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a month of real food

House-1-1024x682Back in May, Ryan & I committed to a month of real food.

We made so many good changes that have really stuck with us, like:

+ reading: nutrition labels, ingredient lists
+ substituting: white whole-wheat flour for all-purpose flour, honey or pure maple syrup for white sugar
+ making from scratch: bread, salad dressing, marinara sauce, yogurt, etc.
+ eating local: shopping at farmer’s markets, planting our own veggie & herb garden, canning & freezing

Possibly the most difficult part of the challenge for us was the social piece.  And to be honest, we made some exceptions there.  We love good company, and we realized how much connecting happens gathered around the table.

The second most difficult thing was giving up sweets.  I love to bake and we both have a sweet tooth, but after a while (read: weeks) the sugar cravings started to fade and fruit (like grapes and berries) started to suffice as dessert.  And when we just had to have baked goods, I made these brownies or these pumpkin muffins which are sweetened naturally.

So what did we learn about how eating real food affects our bodies?

+ We had more energy.
+ We had zero (yes, zero) stomach aches.
+ We felt full after eating a lot less food than normal.

And how have we incorporated this into our lifestyle?

When we moved into our new home at the end of May, we made sure to just restock our pantry with the basics.  We cook at home most nights and try to keep it “real”.  🙂  We’ve certainly made some exceptions this summer, like buying uber-processed hamburger buns, devouring s’mores, and baking with white sugar.  We also go out to eat every once in a while with our family and friends.  Sushi has officially been declared an exception to any guilt for always and forever because it’s our favorite.

Seriously, though, this challenge taught us a hugely valuable lesson – to think before we eat – and that is something that we will definitely hold on to.

Aside from the ones I’ve already linked, here are a couple of our favorite real food recipes:

+ White Whole-wheat BreadNaturally Ella
+ Yogurt – The Homemade Pantry
+ Granola Cereal – The Homemade Pantry
+ Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos (on homemade tortillas)  – Cook Smarts
+ Tortilla Soup100 Days of Real Food

Do you have any questions about our experience?  I’d love to hear about your journey to a healthier lifestyle!

July 24, 2014 - 1:37 pm

Kathleen - This is wonderful! Great job. You guys are an inspiration to me!

bits & pieces of our house

We’ve been here for almost a month (aside from traveling almost every weekend) and there are still boxes and paint cans and drop cloths everywhere.  We love it here and are so excited to be making this space a bit more “us”; we’re just coming to terms with the fact that it’s going to take some time.  But we’re enjoying the planning – the choosing paint colors and matching fabrics and deciding on room layouts – and, yes, even the “budget committee meetings” (mostly because we eat some sort of chocolate/ice cream/etc. to keep us from crying over how much it costs to renovate a bathroom).

So until I get my act together enough to actually write about something, …pictures:

More soon!

annnnd…we’re back

Well.  That was a much longer hiatus than I meant for it to be!  Between moving in mid May and going almost THREE WEEKS without having internet in our new house, I feel like I’ve been living under a rock (or, more appropriately, a giant pile of unpacked boxes).  But anyway, we’re all set now.

10336806_322221884591657_4813719068846194647_n-e1402355234460We are getting all settled in the new house.  Soon, I’ll have to give you a tour of the inside!  It was very well taken care of by the previous owners, but as with any 100-year-old house, it has enough projects to last us a lifetime.  We’re starting by painting the kitchen cabinets and re-painting/re-carpeting the family room is probably next.  It’s so much fun to finally be able to paint walls!  (It’s the little things, folks.)

I’m so glad Ryan is home now.  When I decided to move early to start painting, I never considered that I am the world’s biggest chicken.  Thankfully, Lucy the dog kept me company, but she wasn’t much help when I found a DEAD BAT in my laundry tub in the dark, creepy basement.  Anyway.

