What you learn from 30 days of no booze, sugar, gluten, or dairy

2015 February 10
by Grace Boyle

On January 12th, I embarked on a 30 day food challenge.

It was pretty strict. At a high level, I couldn’t have:

  • Gluten/Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Booze
  • Sugar

That eliminates a lot of things we enjoy in our daily consumption of food. But ensures for a lot of clean eating, and it also promoted points for sleeping eight hours, five days a week of working out (I didn’t always get five, but always worked out like I do anyway) and 10 minutes a day of meditation or some sort of quiet time without technology.

Today is the last day of the challenge, and I’m happy to say I stuck to it. I’m most happy about the no booze and no sugar.

The biggest win for me, was about reforming new habits. There are a lot of two week cleanses or 10 day challenges, and for me, I knew I needed to do the 30 days. I feel like anyone could do anything for 30 days and I needed to commit to it all or nothing. No point to skimp here or there, might as well do it all the way. Which besides a few little hiccups, or probably not being able to control what my food was cooked in when I ate out, I was strict as could be.

What I learned:

  • Clean food can be good. I scoured Instagram, Pinterest, magazines, etc. to find delicious recipes that were clean eating/paleo inspired and when I cooked for people, they all enjoyed it. It wasn’t like I was limiting myself from all good food, because whole and healthy food is good too. This is a misconception that you have to eat bland food to eat clean.
  • I cooked a lot more. And I love cooking, which was great to get back to. Especially in the winter, I’ve gotten into habits being so tired after work or working out, so we would resort to take-out or throw away meals, because it was easy (frozen pizza anyone)? Not only does it save money, but it’s good to cook together and find that balance of being creative in the kitchen.
  • I slept better. I don’t sleep well even with a few drinks, so I slept really well the last 30 days.
  • I felt very clear. I think it’s largely to do with gluten, but I generally didn’t feel foggy. Your food and diet has such a big impact on this.
  • Self-control is an amazing thing. I felt powerful and love knowing that I don’t “need” anything and that I’m not addicted to anything. It’s a good feeling, that I could say no and put my foot down, and that’s that.
  • Muscle weighs more than fat – go by how you feel. The point is to feel good. I don’t own a scale, and with all the heavy lifting I do at Crossfit, my weight doesn’t really reflect what I look like (or feel like). I did weigh myself near the end of the challenge at a doctor appointment, and I was let down to realize I weighed the same as I remembered, perhaps even more. After talking myself off a ledge, I reminded myself that I feel good and fit into clothes far better than before. I also measured inches before and after, and lost a total of 7.5″ (waist, bust, thighs) which is where it really matters for me. In my waist alone, I am down 3.5″.
  • This particular challenge eliminated not only sugar but healthy ones like honey for instance, so the amount of strict in this challenge, isn’t quite sustainable. I still want to have flexibility to go out and enjoy with friends, but I think I’ve swung the pendulum back. I think a large majority, I will eat clean, and a smaller percentage eat when I feel good and right without being stressed. Now that I saw that I can do it, that you feel better, you’re more apt to try it more often than not.
  • If you set your mind to it, you can do it. The biggest fear I had, was that I would fail and that I wasn’t strong enough. That I’m just that fat kid who wants to eat a bag of cookies and can’t restrain myself (parts of this may always be true, I love food). I held off on similar challenges at my own Crossfit gym, because of the pressure and I felt too overwhelmed. Finally with other co-workers doing this with me and feeling stuffed from the holidays, I decided to take the leap. It’s a huge resurgence for me to remember that my physical and mental strength is strong. I did have a few freak outs during the day 30 days, I can admit that, and there were times where I had to forgo social outings, I missed certain foods a lot, or watched everyone indulge in cheese and wine while I chugged soda water, but it was worth it. And I made it. Unscathed even!

Although today is the last day, I’m not rushing off to get a bottle of wine and I will keep cooking more and probably eating like I have for the last 30 days (with some windows for fun). For now, I’m going to give myself a hug and relax a little though. ‘Cause, I did it!

