Category Archives: Health and Beauty

The Blubber Battle: My 30 Days With Jillian Michaels

“This is you time baby. Make. The. Most. Of.It.”   -Jillian Michaels.

Not too long ago, Jillian Michaels asked me to hang out with her. She said if I gave her quality time for a month, she’d make a difference. Aiiiiight. Maybe it wasn’t like that really, but I did spend about 25 minutes with her each day for 30 days straight and she was right, I noticed a difference.

I just completed Jillian’s 30 Day Shred. It’s an exercise DVD that I’d do every day and it’s the same work out for ten days, and then you move up a level. Though I’m not “shredded,” I’m better than I was before. I lost about 5 pounds and 4 inches.

Unfortunately those aren’t “Biggest Loser” type numbers, but I’m telling myself: slow and steady wins the race. I’m breastfeeding and watching that my calories don’t dip too low so Ethan can still have enough to eat. For some nursing women it seems the pounds simply melt away at lightening speed, while for others of us, not so much, at least not without affecting our supply.

The big thing I gained from the workout was confidence from my commitment to not miss a single day for 30 days, regardless of my kids’ or my hubby’s needs. I prioritized Me. There were some workouts that took place right before bed, others I had to hit pause while I got Ethan back to sleep. And his big brother, Logan, even joined me in a handful of workouts.

There also were days where my whine gave my 3-year-old a good run for his money: “I don’t wanna wooooorrrrkkkk ouuuutttt. I’m tttiiiirrreeeedd.”  But then I’d do it. Very grudgingly.

The main thing is I finished it and I’m much stronger. I can see whispers of my pre-baby belly. I love that I can easily do 15 “man” push-ups now and impressive moves while holding a plank pose.

Next up for me in my Blubber Battle is to focus on running since I’ve got the Shamrock Shuffle in a couple weeks. Earlier in my 30 Day challenge, I’d do Jillian’s workout and then go on a run. That proved to be too time consuming, so the last two weeks I have been all Jillian.

After my race, I’m considering doing another 30 Days with my girl Jillian, maybe her new Ripped in 30 DVD. We’ll see.


The Blubber Battle: Clean-Eating Canadian Stew Recipe

I’m trying to cook a new recipe each week and I’ll share the good ones here. Though I think of stew as something you make in the dead of winter, I decided to try this one, it seemed easy and one that worked well for leftovers, which is an essential part of my meal planning.

I made this with Logan by my side because he loves helping out in the kitchen. In Tosca Reno’s book she stresses the need for canned potatoes in this or the potatoes would be too mushy. I followed her directions and the stew turned out perfectly.

I also found that not only is this fun to make with Logan, but with a glass of Shiraz as well.

Canadian Stew
The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno


1 1/2 lbs. lean beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 leeks, whites and light green only, cut into chunks and well rinsed
3 or 4 medium sized cooking onions, peeled and cut into chunks
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 – 10 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
1 – 10 oz. can small potatoes
Several cloves garlic
4 T. olive oil
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
Sea salt and black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 cup low-sodium, low-fat chicken stock
1 cup light beer


1. Cut meat into 1-inch cubes.  Place whole-wheat flour, salt, ground black pepper, oregano, and basil in a large plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake the contents so they mix.  Now place the cubed meat in the container and shake until coated.

2. Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven heat the oil and saute the garlic and onions until soft.  Add remaining vegetables, except canned potatoes, and cook 5 minutes longer.

3. Gently remove cubed and seasoned meat from container and add to the cooking vegetables.  Cook until meat is browed.  You will notice the mixture is getting sticky.  This is caused by the flour seasoning on the meat.  When it gets too sticky, add the chicken stock and the light beer.

4. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Stir the stew until the sauce becomes evenly smooth.  Now add canned, drained potatoes.  Cook over low heat for another 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

The Blubber Battle: Jillian Michaels, Logan and Me

Today I finished Day 17 of Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. Though I haven’t missed a single workout, I’m not “shredded” yet, but who knows, maybe after the next 13 days I’ll have a body like hers. Ahem.

Logan doing the 30 Day Shred with Mom.

I’m on a mission to lose 30 pounds of baby weight. I have been eating “clean” with five to six small meals each day. I’m also working out regularly and drinking tons of water. It’s not a totally strict diet in that I’m also still drinking a fair amount of wine. If the pounds come off too slowly, I’ll cut that out too, but I love wine so much (probably too much) I’ve got to toss back a goblet or two here and there. (Check out my weight loss journey page.)

I’m not a huge fan of workout DVDs, but with a two-month-old and cold Chicago weather, the easiest way for me to work it out is by watching TV. I chose the 30 Day Shred on a whim, my best friend is doing it and it was available On Demand, so I decided to accept Jillian Michaels’ challenge. Through Twitter, I stumbled upon a Facebook group on the 30 Day Shred.

Thank GOD for this group. Everyone checks in each day to report their workouts. On the days when I don’t want to drag my butt off the couch, I get emails with everyone saying how they’ve finished their work out and that peer pressure propels my blubber into action.

