Weeks 1 & 2 of My Vegetarian Whole 30

posted in: Wellness, Whole 30 | 0


Woo, half way through! Since I hit my half way point in my Whole 30 yesterday, and figured I would do a quick check in. I’ll be sharing quick one to two sentence check-ins I’ve been keeping as I go about how I’m feeling. Hopefully the brevity will keep the check-in helpful yet short. We all know how I can ramble…


Here we go, this is how I’ve been feeling as well as a quick recipe for my favorite new coffee!



Day 1: Yea, feeling good! This is going to be a great week. I already feel better! Is it too early to already feel better? Man, this is going to be great.

Day 2: Yikes, spoke too soon. Did I mysteriously go out drinking last night? Because I feel miserable. Gilmore Girls in bed it is this evening.

Day 3: 2 day hangover? I don’t even feel like this when I drink. Thankfully I’m prepared for my dinner party tonight and will have delicious, home cooked food with friends.

Day 4: Coffee, please give me coffee. Is it really only day 4? Shouldn’t I be feeling better now? May as well watch Gilmore Girls in bed again.

Day 5: Get me a drink! Working on an alcohol project at work + a stressful day is really not helping this…Thankfully I already have fun, sober plans for an improv show tonight with friends!

Day 6: Sleeeeeeeeep. Lots of sleep. Can’t I just have a beer and some Thai takeout? Please? Dinner at the Whole Foods salad bar again it is!

Day 7: Phew, feeling a little better. I really needed that brunch out with friends, and I learned how this Whole 30 approved coffee is delicious & perfect for next week! Whoops, was I supposed to take communion at church? Too late now…I’ll look in to that.

Whole 30 Coffee




Day 8: Feeling good. I’ve mastered my new & improved coffee recipe, planned a great new body weight class to teach tonight, and feeling good about the week.

Day 9: Feeling pretty good again. That yoga flow and journal time really set me up right for the day. I should do that more often. AND feeling energized by the excitement of possibly a new apartment!

Day 10: What a day. Really wish I could have a drink. This Whole 30 is more important than drinking after a long day. I don’t need it and have other ways of handling my emotions. Yes, perfect, I love midweek adventures to Whole Foods with Andy to get ingredients for a delicious dinner! Always a nice treat to cook a delicious meal and enjoy some quality time together. No alcohol needed.

IMG_0032 Broccoli, sweet potato & delicata squash roasted in coconut oil + Tempeh cooked in organic soy sauce + Hemp seeds

**please note I am eating soy products because I am doing a vegetarian version, not the traditional Whole 30

Day 11: Still really wanting a relaxing drink after the work day, but at least I got to spend some quality time getting to know my new coworkers outside of work while sipping on some sparkling water. The funny thing is, I don’t even drink that much. My brain is just insistent that I want to drink because I can’t have it right now.
Day 12: Happy Halloween! Feeling good! But yikes, I haven’t cramps like this in a long time. Can’t I just sit at home with a heating pad eating chocolate all day? I’ll indulge in some relaxation at home, but I can get through this time of the month without stuffing my face with sugar and carbs. A shorter night out dancing than planned followed by a good night’s sleep is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Waldo & Wenda Waldo & Wenda

Day 13: Mmm, feeling the cathartic joy & release of cleaning out my clothes in preparation for my move (just 2 weeks!). Feeling like I have more energy, but also still not feeling well thanks to that time of the month. Trying to maintain a balance of activity and relaxation. Clean out clothes — relax during lunch lunch — check out new place — relax at the movies — dinner at Whole Foods (again) & Target run — relax at home.


Day 14: Still not feeling 100%, but I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Week 2 of: do I take the host at church? I’ve already decided that since I’m also on a personal religious journey, as well as doing this Whole 30, that I’ll continue taking communion at church. A quick post-church Google search shows that I wasn’t alone in this debate and am glad I chose to take it. I’m doing this Whole 30 as a reset for my health between summer and the holidays. I don’t have a bad gluten sensitivity, and right now, growing spiritually is even more important to me than my Whole 30.


Overall, I’m so thankful for so much support in this challenge (Andy participating with me, coworkers & an understanding work environment, and friends bringing things I can eat to my dinner party) as well as my continuing openness to change up what I’m doing and eating to better serve this reset. One key change is that I added in some non-grain tempeh for week 2 as well as one more change that takes a bit of an explanation. It’s something I’m still working through myself, but will be sharing it soon!


For anyone else out there doing a Whole 30 or even cleaning up your eating in some way: You’ve got this!

