CrossFit: a Secular Church?

The first Christmas after my daughter was born, I got a two-year membership to 24 Hour Fitness as a gift. Included in the membership was one personal training session.

My trainer bristled with annoyance at my “fad diet” when I told him we were going Paleo for three months. Then he showed me to the elliptical machine and told me that he lost weight by drinking sugar-free Kool-Aid all day and ordering off of the light menu at Taco Bell.

Obviously, our philosophies weren’t in line. But I was still able to get some cardio, weights and an occasional spin class in at the gym. No hard feelings. But staying motivated and committed to working out while staying home with a toddler has been hard.

That might be because I haven’t tried CrossFit.

I think CrossFit is like secular church. It offers more than weight loss or fitness. It speaks to our innate desires for community, purpose and transformation.

Community:  When you workout regularly with the same group of people, you form a bond. It’s like how adrenaline helps you connect with people, so misguided young suitors take their first dates skydiving. Sweating, groaning and rolling on lacrosse balls multiple times a week offers plenty of opportunity for vulnerability and sharing life beyond the workout. When people notice that you weren’t at the 5 a.m. WOD*, you feel known, missed and loved. Then people start hanging out together, outside of the gym and without their crazy colored socks and workout clothes. And real relationships, complete with vulnerability, accountability and acceptance come into play.

*When my husband told me they pronounce “WOD” like “wad,” I cringed. A highly unfavorable word, right up there with “panties.”

Purpose:  Beyond the after-workout NorCal Margaritas or themed parties catered by Paleo food trucks, there’s a more personal reason CrossFit is like church. It provides discipline that meets tangible goals, something to be passionate about and to tell others about. Regular classes, white boards recording personal bests and very specific warm-ups and workouts provide CrossFit-ers with a way to measure their progress and work toward gains. If I could go from lifting my puny 10-pound hand weights to hang cleaning a bar with a bunch of weights piled on, I would totally feel successful and purposeful. And if you really buy into the CrossFit philosophy, you’re getting back to Grok, the best version of you. (Maybe Grok is this subculture’s savior. Hmmm … something for another post.)

Which brings us to the real clincher.

Transformation:  Who hasn’t seen those bathroom selfies of CrossFit masters who have crazy muscles and perfect Instagram-filter-induced tans? We have a deep desire for our bodies to be new. We want to go from decay to life. Strength and vitality helps us forget that we all die anyway. And who doesn’t want to look good in some spandex shorts or a form fitting T?

I have no doubt that CrossFit provides a version of community, purpose and transformation. And I’m sure that people feel alive, healthy and better than ever when they’re regularly doing CrossFit. Which means the other side of life-giving fun and health is there too.

Legalism: I imagine there’s guilt for the CrossFit-er who hasn’t made it to a workout in a few weeks. Or shame for the poor sap who can’t do a chin-up to save his life. Or superficial hope for everyone, that if they just show up, just do it, do it, do it, they’ll get better, be fitter, look hotter, be stronger. Add to that the temptation to cut out all grains and dairy, to become a Paleo warrior, and suddenly a Friday-night beer threatens your identity and security in who you are.

I should include my disclaimers at this point:

  • I haven’t gone to a CrossFit gym or done a workout, although my husband regularly does. I’ve just read about it a lot.
  • I believe our only true hope and salvation can’t be found in anything we do (including CrossFit); that comes only from Jesus.
  • That being said, don’t get your panties in a wad. I would totally try CrossFit. Maybe when my gym membership expires.

I think this CrossFit thing is going to be around a lot longer than Jazzercise from the ’80s, big-box gym memberships from the ’90s or boot camps from five years ago. Now I’d love to hear from people who are actually part of the culture. Do you agree that CrossFit can be like a secular church?

A review: The Mother’hood in Denver

I wanted to review The Mother’hood nearly 9 months ago. I sat down with the co-owners, who were generous enough to share their time and buy me a cup of tea, and I talked to them about their vision for the business. But I haven’t shared it. Yet.

Now, it’s the right time to write this blog.

With a baby — well, toddler now — who regularly falls asleep and stays asleep for the night, I’ve rounded a corner and recognize the landmarks of Normal Land. Until now, the hours were marked by diapers and feedings, or naps and nap failures, or benchmarks and babbles. But if hindsight is measured in moments shared with a baby who once didn’t exist and now breathes and moves and resembles me, I see more clearly. I see that precious first year with my baby as an almost magical time. Something that The Mother’hood nurtures.