The DVD isn’t as hard as I’d feared, but I just think that’s because I’d previously been involved in a personal training group for several months. Many folks on the Facebook page talk about how the workout kicks their butt and I agree it *is* hard, but it’s a good hard. Also, Jillian isn’t screaming at you like she does The Biggest Loser contestants, another thing that I’d feared. I don’t respond well to people yelling at me.

One evening my 3 ½ year old Logan came running downstairs when Hubby told him Mommy was exercising. He did the entire workout with me and followed along really well. My favorite part was when mimicking Jillian, he turned to me and said: “You can do anything you want to do!” He’s right.

After my 30 days are up I’m not sure what I’ll do after that, I’m still training for the Shamrock Shuffle in the coming weeks but I need to figure out a workout in addition to that. Especially since I don’t plan on giving up my red wine.

The Blubber Battle: My First Missive Against The Bulge

Oh how I’ve dreaded writing this post. But I know I need to because it’ll help me accomplish my goal since talking about it will make me accountable. After all, my word is my bond.

It’s time I talk about my post-baby weight. Ethan was born two months ago, and while I’ve got no Hollywoodish disillusions that my body will make a Heidi Klum-like comeback (hell, I didn’t even look as good as her pre-baby!) I must drop the weight much faster this time than I did with my first kid.

After my first, it was bad in that I was still calling my jelly rolls “baby weight” when my “baby” was 2 years old. This time, things will be different.

With my first pregnancy, I gained about 30 pounds. With my second, I out-did myself. I thought it was a total 40-pound weight gain, but when I actually did the math, I discovered me and Kate Hudson had something in common for once. We both gained 60 pounds in our pregnancy. Wowzers.

In the month after Ethan was born, I dropped 30 pounds, but I’ve got 30 more to go. My plan? I want to do it the old fashioned way. Eating right and exercise. If I burnout on that, I’ll switchover to something like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, but I’m really inspired to do it “on my own.”

Right now things are going good, I’m doing Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred and really like that. (I’m one of those weirdos who likes to exercise.) You’re supposed to workout every day for 30 days. I’m on Day 10 and have hit all my workouts. After the 30 days, Ethan will be old enough to where I can take him to our gym’s daycare so I can melt some more lard there. Plus I’m prepping for the Shamrock Shuffle race next month.

On the food front, I’m drinking an insane amount of water, eating small meals every few hours and try to have them be “clean” (i.e. not processed, more meals made from scratch) I *did* eat a glorious cheeseburger on Wednesday, but it’d been months since that happened. See? This is why I’m writing this, to keep me on my soon-to-be-skinnier toes.

The Docs Say It’s Time For Modified Bed Rest

I’m eight months pregnant and so far things have been going swimmingly, though I am one of those strange women who loves all 40 weeks of the pregnancy from baby kicks to body aches. But now the landscape has changed.

Instead of poking fun at my expanding waistline, I’ve taken to cheering for every millimeter of growth. It’s because I’ve started to develop preeclampsia. That’s where, among other things, a pregnant women’s blood pressure rises to not great levels and it can be dangerous.

A Personal History. When I was pregnant with Logan, at my 34-week checkup, the doctors noticed his growth had slowed, he was still measuring at 33 weeks and my blood pressure was high. After weekly monitoring, a couple trips to the hospital, medication and bed rest, they induced me at 38 weeks. That’s full term and Logan was born a perfectly healthy, but small 5 lbs 6 oz. He’s gone on to be a normal, thriving tantrum-prone toddler.

This time around the medical staff has been watching me like a hawk. Since my blood pressure started to go up a few weeks ago, they ordered monthly ultrasounds to make sure that Bean was growing fine. I thought this was great because I got to see the little one each month, how cool is that? Bean’s actually measuring a little big (yay!) and has been passing all the tests with flying colors.

Nevertheless, because mama’s not passing all her tests, I’ve been ordered to work from home three days a week so I can lie on my left side as much as possible, increasing blood flow to the placenta.

RELAXXX! This is my least favorite part of having high blood pressure. Everyone you’ve ever met tells you to relax. I know they mean well, but the chorus of commands to “RELAX!!!” isn’t, well, relaxing. I care for my child more than any person on the planet and I want the best for Bean and I’m always trying my best, so believe me I’m trying to relax. I’ve cut back on everything and will continue to do so, but keep in mind with a 3 year old, a husband who is now working at least 70 hours a week and no family nearby, it’s no cake walk. Thank goodness I have a great cleaning lady, good neighbors and good friends. But to the chorus, I say: mile in my shoes people, mile in my shoes.

What’s Next? For now, I’ll keep working as it keeps me sane, I’m sure if things keep progressing as they did last time, I’ll have to dial back and be on more bed rest. Last time bed rest drove me bonkers as someone who’s at her happiest (and Zen) when she’s on-the-go, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. For the time being, I’ll smile at Bean’s Cha-Cha slide in my tummy, root for Bean’s growth and yes, even relax a little bit more.

Making Bonds While Breaking A Sweat

It’s Sunday at 8:30 a.m., and guess where She’sWrite is. At the gym. About a year ago, I started meeting with my personal trainer along with three other women and we’ve had these weekly sanity-saving, butt-busting, ab-torquing classes. Admittedly when I found out I was pregnant I wondered, uh-oh what about my small group training?