Women We Stand

2014 December 5
by Grace Boyle

A lot of my time is spent online. I’ve spent many years, cataloging my favorite stories I’ve run into. As a writer myself, I’m enamored by the words of intelligent minds.

Recently, I uncovered some of my favorite articles on gender, women, and inspiration (my own thematic tagging) and I felt compelled to share them here.

“I can say this: I didn’t need a broken man to repair me. I needed a whole man who believed in repair.” -New York Times. Modern Love; Healing Sought (Bring Your Own Magic).

“There are two things that set me apart from the vast majority of my friends. Or I used to think so, and it made me feel badly.

Now I know we’re all special. We all have our own scars, our own hopes, and our own plans, as particular to us as our fingerprints, whatever others might assume to be true. What I thought was happening around me was only the shallow water in the pool.

There are a million quiet stories being written every day.” -Meg Fowler. I Guess That Makes Me Special.

“We’re still a long way from a gender-egalitarian marital utopia, but traditional marriage is blessedly deceased. With its demise has come a new marriage model that is by nearly every measure better for men, women and children, and is hopefully continuing to improve.” -The Guardian. Traditional marriage is dead. Let’s celebrate.

 I want the strongest, happiest, smartest women in my corner, pushing me to negotiate for more money, telling me to drop men who make me feel bad about myself, and responding to my outfit selfies from a place of love and stylishness, not competition and body-snarking. True confidence is infectious. -The Cut. Shine Theory: Why Powerful Women Make the Greatest Friends


“There is no retreating from the hookup culture to an earlier age, when a young man showed up at the front door with a box of chocolates for his sweetheart, and her father eyed him warily. Even the women most frustrated by the hookup culture don’t really want that. The hookup culture is too bound up with everything that’s fabulous about being a young woman in 2012—the freedom, the confidence, the knowledge that you can always depend on yourself. The only option is what Hannah’s friends always tell her—stop doing what feels awful, and figure out what doesn’t.

Young men and women have discovered a sexual freedom unbridled by the conventions of marriage, or any conventions. But that’s not how the story ends. They will need time, as one young woman at Yale told me, to figure out what they want and how to ask for it. Ultimately, the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women. Even for those business-school women, their hookup years are likely to end up as a series of photographs, buried somewhere on their Facebook page, that they do or don’t share with their husband—a memory that they recall fondly or sourly, but that hardly defines them.” -The Atlantic. Boys On the Side.


“Other than that? You have to be optimistic, be patient, write down everything you’re grateful for every night, and remember that you will look back on this time as one of the most important times of your life. You’ll look back and feel really proud of how you conducted yourself, how strong you stayed in the face of your loneliness, and how much you appreciated what you had. It’s true that you could be in this place for 2 years or 12 years, and even so, you will look back and feel good about it if you play your cards right. It’s amazing to have your own business and your own place and your own cat. You are living the good life, for sure, and while it’s great that you’re open to finding love (which takes its own kind of effort) nothing that happens on that front should undermine how satisfying and hard-won your happiness is right now. You have to believe in your life and romanticize it as much as you can. Remind yourself to feel proud of what you’ve built, and what you’ve overcome, every single day. And feel proud of your flaws and your loneliness and your big heart, too. It’s ok to feel vulnerable about wanting love and not finding it. That vulnerability will lead you to good places, even when it feels like it’ll topple your apple cart. You don’t have to be perfect. Let yourself be a little weird, a little uncertain, a little brash. Let yourself get a little messier. Let your seams show. Be proud of your broken pieces. They’re the best part of you.

Don’t speed through these days to get to the good part. This IS the good part. Savor it.” -The AWL. Ask Polly: I’m 33 and Single. What Am I Doing Wrong?

“Sometimes it feels good to reject cultural notions of femininity and take up residence on a strange earth and live among the Others—to be told that for a while, you were that sort of girl, the one all the men wanted, admired, and desired, and could never quite grab hold of. A mirror that telegraphed back their values, but beautiful.

