pointed to lupus. Even knowing my diagnosis, my symptoms continued to worsen because my body continued to be in so much stress. The week after I was diagnosed I caught a small cold which led to my largest flare up yet. I had trouble walking and was in bed for 3 days.

Over the past few months, we have been through some tough physical changes but also emotional (when I say WE I am talking about myself, my family and amazing boyfriend). Being hit with something like lupus is very difficult because we know it will be a battle I have to fight through every stage of life. However, I didn’t want to write about my symptoms. I want to express what I learned after diagnosed with lupus that everyone, lupus or not, should know.

1.     Your body has a voice.

As a college athlete (Track & Field Thrower), I put my body through so much. At the time, I was that woman who could back squat over 220 lbs. After my college career ended, I continued to compete in triathlons and half-marathons to keep my competitive drive alive. While I was proud of my accomplishments, I was in pain. Looking back and thinking about my current state, I didn’t listen to what my body really needed. Your body always gives you signs when it’s too much. Even though they are different for everyone, listen to your body. Rest is a beautiful thing.  

2.     Stress is evil. Very evil.

We all wish life wasn’t so stressful. Like many, I have a very stressful and demanding job. It pulls me in so many directions and by the end of the day I can’t seem to find the energy to do everything else I need to do outside of work. But what we all must do is figure what we need to prioritize or even walk away from. Stress doesn’t only ruin your day, but it puts strain on your body. Personally this is still a lesson is still struggle, but I have made it a huge priority to work on. Maybe it’s planning ahead or taking more moments to yourself. Figure out what works best for YOU.

3.     Everyone needs support.

Personally, I have been blessed with an amazing support system. The day I was diagnosed my entire family was already waiting for me when I got home. They didn’t overwhelm me with questions, especially since I didn’t have any answers yet, but they sat there and simply said “We are going to tame this beast”. And most of all, my boyfriend came to my door with flowers looked me in the eyes and said “I am not going anywhere. We are doing this together.” Without their support, I wouldn’t be looking at this new change of pace as positively as I am now. Some people are also blessed with support systems outside of their family whether it’s a group girlfriends, co-workers, or an organization you joined. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust to talk about something you need to get off your chest.

4.     Your body is a temple.

Everything you put into your body or put your body through will have some kind of effect on your body—good and bad. Even if you think you are young and invincible, your body will thank you in 25 years. You only get one body, treat it wisely.

5.     Celebrate little victories, too.

Two months ago, I couldn’t even open a jar of peanut butter. And just the other day I was finally able to play catch in the backyard with my boyfriend. I may have not finished running a marathon, but both him and I know being able to throw my prefect football spiral again (…now you know why he keeps me around) is an amazing stride. Celebrate your victories. It can be as simple as making it to the gym one extra day a week. Or maybe having a productive day at work. Life is short, celebrate.

I’ll leave you with the best fortune cookie I have received in the last month:

“You’re not afraid of storms, for you’re learning to sail your ship.”

Be Well,

Lauren

Lauren and I after the Color Run!

Lauren and I after the Color Run!

 

Green Monster = Healthy Fuel

I admit it. I’m not so great about eating vegetables. Yes, I know. I’m a future dietitian. But give me a little credit…I do try really hard. My goal, or rule you could say, is that we should be including at least one fruit and one vegetable with each meal. Even more so, we should be trying to consume them as part of healthy snacks as well. If you can stick to this guideline, chances are you are going to get a good amount of fruit and veggie servings.

But it isn’t always easy. Especially at breakfast for me. It was in this post that I talked about my dislike for eggs. I constantly give the recommendation of adding vegetables to your omelets to add a serving at breakfast time. But adding vegetables to breakfast gets complicated when you don’t like egg. And I know I’m a rare one, but I know others that don’t like them either! So there.

But…I have found a way! A tasty, healthy way! You have probably seen those “green” smoothies pop up every where all over Pintrest. Based on ones I have found and my own taste preference, my husband and I have come up with our own version of a green monster. Don’t judge this book by its cover. It’s green…yes, I know. REALLY green. But I promise you, this doesn’t taste green. Its base is actually a frozen banana, and I don’t even think it really tastes like banana. Give this green monster a try for breakfast, post-work out, or a snack to hold you over if dinner isn’t for another few hours. It has one serving of fruit and one serving of a vegetable. Trust. Me. Plus, it has peanut butter in it…hellllooo!