Amanda Ogden, The Mother’hood Co-founder and Director of Lactation Services, was one of few people who gave me hope and, even more importantly, made me feel like I was doing something right during the first few weeks of my daughter’s life.

She says things like, “Look at your beautiful milk supply!” and, “This gorgeous baby is so juicy, it’s no wonder, with all this beautiful milk!”

For a new mama who sees leaky nipples and stretch marks when she looks in the mirror and a fussy baby who could be riddled with unknown deprivation or some other seriously scary issue, this is like a breath of fresh air. And to a new mama who also suffers from postpartum depression, this is a breath of air that will get her through the next day.

I used to go to Amanda’s breastfeeding support groups, even if I didn’t have any breastfeeding problems. Did you know that breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which is also released during orgasms? That’s why babies fall asleep after they nurse and a group of nursing mamas leaves relaxed and satisifed!

Amanda regularly dispenses knowledge that not only encouraged me to enjoy and protect the nursing phase of my baby, it also equipped me to feel like a capable mama who could make good decisions for the health of my daughter. For example:

  • Newborns use their arms like a gas gauge. When they’re hungry, their fists are tight and their arms are up by their ears. As they fill up on breast milk, their arms relax and float back down to their sides.
  • Babies who go to daycare pick up new germs that are foreign to their bodies. So, when mamas pick them up from daycare, they should kiss their face and especially their hands — absorbing all of the germs they can — so their body can produce the antibodies that will fight off the baby’s germs through breast milk.
  • Spitup isn’t bad. The same rich nutrients and antibodies that coat the babies throat with breast milk going in, can also coat it going out. As long as baby isn’t in pain, spitup isn’t something to stress about.

I’ve also attended the sleeping class at The Mother’Hood. Aside from the new ideas to help my baby nap and sleep better at night, I connected with other moms, whose woes included restless babies who didn’t find sleeping as important as we did. One mom of twins fed one baby with a bottle while nursing the other, while telling the group that she slept only a few hours every day, and smiling all the while. I wanted to give her a medal and a bottle of wine. Instead, I considered myself lucky to share this stage of life with these strong, loving women.

In addition to breast feeding and sleeping classes, The Mother’hood offers yoga, homeopathic classes, birthing classes, baby-wearing class, and much more. The Mother’hood normalizes pregnancy, birth and parenting by providing support and encouragement each step of the way. God bless ‘em.

I highly recommend this business to any mama or daddy of a baby. I definitely plan to go back, with baby #2. … Just not yet. While I’m still enjoying Normal Land, I plan to soak up all of the hindsight and extra Zzzzzs I can.

Baby Birthday: Coconut Flour Carrot Cake

One-year-old birthdays can be tricky. Besides the emotions of our babies growing up or the unspoken deadline of when our baby weight should be shed, we have the real spotlight of the occasion to worry about:  the cake.

I mean, the baby is cute and all, but people really come to watch her stuff food in her mouth and then get a piece for themselves. AND if you’re natural or naturally confused, like me, that presents a problem. Here are the things babies shouldn’t eat:

So, I found the perfect recipe here and modified it. No granulated sugar, no flour, yes extra vegetables and yes deliciousness. If you’re Paleo, just find a coconut cream frosting and this gem will meet the no grains/no dairy requirements.

Makes 24 cupcakes plus a small cake (corningware cup, diameter 5 inches)

Ingredients

  • 5 whole raw carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 cup maple syrup, Grade A
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted

Frosting

  • 1 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup, Grade A
  • 24 oz full-fat cream cheese

Process

  1. In a food processor, shred carrots, and put them in a large ziplock bag.
  2. Pour maple syrup over carrots and let marinate in the fridge for an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, add sifted coconut flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda.
  5. In a food processor, blend raisins and 1 tablespoon maple syrup.
  6. In a large mixing bowl or kitchen mixer, blend eggs, vanilla, melted coconut oil and raisin mixture.
  7. Add dry ingredients to wet and blend.
  8. Stir carrot mixture into cake batter.
  9. Fill up cupcake tins 3/4 of the way with the batter.
  10. Bake for 35 minutes.
  11. Test center with a tooth pick—if the tooth pick comes out clean, then the cakes are done.
  12. Remove from oven and cool.
  13. Combine frosting ingredients (works best if cream cheese is room temperature).
  14. Frost cake with cream cheese frosting and serve.