But that girl also grows up and learns it’s better to be real than cool. And without suggesting that the end result for everyone is to pair off and settle down, most people do mellow with age. And they do settle, just more easily into their own complexities, more easily into something less prone to typecasting.

Which is probably why I don’t know a single woman in her thirties, forties or beyond who is at all like the Cool Girls I knew in my twenties or still see from a distance. At this age, they are serious and fun. Masculine and feminine. Simple and complicated. Transparent and elusive. You know, just people.” -Jezebel. The ‘Cool Girl’ Is Not Fiction, But a Phase.

“You should enjoy this part of your life, not as a preparatory stage, but as something that is just fun in and of itself.” In other words, your “real life” doesn’t begin when you meet a partner. It’s happening right now.

Besides, repeated studies have found that the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to marry, and the older she marries, the less likely she’ll be to divorce—so statistically speaking, if you want to get married, you most likely will. And before you know it, car pools and nut allergies will become your dinner conversation staples. Then you’ll look back on your single years as one of the most adventurous times of your life, when you had no excuse to do anything but be yourself to the fullest. -Marie Claire. Flying Solo.


Podcast Love: Call Your Girlfriend

2014 September 24
by Grace Boyle

My roommate and dear friend Anne told me about Call Your Girlfriend – a “podcast for long distance besties everywhere” and I cannot get enough of it.

Call Your Girlfriend

In their own words:

Call Your Girlfriend is a podcast for all the long-distance besties out there, brought to you by Gina DelvacAnn Friedman and Aminatou Sow. Every other week, tune in as we discuss Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the beauty of caftans, menstruation news, Kimye, Pitbull, Hillary Rodham Clinton, casual racism, emoji, straight people, California, rom-coms, Lorde lipstick, and so much more.

First of all, I’m borderline obsessed with Robyn. And their theme track is the best.

Second, I have so many long distance besties. We have a lot of FaceTime, phone calls, group texts, and IRL trips to sustain my lady friendships and thus, I love the concept they’re driving toward.

Third, Ann (who is also from Iowa, what, what) and Amina are brilliant, hilarious, and their cadence and dialogue is very relatable. Awkwardly, I feel like I could see us sitting together over a big (generous pour) of wine, and conversing about all the topics and agenda items they cover. Whether it’s depth-filled topics that are newsworthy, hilarious rants, or just straight “menstruation news” as they call it – I’m always learning something and I usually find I’m laughing out loud.

They keep it real, and that’s really more of what I want in my life. So go ahead, subscribe on iTunes and scope them out.

Who cares why the elephant is standing on your foot? Just get him off.

2014 August 10
by Grace Boyle

So much of our time is spent talking about why we are, where we are. We lament about the windy, difficult path that led us to this exact (frustrating) moment.

I know, I do it too.

As Danielle LaPorte so eloquently shared, “too much analysis creates paralysis.”

Her insight to getting “unstuck” just really resonates because we care to talk about the stuck piece so much, instead of just putting all our energy to the place we need to get to and shift to. Get unstuck, by getting unstuck.

10 Truths My Mom Taught Me

2014 May 22
by Grace Boyle

My mom’s birthday is in April. It’s also on Earth Day – which for her, is perfect. She’s a matriarchal mother nature of sorts, and is an avid gardener. Then with Mother’s Day just past us, she’s been on my mind.

Mom and Me

I’ve written about my parents before and I’m eternally grateful for their love and support. Now, I want to share 10 truths or pieces of wisdom I’ve picked up from her over the year.

1. Always have organic, extra-virgin olive oil in your kitchen: I remember one year when she came to visit, she was appalled at my olive oil choice selection (or lack thereof) in my kitchen. In my early 20’s I wasn’t too concerned about that and it’s expensive. We’re very Italian, so she came back with two high quality bottles, clucking her tongue at me. Now, I’m always cognizant of my olive oil selection.