Heaven Sent Peanut Butter: Green Monster Smoothie

Green Monster

Makes: 1 Smoothie

WW+: 7 points

Ingredients: 

  • 1 ripe, frozen sliced banana (approximately 150 grams)
  • 1/4 cup non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, vanilla almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds (optional)
  • Approx. 1 cup fresh spinach

*See notes below for alternatives*

Heaven Sent Peanut Butter: Green Monster Smoothie

Add all ingredients to a magic bullet (or, your preferred blender). Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Notes: 

  • We use bananas that have gone past our preference of ripeness, then slice them and keep them in frozen bags until we are ready to make a smoothie. We always have frozen sliced bananas on hand!
  • You can really use any type of milk you would like. We don’t really use almond milk for anything but this smoothie. We have tried it will skim milk and didn’t like it as much.
  • Chia seeds are optional. I get mine from Trader Joe’s and add them to most of my smoothies. It adds additional protein, fiber, and omega-3’s.
  • You could also use vanilla greek yogurt, but I didn’t taste a big difference between vanilla or plain. Because I taste no difference, I choose the one with no added sugar.

Everything on a Pretzel Bun!

For sure one of the new trends these days in food is putting your burger, sandwich, hot dog, brat…you name it…on a pretzel bun. I happen to LOVE this trend. I love soft pretzels and putting them into bun form is like the next best thing to slice bread. Okay, it’s better than sliced bread. 🙂

I’ve had some wonderful pretzel buns and I’ve had some that don’t taste anything other than a plain old bun. Therefore, last summer I decided to venture out and try to make my own. I found this recipe over at “My Life as a Mrs.” It is a pretty long, but easy process. Worth. It. My favorite time to make these awesome rolls are when I make my yummy black bean burgers. Don’t worry, that recipe will follow shortly. But for now, make these rolls homemade for that next night you have some friends over for a burger or sandwiches. I promise these will be a crowd pleaser!

Heaven Sent Peanut Butter: Pretzel Rolls

Pretzel Buns 

Recipe adapted from: My Life as a Mrs.

  • 1 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg, lighty beaten
  • Salt, for sprinkling

Using your stand mixer and a dough hook, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. If you can’t take the temperature of the water, make sure it is warm to the touch, but not hot. (You want an environment for the yeast to work, not too hot, not to cold). Stir and allow the mixture to sit for approximately 5 minutes until the mixture is foamy.

Next, add flour, salt, and melted butter and combine well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.

Once risen, punch down the dough and place on a floured surface.

Prepare sheet pan(s) with parchment paper and set aside. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (or more if you would like smaller rolls). To shape the dough, pull the sides around to the bottom of the roll. Then, try to pinch the bottom together. Your end result will have a mostly round and smooth top of the roll and a less smooth bottom. The rolls should be able to lay flat.

Place the rolls on the baking sheet(s) seam side down with at least 1″ between each roll. They should rise a good amount so be sure you have enough room. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place and allow them to rise for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to boiling. Next, and very slowly, add the baking soda to the boiling water. If you add it too fast, it will boil over the pot very quickly! After the rolls have rested for 30 minutes, add about 2-3 rolls to the boiling water very gently. Allow the rolls to poach in the water for approximately 30 seconds on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon draining the water and place back on to the pan(s). Repeat with the remaining rolls.

Using a pastry brush, brush each roll with the beaten egg. Be sure to cover the entire roll with the egg wash–this is what will give the roll the nice brown color. Sprinkle each roll with a little salt. Using a sharp knife, cut 2 slashes into the top of each roll.

Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes on the preheated oven. Best enjoyed while still warm!

5 Wedding Things I Would Do Again

Happy Father’s Day! What a special weekend this was for us. On Friday we celebrated my dad’s birthday, and today is our 1 year anniversary & Father’s Day! We have so many things to be thankful and are truly blessed.

We decided to celebrate our anniversary yesterday, on the 15th, so we could make sure we spent some time with my dad for Father’s Day. Unfortunately, my husband’s parents live pretty far away and we weren’t able to ask off enough time from work to make it up there to celebrate. But since our wedding last year fell on Father’s Day weekend, needless to say, the day didn’t end up being dedicated to Dad as it should have been. That’s why we decided to make sure we dedicated the day this year.

