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Category Archives: health

Fueling Your Body, Nourishing Your Soul

Greetings, Lovelies. It’s been a while. And, honestly, it’s because I’ve been in a funk. A whirlwind of family activities, new responsibilities, last semester of grad school work, learning to navigate a newly-escalated and life-threatening allergy, getting involved with allergy-specific legislation, and the drudgeries of the daily grind have caused me to do the one thing I hate to admit: I stopped taking care of myself.

It wasn’t pretty. And not just because my pants were getting tight.

I was moody, irritable, short on patience, bloated, crabby because I was bloated, stressed, unhappy, and out of control. I abandoned all my good nutritional habits for convenience (I shudder admitting this), and I quickly set myself back at square one. All of the huge improvements that I’d experienced over the past years shrank into memory, and my PCOS symptoms returned stronger than I remembered.

The important part of this post, however, is that I am not dwelling on my lapse of self-care. Instead, I want to share with you how I’ve started taking it seriously again–for the benefit of EVERY human I come in contact with, especially the ones with whom I share a home (LOVE you, my family!)

First, I reread Jimmy Moore’s Keto Clarity. I knew that getting my body back into nutritional ketosis was the first step to healing my ailments. If you aren’t familiar with Jimmy Moore and you want to know more about low-carb living or keto, please visit his blog: Living La Vida Low Carb.

Next, I prepared: shopped for the right foods, made a plan, etc. etc.

So far, so good. I’m terrific at reading, researching, listing, planning, and prepping.

The hard part for me is getting motivated, sparking that fire and then carefully and consistently tending it, making sure that I am devoted enough to myself to do the hard work ahead. I’m not good at committing to myself. (I couldn’t even get through a 30-day Bikram Yoga challenge at my local yoga studio because I put the needs of others ahead of my own). I’m much better at making sure the people I love are taken care of and shuttled where they need to go, and I prefer to make sure that colleagues and friends have the support that I can offer them before I worry about me. So, despite the fact that I hadn’t had a period in over four months, the notion that I needed to do this for myself, for my own health, wasn’t really lighting my motivational fires.

And then came the most soul-nourishing message from my kids: I can’t be a fun, easy-going mom, ready to go on any number of new adventures at a moment’s notice if I am not taking care of myself. I can’t help them feel their best if I am crabby and impatient because I am not feeling my best. I can’t expect them to practice healthy habits if I am not practicing them myself.

I like being a fun mom. I like adventuring with my kiddos. I like exploring this world with them in a hands-on kind of way. I like getting messy, sweaty, muddy, full of life’s experiences.
I started keto with full motivation on March 2nd.

For someone like me, who has struggled her entire adult life with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the state of nutritional ketosis is an oasis in an otherwise deadly desert.

Day #2 of snowboarding fun!

By March 5th and 6th I felt so fantastic that the kids and I went snowboarding two days in a row! My sugar was fully stabilized. My energy levels were high, and the fog that had clouded my brain for the past few months lifted. The sense of freedom I experience in nutritional ketosis is astounding, and, even better, it allows me to be the fun, active, and engaged parent I strive to be.

By March 11th, after dropping a little over sixteen pounds, my body naturally regulated my cycle. I did not need a medical intervention to induce a period. I’m waking up BEFORE my alarm clock. I do not NEED coffee. In fact, I haven’t had any since February. My coffee pot isn’t even on my counter any longer–it’s in the basement on my shelf of forgotten kitchen gadgets. My skin is now clear, and I know that within a couple of months my weight will naturally settle into the range where I feel strong and healthy–all because I am properly fueling my body and actively nourishing my soul.

I know there will be peaks and valleys along the way. I anticipate the fear-mongering comments I will surely be receiving about my cholesterol levels and the impracticality of eschewing all grains. But, for this journey–MY journey–all that matters is that I finally have what I need to see it through.

All my best to you, Lovelies!

The Good, The Challenges, and Opportunities for Awesomeness…

It’s that time, Lovelies.

The time where I need to re-evaluate my goals and the methods I’m employing to achieve them.

