Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Experience with Whole30

If you aren't familiar with Whole30, check it out here. Basically it's a 30 day nutritional program that serves as a sort of metabolic "reset." Starting 30 days ago I completely cut out the following: grains, dairy, added sugar (everything but fruit), legumes. I also modified the fats that I was eating, so no vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.. I mainly used coconut oil for cooking, but occasionally used ghee, which is clarified butter. Think about this for a second: EVERYTHING YOU EAT AFFECTS YOU. I mean, duh, right? It's a pretty obvious statement, but how many times have you eaten a sandwich and thought, "how will this bread affect me?" Probably exactly zero times. The goal with this program (for me anyway) is to identify any foods that are causing problems, such as my lovely mid-20s acne or my constant joint pain. 

veggie casserole + sausage; fried eggs + pistachios; veggie casserole + fried eggs; veggie and bacon omelet

My goals during Whole30:
  1. Clear up skin
  2. Reduce joint pain when running
  3. Improve overall energy levels
  4. Lessen abdominal bloating
My skin didn't really clear up like I hoped. It may have improved a little bit, but it's been up and down over the last year, so I don't really credit Whole30 with the little improvement I've seen. Technically I was supposed to be getting grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, etc.. and I didn't. That might have been part of the problem because I would assume the acne is related to hormones. Now my joint pain DID improve. Prior to Whole30, I had taken a break from running to try to help my ankle heal, but it didn't help. I decided to resume running and just deal with the achy ankle. Well, turns out the pain went away shortly after I started Whole30. Hooray! I haven't had a lot of pain at all on my shorter runs, which is wonderful. Of course my knees still ache on long runs, but that's normal. Ok, energy levels. This is where I've been the most disappointed. People are always talking about feeling AWESOME during weeks 3 and 4, and just having so much energy! I didn't get that at all. Maybe I just didn't eat enough most days? I snacked on extra nuts or fruit some days, which helped increase calories, but I may have still been deficient most days because I did lose some weight (which I didn't intend). Ok last goal: bloating. This is something that did improve! Before I started I could poke my stomach out far enough to look like I was a few months pregnant (I'm not), and I felt like a balloon in the middle. I'm sitting here right now and when I relax my stomach, it doesn't bloat out much at all. Score! I know that seems like a dumb thing to be excited about, but when I'm sitting all day in jeans and my stomach is bloated, it's really uncomfortable. I'm anxious to see which of the food groups is causing that. I'll be reintroducing them one at a time, so hopefully I'll be able to figure it out.

I think part of the reason I didn't see a huge change in my energy levels is because I didn't exactly eat like trash to begin with. I have eaten relatively healthily in recent years, so it's not like I went from eating fast food 5 times a week to Whole 30. I think someone going from a horrible diet to Whole 30 would probably see more changes in the way they feel after the program. They'd probably feel like crap the first week or two though, from weening off all the junk!

tacos; hamburger; fajitas; porkchop + sweet potato

I have discovered some great modifications to my favorite foods that I can totally maintain even past Whole 30. For one thing, I didn't really miss the tortillas in tacos/fajitas. A piece of iceburg lettuce worked just fine! Same with the hamburger bun. Now, don't get me wrong, I am in no way going to continue fasting from bread. I have missed pastries like you wouldn't believe, but I'm not going to eat grains when it's not something I am going to drool over. Does that make sense? If I'm going to eat something outside of the Whole 30 approved foods, it's going to be something WORTH IT.

Another great modification I found was subbing salsa for salad dressing. Obviously that only works with certain salads, because salsa wouldn't go well on a spinach and berry salad. But lettuce, bell pepper, chicken and avo topped with some salsa is dang good! I was careful to get salsa without added sugar. Herdez hot salsa is my absolute favorite. The chicken was just cooked on the stove with tons of chili powder and whatever other spices I felt like adding. I also made this Tex-Mex Veggie Casserole that is probably one of my favorite dishes ever. I will definitely be making it again! Rhett didn't even try it, so I got a whole 9x13 pan of it to myself...twice. It doubles as a good breakfast with a couple of fried eggs on top. 

turkey burger; salad + blackened chicken; salad + chicken + asparagus and bacon; salad + nuts

If you're thinking "I could NEVER do that!" you need to silence that voice right now. Don't ever think you can't give up certain foods, because you absolutely can. It's 100% mental, so if you think you can't do it, you just need to change your attitude. I didn't think I could do it, but once I set my mind to it, I just handled it. Sure there were days when I teared up a little thinking about brownies, but I got over it. 

chicken tortilla(less) soup + avo; tuna and avo lettuce wrap; turkey "sandwich" + pistachios + cuties; bacon wrapped chicken + green beans + cuties

A few other things I learned along the way: I just can't do ground turkey, it's disgusting. You can keep your turkey burgers. I can totally do Whole 30 with a husband who has no interest in it. Not stuffing myself to the point of pain is actually a great idea...I should keep doing that. Sweet potatoes are literally the best vegetable. I can photograph a wedding without eating a piece of the cake (I previously thought this to be impossible).

I think I want to maintain a Whole 30 compliant diet at least 80% of the time from now on, but I'm glad to be out of the "reset" phase so that I can feel ok about eating popcorn at the movies and putting cream in my coffee. And just to be clear, this is NOT A WEIGHT LOSS PLAN. I didn't plan to lose weight, but I have been increasing my mileage and running frequency, so it translated to weight loss. I also ate far less on Whole 30 just because bread usually accounted for most of my calories. It was a side effect, but not a reason to do Whole 30 (in my opinion).

