i want to be a trim healthy mama

It’s no secret that I’ve had issues with food for a long time, and that I’ve been on the search for a way of eating that is sustainable and healthy for me.

I joke that I’ve tried every diet from veganism to paleo, and that’s sadly not too much of an exaggeration.

If it’s too low carb, I’m constantly light-headed and feel deprived after about a month. If its whole grain, my gut rebels. Without animal protein, I have absolutely no energy. And my naturally obsessive personality doesn’t do well with tracking anything.

I was at a place a few weeks ago where I was deciding it was okay to not be my best and to learn to be happy with this body that I’m currently in. There’s something healthy in that, I’ve been told.

But, there’s an issue with that:

I didn’t feel good, physically or emotionally.

I’ve been looking for something reasonable, something sensible, something that doesn’t exclude entire groups of foods for so long.

Something that helps me feel good, but most of all is sustainable as a homeschooling pastor’s wife that teaches Holy Yoga with a husband taking a mor than-full load in seminary, a daughter still recovering from spinal surgery, a schedule that has one free weekend between now and Christmas and lots of events coming up where food choices won’t be the best.

And doesn’t make me crazy…or a perfectionist…or obsess in really unhealthy ways.

I think I’ve found it in the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating.

It’s different from anything else I’ve tried. Sure, things like sugar and refined grains are cut out but there’s so much freedom and variety…and honestly, no one should really be eating white sugar or flour or processed food like items that are full of ingredients no one can pronounce.

But the freedom…that’s the big thing. I’m not counting calories or carbs or looking longingly at every food in my kitchen. There’s no guilt involved and in my 20 years of looking for the best way for me to eat, that is incredible for whom the guilt at many times has led to very unhealthy habits of binges and purging. I’m not thinking about food all the time. I’m not tempted by the Halloween candy that is everywhere. I’m not mindlessly snacking.

Today is day 10. The scale is down. Every time I put on my jeans, I can feel a difference (I tend to live in yoga pants, so that’s every four or five). I have more energy, and my brain actually works (and the fact that I don’t have to be on a super strict diet for that to happen seems miraculous!). My hips are cracking and popping all the time. My emotions are far more level. It’s also been easy to adapt with the Once A Month meals I made a few weeks ago, and I’m planning on doing a fully THM OAMM cooking day this Saturday (I’ll share what I’ve done next Monday).  And I have almost no cravings…and if I do, there are so many options that hit my need for chocolate and stay within the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating.

I’ve gone off plan twice – once for a big Oktoberfest dinner we had at our house and then a pumpkin carving party with friends. Both times, I’ve made decent, but not the best choices and both times, I’ve enjoyed a small dessert. Both times, it’s been no problem to get right back at it with my next meal.  And both times, I haven’t been haunted by the guilt of a bit of indulgence or of putting something in my body that maybe isn’t optimal.

I will confess, the book is a lot of reading. And maybe not the most clear. It’s a low glycemic plan with higher fat/low carb meals and low fat/higher carb meals at its base. There’s a learning curve. But it’s not that bad and the freedom is so totally worth the work. I’ll share some of my favorite resources tomorrow and a very basic breakdown.

Have you tried a THM lifestyle? Have you thought about it?

Contains a few affiliate links.


adventures in once a month cooking


I mentioned earlier this week that my main plan for food is simple. I’ve been stuck in a rut of too tired, too stressed and too unplanned to get very far with it. I know that turning that around starts with food, but it just hasn’t happened. We’ve had a lot of “whatever you can find” dinners and nachos.

Enter Once A Month Meals.

I’ve been following them since the beginning, but never took the plunge. I know my people don’t like casseroles and I don’t like can of whatever soups,  and that’s what a majority of freezer or once a month meals have been in the past.  And seriously, it’s a pain to make the shopping list and try to coordinate everything.

Once A Month Meals takes care of all of that. They have an incredible selection of different menu plans – paleo, diet, whole foods, traditional, even vegetarian – and the ability to switch meals out for an extra few dollars a month. That few extra dollars is totally worth it. And really, if it saves us from eating out once a month and helps me avoid eating foods I know I shouldn’t, the monthly fee will more than pay for itself.