So, here’s my mid-March review:

Goal #1: 100% Paleo Eats, 80% of the time

The Good: I need to follow a Paleo diet. Not as a fad. Not for the here and now. Not because a friend of a friend is passionate about it. I believe in Paleo because the more attentive I am to feeding my body well, the better I feel, so this is definitely an area about which I will continue to be vigilant.

The Challenge: I notice that my percentages have fallen into the 100% Paleo, 60% of the time range, and my body is feeling the slip. Cramps, bloating, yuck, yuck, and yuck. I definitely need to tighten-up my “too free” with dairy tendency, as I know that this is the source of my dietary angst.

Opportunity for Awesomeness: Tomorrow I begin a Whole 30 Challenge. For 30 entire days (and quite possibly beyond!) I will make nourishing my body a priority by following the guidelines set forth here.

Goal #2: Moving, Shaking, & Faking

The Good: I have been active. I’ve been running in preparation for the Color Me Rad 5k with my awesome little cave gal, and I’ve been busy walking, playing, and stretching. I love activity, and I know that activity loves me back. So, it’s time to step-it-up!

The Challenge: I could be doing so much more! There is time in my schedule that I could be utilizing in a better fashion, and I am not. Shame on me. The gym not yet being open (April 1 is the new opening date–moved from Jan. 1, to Feb. 1, to March 1) is NOT an excuse for complacency.

Opportunity for Awesomeness: Insanity. Yes, you read that right. Shaun T.’s Insanity. I start tomorrow. If I never post again, you’ll know why…. Oh, by the way, check out what Insanity did for my friend Josh here!

Goal #3: Clarity

The Good: I have so many opportunities in front of me this year, and I am the type of person that fully submerges myself. I research, study, and then tackle things head-on. I thrive on learning and experiencing new things, so my mind is in total feast mode these days.

The Challenge: I have so many opportunities in front of me this year, and I am the type of person that fully submerges myself. I research, study, and then tackles things head-on. I burn myself out; however, when I burn-out, it isn’t my work or family or obligations that suffer. It is my head-space that approaches melt-down.

Opportunity for Awesomeness: I completed Day Two of Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge today. Participating in this Meditation Challenge is a segue into meditating daily, a practice that has more benefits than I can go into right now. (But, keep your eyes open for some future blogs!) Interested? Join here!

March may be famous for going out like a lamb, but  I can tell you that this Leo doesn’t see it going that way this year!

Join me for any or ALL of these Opportunities!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

A New Year: Two Weeks In…

Happy New Year, Lovelies!

Yes, I know it’s now two weeks into a new year; so, let’s not waste anymore time! Here’s what’s been going on in the Klien Street Cave….

Thanksgiving landed me in the ER. Twice. With the holiday’s heavy carbohydrate load–mashed potatoes, biscuits, stuffing, pie crusts, etc.–and my POOR food choices, my insulin resistance had a heyday, and my ovaries blossomed with debilitating cysts. I couldn’t find comfort standing, walking, sitting, sleeping, NOTHING. In fact, the pain and nausea got so bad, my little family of four had to leave a post-Thanksgiving celebration in order to bring me to the hospital where, overwhelmed with extreme pain, I started vomiting and wound-up on anti-nausea medication, an IV drip, and morphine before undergoing both a transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasound, accumulating over 700+ pictures of my internal lady parts. Lovely, I know.

I was sent home on Vicodin to deal with the pain of an ovary that was swollen to four times its normal size with cysts until I could follow-up with my OBGYN practice. I went to see a new doctor (the only one with an appointment available) at that practice the very next day. After spending about five minutes with me (and that included an internal and an examination of my ultrasound pics), he told me that PCOS doesn’t cause painful cysts and that I should follow-up with my PC physician, who didn’t have an appointment until the next day.

That night, the pain became so severe that I wound up back in the ER, back on an IV drip, back on anti-nausea medication, and back on morphine. This pattern was not one that I wanted to keep repeating. Even though I had worked so hard at keeping my diet clean and Paleo-focused up to Thanksgiving, I had lost control of my diet over the holiday, and my body was making sure that I knew what a mistake I had made–in quite the memorable fashion.