 

Parenthood is hard

growing upI’m having a real problem with parenthood.

Not the show; that thing is the perfect combination of witty banter, human depravity, graceful aging and stumbling love. I seriously love it.

No, I have a problem with real-life parenthood. I just weaned (from the boob) my 14-month-old baby. I spent the previous year+ trying to adjust to a tiny person needing me exclusively; because we demand fed, she nursed whenever either of us thought it was a good idea. As demanding as that was, I’m a little nipstalgic.

Now, my baby doesn’t need me for sustenance. She doesn’t need my lady lumps for comfort. She can sleep without a midnight snack of warm milk. (I don’t know anyone besides nursing babes and old people on TV who drink warm milk. Old people, that’s gross.)

We’ve entered a new phase in our relationship. I see interactive play; extended periods apart and counting to 1,2,3 before timeout in our future. I just want to go back to the days when she only slept, cried, pooped and nursed.

Is this parenthood? Releasing control, slowly letting go of being needed and looking at the big picture in exchange for the momentary easy fix? That’s so freakin’ hard.

That’s what she said. And by she, I mean me. Because as we say goodbye to breastfeeding and all it entails, I suddenly feel very vulnerable as a mama.

My baby will someday feel stupid about an unacknowledged valentine or an unrequited crush. She’ll feel ugly or fat because no matter how many times her daddy says she’s beautiful, she’ll need approval from her friends to feel worthy. Cancer will hit: me, her, someone we love. Sickness, suffering, death are realities. And I can’t protect her from any of it.

This sucks. So hard.

That’s what … Jesus promised. (Ha! Caught you off-guard with Jesus, didn’t I? Boom.)

He said the world is fallen, broken, hurting. We can’t escape the pain. But God is good and in control, in the midst.

That means He loves my baby even more than I do. He can comfort her better, provide for her and teach her His ways. He might allow some jack-ass into her life, wearing a muscle shirt and CK1 to swoop her off her feet and then drop her like she’s hot (she will be hot; it runs in the family), but only to pick her up Himself and show her that His love is the all-consuming and ever-lasting type.

That reminds me. I had a crush in Kindergarten — KIND-ER-FREAKING-GARDEN — who wore a muscle shirt and thought he was hot stuff. And my first kiss was in preschool by an over-zealous boy in corduroys. God loved me through that drama and will love my baby as well when her own version happens.

Because God is more good than we are careful.

But we still need to teach her to be wary of these kinds of jokers and to save kissing for marriage. JK. Or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figuring out motherhood (it’s cool, baby)

it's cool babyMy baby is 13 months old. I have a great first birthday cake recipe for those of us weirdos who avoid gluten and artificial colors. But that will come soon.

Now, it’s time to reminisce. When she was born, I had a mountaintop experience. I became a mother, but I had (have) a whole journey to become a mama. This beautiful vernix-coated baby would wreck me, in all the good ways.

I found my identity in attachment parenting. And then I dabbled in crying it out, when I was at the end of my rope. I made only homemade baby food, and disgusted my Instagram followers with tales of sardines for lunch, while secretly dreaming of stuffing her with rice cereal to see if she would sleep through the night.

Shocking, I know.

Someone forgot to tell me (or I opted not to listen) that motherhood is a glorious shit-show. Especially if you’re cloth diapering, but that too is another post. I have followed the temptation to find my worth in doing all of the right things:  if baby girl falls asleep happily, I’m an awesome mom. If she fights nap time, my afternoon is put on hold while I wallow in doubt and self-pity. When did my self-confidence and purpose in life hinge on a squirmy, albeit adorable, tot? When did figuring out parenthood become so hard?

When I missed the bigger picture, that’s when.

The diapers, the solid foods flung every which way, the ever-present sweet potato-infused hairdo — they make the day-to-day tasks seem more important (or urgent) than what is really happening. A little girl is learning who she is, who her parents are, why she is here and who can be trusted. She’s learning that there’s an ever-loving, all-powerful God who cares about a minor fever, or she’s learning that a fever is an indicator of impending doom, and the world is a scary place that needs to be navigated by equal parts control and cowering.

I can’t get too far into my mama control zone before my baby knocks me back into reality. We have this game, where she lifts off my shirt and sticks her finger into my belly button. Then we find her belly button. It’s great fun. Note:  waitresses don’t usually know the game, and they don’t enjoy a baby searching for the button. Not recommended in public.