We’ve done a lot of work on the yard, which was necessary since the house had been unoccupied for the last year.  Things are coming together and it’s actually been pretty fun and rewarding to work on it with the hubby.  🙂  My veggie garden is in, too!  This year, we’re growing a variety of peppers along with tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, and onions.  I also have some containers filled with fresh herbs.  It’s so exciting to have the space to grow much, much more than we have in the past.

I know I’ve totally left you hanging about how we did on our real food pledge for the month of May.  I’ll post about that soon!  We learned so much that I really want to do it justice.  🙂

Happy Monday, friends!

it’s about to get real


The push to learn more about how the food we eat affects our bodies started a couple years ago for me.  I was dragged down and self conscious after almost a year of dealing with Chronic Urticaria – hives that covered most of my body and reoccurred daily for no apparent reason.  A friend of a friend suggested that I watch the documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, which tells the story of a man with Chronic Urticaria (among other issues) who set out to restore his health by changing the way he was eating.  He saw his Urticaria completely disappear.  And that was enough to get my attention.

Over the last year or so, we’ve taken some steps in the right direction: switching to whole grains, trying to incorporate more veggies, and choosing less-processed versions of packaged foods.  As a result, I haven’t had hives in almost a year.  (Hallelujah.)

But we make (a LOT) of exceptions for ourselves, still.  Every time we go out to eat, we seem to come home feeling stuffed to the brim and a bit ill, which usually means we then sit on couch and watch (approximately) 500 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy rather than getting in our workout.  And the next morning, we wake up feeling less than motivated to do better.  It’s a vicious cycle.

So we are finally ready to go all in.  To see what it would be like if we treated food as the fuel for our bodies that it is meant to be.  31 days of real food for the month of May.  In short, this means we are eating (borrowing from 100 Days of Real Food):

+ Whole Foods that are more of a product of nature than a product of industry
+ Lots of fruits and vegetables
+ Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese
+ 100% whole-wheat and whole-grains
+ Seafood
+ Pork, beef, & chicken in moderation
+ Beverages limited to water, milk, all natural juices, unsweetened coffee & tea, and, to help us keep our sanity, wine & beer
+ Snacks like dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and popcorn
+ All natural sweeteners like honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates in moderation

but we’re not eating:

refined grains such as white flour or white rice
refined sweeteners such as sugar, corn syrup, cane juice, or artificial sweeteners like Splenda
packaged food with more than 5 ingredients
deep fried foods
“fast foods”

We also have a goal of getting in a 30-minute workout at least four times a week.

Lord knows we will mess up a few (/many?) times, but I know that we will learn a lot!  Keep an eye on our journey by following me on Instagram (@photosbyhayley), checking out the hashtag #paintersgetreal, and subscribing to the blog via e-mail!  Now, I’m off to do some meal planning.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what led us here, check out these awesome resources:

Documentaries (mostly available on Netflix):
+ Food, Inc.
+ Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
+ Food Matters
+ Super Size Me
+ Fed Up (Coming out May 9)

Blogs with Great Recipes:
+ 100 Days of Real Food
+ Eating Whole with Lauren Brimley

Inspiring Instagram Accounts:
+ @eating_whole
+ @marcicooks
+ @tara_eats_whole

**Note: Ryan will drink his coffee black but isn’t making any promises about changing his go-to salad dressing.  😉

What is your favorite real food recipe?

the scoop


So.  Just a few things going on over here:

1.  We’re moving to Monmouth, IL in a few weeks.  Yay!  We are so happy we’ll get to set up house only 15 minutes away from our hometown and both of our families.  We also love that we’ll get back to small town living; it’s been a while.  Ryan has worked very hard during his training and has been blessed with a wonderful opportunity in Monmouth with Edward Jones.

2.  I took a half-time position as a software developer for a small research company based out of the Boston area – Barnstorm Research.  I’ll get to work from home aside from a just a little bit of travel, which will be great.

3.  We’re in the last few steps of buying a home!  More on this in a few weeks when it’s final.


April 30, 2014 - 6:41 pm

Jackie Cook - Awesome update, Hayley! So happy for you and Ryan.