My PC doctor confirmed what I already knew: my pain was caused by the cysts on my ovaries. She put me on Metformin to help my body better regulate my insulin response, and she fully supported the idea that I should follow the Paleo way of eating as closely as possible–advice that, you can believe, I took to my very disappointed-in-myself heart.

Christmas came and went, and for ONE day only I allowed myself a few little treats with no relapse into my painful cystic state, but I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough for my health, because, even with a Paleo-focused diet and Metformin, the extra weight I’d accumulated wasn’t budging. Not one little bit. Gross. I hated the way I felt. I’ve never been thin–I don’t aspire to be, either. I’m too muscular for that. But, I have been at a healthy weight. And, getting back to that healthy weight became the focus of my New Year’s Resolution.

And this, Lovelies, is the point where I get truly excited. After much contemplation and even more searching, I have found something transformational: Bodymedia Fit LINK Armband.

My new best friend

Let’s be clear: I am not saying that this is for everyone. Nor am I saying that you should get one. I am simply offering insight into how this tool is helping me achieve the best me possible, when so many other products, plans, and methods have failed.

First, this armband is the perfect trifecta for me:

1. It provides centralized data for a multitude of different measurements. By wearing the armband, I can collect data about my calories burned, calorie balance (it syncs with MyFitness Pal), total activity time (both moderate and vigorous), the number of steps taken per day, and total sleep time and sleep efficiency.

2. It motivates me to meet the goals I set for myself. Because I set my own goals, I am immediately more invested; however, the LINK armband syncs with my iPhone5, and I can real-time monitor my calorie burn, my activity time, and how many steps I’ve taken. What is more motivating than seeing how close you are to achieving your goal? The activity manager feature even suggests additional activities to help you reach your daily goal!

3. It is flexible and supports my specific needs. The LINK does not require that I follow any specific program. No points. No mail-order food. No gimmicks. No false promises. The armband requires that I nourish my body the way my body needs to be nourished. For me, that means following Paleo. So, I plug all my Paleo-eats into MyFitness Pal and the calorie information is transferred automatically to my armband. I set my own step goal, and I monitor it throughout the day, parking farther away from my destinations and taking stairs when possible, because each step counts. I also set a daily activity time goal, and I work to meet the times I have set for myself. I make sure that if I’ve planned a workout that I keep that workout time like any other appointment in my planner, and I make sure that I play with my kids whenever the unplanned opportunity arises. Because, after all, activity is activity.

Second, it works.

One of the benefits is weight loss: 15 lbs. to date. Which, for someone with PCOS, who has been so discouraged by past experiences, 15 lbs. is an outstanding start!

As much as I love the results as they are reflected in my physique, I am enjoying the feelings of control and informed participation much more. For the first time, I am able to concretely see what is and isn’t working for my body. Pie charts, bar graphs, and percentages are my friends. I can make correlations and inferences by observing these data trends that I now have available–for instance, seven hours of sleep is my magic number. Every night where I have gotten approximately seven hours of sleep, I have lost weight. Less sleep=no weight loss. Information is powerful stuff.

And, Lovelies, do you know what is even better than my success? My husband has gotten onboard with a LINK armband of his own! We are on this journey as partners now (as opposed to me journeying and hubby hanging on for the ride), and our family is so much stronger for it!

I hope you are all having a wonderful start to your New Year, too! Make sure to share all of your New Year successes with us!

Five Tens and an Eight

What are five tens and an eight?

These are the hours dear Cave Hubby will soon be working…ten hours a day (don’t forget to add-in a total of three commuting hours each day) five days a week and eight hours on Saturday–possibly even six or seven tens if the work timeline continues to decrease by weeks at a time. Ugh.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I grew up on a construction schedule, so I understand that in a profession where it is either feast or famine and the wait list for work is at least a year long, we need to embrace the work when it is present and persistent. However, we here in the Klien Street Cave REALLY love our #1 guy, so, when he leaves home at 5 o’clock AM and doesn’t return home until 7 o’clock PM, our time with him is at an absolute MINIMUM. (Here’s a big shout-out to single parents–you are all superheroes!). And, in a coming month with three “holidays” (Election Day, Veterans’ Day, and Thanksgiving), all of which CH was scheduled to have off (Thanksgiving might be the sole survivor of the timeline push), things are looking a little hectic and a little stressful, to say the least. And I know that when things get crazy, I need a sanity-saving self-care plan.

