Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Post - Jennie Harrell of Easy Paleo

It is Guest Blogger Day!

It is with great excitement that that we introduce to you one of our fabulous partners in this journey to improved health - Jennie Harrell of Easy Paleo.  She has been a great source of inspiration and encouragement during the launch of the Eat Play Live Facebook page.  We asked her to introduce you to her outstanding website/blog, and tell you about her highly recommended (and ridiculously affordable) eBook.  Jennie keeps things simple, and her approach to successfully making the switch to a whole foods diet is refreshing to say the least.  

Without further due...

My name is Jennie Harrell, and the sweet ladies who run Eat Play Live have asked me to tell you a little about myself and my eBook, Easy Paleo: 21 Practical Ways to Simplify Your Paleo Life.  Here we go!

I started eating Paleo-style in July of 2011.  My husband and I were encouraged by our good friends to try a Whole30, and just see what we learn.  We learned ALOT.  Apparently, the foods you put into your body affect the way you look, feel, and perform... who knew?  During this 30-day introduction to Paleo eating, we starting having more energy, our digestion problems disappeared, our sleep was better, the chubby "intertubes" around our waists started to melt away, our skin issues cleared up, and our headaches were non-existent.  This was too good to be true, right?  Nope.  It was true.  And it is still true.  We are enjoying better health than we have ever experienced, and we are so grateful for the constant reminders that real, whole foods are better than man-made twists on food (who came up with preservatives, additives, sugar, and changes to crop growth, anyway?).

After the revelations that took place during those 30 days, I began doing a ton of research, learning a ton of valuable information, trying a ton of Paleo recipes, and having a TON of fun with it all!  My husband suggested that I start a blog to record my findings.  What started as a fun little "journal" of my Paleo adventure has turned into a full-on website ( that is packed with information, recipes, and tips.  The website has almost 1,200 Facebook Fans, and we're growing quickly!

In the midst of all this Paleo goodness, I started trying to convince the people around me to give Paleo a try.  Do you know what I ran into?  Excuses, that's what!  The excuse I heard the most was "but it will be too hard... I don't have time for all that!"  After hearing that excuse for about the 97th time, I decided that my theme should be "Easy Paleo."  My goal is to help people realize that Paleo-eating does not have to be difficult. Whether you’re transitioning into a Paleo lifestyle, or just trying to maintain it in your daily life, my tips, articles, and Food Diary posts are meant to help you simplify!

Since I was learning so much, and my own Paleo experience was becoming so much easier, I decided to write an eBook on the subject.  It was a great way to compile my thoughts and ideas in one, compact place.  The eBook turned into 75+ pages of suggestions, tips, tricks, and secrets that have streamlined the way I "do food" for my family.

Don't get me wrong... I strongly believe that Paleo-eating is WORTH your time.  However, it does not have to take an enormous amount of time.  My goal with the eBook is to help you cut down on your time in the kitchen so you can spend more time with your family and friends.  I have shared with you my top 21 tips to bring simplicity to your Paleo life (don't you just love that word... simplicity?)  

Shortly after the book came out, I got some fantastic reviews from some of my heroes, including Robb Wolf, Whole9, Dr. William Davis (author of Wheatbelly), and Chris Kresser.  They had fantastic things to say about it, and I am still star-struck over it!  Read their reviews here.

I know what you're thinking... "a fantastic, amazing eBook like that must cost hundreds of dollars, right?"  Well thank-you!  But no... It's $4.99.  I priced the book at $4.99 for several reasons... 
1. It's my first eBook!  You don't know me yet!  How can you be sure that I am to be trusted?  Robb Wolf can charge $25 for an eBook, but he's Robb Wolf!  I'm not quite to his level yet... almost, but not quite.  ;)
2. I didn't want to hear any excuses for NOT taking advantage of this helpful information.  $4.99 is nothing... it's less than most of the large drinks at Starbucks!  So don't tell me "it's not in the budget right now" (can you tell that I don't like excuses?).
3. Well, there really isn't a 3rd reason.  #1 and #2 pretty much sum it up.  

So if you're feeling like a prisoner in your kitchen, I hope you'll check out my website and my eBook.  Hopefully your Paleo life will become as easy as mine!

Thanks, Jennie!  We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.  Keep up the great work!
~Jen and Karina

Friday, December 23, 2011

What's In a Name?

So I guess I have some explaining to do...

I've been getting a lot of questions as of late about the title of this blog.  Just to keep you in the loop, it is a reference to three very special people in my life.  For those of you that don't know me, here they are...