Take 2: A(nother) Vegetarian Whole 30

posted in: Wellness, Whole 30 | 0

Whole 30


The Back Story

After this summer of abundance, I’ve been feeling the need to slow down for a fall of reflection in order to really soak up and fully enjoy all the changes that have happened over the summer.


I have spent the past few weeks thinking of what that looked like for me, and after reading an article about how one of the founders of the Whole 30, Melissa Hartwig, does the challenge about once a year, I decided another challenge was just the thing for me at this time. There is always something to learn from an experience like the Whole 30. Honestly, I believe there is always something to learn in any situation, even if we’ve done seemingly the same thing in the past.


During the last go around, I learned how good my body feels when it’s running on all whole foods, how easy that way of eating can be when I invest the time in it, and how much I actually enjoy eggs after thinking I didn’t like them for years. However, I also felt fairly anxious about what I “should” and “shouldn’t” eat and was fairly strict with myself mentally many times throughout the month. Old thought patterns are hard to break, but it’s worth the work.


As I continue building a good relationship with food, I’ve found it important to remember that a relationship could always use a little love, especially if you’ve had some bumpy spots in the past. There is always room for more love, and this second Whole 30 is one way to help me show a little more love in my relationship with food.


After spending many years using food as a weapon against myself, I love that the Whole 30 helps me use it for healing and loving myself.


It’s a return to slowing down, cooking, and sitting down for a good meal. It is a return to food. A return to myself.


My first challenge did so much for me and my relationship with food that I look forward to what a second challenge, starting on Monday, will do for my life.

  My goals

My Goals

When I read the article last week, Melissa of the Whole 30 talked about how she learns something new with each challenge she does. I’m looking forward to learning a few new lessons about myself and my relationship with food as well as approaching the month a little different mentally.


This go round, I’m even more confident and relaxed in my relationship with food. Just that fact alone helps me feel more confident and prepared for this challenge. I don’t feel anxiety over “being able” to do it. I know I can and know I will be successful.


My main goals for this second vegetarian Whole 30 are:


1) To be more open to change up what I’m doing throughout the 30 days. 

As I said, I was fairly strict with myself during the last challenge and was not open to switching to the vegetarian/vegan shopping list items when I found the separate list mid-way through. If it wasn’t the “real” Whole 30, I didn’t want to do it. The vegetarian/vegan version seemed like cheating to my brain still healing from disordered eating. Clearly this sounds silly even to me now that I think about it, but at the time, it was a real anxiety.


This time, I want to stick to the original plan as much as possible, but if I feel my body craving something (such as more protein sources balanced throughout the day like I felt last time), then I want to be intentional to listen to it and make small tweaks to what I’m doing to better serve my body. I don’t mean this in an “oh, I’m craving a big slice of cake, so I’m going to jump off ship for a moment” way. Rather, if I feel my body craving more protein, then I will think about adding in more sources that are approved on the vegetarian/vegan list such as organic full fat yogurt and kefir even though dairy is technically banned from the original Whole 30.


At the end of the day, this is about learning to tune in and listen to my body and being willing to make changes that are right for me and my health.


2) To take more time to sit and eat intentionally.

A big part of my emotional eating from the past was mindlessly eating when I felt overwhelmed, sad, or any other emotion I didn’t want to feel. Although I’m thankfully much better at properly dealing with my emotions, I still have the habit of eating at my desk or being at my computer or reading something while I eat. Many people do it, but I still remember a time growing up when I did nothing but sit, eat, and make conversation with my family or friends. I may not always have someone else to chat with over a meal, but I want to remember that my own company and my food is enough.


I want to experience all the flavors and sensations of what I’m eating and be really grateful for what I feed my body.

Farmers Market Veggies

How I’m preparing

1) Stocking the fridge with delicious food

This included both getting rid of non-approved items as well as making a Whole Foods & Trader Joe’s run on Thursday night before I leave for my weekend away. If my fridge is well stocked with delicious food from each of the major categories (protein, vegetables, healthy fats & fruit), then it makes meal creation so much easier. As a vegetarian, the protein part is a little trickier but definitely not impossible.


Some of the things I like to keep on hand are:

Protein: Eggs, hemp seeds, chia seeds (will think about other sources like organic dairy products if I need more)

Health fats: Olive oil, avocado, raw nuts (cashews & almonds are my favorites)

Vegetables: Pretty much as many organic vegetables as my heart desires. Since this is the bulk of each meal, I let myself go crazy when buying. Some of my favorites include zucchini, squash, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, swiss chard, and onions, but I am always open to whatever looks good and in season at the store.