I was able to print out my shopping list (organized by category), a prep list, cooking day instructions. labels and even a thaw sheet. That part of me that obsessively makes lists just squealed.

Wednesday, I went shopping, came home and started cooking.

That’s exactly what they tell you not to do.

I had only a few items that required baking, so it wasn’t too bad. I left for shopping at 9 am and was done by 5:30 pm. For fourteen dinners, eight sides and six lunch servings each of soup and chicken nuggets, that’s not bad at all. They’re all whole foods based, with no preservatives, no junky oils and no pseudo-foods.

I also didn’t do any prep work. I didn’t even clear off the counter. I just went at it. There were dishes in the sink.

Also not recommended.

Next time will be different.

And there will definitely be a next time. I’ve already got it planned with a couple of slow cooker and soup mini menus to do in the next week or so. Our schedules seem to be growing continually busier, and any help I can get is welcome.

A few thoughts I want to remember for next time:

  • Don’t be afraid to up the spices. I’ve found that quite a few recipes, especially in the paleo realm, are a little under-spiced for our taste.
  • Take the prep day. Next time, I’ll shop and prep one day, and assemble and cook the next.
  • Utilize the pressure cooker. I have one – I don’t know why I didn’t use it.
  • Clean off the counters. And the table. And make sure all of the dishes are done.
  • Print out the labels. I thought it wouldn’t be too much trouble to make notes on the bags with a Sharpie. I was wrong. And my main issue with printing out many of the labels I find online is that they suck my color ink. I love that the Once  A Month Meals are either black and white or gray scale-ish (somebody was really thinking there!)

Do you do any kind of freezer cooking or once a month meals? What are your favorite recipes?

coming into the light


Here’s the thing:

I picked up Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning for the umpteenth time the other day. It’s one of those books that has been in our library for as long as I can remember, that I’ve read the intro to a few times, but never one that I’ve gotten any further in.

The other night, as I finally made it into that first chapter, Coming Out of Hiding, I ended up in tears.

I’ve been hiding for so long.

I’ve shared quite a bit about my issues with food in the past, but I’m not sure how honest I’ve been.

I took on my first diet at age 10. By 12, I was exercising in my room. At 14, once I got into high school with an open campus at lunch, I ate mojos with cheese, a candy bar and a diet soda every day (because that was healthy?). At home, I snuck food all through high school and purged a lot of what I ate when I went on binges (which was fairly often).

By the time I got married at 21, I’d already lost and gained probably 100 pounds.

Now, at 38, that number is probably closer to 300 and at no point have I ever had more than 70 pounds to lose.

Married life and motherhood hasn’t change too much. I’m the queen of the yo yo dieters. I will be super strict for a short amount of time, see successful weight loss…but it’s at the detriment of my mental health. I become obsessed and that obsession can only last so long before I spiral downward into binge and stress eating, and of course begin to gain weight again.

My diet constantly swerves between a day of righteous, nutrient dense eating and a day of coconut sweet rolls and a bag of Dove dark chocolates. If I know I’m going to be home alone (a rare treat), I plan and hoard what I’m going to eat when no one is there to watch me. I’ve hidden food in my purse to get it into the house and I’ve hidden food from my family.

And I’m beginning to see my attempts at different diets – the severe strictness with which I see success and tend to find my self worth – as very disordered and very unhealthy. They’re my attempts to be in control and they’re my disordered responses to stress.


I live with guilt and shame on a daily basis about my inability to pull it together. I know that to serve Him in the way that He’s calling me to, healing has to come and this disordered relationship has to be set straight.

And I know that part of that comes from bringing this dark, scary part of myself into the light – into the Light of Christ, but that I also need to come clean with those around me.

In my head, I know that my salvation and my self-worth have nothing to do with my weight or my eating habits. But my heart – that wicked, deceitful things – tells me a different story.

And I listen to that voice that isn’t the Lord’s.