So, what’s a girl whose family’s health is her main concern to do during such stressful, time-crunched, and fairly solo-parenting times? Let me tell you…

1.  Be Flexible

First, foremost, and forever, let go of rigid expectations in your non-essential plans. Yes, we all have obligations for work and school; however, the plans that don’t pay your bills or impact your professionalism need not contribute to your stress load. The more fluid you are about embracing schedule changes, the less power you give them to be a source of unhealthy stress. And, as we all know, stress can lead to unwelcome illnesses, which will continue to mess with your schedule. So, don’t subject yourself or your family to the stress-sickness cycle. Take a deep breath and bend a little. After all, what is the big deal about going grocery shopping on Monday instead of your usual Sunday trip? What’s wrong with taking a rain check for date night or declining an invitation to a non-obligatory event? When you step back and look at the forest through your bright, health-colored glasses, Lovelies, the answer is absolutely nothing.

2. Be Prepared

I think I’ve said it a time or two (or fifty) here at Perfectly Paleo Sisters, but preparation is KEY. Search for some Paleo recipes–the web is absolutely ripe with them. Write down the ingredients you need. Get thee to a grocery store. Load your cart with good, clean Paleo eats. Get home and prepare them. Stack containers in the fridge for grab-and-go meals, snacks, and post-workout noshing. Put in the effort on one day to eat well for the rest of the week. You can do it, and your health, as well as the health of your family, will reflect your awesome health-creating efforts. Remember: being busy is not an excuse to eat poorly. Don’t get caught in that trap–your health is too important during stressful times to eat food that doesn’t fuel you properly.

3. Treat Yourself Kindly

We don’t accept rudeness, intolerance, snide remarks, and undue criticism from others, yet many of us accept it from ourselves. If you want to make it through stressful times with your health and your sanity in tact, you need to be kind. Forgive yourself the pile (mountain?) of laundry that has gone unfolded on the couch. It will be there tomorrow. Did you miss a workout? Why beat yourself up when there is a whole other day waiting for you in the morning? Did the washer overflow, the car break down, and the dog run away with the cat? (Well, I suppose in this case my advice would be to ring a sitter,  get some tequila, and lock yourself in a bubble bath STAT). But, in all seriousness, Hakuna Matata. Instead of reviewing your self-perceived short-comings at the end of the day, ask yourself if everyone in your family is healthy, happy, and well-cared for. If you can answer YES to that question, then you have, by the most important measures, succeeded brilliantly.

4. You Time

I used to think that alone time was selfish. Now, not so much. In fact, on days when I have not been able to fit-in a head-clearing run or workout, and I have been surrounded by others non-stop, I am not above taking a book into the bathroom and reading for twenty minutes under the guise of stomach distress. Luckily, everyone in my house respects the bathroom isolation move. And, you know what? I emerge from the bathroom much happier than when I first entered (which is probably why everyone keeps “believing” my routine). I’m not suggesting the bathroom ruse is for you, I’m just saying that everyone needs twenty minutes to enjoy something just for themselves every day. Make it happen. Even if that means getting comfy on the throne.

What advice can you add to the sanity-saving self-care list, Lovelies?

Wishing you all a wonderful week!

XO

Nikki

Octoberiffic

I love October. A lot.

In fact, October is my favorite month of the year. How can someone NOT love the slow slip into the colors of fall, the crunchy leaves underfoot, the chilly rains, the crisp air, the homemade apple & pumpkin butters, the warm-cinnamony candles, the cool nights spent snuggled-up by the chimnea, the long hikes and camp-outs with loved ones, the unlimited creativity of costume making, the haunted walking tours of my hometown, and the family traditions that grow bigger and better every year? I’m not quite sure, either, Lovelies. Seems pretty impossible not to have some sort of love for a month so grand.