Yesterday we celebrated by getting the same cake we had for our wedding. Yes, we know…you are supposed to save the top of the cake, freeze it, let it accumulate freezer burn throughout the year, and then enjoy consume it for your 1st anniversary. But we decided last year after we came back from our honeymoon that our cake was waaaaaayyy to good to let that happen. So yeah, we definitely ate it within the week of coming home from our honeymoon. Who wouldn’t want a fresh cake anyway? Yeah, that’s what we thought. Check this cake out…it’s amazing!

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Ah huh, that’s cheesecake in the middle of chocolate buttercream and marble cake. I knew you would understand.

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We also celebrated by heading to Bel Air Cantina in Milwaukee. We didn’t want an expensive, fancy restaurant. We enjoy those sometimes, but they really aren’t us at all. So we enjoyed some wonderful guacamole, tacos, sangria, and the best margarita my husband says he’s ever had!

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Throughout the day we were reminded of our amazing wedding last year. After thinking about it, I wouldn’t do anything different in planning or the day of, but if I had to pick 5 things I would make sure we did again, this is what I would recommend…

1. Remember it’s your day. There were many times when I wanted to make sure everyone was happy or make sure I was doing something the way it was supposed to be done. Then after a little bit of planning I finally just told myself that I was going to do what I wanted. I have an amazing group of friends from college. I wanted every single one of them to be apart of the wedding party but frankly, my husband didn’t have enough guys to add more bridesmaids. So I added 3 personal attendants. Did I need 3 personal attendants? Did I even need one? Absolutely not, but I wanted those 3 girls with me every step of the way. When I pictured my wedding day, I imagined all of my friends there enjoying every second alongside me and my husband. To this day, I wish that I could have had even more girls up there, but I extended my wedding party because it was important to me. So remember to do what you want. What other people thinks doesn’t matter.

2. Going on a honeymoon–wherever it is you want to go. My husband and I are both students and no doubt have lots of student loans. But we both work really hard all year long and never really just get away. The one thing I wanted was to go somewhere with a beach for a honeymoon. And that’s what I wanted. I heard from some people that I should postpone the honeymoon until we could afford it or go somewhere closer to save money. But I knew if we postponed, we would never go. So we booked that trip to an all-inclusive Jamaican resort. It was worth every penny. If it is what you want bad enough, you’ll make it work…even if it means picking up as many extra shifts at work to make up for it!

3. Leave for your honeymoon on a Tuesday. We got married on a Saturday, had a gift opening on Sunday morning, and had the rest of Sunday and Monday to recover from the weekend. It was so awesome to relax a little bit rather than rushing to get to the airport right away. Additionally, flights are usually cheaper on Tuesdays and the resort stay starting on Tuesday was a lot cheaper than Sunday. The money we saved by leaving on Tuesday allowed us to upgrade our room at the resort for the same price as leaving on a Sunday. Other couples I talked to who left immediately for their honeymoon were pretty jealous of our decision–they said they were so tired their first two days were spent sleeping anyway. If you can make it work with your work schedule…leave on a the Tuesday after. Plus, you get to push the wedding festivities a few more days out. 🙂

4. Casual rehearsal dinner that includes close family & friends. Traditionally the rehearsal dinner is for the bridal party the night before the wedding. We decided to do what my brother and his wife did and have a casual dinner at my parent’s house after the rehearsal. We invited of course the bridal party, but close family & friends who may or may not live in the area. Living 6+ hours away from my husband’s hometown leaves us only seeing some of his friends and family a handful of times each year. With the casual dinner, we were able to see and talk to a lot of people, especially those we don’t see much. The night of your wedding, there is never enough time to talk to as many people as you would like, but this way we were able to see more people and feel less guilty about the time we spent going around the room at the reception. We roasted a pig and had close friends bring a dish to pass. It was a great time!

5. Eat your anniversary cake, right away! Haha, as I mentioned earlier, we ate our cake after the honeymoon. I can tell you today that it was totally worth it! We didn’t have that cake sitting in the freezer for a year and the fresh cake is probably 10x better than any frozen cake.

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