Fruit: Apples, bananas, lemons, whatever else is organic & in season

Dried fruit: Dried apples (for those occasional sweet cravings in the evenings)


2) Buying a spiralizer

I’ve been wanting to make the purchase for a while, and since I knew I wanted to do another Whole 30, I made the $36 investment in a Paderno Spiralizer a few weeks ago. Ever since then, I’ve been having a blast spiralizing everything I can get my hands on and making delicious recipes from this blog: Inspiralized. With such a large focus on vegetables over the next 30 days, a spiralizer will help keep my meals fun and interesting. Honestly, I can’t wait to continue making new dishes & seeing what else I can spiralize!


3) Enlisting support

The program is so much easier to do when you have others on board with you, and this time, I’ve enlisted my boyfriend to do the program with me. I have also informed my roommate and a few friends I know I’m going out with during the 30 days, so they all are aware ahead of time that I will not be drinking with them and may need to pick the restaurant where we eat or even make dinner together at home. Also, the simple act of writing this post is like enlisting support. I have just made it known to the whole interwebs that I am doing this challenge which will help keep me accountable and feeling supported.


4) Signing up for Whole 30 emails

I didn’t do this last time because it wasn’t available, but this round, I’ll receive an email from the Whole 30 team each day with helpful tips and wisdom. I’m excited to see what kinds of information is included and for the inspiration each day.


5) Being honest about what I’ll be “missing out” on

I’m being honest with myself about the days and times that may be a little harder to stick to the Whole 30, so I can work through it before hand. That way, I’m prepared when entering the situation rather than feeling unexpectedly overwhelmed and tempted to ditch the program. There’s no need to miss out on fun during the 30 days, but it does make each situation a little easier when I am prepared for what I will or won’t be partaking in.


For example, Halloween falls during the time I selected. Personally, Halloween isn’t a huge deal to me, and I was more interested in being able to eat what I wanted during my trip home a few weeks ago and mini-vacation to Wisconsin this weekend. Thus the Monday post-vacation start date. On Halloween I won’t be drinking, but I will be going out dancing and having fun with my boyfriend and a few friends. I’m already prepared to not be drinking and am looking forward to some sober fun and dancing.


30 days is really not a long time when I’m doing something amazing for my health. Alcohol, sweets, and everything else will still be there at the end of the 30 days, but in the mean time, I will be focusing on all of the things I do get to enjoy.

  You can heal

So there you have it. Monday, October 20 is day one of my second vegetarian Whole 30. Especially since I’ve realized there aren’t tons of resources out there for vegetarians wanting to participate in the challenge, I’m planning on checking in at least once a week to talk about how things are going and to share anything helpful I’ve learned.


If you have any other questions about the Whole 30, make sure to check out the website! It’s full of helpful information and they have a great step by step process to help you easily get set up.


And if you have any questions about doing it as a vegetarian specifically, feel free to reach out in the comments below. I’m not a health professional and cannot give professional advice, but I have done lots of research on nutrition and wellness in general, have already completed one vegetarian challenge, and am always happy to help others understand the sometimes confusing world of wellness and vegetarianism.


Postcards from a Summer of Abundance

posted in: Life Lessons, Thankfulness | 1


So guys, it’s been a while. Like a long while. Longer than I expected to be gone.


It seemed as if this blog’s mission at its heart was to keep my grounded during my emotional struggles and time with disordered eating, and ultimately, to feel whole and strong enough to put my story to words for the world to read some day. Posting my story in April was such a cathartic experience, yet it also made me feel as if My Piece of Sunshine’s role was fulfilled. As if everything had come full circle, and it’s role in my new healthy, stronger life was undefined.


Along with it being a place of healing for me, a part of me has always wanted to be a professional blogger and to some how be in “internet success.” In the end, that pressure I put on myself left me feeling strained mentally and emotionally and feeling that I had to write about certain things rather than what I really wanted to share. I always told myself that if I helped even one person that was struggling that it would be enough. But especially after sharing my story with disordered eating and receiving a few extremely nice comments from strangers, that “one person” ideal suddenly wasn’t enough.


What was I doing writing on here? Who was I to write words of personal wisdom and adventures? Who cared to read it and why did I care so much to put in on the internet?


I kept feeling as if I was spending so much time behind my computer working, writing, and procrastinating, that I was forgetting to live my life.


“How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

– Henry David Thoreau


So this summer, I decided to take a break from the computer to really live.