However, aside from all of the wonderful gems of the fall season, October holds some pretty strong motivational power over me as well. You see, October is when the weather begins to significantly cool here in PA, and with cooler weather, my outdoor running really comes back into focus after a summer spent slogging away on the awful dreadmill. I have a love/hate relationship with our treadmill–as in I love it because it allows me to run through the misery that so many people worship as summer, but I hate the whole hamster-in-a-wheel-running-to-nowhere aspect. October breaks that cycle for me and allows me to once again enjoy the simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other in the magnificent environment I call home. The bevy of trails near my house come alive with busy squirrels; fallen leaves crunch underfoot; the sunshine is warm, but the air is cool; and with the abundant and diverse deciduous tree-life, the colors make every trail run feel like I’m running through a painted masterpiece. Not a bad way to usher-in a new half marathon goal of a sub 2:30 finish at November 4th’s D & L Heritage Half Marathon! (Which, if you are a fall runner lover, I HIGHLY recommend).

Amazing scenery for all 13.1 miles!

Not only am I motivated to get my sneakers moving in the great outdoors,

but I’m also motivated to get my family moving out there, too!

My #1 girl and I kicked-off October a couple days early by running the Celtic Classic 5K in Bethlehem. She’s a real live wire, so we took off at break-neck speed (she’s eight, mind you) before we settled into a comfy 12:30 pace. We were doing great until we accidentally missed the turn-around for 5k runners and followed a few 10k runners for an extra half-mile before we turned and made our way back to the finish line. According to my phone’s running app, we did 4.2 miles in 50:49. I think my girl might have some more races in her future!

We’re also adventurers by nature. Fall hasn’t been fully experienced by our family unless there have been a few fall hikes. With our proximity to Hawk Mountain, The Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock, The Delaware Water Gap, The Appalachian Trail, Hickory Run State Park, Jacobsburg State Park, and South Mountain, being an active family is easy. But, more importantly, being an active family not only keeps us healthy, it keeps us close. Some of our fondest memories have been made on the various trails surrounding our home. I sometimes think that our kids will one day tell their own children that they spent more time wandering around the woods with us than they did at home!

(I’ve spared my family the embarrassment of all the more “candid” in-the-woods photos. Though we love to laugh at them, they are best saved for the time when Chris and I will get to show them to first girlfriends and boyfriends, much to the horror of our children.)

The last item on my list of reasons why October motivates me, is the most important. October motivates me to resist stagnation–in all things: work, education, parenting, romance, marriage, health, fitness, life in general. How does it do that, you wonder? Well, Chris and I will celebrate eleven years of marriage this month, and every October we strive to do one new thing together. It isn’t something we really discussed starting, rather it is an organic tradition that has grown with us as we have grown in marriage. (We weren’t very good at being married at first, Lovelies. But, no worries, after lots of practice, we’re terrific at it now). Much like a new coat of paint freshens up a room, a new experience lets us take a break from the craziness of work, parenting, schedules, etc. and see each other with fresh eyes. And, I am happy to say that this year, as we enjoy a picnic and private vow renewal with our children at Hickory Run followed by an adults’ only evening at a local amusement park’s Halloween Haunt Night, we will be the healthiest we have ever been together (and we’ve been best friends since 1994) thanks to our shared Paleo journey.

So, tell me, Lovelies.

What about Fall motivates YOU?

Minimum Philosophy (from a shoe)

Runners know within minutes whether or not the shoe, quite literally, fits. Just a few strides can indicate whether or not they will become one with the shoe, the force will be with them, or if they have found their long lost solemates. In a world full of complications, it seems that running shoes have the right idea: back to basics.

Natural. Minimal. Minimus.

These words inspire me. They also make me wonder, how come we are so slow to notice ill-fitting lifestyles?

My new solemates just happen to be these fine looking, BOGO50%off-ers:

Pretty, right?

Yes, pretty, but also functional and instructive.

Going minimal in my running has done great things for me over the past year, but shoes are only one piece of the philosophic “minimalist” puzzle here in our cave.

Philosophic mimimalist puzzle, what?!?!?

For me, a minimalist running shoe represents running in an as-close-to-natural way as possible while still protecting your feet from all those stones, sticks, sharp slivers of glass, etc.

And, as a Paleo-enthusiast, that is how I strive to live my life: In an as-close-to-natural way as possible.