We do weights, resistance training, cardio warm-ups and it’s a total body workout. With my last pregnancy I did prenatal pilates and prenatal yoga classes, it was relaxing, but it wasn’t challenging. My current training always made my tummy muscles twitch, left me walking on legs of jello and feeling the ache the following morning.

My trainer assured me, don’t worry, we’ll make modifications and instead of focusing on getting stronger, I’ll just focus on maintaining.

That was such a relief because besides the physical benefits of working out, what I really get from this group is the quality time with the women. They have a variety of life experiences, yet there’s universalities there that bond us. One woman has a zany personality much like my own, three grown children – two in college and one who just passed the bar. Another is a straight-shooting, but sweet kindergarten teacher with two teenage boys and the third is a funny successful career woman. The no-nonsense-yet-kind trainer is a mom of two boys who are tweens/teens.

While working out we talk about our lives. What’s going on at work, with our families, exciting vacations, what’s new with our friends.

I value their advice, insights and love listening about their daily lives. They have this “been there, done that” way about them, but it’s not an air, it’s honest understanding and empathy. And I love it.

Even though not everyone can be part of a small training group, the benefits of exercise can’t be overstated. I feel stronger and more centered after exercising and recommend all moms try to get in even just a little where they can.

Obviously first check with your doctor before working out, they usually advise not to start anything new and vigorous while pregnant. I’m not a personal trainer, I’m just speaking from my personal experience.

  • Check your TV listings. Many exercise channels or OnDemand options have great prenatal classes. Make the time to do them.
  • Just because you’re a preggo, don’t discount light weights, the exercise ball, resistance bands and even mat workouts. There’s still plenty of “Buns of Steel” moves that can be done while preggo. Ask my saddlebags. An expert can help walk you through safe exercises.
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood. If you can, try to leave the little ones at home, put on your sneaks and head out the door. A 20 minute walk to clear your head and get the blood pumping can do wonders.

Still Not Convinced on the No-Chip Manicure

A few weeks ago, we went on a trip to Missouri and a couple weeks before that trip, I began toying with the idea of getting my nails done. I’m more of a pedicure than a manicure girl, but my nails looked great, were all the same length healthy, etc. I wondered what would be the best way to keep them in that state of perfection, especially considering I’m a woman who’s on the computer 10 hours a day, cleans, cooks and cuddles a wriggly 3-year-old.

My no-chip manicure

What about this “no chip” Manicure I’d been hearing so much about? Every nail salon from the spa at my gym to the walkthru spot at the mall seems to have signs that read: NOW OFFERING NO CHIP!!! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a manicure that’s supposed to last for two weeks. Like the name states, it’s not supposed to chip. They’re apparently ideal for going on vacation.

A few of my friends have gotten no-chip manis and pedis and love them. For days on end their nails would have that shiny, just-from-the salon look. Now I’m very picky about my nails. (Ha, find something that I’m *not* picky about!) I don’t like acryllics, tips and all that because it ruins your natural nails and I’ve got good natural nails.

Though you should see my mom’s hands. She could have easily been a hand model, they are the most perfect hands you’ll ever see. Growing up I remember how strangers would comment on how gorgeous her hands were. The nails grow long and in perfect ovals that she never needs to shape. I’ve got my dad’s square-shaped nailbed, so I rock the square look. (Obviously, I think about my nails too much.)

I squeezed some extra time out of my schedule and rushed to the mall. I had 45 minutes and thought it was worth a try for the no chip. By now my nails were dreadfully long, they were claws actually, but I figured the manicurist could take care of that. I went for the color Lincoln Park After Dark, and the woman began applying the no chip. She’d paint layer upon thick layer and in between layers my hand sat under an ultraviolent light contraption.

She touched my glistening fingernail. I jumped reflexively thinking she ruined my paintjob, but nope, there was no smudge. She smiled and said: “All done!” Wha? I looked at the clock, I had run out of time and instead of trim, sensible nails I had these long, beautifully colored claws.

Great. So fast forward a week, I’ve still got my claws, but they’re too dramatic. I feel like a mid-1990s bridesmaid. All that being said, they didn’t chip and felt thicker.

My nails after the no chip manicure and at a more reasonable length.

The next week my claws were nearing the length of entries into the Guiness Book of World Records and I wanted to remove the manicure. I went back to the same place. The manicurist soaked them in some Acetone and tried to wipe off the manicure. It stayed. After more soaking and wiping he busted out that electric sandblaster. You know the machine, it files down your nails. I was shocked because I detest that thing. I kept asking the guy if that was necessary, he said yes and to trust him. Well that was my mistake. I should have just walked out, but I didn’t. He applied the sandblaster to my nails to get it off. 

Now they are much weaker than before, but they’re growing fast and in a month will be back to normal. I chalk it up to a learning experience.

Turns out the proper way to remove the no-chip manicure is to wrap your nails individually in acetone and then the manicure comes off. Although your nails come out weaker, they won’t be as weak as mine.

I may try the no chip again, but it certainly won’t be a cheap-o shop. From now on, those people will only be allowed near my toes.