And guys, it was such a beautiful summer.


  Lincoln Park City Views


Even more amazing than I could have imagined, and I am currently choking back a few tears that are rising just thinking about how much has so beautifully changed the past few months.


At the heart of it, I spent less time with my computer and more time listening to my heart and following small nudges from God. Aka, those small whispers in your ear and heart to try something new or reach out to that old friend. At the end of working with a life coach last year, she encouraged me to follow nudges to see where they would lead. After a long winter of not wanting to listen, I decided to really start listening and following those nudges.


Once I let go of some of the digital chaos, I was able to really listen and live.


I felt a strong urge to join a small group through my roommate’s church, so I did. It hadn’t been my “thing” to join a religious group in so long, but it suddenly just felt right, and it was. I met some amazing women and the study helped me through so many other life changes that were going on during the study.


Small Group & Painting collage


I wrote about it a bit before, but this spring I also woke up one morning wanting to paint with water colors which my roommate just so happened to have a brand new set of. After not painting for years, it was as if a part of my creative soul was reawakened. So I spent a large chunk of creative time following that call and some time roaming around with my camera.


Professionally, I was feeling unsettled and lacking at work, so I started applying to new jobs. On one particularly frustrating Friday evening, I applied to a handful of jobs across the country, and after an unbelievably beautifully timed interview process, I started at my new job in July. Ironically, it was the only job I had applied to in Chicago, but that was yet another nudge that there was something (or rather someone) really special I needed to be in Chicago for. It was emotional leaving my job, but I knew it was the next step I needed in my career and life. My new work is challenging and invigorating and my coworkers are inspiring, supportive, and collaborative. I feel like I’ve found a tribe of people similar to myself and have already grown so much professionally and personally in my first few months there.


New job Old job


The most awe-inspiring nudge of all for me, is that I couldn’t get someone out of my head that I had met a year and a half before. So I reached out to him on Facebook and started dating the most amazing man. I could write post after post just about what I have learned from him and our relationship, but we will save that for another day. All I can say is I have never felt so confident in myself, my partner, and our relationship together. What a blissful feeling to find a truly amazing person to spend your days with.




In between all of these louder nudges, I left more time just to live. To go to those concerts. To have that extra drink. To go to that museum on a Thursday afternoon and watch that soccer game with friends. To celebrate all the little joys.


Rest of summer


In the process of living, so much has been put in my heart and on my mind I want to share. Nothing I feel like I “should” or “have” to share, but things that I have learned that I feel like I need and want to share. Not to preach to others, but to just let my stories and learnings live out there in the world so that I may more fully embrace them. And maybe someone else will find them inspiring as well.


I don’t want to set boundaries or deadlines on myself, but I do want to follow this nudge now to continue writing. When my blog’s domain name and hosting was due to expire last week, I just couldn’t bring myself to not renew it. It felt like a part of me would go with it. And so I decided I needed to keep writing. But with a little more of living in between.


My Favorite New Event in Chicago: Yoga+ Chicago


You guys, do I have a fun event to tell you about! My multi-talented friend Natalie and her equally amazing sister, Andrea started Yoga+ Chicago which is “an event series featuring vinyasa-style yoga classes + interactive events with some of their favorite local business owners & subject matter experts.”




Pretty much, it’s my new favorite thing.


The first event was held at Workshop, a beautiful co-working and event space in River West, and included yoga with Andrea + flower arranging with Beth Barnett of Larkspur. I love taking class with Andrea because they are always challenging but relaxing and most importantly, available to people at all levels of yoga experience. There was a great playlist (which they shared with everyone after!) and we all couldn’t stop talking about how relaxed and amazing we felt after class.




Yoga was followed by delicious snacks and a great flower arranging demo and Q&A with Beth. It was amazing to hear the answers to our many questions and learn about where all the flowers were grown (many were grown in her flower farm up in Buchanan, MI!). I loved being part of a group of such curious people!

Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+

It was truly an amazing event, and I left feeling relaxed, inspired, thankful to know such phenomenal women, and happy to be a part of this first event with so many other curious, inspiring people.


My current roommate, Autumn, and past roommate, Kathryn, even had a bit of fun with our flowers and yoga mats while waiting for the bus. It’s amazing how each of our flower arrangements perfectly matched our personalities ;)


Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+

The July event is yoga + pasta making with a sous chef from Sepia! It’s already sold out (awesome for them, sad for us!), but the August event is yoga + tour and Q&A with a Trunk Club stylist! Best of all it’s FREE and the yoga portion is will be held on the rooftop of Trunk Club’s River North office. Make sure to grab your tickets before it sells out too.