That has to stop.

I’m rooting into God’s word, I’m studying His promises and I’m praying that He would show me the way He has set for me to healing and true wellness. I’m letting go of the tight reins that I so often cling to as holiness and seeking a path of sustainability.


I’m okay with failures, but I have to choose intentionally not to linger or wallow in them. I know that the Lord will catch me when I fall, will bind  up my wounds and that my faith in Him will always be met. And through my instructor training through Holy Yoga, I’ve truly learned that His grace is bigger than all my needs and will cover my emotional scrapes and bruises.

I don’t know where this goes from here, beyond deeper into my relationship with the Lord and His presence.




I’ve been settling into a new routine (hence the absence) – homeschooling, the kid’s workshops, church and a whole lot more re-evaluating and scheduling my exercise and diet.

We joined the gym, just a few minutes away, and I had a good talk with one of the trainers about my need to lift some weights and how those weird pain issues can make that difficult. She started me off slowly with large muscles lifting only, introduced me to the Arc Trainer and said no more than three days a week in the gym, with walking at home on the other three days and a recovery day on Sunday…plus my Holy Yoga practice with my class once a week (soon to be twice) and short practices by myself.

It’s working.

I’m making progress in all areas without severe, lasting pain. In a week or two, I’ll meet with the trainer again to add some smaller muscle work.

It’s good.

I’m also continuing to evaluate eating, and The Pastor and I are taking part in a 60 Day Body, Mind, Spirit challenge hosted by April Kennedy of Funky Vintage Kitchen. It’s solid clean eating, with a little wiggle room for treats and encompasses not just food and exercise, but spiritual practice as well (something I fully believe is necessary)…though I have to confess I don’t agree with the low-fat, non-fat portion of things (I’m kind of totally ignoring that part to be entirely honest). I think it’s been proven pretty well that what they replace that fat with in dairy and other foods is far worse for you than the fat.

I’m finding some grains are totally okay for me, which means I’m happily reintroducing Ezekiel bread with nut butter into my diet (one of my favorite treats) and had brown rice for the first time in two years. It was awesome and caused me absolutely no issues. I’m still trying to limit grains, but I’m not stressing about them.

I’m feeling less guilt about food.

And less compulsion.

And that’s so incredibly freeing.

I can go to a church breakfast and enjoy the hospitality and gifts of those who lovingly prepared it. I can eat at a potluck or a friend’s home without feeling awkward.  My focus is to eat clean as much as possibly, but to not sweat it when those circumstances when the choices aren’t perfect.

So much of this is being reinforced through the study on the Book of Daniel I’ve been doing, the messages I listen to while walking each morning and my Holy Yoga instructor’s devotionals each week.

After a lot of searching and struggle, I feel like I’m in a wholly positive, sustainable place.

And that is the biggest progress of all.


clean eating: what it means to me

I mentioned last week that I’m making a small shift away from paleo and towards eating clean. There are a few reasons – the main two being sustainability and needing to get my entire family eating healthier – and I’m happy to say that we’re all eating a bit better already and I’m finding I’m far less obsessive about food (that’s a good thing). In a sense, I consider paleo to be sort of super clean eating, so all of the cookbooks I’ve been collecting and recipes I’ve put together are still good.

My only issue with clean eating? It’s  is one those ideas that’s a little fuzzy because it’s so personal.

Here’s my version:

  • whole foods based – as little processed and packaged as possible
  • good fats – coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, clarified butter
  • lots of vegetables and a reasonable amount of fruit
  • organic and properly raised as much as the budget allows
  • some whole grains and legumes and – gasp! – occasionally even some gluten*
  • minimal refined sugars and sweeteners
  • lean protein

How are you eating? Do you consider it clean?

*I’ve actually been eating some glutenous foods lately and haven’t had any issues. I’m still definitely trying to limit it in my diet, but I also have an 11 year old that is desperate to learn how to bake and will insist on me tasting things. I’m sticking with moderation for now, and we’ll see where it develops from there.

just do it: the lawn mowing committee

For Blog 1
The Pastor shared a story in church this weekend that, while I’ve heard it before, it always gives me that little spur to take on something new.