Brandon (3), Spencer (6) and Reagan (8) are the very reason why I ventured down this path to Paleo-Land in the first place.  These sweet faces are the inspiration behind "Pint-Sized Paleo".  I am deeply committed to giving them a solid foundation for their health and well-being, and equipping them with the ability to make good decisions as they move through each stage of life.

I mentioned in my first post that I started all of this by being honest about the person in the mirror.  After I got a grip on my own health, I immediately shifted my focus to the rest of the family.  It has been an interesting and rewarding journey, and it all began in a highly unusual place.

At this point, my own awareness around food choices and the implications it can have on my health was rapidly growing.  I ended up having a revelation, and oddly enough I owe it all to Annie's Organics Mac and Cheese.  I was looking in my pantry at a box of the Organic Peace Pasta and Parmesan and thought (or more likely was talking) to myself:

"Is this stuff just filling my kids, or is it actually nourishing them?"     

Busted.  Big time.

This was a major league wake-up call for me.  I wrestled with a flood of thoughts and emotions while processing the answer to that simple question.  Oh, but don't you worry about me!  I didn't beat myself up for too long.  Shortly after this came every justification in the book.  One-by-one I sifted through them, but thankfully I had the presence of mind to be honest with myself.  I followed up each of them with what I knew in my heart to be true.

"But it's ORGANIC!"  (Insert pat on the back for Mom).  Not good enough.  It comes in a box with pretty packaging that begs my children to eat it.  C'mon!  What adolescent girl doesn't like peace signs?

"But they are guaranteed to eat it.  All I ask for is a peaceful dinner with no complaints."  Am I making this about me and my comfort level at dinnertime, or am I truly focused on what is best for them?  Ouch.

"But they like it and get really excited when they know it's on the menu for dinner."  Good job, Mom-of-the-Year.  Are you their approval-seeking friend or their parent?  

"But it's a great thing to have on hand.  My babysitters can make it in a pinch."  My (highly capable) babysitters can also turn on an oven,  insert a pan of sausages and prepared vegetables, and set the timer for an hour.  I'll bet they can even sport a pair of oven mitts and take the food out when it's done.  Am I willing to take the time to prepare ahead of time?

"But when they are on sale at the Outpost, I can get 4 boxes for $5!"  Those new Nike Free running shoes are pretty fantastic, but isn't spending 5-10 extra dollars on dinner worth the sacrifice?  Wouldn't I prefer to have my kids be filled with nourishing foods instead of that which is overly-processed, nutrient-deficient, and lifeless? 

Can any of you relate to this?  I can't imagine I am a Lone Ranger here.

So where did all of this crazy self-talk lead me?  I was in desparate need of a plan.  The task seemed daunting, and this was not going to be an easy process.

News Flash:  Parenting never is!

I was confronted with a year-long process of not just purging my house of "kid food" (yup... even the organic stuff), but educating my children around the reasons why we were making the change.  I involved them in every step of the process.  I did my best to infuse as much fun into this as possible.  We became nutrition detectives!  Together we read labels, learned about how certain ingredients harm or help our bodies, and committed to reducing our sugar intake as a family.  Instead of taking a militant approach, I equipped them with the facts, and then gave them choices.  They have become so proficient at label-reading that they now look and decide whether something is good on their own!  I am trying to avoid a rebellion where they will go on sugar/junk food benders when they are away from the house.  It was fascinating to watch how they keep each other accountable and encourage one another to make better decisions for their health.  I love how enthusiastically they share their stories from school or birthday parties when they have made healthy food choices.  It's nice when I can take a step back and see the fruits of my labor.

I was amazed at some of the foods they actually liked.  Roasted brussel sprouts?  Check.  Raw sauerkraut?  Check.  Homemade kale chips?  Check.  Now keep in mind that for some of these, it took three or four attempts before they decided that they liked them.  Kids' taste buds are always changing, so if at first you don't succeed, keep offering it up!

So now you know a bit more about the inspiration behind this blog - my "Pint-Sized Paleo" kiddos.  It certainly took a lot of time and effort to get them to the point where they are on board with this way of eating.  Just looking at those sweet faces reminds me that it was well worth the investment.  Wouldn't you agree?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Got Paleo?