There’s also rumor that they’ll be hosting a craft cocktail event this summer, so make sure to check their site for more information. Clearly, this is an event series you do not want to miss out on :)


Again, I can’t say enough nice things about the woman who started this event series, and the movement they have started. To me, Yoga+ represents Relaxation + inspiration which are things I know I can always use more of in my life.


Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+ Yoga+
Yoga+  Yoga+




Words of Wisdom for the Class of 2014

posted in: Life Lessons, Thankfulness | 0


Yes, it’s been over a month since I posted. After the long winter mostly spent in front of the computer either writing, working or watching Netflix, it was time for a little living to happen, so I have been traveling on vacation and making more of an effort to be offline.


I’m back today to share a bit of advice for high school grads. A few weeks ago, I was home for a family friend’s high school graduation, which made me feel really old and a bit nostalgic about advice I was given before I went to college and what I would tell myself if I were to do it all over again.


In all honesty, I may have (definitely) teared up while writing this thinking back on all of my great experiences and memories, and how they’ve all brought me to this beautiful current moment in my life.

So class of 2014, this one’s for you. Always remember:


– You are better than no one and no one is better than you.


– Don’t stress about not making it to a party. There will always be another party. (But don’t forget to enjoy them when you can!)


– There will be nights to stay up late or mornings to get up early to get through all your work, but there is no need to pull an all nighter. Others will do it, but it just means they’re wasting their time earlier.


– Take care of yourself. You are your most valuable gift to the world and it’s a whole lot easier to share your gifts when you are cared for.


– Every class and experience is valuable. You have no idea when that random hip hop class will end up saving your soul or that person you meet in the cafeteria will end up still being one of your best friends 7 years later.


– Be thirsty for knowledge and soak up as much as you can. No one can take away your knowledge and curiosity.


– Study, but remember to live. School is your “job” for the next four years, but also remember this is your life. Enjoy it.



And for all those college grads out there, check out one of my favorite posts of all time: Dear Spring 2011 Jessica.

Last but not least, keep your eyes peeled for some photos and adventures from my western vacation!

Making Tax Day Fun!

posted in: Life Lessons, Thankfulness | 0


Tax Day

Happy tax day everyone! If you’re anything like me, doing taxes usually involves a whole lot of procrastination, numerous calls to my father to ask questions, and an overwhelming amount of doubt and anxiety. I convince myself I’m doing them wrong or think I’m going to end up owing a ton of money. Last year, it ended up with me stress eating on the couch finishing them up in a sugar-ridden stupor the evening they were due. This year, I’m thankful to report that I had an overall healthy and successful tax season.


After a few stressful attempts this year, I called in reinforcements (aka my dad) to help me with my federal return and rather than forcing myself to complete my state taxes in a high-stress, last minute situation, I decided to turn it in to a fun afternoon.


To create my “taxes date,” I set aside some time Sunday afternoon, left the necessary documents out with a big orange “Taxes!” notes (for some reason, everything seems more enjoyable to me when there’s a big colorful note telling me to do it..), and stopped by Molly’s for a peanut butter Nutella cupcake. Granted, it’s not really feasible to purchase a cupcake every time you have to do something you don’t want to do, but it was called for in this case. And although a cupcake isn’t always the ‘healthiest’ of options, it sure beats stress eating everything in sight.


Rather than turn to stress eating, I gave myself a beautiful, delicious treat to look forward to once I had completed my not-so-fun activity.

Tax Day

In the end, I finished my taxes a few days early and enjoyed my delicious cupcake from a local bakery I had been meaning to try. Adventure, treats, and all around manageable stress. I’d call that a success!

Tax Day

This same idea can be applied to other activities you find yourself procrastinating. I’m also a big fan of turning “chores” in to fun experiences. Whenever I know I have a lot of cleaning to do, I put on my favorite playlist (Maroon 5 used to be my go-to cleaning music!) and jam while I clean, and when I have to enter my time at work (not sure why I despise this so much, but I do..), I make a cup of my favorite tea to make the experience a little more relaxing.


For anyone still needing to finish their taxes or even just complete a few not-so-fun tasks, I hope my “taxes date” is a helpful game plan for you. I know I’ll definitely be doing something similar again next year in attempts to make tax day fun!