A dad tells his son to mow the lawn while he runs errands.

Son, I expect that lawn to be done when I get home.

Dad gets home and, of course, the lawn isn’t mowed.

But, Dad, don’t get mad. I thought a lot about mowing the lawn. I prayed about mowing the lawn. Dad, I got some committees started. There’s the mower committee and the edging committee and we’re looking into what to do with the cuttings…

And somewhere around here the dad yells, Just mow the flipping lawn!

While The Pastor was sharing it in regards to being obedient to God when He calls us to do something, I think it fits how I approach things when it comes to my health and wellness.

Here’s my thought process:

I know I need to make changes and do something different to get healthier.

Well, first – obviously – I need to do some research. A few books, some online research, at least a dozen new blogs to follow and prepare a couple of blog posts, add a few weeks worth of recipes to a new Pinterest board…

Research and knowing what you’re doing isn’t a bad thing.

As long as you end up doing something with them.

And sometimes, it’s okay to just go mow that flipping lawn and just do it.

What are you struggling with right now? What do you need to just do?


in praise of moderation

I had my first Holy Yoga class yesterday, and it was all I’d hoped it would be…

even though we really just breathed and meditated and the totally adorable instructor talked a bit about what Holy Yoga is.

And I had a little breakthrough moment.

Love those.

During our meditation, she read Zephaniah 3:17 twice:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

And I feel like I should point out real quick in all humility that I wasn’t 100% sure that Zephaniah was actually in the Bible when I looked up the reference this morning. I think this pastor’s wife needs to spend a little more time in parts of the Old Testament that aren’t just the first five books.


Back to the meditation…the instructor read it twice, the first time challenging us to key in on one word and the second to seek a phrase or sentence that stood out to us.

Mine were rejoice and he will rejoice over you with gladness.

And this was on my mind all evening, first thing this morning and during my walk.

He rejoices over me with gladness.

We’re coming up on a date that marks the beginning of one of the most emotionally difficult years I’ve known. These past six months have been one health struggle after another, probably in part more than a little because of those emotional difficulties. Things are most definitely looking up – and they have been since our move at the beginning of July – but as I continued to meditate on that phrase during my walk, that moment of clarity hit.

I’ve been searching and seeking, trying to find the perfect diet…the perfect plan…the one that’s going to be sustainable and make life a little bit easier, me happier and that I can get my family on board with (that last one being a burden on my heart lately).

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

I’ve been trying to replace personal discipline with strict rules about my eating and doing my best to convince myself it had to be that way in order for me to feel well.

As I learned on our trip, that’s not true.

I was trying to fill that God shaped hole in my heart with things other than God.

My priorities were way out of whack.

And that’s never good.

 He rejoices over me with gladness.


The messed up me that sometimes eats gluten. And rice. And gains 8 pierogi pounds on vacation. And doesn’t like to sweat. And lets her kids buy muffins from the bakery at Safeway and feels guilty about it.

He rejoices over me with gladness.


And as I walked and prayed and tried not to step into traffic this morning, I felt God impress upon my heart a few things:

He calls me to be extreme in my faith and in my commitment to him, but not necessarily in what I eat and how I allow that to affect me.

He calls me to live in a way that glorifies Him, and not a way of eating.

He calls me to be obedient, but not to confuse that with arbitrarily following strict rules.

He calls me to live a life that understands that by chasing after Him, I chase after health and wellness.


So…now I’m processing. And relaxing the rules while still focusing on a whole foods based diet. And feeling pretty darn awesome.