2. Perseverance for what you want (oh, and our cultural heritage on being Italian): My mom started the process for us to gain our Italian Citizenship and we all weren’t sure how it would unfold. As the journey began, I couldn’t believe how many hours, paperwork and quite literally years, that it took for her to complete the process. She researched online, she made friends with others going through the same process, she connected with a judge and ensured our grandparents confirmed that the last name was changed in the immigration process (no one could understand those Italian names and accents), and she uncovered the needed paperwork in hidden hope chests. We went / flew to the Italian Consulate in Chicago multiple times, and she never gave up. For things she believes in, she takes it seriously and this story alone always reminds me that we don’t give up. We persevere.

Italian Citizens

3. What a self-defeating belief means and how it doesn’t serve anyone: Try growing up with a mother as a life coach. Actually, I feel lucky but I often joke being 10 and my mom demanding, “That’s a self-defeating belief and doesn’t serve you,” when I was lamenting about how bad I was at math or that I wasn’t good enough.

4. How important friendship is. My dad has always traveled for his business and as a gemologist. My mom told me she knew in marrying him, that she had to be “okay” with it, and accept he may be gone more than other husbands (physically that is). Over the years, my mom has always had a steady group of girlfriends. She is committed to cultivating those relationships and now as “empty-nesters”, she’s having a ball with girlfriends. She has had master-mind groups (discussing their vision for their life and career), women’s groups, walking groups, writing groups, Italian group, etc. I’m not kidding, she regularly has gone to these groups and friendships for years (often 10-15+ years with the same friends). She has her hands in many different worlds and as I look at my life, I’m just like her. I love how engaged she is and how much fun she is having in her life with friends.

5. Fresh flowers brighten any room. In college or my younger years, I couldn’t be bothered to have a bouquet of flowers in my apartment. Now, I love how they brighten up the room. My mom and her dad (my grandfather) are longtime gardeners. She’s constantly working on our yard, the garden plots and beautifying things around her. She cares about those aesthetics and there are always interesting flowers (she knows all the names) in our kitchen at home. Now, I love buying flowers or picking some up at the farmers market. Especially in the warmer months, you’ll now usually see a bouquet of fragrant flowers on my coffee table or kitchen. It’s the little things and my mom passed that onto me.

6. The centrality of the kitchen table and dinners together, nightly. Growing up, up until my last day of high school my mom insisted on dinners together as a family. We never watched TV while we ate, we sat at our dining room table, and quite often it was a homemade meal (both my parents are great cooks). We even would do encouragement feasts that my brother and I would whine about, but who gets to go around the table and talk about what we loved about the other as a youngin’?! Now, I can look back and feel warm and fuzzy about it. Now, I know it’s something within reason, that I want in my own family someday. We ate good food to fill our belly, and family is so central so our life I know it’s how I want to operate always.

7. The importance of a bed skirt. Now this one, I might not agree with, but it’s too funny to not include. Similar to olive oil and flowers, my mom laments when she comes to visit that I don’t have a bed skirt for my bed. Honestly, just not a priority in my life right now and it’s not my style. I get texts from her with pictures of a bedskirt while she’s shopping saying, “What do you think of this one?” Or asking, can she even just send me one if she buys it would I use it? I think it’s all about putting forth the way you want to look and be, and dammit, having that bed skirt matters (to her at least). Note: I have yet to rock a bed skirt. Shh, don’t tell her.

8. The power of thought. My mom is constantly reminding me that what we put out in the universe, is quite literally, what we’re requesting and manifesting. She has countless stories of ways you can manifest and create what you want in front of you. I cringe when I think negatively, and it happens to all of us, and although we can’t say that in X amount of days, if you “want” it enough, it will just appear, we at least know that it’s better than thinking of the alternative. She is a big vision board advocate, and this year I created one for the house I desire and the life I desire. She still says, she willed our beautiful home through her vision board and didn’t even think a house like ours existed. The vision down to the colors of the walls were the same.

9. You are what you eat. My mom is proactively non-GMO, eats organic, has gardened our whole life and even as little kids we ate high quality food. She cares so much about the way we eat, she would go out of her way to ensure it was possible. There was rarely frozen or canned food in our house, and far before it was trendy or even well-known, we were learning about how to eat, what to put into our bodies, and why it was important. Our body is a temple, let’s be careful there.