2nd Annual Coffee Crawl

Today, I have a fun friend adventure to share, but first, I’d like to send out a big thank you to everyone who read my post last week about the true story behind My Piece of Sunshine. It was an awesomely overwhelming day as all the positive feedback came in. It’s really difficult to open yourself up like that and you never know how people will respond, so thank you for all the love and support!


In an effort go back to the blog’s roots of gratitude, on to sharing my adventure from last weekend I’m thankful for! Last year, my friend Natalie organized a coffee crawl with a bunch of her friends where we enjoyed lots of caffeine and made a lot of new friends. It was such a success, that my roommate and I decided to host the 2nd annual brunch and coffee crawl.

  Coffee Crawl Pinterest

At the time, I was very familiar with bar crawls (especially random ones that happen on Wednesday nights…whoops), but a coffee crawl was a new and unfamiliar activity. It’s actually quite similar to a bar crawl except instead of multiple bars, you visit multiple coffee shops. Both crawls include making a lot of new friends, laughing with said friends,  and wandering around the chosen crawl neighborhood. The one main difference is that one you end up on a caffeine high and the other you end up intoxicated. Same giggling  and loopiness, different mode of attainment.
Last year’s crawl spanned the Lincoln Park and Lakeview neighborhoods, and this year, we decided to explore Wicker Park. The plan was to hit La Colombe, Wormhole, Filter, and Caffe Streets. Before heading over to the west side of the city though, we enjoyed brunch at my apartment in Lincoln Park. The spread was delicious and left us well fed before our numerous cups of caffeine.

Stop #1: La Colombe

Our first stop of the crawl was La Colombe (1552 N Damen Ave). It’s right under the Damen Blue Line stop, but is actually quiet for being under the L. There were a few tables to sit at, but overall, it was a fairly small shop. There also wasn’t a menu technically, but the baristas were really nice and helped us select our orders.
Last year, we began by making the mistake of everyone ordering a beverage at the first cafe which left us all pretty caffeinated after only one stop. Learning from our mistake, this year we stuck to ordering about three drinks at each cafe to share amongst the nine of us.
At La Colombe, we ordered:
–  Hemp Milk Latte – I eat hemp seeds every day, but I didn’t even know hemp milk was a thing. It was a lovely surprise, and I will definitely be seeking it out to purchase the next time I want to have a dairy-free milk at home.
–  Mocha – It tasted just like warmed chocolate aka mouthwateringly amazing!
–  Steampunk Bulaago coffee – This was black coffee with raspberry and milk chocolate. I usually can’t drink too much straight up coffee, but the sip I did have was a delicious mix of flavors.

Stop #2: Wormhole

Next, we walked to Wormhole (1462 N Milwaukee Ave) and were delighted by the 80s-themed decor including a DoLorean and Nintendo set up on an old TV. There drinks were all really fun too!
At Wormhole, we ordered:
Honey Bear Latte – This was a tasty, honey-sweetened latte which I would definitely order if I ever go back.
Peanut Butter Kooptroopa – First off, how fun is that name!? And it was a straight up liquid peanut butter cup. My taste buds were jumping for joy the moment I tasted it, but honestly, I was glad I only had a few sips. It’s definitely and sharing beverage, and would probably not be something I would order just for myself.
Soy Chai latte – It was a spicy version that was really tasty. There was a little debate over whether it was homemade or pre-made out of a box that was never solved, but either way, it was a delectable spicy chai.

Stop #3: Filter

Next up was Filter (1373-75 N Milwaukee Ave), which has a great, cozy vibe with tons of tables and couches for people to work. I used to visit once a week when I was dating someone who lived near by, and I’ve missed it ever since we broke up. I was happy to make my triumphant return on the coffee crawl!
This stop was also when we started feeling a bit shaky from the caffeine, so we lounged on a few comfy couches and broke out the snacks we had packed in our bags from brunch for a little sustenance.
At Filter, we took the caffeine in-take down a notch and ordered:
Almond Chai Latte – You may notice a theme, that many of us on the coffee crawl actually prefer chai lattes over coffee. I guess you could say it’s more of a caffeine crawl then.. This used to be my go-to when I went at Filter, so it was nice to enjoy it once.
Vanilla Java Chiller – This one was my favorite of the day! It was nice to mix it up with a chilled beverage, and the creamy texture and vanilla flavor made for an overall amazing experience. I will definitely be ordering a chiller the next time I visit!
This is also where we began discussing the Game of Thrones premiere the next day, and one of our friends pulled out my favorite quote of the day, ”So help me Khalisi mother of dragons…” in reference to an ex she was possibly seeing at a party that night.