"When are you going to start a blog?"
If I had one dollar for every time I heard that... Never mind.  You know the drill.
So here we go.  I am officially joining the ranks of millions of bloggers everywhere.  Whether or not  people read this is yet to be determined.  What I do know is that if you have any interest in practical family health and wellness, this might be worth the read.    
Why did I start this journey in the first place?  
Allow me to set the stage...
Have you ever heard of a flavor-enhancer for food called "monosodium glutamate" (otherwise known as MSG)?  Believe it or not, this is where it all began for me.  Three years ago I heard some rumblings about it's harmful effects on the human body.  A Google search lead me to a YouTube video by a holistic health/wellness practitioner by the name of Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness.  I watched him "drop truth bombs" on the damage MSG does in the body, and how there are dozens of hidden forms of it in our food.  After spending the rest of the day ignoring my family (my husband is amazing and sensed he needed to stay out of the way of this train) I managed to watch as many of his videos as my little brain could handle.  My eyes were opened to a whole new world of holistic wellness and nutrition.  I was absolutely captivated by those video blogs that day.  I had not experienced anything even remotely close to this in any aspect of my education or training up to that point.  Everything clicked!  Little did I know I was about to discover my true passion.  
At this point there was no turning back.  As I worked through Sean's podcasts, as well as the research of his recommended partners in health, I quickly realized I had a lot to learn.  It was a sobering experience to say the least.  Here I was a wife/mother-of-three/fitness professional who was failing at leading my family, friends and clients down the path to optimal health and wellness.  I was served up a huge slice of humble pie and I have to admit it didn't taste very good.  I was a cardio-pushing, Food Guide Pyramid-following, calorie counting, fat free fanatic.  My clients depended on me for good advice, and I was far from delivering.  
I decided to start with the person in the mirror, and it pains me to admit I didn't like what I saw.  I was an over-trained, sleep-deprived, cardio fanatic who was nowhere near ideal body composition, with appetite disregulation, mood swings, and a horrifying addiction to sugar that I was trying to overcome with willpower alone.  I knew there was much more to health than what I was experiencing.  I wasn't living... I was surviving.  
I began burying myself in as much research as I could get my hands on.  I focused primarily on those who preached eating real food, exercising smarter (not longer), digestive health, emphasized hormone regulation, reducing toxic load, regulating sleep, and stress reduction.  I was also very interested in disease prevention, as I am completely and utterly committed to giving my three kids the best start to life possible in terms of their health.  Side note:  I would be doing her a disservice if I failed to give a shout-out to Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites.  I follow her work very closely, have used her as a resource on numerous occasions, completed her 21-Day Sugar Detox program, travelled to Iowa to hear her speak, and consider her to be a mentor.  I digress...  The answers to my questions led my family and I straight to the Paleo lifestyle.  Not only does it make perfect sense to me from a science perspective, but this stuff really works!  If you don't believe me, check out the blog of my dear friend/client here.
So in a nutshell, this is what has taken the Stuke Family's health to the next level:
  • We eat REAL food such as high-quality protein (grass fed meat, wild caught fish, free range poultry), seasonal fruits and vegetables, and lots of healthy fats (nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and olive oil).  We've eliminated grains, most dairy, and legumes.  The Goldfish and pretzels have left the building, but not without dramatic protest from my children. (More on that later!)
  • We cook dinner EVERY night of the week from scratch.  As you can imagine, this takes some planning with three kids and two working parents.  I am here to tell you it CAN be done!  Stay tuned for some outstanding kid-approved Paleo recipes.
  • We waved good-bye to the USDA Food Guide Pyramid and started consuming a diet higher in (healthy) fat (including saturated fat... gasp!), where calorie counting and portion control is not encouraged.  Those of you who workout with me know I can't count, so I am thoroughly enjoying this aspect of it.
  • Play.  We have incorporated much more fun into our day, and most of it involves physical activity.  Join us for a game of highly-competitive backyard kickball if you are in the neighborhood.  New victims are always welcome. 
  • We have increased our sleep hours.  We do our best to wind down when it's dark and get up with the sun.  My three-year old, Brandon, plays the part of a rooster every morning, so the waking up part is a non-issue.
So what exactly are the benefits?  Here are just a few:
  • We are the leanest and fittest we've been in years (despite exercising LESS)
  • Our family rarely suffers from illness
  • My moods are balanced
  • I have a handle on my sugar cravings
  • We have reduced our stress
  • We have much-improved sleep hygiene
I am here to spread the Paleo love.  Trust me when I say this is not rocket science.  We're keeping it simple in the Stuke house and that is what this blog is all about.  We are far from perfect, but even staying on track 80% of the time has proved to be the best decision we have made for our health.  I hope you jump on board with us.  There is plenty of room on the bus. 
If you feel so inclined, introduce yourself in the comment section below.  The Paleo lifestyle also emphasizes community, so I look forward to offering support if you decide you could use a lifestyle change, if you want to learn more about optimizing health, or if you just want to pick up a new recipe or two.  Whatever your reason for being here, it's great to have you!  (Now that I've thrown the invitation out there, I hope that it's more than just my mother that has decided to read this.  But just in case... Love you, Mom!)