More soon.

embracing new

There’s something I love about moving.
Sure, I complain and moan about packing and unpacking…but there’s a great, big upside that I embrace.
And that’s change.
That sense of newness that can be frustrating and anxiety-inducing that can lead to new habits and positive changes.
Some of the change I’m embracing right now:
*walking in the mornings. Almost up to two miles – which isn’t easy in a hilly little Gold Rush era town. Sooo many dead ends!
*yoga. Just a short practice of 8-10 minutes, but I’m already feeling more flexibility.
*simple meals. Meat and veggies, and I’m good. And the Farmers Market has us all craving fresh produce.
*a few diet changes . A little more full fat dairy and a snack between 2 and 3 in the afternoon, when I tend to get really dizzy and flat feeling.
*hone routines. It’s taking time, but they’re getting there. Right now, everything has a place and that’s nice…as long as I ignore the stacks of things that need to be hung.
How do you feel about change?

baby steps 2: eat a green thing every day

Baby Steps Logo

I’ve been asked a lot lately where to start.

When you know your diet is out of whack and changes need to be made, where do you attack first?

I believe first, you take stock.

After that, you start adding in.

And the biggest difference I think we can all easily enact in our diets is simple:

Eat more vegetables.

I believe it’s why I’ve had friends that follow paleo diets, primal diets, vegan diets and raw diets all see major health gains – far more than anything else associated with the ways they eat.

We all know we need to.

Our mothers have spent years cajoling and begging us to eat just one more bite of broccoli. It wasn’t in vain.

We all know they’re packed full of nutrients and micronutrients that our bodies need to flourish and fight off disease.

And yet, if we don’t count potatoes, the average American only gets about 3 servings a day (according to Harvard’s School of Public Health).


I don’t know about you, but I know quite a few people who don’t even come close to that.

Baby step #2: eat a green thing every day (and mad bonus points to you if you know where that quote comes from!).

They don’t have to be just green, though, and they shouldn’t be. And you can eat more than one. Take a look at how many servings of vegetables you ate yesterday and eat one more today. Add one more serving every few days until you’re at five or six…or more.


Try something new, as often as you can. I love Brussels sprouts – who knew? Baby bok choy is amazing. And dill roasted carrots are a few favorite that I’ll be making for a long time.

Frozen vegetables are often just as nutrient filled as fresh. Don’t be afraid to hit the freezer section.

Try new methods of cooking. Properly cooked fresh vegetables are a whole new world if you grew up eating them out of the can with the big green guy or perpetually steamed to gray blandness.


If all else fails, roast them. Roasted cauliflower is a wonderful thing. So are parsnips, eggplant, Brussels sprouts and green beans (the *only* way I’ll go near those nasty buggers).

Looking to sneak in a few more servings? Spinach and kale are easy to mask in smoothies.

And if those extra servings of vegetables are making you too hungry for Cheeto’s…well, I do believe you just made the world a slightly better place.

If you’re just starting on the road to better eating, don’t worry about organic or local or non-GMO. You probably will at some point, but even the regular old broccoli at the grocery store is going to have some benefit.

Imperfect progress is still progress.

Baby steps.

my personal paleo framework

after whole30 title

I’m closing in on 18 months of eating a predominantly paleo diet, with 3 successful Whole30’s in there. It’s taken me a while and a bit of work, but I think I’ve got my personal dietary framework mostly worked out.

And I hesitate to call it a paleo diet – it’s not, exactly, and I’m fully aware of that – but its easier than grain-free, refined sugar free, vegetable heavy, anti-inflammatory whole foods based diet with a little white rice once in a while.

Try coming up with an acronym for that.

Yesterday, I shared how I built it. Today, I’m sharing what it looks like for me.

A little basics:

  • I’m not a re-enactor. I have no delusions that I’m eating like a cavewoman. I’m doing my best version of a diet based on how I believe we were meant to eat. Besides, if I were to be a re-enactor of anything, hoopskirts or the cast of Sense and Sensibility would be involved.
  • I’m not a perfectionist. I’m going to slip up and I’m going to eat less than optimal foods at times. It’s okay, as long as it’s not a regular thing.
  • I’m not a low-carb eater. My gallbladder-less body digest a lot better when I make starchy vegetables a daily part of my diet.
  • I don’t have an unlimited grocery budget. It’s pretty tight, so while I’d love for all of our meat to be grass-fed and our produce to be organic, that’s not going to happen. I make the best choices I can based on a budget that I can’t stray from, with plans to do better.
  • It must be sustainable. From the beginning, this has been the way I intend to eat long-term. Too strict and that’s not possible.