Stop #4: Caffe Streets

Our last stop of the crawl was Caffe Streets (1750 W Division St). This is another one of my favorites with a fun, quirky environment and creative drink options. Honestly, at this point, we were all pretty shaky and loopy, but we’re also not ones to quite, so we enjoyed a few drinks.

At Caffe Streets, we ordered:


Monkey Latte: This banana-infused latte was good but could have used a little more banana-ness.


Hemp Chai: We were happy to try another beverage with hemp milk, and it was a delicious spicy, creamy chai.


Lavender Cream Soda: This drink was new to their menu that day, and it was a delightful cream soda with a light lavender flavor. A bit of a non-traditional, but welcome, flavor.

Caffe Streets Caffe Streets Caffe Streets Caffe Streets Caffe Streets Caffe Streets

After the crawl, we stumbled on these fabulous green doors that I had a mini-photo shoot with. I always enjoy a great door find!

Wicker Park doors Wicker Park doors

Overall, the day was a success and I’m so thankful for the warm, sunny weather, and to have fun women to explore with who let me be myself and take as many photos as I want.


For anyone looking for a fun, different event to do with friends, I highly recommend a coffee crawl. They are an easy format that can include as many or as few rules or themes as you want and are a sure fire way to an enjoyable day with friends. Just gather a few friends (a tell them to invite another friend to expand your friend circle!), pick a few coffee shops & enjoy!




The True Story of My Piece of Sunshine: My Struggle with Disordered Eating and My Wellness Journey


I try my hardest to be open and honest on My Piece of Sunshine, but there is something I don’t feel like I’ve been as honest about as I’d like to be. The true story of why I began My Piece of Sunshine.


The past few weeks I’ve felt like My Piece of Sunshine is in its teenage years aka not really sure of itself or what it’s doing or where it’s going. And so I’ve taken a few weeks to think through this and to reach out to friends for input, and my gut is finally telling me to go back the beginning. I’ve never been completely honest about why I started the blog and I’ve never felt comfortable sharing the true story. Now it’s time to share it.


Sitting down to write this has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and certainly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written. The story is long, but it is 100% honest and it feels really good to be in a place where I feel like I can finally be this open.


College – The Beginning of an Issue

Like lots of girls, I had my fair share of wanting to be thinner and attempting to control that with what I ate throughout high school and college. When I went full-on vegetarian my Sophomore year of college, I didn’t really know how to properly eat as a vegetarian, so I lost quite a bit of weight. I began eating more protein and fats though and my weight evened out a bit. My Junior year, however, I had a major emotional and spiritual crisis that led to a struggle with depression. It was during this time that I began using food to mask my racing thoughts and emotions. That holiday season and my 21st birthday is a blur of food and just trying to get through each day. My friends and family were concerned about me, and I knew I didn’t like eating that much food or avoiding my emotions, but it was all I could do to get by at that time.

Study Abroad – A Break with an Underlying Issue

Thankfully, I was able to study abroad second semester of my junior year which gave me a bit of a fresh start to clear my head. While abroad, I had my fair share of binging episodes, especially on rough days, but as a whole, it was manageable. Studying abroad allowed me to be exactly who I wanted to be and I began to heal from my depression. I could write an entire post about how study abroad helped me, but we’ll keep that part short for now. Although my depression cleared, the underlying binging issue stayed around.
Verona, Italy
Traveling around Europe and falling in love with an amazing guy helped distract me and kept me interested in healthier things. That fell apart, however, when the guy and I broke up a few months later. It’s one of those break ups you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy aka girl flies thousands of miles across an ocean to visit boy in London, boy breaks girl’s heart within the first two days of arriving with ten days left in her trip..and they’re both staying in his tiny bedroom. There was a lot of wandering around the city, a lot of running, a lot of drinking, and a lot of tears.
Campion Road in London

Senior Year First Semester – The Issue Eruption Begins

When I returned to the US, I moved directly back in to college for my senior year, and the binging started almost immediately. I would eat anything and everything I could get my hands on. M&Ms from the grocery store, candy leftover from sorority recruitment, loaves of bread with peanut butter, cheese and Wheat Thins, anything I could mindlessly shove in my mouth. And the more the better.

I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions. I gained weight. I stopped working out. I felt pretty miserable about myself, but I somehow kept trucking along. I would binge at night, feel sick in the morning, and convince myself that day was the day I would start eating right again, lose the weight, and feel good. But the cycle didn’t break. I continued to binge, and my self confidence reached an all new low while my desperation reached an all new high.