10. Snail mail. My mom taught me to send hand-written thank you cards, and that care packages always brighten someone’s day. She still sends my brother and I Easter packages and every birthday we still get a hand-written card. I believe so much in the power of mail and even as a digital person, hope to carry that throughout my life. It’s a wonderful manner to have, and there’s nothing like opening your mailbox to still get wonderful hand-written cards.

Book Giveaway: Uprising – A New Age Is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter

2014 March 16
by Grace Boyle

Women used to be viewed as victors of poverty and illiteracy, of violence and seemingly unbreakable cultural traditions. Melanie Verveer, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues says, “Promoting the status of women is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one; it’s essential to economic prosperity and to global peace and security. It is, in other words, a strategy for a smarter foreign policy.”

As I paged through Sally Armstrong’s new book, Uprising – A New Age is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter I scribbled notes in the sidebar, underlined quotes and shook my head in disbelief. Armstrong, a humanitarian and journalist, gets right to the core and heart of women’s plight, struggles and successes – all around the world and as she laid out facts, stories and new future visions, I rode the wave right alongside her in awe.

Uprising Book

Some of her stories of women are appalling and hurt my heart. But they must be read. We can no longer ignore what’s happening around us. Sometimes, it was hard to read and sometimes, you’re so inspired you want to jump out of your chair. She take a holistic view at historical evolution, cultures, careers, and uncovers many women’s personal stories. By giving these women a platform and voice, it is time that these issues of race, rape, inequality, war and fear no longer be ignored or turned a blind eye to.

What was always evident, in every story, these women never seemed to falter. By going through some of the worst situations imaginably, they still have hope. They still are brilliant and shining with vision. It’s also a balancing act and it’s not about bashing men. At all. It’s about opening up our eyes globally to equality.

As Margot Franssen, a businesswoman who brought the Body Shop franchise to Canada says in the book, “When women aren’t included in the conversation, in equal rights, when they don’t have the whole menu of opportunity, it affects the entire world. We need to invest money in women and girls so they can sit at the table and bring their voices to the table. WE need the men too.”

I think this is a book every woman (and man really) should read. I’m excited to be giving away two copies of this newly published book to Small Hands, Big Ideas readers.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment here sharing the story of a woman you respect and admire most in your life. I will be announcing two winners by March 28th.

How you walk through the fire

2014 February 5
by Grace Boyle

Oh what a month January has been. It has been rough. What a start to 2014.

Devoid of all the draining details of why, my brain has been a pile of mush and many things in my life has been suffering because of it.

I was running a quick errand in the middle of my work week and in my spaced out state, I was looking for a parking spot in a cramped, busy plaza center in Boulder. I saw a spot last minute and as I was making my turn into a parking spot, I heard that awful grinding sound as my car made contact with the parked car next to me.

I couldn’t believe it.

One woman walked by me with the, “Ooh, ouch. Feel bad for you,” face and I got out and looked at the damage. It wasn’t that much, I had clipped the car and the front of my car had little to no damage. I looked around desperately. There was no one else around and I couldn’t go into each store looking for the owner, as I was headed to an appointment. Flustered I wrote a note, blinking back tears, and stuck it in the car’s dashboard.

I hadn’t heard anything and I thought, maybe I’m “lucky” and the note flew away in the wind. Then I realized, that isn’t luck for that person’s car. I just couldn’t handle another setback, another failure, another pile to what I’ve experienced.

Then I got a call from their insurance agent and basically went through the motions. I’ve never hit a car or been in a car accident and like to think of myself as a good driver. Then when I’m parking, I hit a PARKED car.

I basically have accepted it, as another thing to just deal with and these are the reasons we have insurance, right? Also, at the end of the day, it’s not that big of a deal. Just piling it on top of all the difficult things that have been going on, it feels worse though.

At the end of the day the insurance company was in touch, I received an email rom the person (they did everything through insurance, so I didn’t even know whose car I had hit). It was short and simple and actually, just made me smile (even though I’m the one screwed here).