Got that?

Here’s my personal paleo framework, working around that groundwork:

  • No gluten. Ever. I’m at the very least gluten-intolerant, there’s no doubt about it.
  • No funky oils or fats. That whole lack of gallbladder thing means most oils are *not* my friends.
  • No refined sugar. If I’m baking, I generally turn to less refined forms of sugar like dates, honey or maple syrup. A little white sugar leads me to more sugar, which in turn leads me to misery physically and emotionally. It’s not worth it.
  • Limited grains. And by limited, I mean very rarely and then usually white rice cooked in bone broth (preferable soaked). Legumes and corn both make my stomach bloat and cause gut pain, though I can handle a little hummus with a lot of veggies. Again, it’s not worth the pain – I get plenty of fiber from vegetables.
  • Little to no dairy. I try to convince myself on a somewhat regular basis that my body is good with dairy. It isn’t. Once in a while, a little cheese is okay. But it’s not an every day or even a once a week food for me.

When you take all of that out, what’s left?

Here’s what my personal perfect diet looks like:

  • Protein. Preferably in animal form, but not overwhelming in amount. I’ve tried going without it and learned the hard way that I need it to feel my best.
  • Lots of vegetables. Lots. My dinner plate is usually at least two-thirds veggies and so is my lunch. I also include more starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips and hard squashes to keep my digestion happier than most people who eat this way (that no gallbladder thing again, I think).
  • The right amount of good fats for me. It’s predominantly coconut oil, clarified butter and avocado for me. I limit olive oil to salad dressings or drizzling over already cooked veggies for flavor. I don’t do well on a low-fat diet (at all), but balancing that gallbladder issues means I can’t go super high either.
  • A little fruit. One or two servings per day, preferably seasonal. Except maybe in August, when I’ve been known to happily chow down on 3 or 4 peaches a day.
  • Gut healing foods. Bone broth is a regular part of my diet. I’m looking to add more fermented foods and will start brewing kombucha again once it’s warmer. I’ve had stomach issues since birth, and the more I can do to rectify that the better.
  • Solid sleep. At least 8 hours, but usually 9. In a dark room. The only way I can make that happen consistently is to eat they way I should and – interestingly enough – the days I most want to stray from the way I eat often tend to be days I haven’t slept well.
  • Move. Right now, it’s running and Les Mills Pump. It will probably change, but some daily movement and strength building is key to keeping me at my best.
  • Paleo baking. Why? Because I love to bake and I like cookies. I also believe strongly that in order for this way of eating to grow and to be more accessible to people eating a standard diet, it’s got to seem a little less crazy-duck-for-extremists-only out there. Baking with nut or coconut flours is one way to make that happen.
  • Grace. Lots of grace. I’m not perfect. The occasional treat is an okay thing. I’m going to have days that I eat things I’m best not. Sometimes, I’m going to eat the mashed potatoes even though they’re full of dairy. I’m going to have sushi once in a while. It’s okay. And when I get the urge, I’m totally eating that double, no cheese, animal style with extra pickles burger from In N Out. 100% isn’t my plan and wouldn’t happen anyway. Beating myself up over those little dietary wobbles is never productive and generally only brings me to even worse choices.

So what does my average day look like? A lot like this, though usually with a sweet potato in there somewhere:

Skwidlund s Food Diary   MyFitnessPal.com

I’m not perfectly paleo. I have no intentions to be. I agree with Primal Toad that labels are dangerous, unnecessarily divisive and sometimes confusing. For right now, this is the way of eating that works for me. I’ll continue to tweak it and experiment (I’m looking at you, nightshades!). And I’ll continue to encourage others to find their personal best way of eating, whatever that might be.

Note: This is my personal experience and should be taken as such. Take it with a grain of salt. I’m not a doctor or a dietitian – just someone who has lived a very long time with a myriad of mystery health issues and has worked hard to overcome them.