When she finds my belly button, I exclaim, “Pupusa!” That’s the term I lovingly coined for the baby belly surrounding the belly button. It’s technically a Salvadoran dish like a Latino hot pocket, which is a beautiful thing in and of itself. But when she finds my pudgy little tummy, a reminder of where she came from, I can’t keep my grasp on control and a task-minded approach to mommydom. I’m knocked back down to knowing nothing but my inadequacy and my love for this little nugget.

The pudge isn’t a call to sit-ups. It isn’t a prescription for watching my carbs and doing crunches. My pupusa is a reminder of where my baby came from. If I think back fondly to my apartment during my single season of life, how much more fondly will I think of the little cocoon that grew this wobbly baby in front of me?  It’s a miracle and so are the stinky-diaper, sleepless days.

I’m figuring this out one step at a time. Her daddy and I are ever changed from her entrance into our family. But it doesn’t stop there. We learn daily how to love and care for her with the big picture in mind. Sometimes that means crying in the corner of a coffee shop, pinot noir in one hand while the other cradles my pupusa, thinking of how it got there and what it means.

That’s also not recommended in public, just for the record.

Real Food: Five Tips to Not Be Tricked

tomatoesBuying real food is tricky. It’s like there’s a conspiracy against consumers to make them think they’re eating something they’re not.

Take these tomatoes, for example. I bought them at Sunflower Market before tomatoes were in season. It says on the label that they are “all natural” with “no preservatives.” But right under that, you find out they’re coated in petroleum-based wax to maintain freshness. Not cool.

Sure, it might be “food grade” but it’s hardly natural. Don’t be swindled; your health is not a game.

Consider these five tips to not be tricked when grocery shopping:

1.  Read the labels. Duh. But it’s not so easy when you have a fussy baby and a growling stomach and suddenly Rice-a-Roni sounds like the perfect dinner option. I wouldn’t have bought those tomatoes if I had taken a second to see what the label said.

2.  Remember the agenda. Food conglomerates want to make money. They pour resources into finding what consumers want and then marketing to it, not actually providing it. Or else they tell consumers they want low-fat and sugar-free and then claim to have it — when that isn’t what our bodies really want in the first place.

3.  Buy local. Especially during summer months, local farms and farmer’s markets have so many nutrient-rich foods. Support food that hasn’t been coated in wax so it can survive a trip from Mexico.

4.  Be suspicious of uniformity.  If all apples look perfectly red with no bruises or worm holes, that’s not natural. If all orange juice tastes the exact same, regardless of the season, something is fishy. If the samples lady is trying to hand you a chicken nugget shaped into like a dinosaur, that’s just unappetizing.

5.  Don’t eat it if your grandma didn’t.  If there’s a food product that’s a new invention, it’s not real food. When the food industry finds a way to make something cheaper or more convenient, that’s a bad thing for your health.

 

 

Discounts on designer loot for moms, babies, kids

Attention: Cloth diaperers, Organic Ergo wearers, cute preggos and anyone who knows kiddos who are undeniably adorbs

There are a lot of perks to being a mommy blogger. I get to work in my underwear and rely on a fabulous community of like-minded people like y’all. And now you get a perk for reading my blog, too!

Last week I went to lunch with other mommy bloggers and some execs from Gilt.com (OK, so this perk might outweigh working in my underwear!) Gilt.com sells top designer stuff for up to 60 percent off. And they’re promoting their Baby and Kids site.

You readers can save some major money on some awesome maternity, baby and kid stuff. In addition to the already discounted items, you will get 25% off the first purchase you make. You just have to

  1. Register now (first-time users only; they can’t already have your e-mail address on record)
  2. Make a purchase by Aug. 15
  3. Follow this link to do it

The deals change daily, so just registering now will help you keep an eye out for top-quality shower gifts, strollers, and other purchases you might need down the road.

Remember, the deal is only good if you follow this link!