I'd love to hear from you if you've done Whole 30! I probably didn't do it exactly right because I didn't read the book, but I think I got the gist of it down. Also, feel free to ask me questions about it, and I'll do my best to answer them. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Andy + Jen's Fall Wedding at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham AL

I'm getting in wedding mode today as I'm preparing to shoot my second wedding in 2014. It's going to be a fun one! They are doing a 5k that morning, which I am going to document for them, and they are just all-around fun people. Anyway, I figured now was a good time to post these photos from Andy and Jen's beautiful Birmingham wedding last November (my birthday weekend actually!). Jen is my lovely friend Heather's sister, so I was more than thrilled to be shooting her wedding. Heather has been a great friend and mentor to me, and I am excited to shoot a few weddings with her this year.

Jen and Andy got married at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, which is hands-down the coolest venue EVER. I would drive down and shoot there every weekend if I could! I would have loved it even more if they hadn't had their Halloween stuff still up. Apparently they host a haunted house, and from what I saw it is truly terrifying. I almost lost my lunch a couple of times when I went into spots with decorations still up. Despite that, there were some amazing photo locations! The house where Jen and her girls got ready was also pretty stellar. It was a rental, so it was nice and minimal, perfect for a photographer.

Jen and Heather's parents are such wonderful people. Mrs. Debbie actually made my wedding dress! She also made Jen's and her own, which you see in the photo above. Talented is an understatement for this lady.

As you can tell, there is a LOT of love between these two. They were adorable. Another friend of mine, Aaron, whom you can see just a tiny bit in the right side of the exit photo, shot with me. He shot all of the guys photos, so that's why I don't have any. I loved working with him! And my good friend Margaret shot the video! So as you can tell, I was surrounded by friends that day, which made this wedding an absolute dream to shoot. Hope you enjoyed the photos! I love posting these because it almost feels like being there all over again.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter Woods

Winter is kind of an off-season for me regarding photography, at least for wedding and outdoor portrait work. I actually did have a wedding in January, and I have another coming up at the end of the month, but for the most part I haven't had much going on. That of course makes me feel a little bored, so I try to find personal projects to work on. A couple of weekends back, I took photos of my friends sending Margaret off to Nashville, and then this past weekend I asked a student to model for me for a quick creative shoot. Kristen and I have lots of mutual friends, and we got along well. She was so sweet to get out in the cold with me to take pictures! Earlier this same day the ground was covered in snow, but of course it all melted before I got a chance to get out and take pictures.

I took Kristen out on the biking/running trails behind campus and just took some portraits of her. I have a vintage filter that creates that kaleidoscope effect. I was excited to finally try it out, and I love the result! I also finally got a wireless transmitter for my flash, so I experimented with lighting a little. Some of the photos look like there is sunlight, but that's actually my flash strategically placed. I am excited to start using it more! It is a lot easier to carry around that my big studio lights, especially when climbing in and out of gullies in the woods. I felt like a kid again, playing in the "big ditch" with my neighborhood friends.

That last one kills me. How gorgeous is she?! I took a ton of shots in that location, trying to get her face in just the right spot. There are a couple more that I like where only one eye is showing, but I ended up choosing this one. It was so great to just get out and shoot something with no pressure to please anyone but myself. I should really start doing this more often. I just need to get better about approaching people to model for me. That's honestly the hardest part because I feel like a weirdo. Luckily Kristen is an artist, so she totally gets it :)


I was intending to post this yesterday, but unfortunately we had quite a tragedy at Union. I still haven't quite processed it, but I feel like the only thing I can do is pray. I don't even want to write about it, but you can read about it here, if you're curious. Please keep Olivia's friends and family as well as our campus in your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

JerseyMaids Galaxy Collection Lookbook Shoot

Guys, this post has been a looooong time coming! Lauren of JerseyMaids started this amazing collection of galaxy themed jewelry a while back, and it has really taken off. She asked me to do a styled shoot with several of the pieces including having them modeled, so I was of course THRILLED! After putting together a mood board with Lauren, I came up with a couple of sets to use. The first was a piece of wood with little holes in it that I found at the antique store. I thought the holes looked sort of like little stars, plus I added some punched out blue stars. Using natural light, I was able to get the moody look she was going for!

I shot the jewelry on my lovely friend Margaret in a vacant house in midtown. I had done the interior shots for the real estate listing and was able to go back and use it for this! It was the perfect spot. We had it completely to ourselves, and despite not having and heat in there, it was cozy. Margaret was, of course, wonderful. Her sweet fiancé, Ben, helped us get some coffee made to warm us up.

The second set I used was shot on a spray paint galaxy painting that I got at the flea market! I also used it for my Space Jam photo. With the addition of the rock, an element Lauren has used in her other photos, it went perfectly with the collection. These were definitely my favorites of the bunch!

To check these out in action, go to Lauren's website or Etsy store. I am usually so critical of my own photos, but I still look at these and love them. I have another shoot like this coming up pretty soon that I'm also really excited about!

I hope you guys are all having a great winter so far. We woke up to some more snow this morning. It isn't a ton, but it sure is pretty :)  I, for one, am ready for warm weather, but I'm going to try to enjoy the snow while we have it.