Hi Grace,

Just want to thank you for leaving all the info, I appreciate that very much
____________ will be taking care of the issue .

Thanks again for your honesty.

I’ve been victim of a hit and run and incurred the costs myself, so I’ve been on both sides. It’s not a good feeling.

Sometimes, just being honest is all you can do even when it’s not a favored outcome or isn’t immediately rewarding.

So while I’m cringing thinking about the dollar amount, what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

My Favorite Reads of 2013

2013 December 28
by Grace Boyle

I read 27 books in 2013 – about 2.5 books a month. I wasn’t trying for any number, but thanks to Good Reads they just reminded me. Reading is my solace and if I could, I would have read double this number but you know, excuses…

As the year wraps up, I wanted to share some of my favorite reads of 2013. Some of these are old books and some were written this year. In no particular order.

The Namesake and The Lowland by

I discovered Lahiri this year and love her carefully crafted storytelling. Her books albeit slow moving, paint details that make the characters come to life. The books are thoughtful, but even without action jumping off the page, I turn through her pages swiftly. With her Indian background (Bengali specifically) both The Namesake and The Lowland (different stories entirely) focus on families, tragedy, culture, transition and generational change of two Indian families. I really cherished both books. I see The Lowland on many “Best of 2013″ book lists this year too.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

I was able to see Afghanistan born, Hosseini when I was a freshman in college. He visited my college and spoke about his famed book, The Kite Runner. His latest book, published in 2013, And the Mountains Echoed takes a deep look at families and the ties that bind us together. It hops from character to character, showing the web they weave spanning from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Green island of Tinos. Filled with emotion and beauty, the story reminded me of the movie Crash – how everyone was eventually intertwined together, regardless of race, family or birth.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

This is my first Richard Russo book, and since, I’ve picked up a few more of his to start. New England has a special place in my heart, and this takes place in Maine in a small, blue-collar mill town. It tells the story of a sad recently-divorced Miles Roby, his trying work at the Empire Grill for 20 years. It uncovers what he has lost (and gained) along the way. It’s a great American story that covers grace, heartache, loss and even has slight turns of mystery.

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

An intertwining tale of two twin brothers, one with schizophrenia, the other bound to his twin with love and brotherly devotion but also through guilt. From the book itself: “When you’re the sane brother of a schizophrenic identical twin, the tricky thing about saving yourself is the blood it leaves on your hands — the little inconvenience of the look-alike corpse at your feet. And if you’re into both survival of the fittest and being your brother’s keeper — if you’ve promised your dying mother — then say so long to sleep and hello to the middle of the night.” It covers the course of their lives, diversions, mental illness, truth, and what it means to really be alive. It’s a very human book and although with many pages it can be daunting, I never wanted this book to end.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

This was a quirky book that was lighthearted and enjoyable to read. It tells the story of Bernadette Fox, who is a wife and mother, but clearly has unique opinions, is allergic to most people and has a past that is covered and hidden. When she disappears, her daughter Bee pieces together documents and emails to find her mother in an absurd chase to the end. With an odd twist of events, you’re delighted to follow the story straight through the end.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Largely taking place in the wild Amazon, Dr. Marina Singh embarks on a journey to find her mentor and friend Dr. Annick Swenson, who mysteriously disappeared while working on a new drug. Not believing his disappearance, she’s on mission for his family but also for herself as she finds beauty and wonder in the tribe she spends her time with. It’s an interesting read and I haven’t quite read a book like it.  You’re also left surprised at the end, which I love.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This is a great winter read. It takes place in Alaska in the 1920’s on a couple’s dreary, cold homestead farm. The couple is childless and one night, a mysterious young girl appears after they built a snow child in a snow storm. With hints of fairy tale magic, the couple come to love the girl as their own daughter but understand she isn’t quite of this world as she comes from the woods.  The transformation throughout the book as you follow this unique family and those that they encounter are quite touching and you’ll really expand your imagination in enjoying this mysterious, yet beautiful book.
What books did you love reading this year?
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