Three easy tips to cutting processed food

Now that we’ve determined why real food is important, how do we start to make the switch? Here are three easy tips to start cutting processed food:

1.  Plan a week’s worth of meals in produce and protein. Before you go grocery shopping, know what meat and produce you need for the week. It’s when we run out of the good stuff — veggies and protein — that we resort to “easy” frozen or boxed meals that pack a punch of preservatives and other additives. My weekly staples include:

  • salad
  • sweet potatoes
  • other seasonal or on-sale veggies
  • bananas
  • bacon (nitrate and nitrite free)
  • eggs (organic and free-range, although I hear pastured is best)
  • chicken breasts
  • grass-fed ground meat
  • tuna

2.  Season the natural way, with herbs and spices. Instead of supplementing meals with MSG-laden Ranch Dressing or BBQ sauce sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, create your own sauces or marinades with any combination of the following ingredients:

  • raw honey
  • garlic
  • lemon
  • cumin
  • basil
  • cilantro
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • apple cider vinegar
  • thyme
  • dill

3.  Don’t avoid fat. Some fats are good. If you want to read about which ones and why, check out this article. For the sake of simplicity and staying sane, don’t get overwhelmed with the details. Remember, keep your food close to the way God created it. Cold-pressed oils  created from almond, coconut or olives are healthier, because they’re created (basically) just by squeezing. Canola oil, on the other hand, is usually created from a genetically modified hybrid seed that is heated and chemically extracted from a petroleum-derived solvent hexane. If that goes over your head, it shouldn’t go in yo’ mouth!

As for dairy products, before my family went Paleo, we stopped buying non-fat cheese or milk and went for the whole versions. We didn’t gorge ourselves on cream for every meal, but we enjoyed the real deal and got full quicker, so we ate less.

Have you ever noticed that skim milk has a bluish tint? Many companies try to whiten their milk by adding powdered skim, which is produced under heat and high pressure, oxidizing the cholesterol. Read:  processing and altering the natural state. If you aren’t convinced that’s a bad thing, Spanish researchers have said oxidized cholesterols are carcinogenic and mutagenic. That should STEER you away from skim.

So, there you have it. Give yourself some grace as you make these changes. They won’t all come easily and become habit in one shopping trip, and cutting processed foods 100 percent will be difficult.

When you do fall back to some of the old processed staples, don’t get too discouraged. There’s no use crying over spilled milk. You should really cry because the milk is blue and fortified with cancer-causing grossness. Just saying.

Top 5 Reasons to Switch from Processed to Real Food

5 reasons to switch from processed to real foodI recently received this e-mail:

Hi, Kirsten,
I’m writing in response to the Food Babe article you posted this morning on Facebook. Well, not actually in response to it, but I suppose as a result of it. Recently I’ve been gaining more interest in health and natural cooking/eating and this type of article just confirms the line of thinking I’ve been entertaining. But the switch (from processed) to natural food seems REALLY overwhelming.

I was wondering if you might be willing to throw a few tips or resources for beginners my way (even if it’s some posts on your blog to read) or even a few staple recipes for starting out. Basically, I don’t feel I have the time and energy right now to throw myself into an entire lifestyle change, but I’d like to start making changes that will improve our health and style of eating.

Thanks again for posting the article. It was a hard truth to swallow (pun intended) but important to consider.

Before I get into some tips and staple recipes, I think it’s important to discuss why natural food is important to consider — even if it is overwhelming.

Here are my top 5 reasons why switching to real food from processed food is a huge priority for me.

  1. My role as mother:  Despite what good marketing will tell you, no one else has the best interests of your family’s health in mind but you. Food companies, pharmaceutical companies and even the government are motivated by one thing:  money. That does not mean whole, quality food.
  2. My worldview:  I believe that our world is broken. It was created perfectly, but due to a few chomps on a piece of fruit, it’s always moving from life to decay and death. Humankind might have keen problem-solving skills, but it still falls short of perfection. So I think eating food closer to the way that God created it — whole foods with real ingredients — is better than any man-made attempts — genetically modified or highly processed grub.
  3. My financial stance:  I couldn’t tell you the difference between a money market account and a hedge fund. The stock market doesn’t interest me, unless you’re talking about livestock. But I am passionate about making an investment in my family’s health now, by purchasing more expensive, more nutritious food. I’d rather pay for it now through cash exchanges at the farmer’s market, than later in medical bills.
  4. My taste buds:  When you fore go MSG for fresh herbs, non-fat and unnatural dairy for full-fat goodness, and succulent veggies for canned goods, you won’t look back. Once you go real, it’s a done deal.
  5. My common sense:  Why would I feed myself or my family something with 50 ingredients, none of which I could grow or find myself? After researching ingredients, reading labels and educating myself, it seems ludicrous that I once bought cheese coated in wood pulp or almonds soaked in jet fuel additive.

What are your reasons for making natural food a priority?