Minimalist for me, is not just about the running.  I believe it’s about evaluating your whole being and finding ways to sustain you, your relationships, your health, your vitality, and your happiness, naturally and in ways that embrace the “less is more” philosophy.

I prefer the organic, picked-ourselves apples over the grocery store apples any day. I’d rather spend an afternoon mashing them into applesauce than opening a jar full of preservatives. I prefer the lazy afternoon spent picking vegetables from a garden over the produce aisle polka every time. Speaking of time, the time spent assembling delicious meals for my family with help from little hands, the conversation around the table, and the satisfied feeling that follows cannot be replaced at a hustling-bustling restaurant–especially if unsavory ingredients upset our systems later.

This is not to say that our family is not busy at work and at play. Between work and school, volunteer and extracurricular activities, we share many of the same time-pressed concerns as others; however, our adoption of minimalist ideals beyond our Paleo diet (fewer possessions equals less clutter) have simplified what we do and how we do it in our non-comitted time.

And you know what has resulted?

Even though we don’t get to spend more time together, we spend a lot more time enjoying each other. (After all, who wouldn’t prefer a family archery day over a family laundry day?)

And, at least to me, Lovelies, that puzzle’s picture seems just about perfect.

XO

Nikki

I Love You, Me.

Image

I am musing this morning. Apologies in advance. I will have a point in the end…eventually.

Strength and Courage….

What’s so special about them, you ask? I asked the same thing yesterday when I saw this quote and it nagged me all night.

I’ve decided that, on their own, I don’t suppose there is much special about strength or courage.

The mere possession of strength of body or mind or will rarely achieves greatness. Sure, you may have a rockin’ physique, an I.Q. enviable to Einstein, or the tenacity of a hungry shark. Good on you! However, unless you have the courage to use your strengths, they remain your locked-away secret–your dormant potential, but not your reality.

(Tragically, I’ve noticed that too many people get stuck possessing great strengths with heaping amounts of self-doubt, and they hide their strengths away from the world. They appear bitter, jealous, insecure, unfulfilled, and unhappy).

When strength and courage exist simultaneously within you, though, they work synergistically, and your potential cannot help but burst forth and shine, improving your life and the lives of all around you. The key is to embody both so that one may continuously influence the other and allow you to live in your true state of being. Sounds blissful, right?

According the Lao Tzu, love has something to do with it.

So what’s love got to do with it? (Great question, Lovelies!)

Love is the matchmaker that unites your strength and your courage. Most of us were born into the perfect strength-courage scenario: We came into life much to the delight of parents who loved us unconditionally. Their love gave us strength as we grew, and because we loved them back we had the courage to test-out our strength in the world.

Unfortunately, most people outgrow this scenario right around the time their strength and courage will be tested the most: adolescence.

As our perspective of the world expands and changes, so do our needs. We start needing the love of others, not just our parents, to sustain our courage. And so we audition others for our support team. We find people to love and who will love us in return, even if only temporarily, so that we can feel safe being ourselves. Isn’t that why high school was so much fun for some and so hellish for others? Some of us are lucky to find our lifetime love, a constant giver and receiver, in our teens; others of us search for a lifetime, moving from person to person until the right one enters our lives.

I am lucky. I am in love with my best friend and have been since I was sixteen years old. (That’s one year more than half my life, Lovelies!). Has our relationship been rom-com Oscar-worthy, filled only with sunshine and fairy dust?

Um, no.

Nor would I want it to be.

What our relationship has been and continues to be is the fulfillment of Lao Tzu’s wise words. By loving each other we give two things: Strength to our partner and courage to ourselves. I am, undoubtedly, the person I am today because of CH’s love and my love for CH.

But I realized something….

My strength and courage don’t just come from loving someone else and accepting someone else’s love.

My strength and courage come, in part, from loving myself and actually accepting my self-love.

Think about it: how much better would you feel if you gave yourself permission to love yourself? All of you. Even your flaws. Isn’t that the kind of love we give to our partners? Isn’t that the kind of love our partners give us? They wouldn’t give up on us, would they? Well, then, don’t you dare give up on yourself!

This is your job today, Lovelies. Love yourselves. And make sure you know it!

You are amazing. You are beautiful. You are strong and courageous.

Go light-up the world!

XO

Nikki

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