That fall, my best friend and I decided to study for and take the GRE together. I didn’t have plans of going to grad school right away or any solid post-college plans really, so I felt good about giving myself options for the future. The night before my scheduled time to take the GRE though, I binged. The next morning I woke up feeling pretty miserable about my body and life in general, and I knew I needed to reach out for help. It just so happened that the exam was in the same building as the mental health center, so I made an appointment with a therapist for later that day. The only thing that got me through the exam was knowing there was hope in sight for my health and well-being. (*Note: If you are in college and struggling with disordered eating or mental health issues, please look in to mental health services on your campus. I received free care for a while and it was a huge help. Sadly, I don’t think many college students know about the mental health services they have access to. If you think you need help, please reach out. If you are not in college, make sure to check your insurance benefits and reach out for help. Having coverage certainly helps, but please do not let that hold you back from reaching out.)


After my original appointment with a therapist, I joined a group therapy session for girls with eating disorders and attended for the rest of the semester. I loved interacting with the other girls, hearing their stories, and knowing I wasn’t alone. It didn’t really feel like it was helping me like I wanted it to though. I would feel good during group but would binge the evening after almost every group. (*Note: Although group therapy was not extremely successful for me, I am very glad I explored the option and know it works for many people. Again, if you think you need help, please reach out.)


One good thing that came out of group was that the two therapists who led it suggested I begin seeing a nutritionist and begin working out again. Although I didn’t really get much out of seeing the nutritionist, getting back in to the gym was a great step. I will always remember how absolutely horrible those first few days I returned to the gym were. As a former athlete, I couldn’t believe how out of shape I let myself get. I felt clunky like I couldn’t do anything. My body felt heavy and I remember thinking I would never feel in shape again. But I went. I ran a mile. I went again. I ran two miles. I lifted. I kept going, and I started getting back in to the hang of things.


My horrible binge cycle continued though. The mix of residual distress from the breakup with anxiety about what I was going to do post-college was too much for me to handle. I hit a breaking point during finals week of my first semester of senior year, which is where My Piece of Sunshine comes in to the scene. I went to the library to study but not before going to the grocery store and picking up a large bag of M&Ms which I proceeded to binge eat on the walk there and at my study area. I ate them so fast and felt so sick that there was no way I could even study. I was lost, confused, restless, overwhelmed, upset, and still no closer to studying for my final.


And so I logged in to Blogger and began My Piece of Sunshine. In that moment, I needed something, anything to help me feel alive and connected to the world. In my own words from that first post,


“Often times, especially lately, I become too caught up in bad things in my life which just bring me down, and I want to make a change. I want this to be a place where I can post photos or stories or things I find to be beautiful each day. Mostly pictures since I’m a visual person, but I also want to develop my writing skills again, so I will also try my hand at that. Also, if I ever get the courage to make this a more public blog, I hope that my friends and others will share what they have found beautiful in their days as well.

There is something so healing about the warmth of the sun, so this is my piece of sunshine for days when the real sun just won’t shine.” 


I didn’t share My Piece of Sunshine with anyone for weeks, but knowing I had a place to turn to in order to appreciate my life in that moment got me through finals week. And it has continued to be a place for me to appreciate the little things through my wellness journey.
Rose from Regent Park in London

Senior Year Second Semester – And So It Continues

Second semester, there was a hip hop class I really wanted to take, but it just so happened to be at the exact same time as my therapy group. I do think a part of me was avoiding therapy, but another part of me really believed that maybe I needed something a bit non-traditional to help me heal. Thankfully my gut was right. I was still in a pretty vicious binging and restricting cycle, but hip hop class definitely helped me open up to my emotions, both good and bad, and helped me begin to heal. Throughout the semester, I learned that sometimes you have to find the ugly in life in order to find beauty


That semester I was also training for a half marathon with my best friend. It was something I had wanted to do for many years and thought it would be that thing that would allow me to finally break free from the binge cycle. Training, however, ended up being a big struggled. I would often binge at night and then usually run at least 5 miles in the mornings. There were so many mornings when I wasn’t sure I’d make it through my run but fought my way through it. At the time, I thought that was a good thing and that I was being strong. Looking back on it though, I was putting my body through a lot of stress and it was really taxing on me mentally and physically.


In the end, I pushed through my training and completed the half. The race itself was a challenge, but I made it through. I was so proud of myself for finishing and for the work I put in, and yet I still didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I did my best to hide it, but I still didn’t feel right.
Half Marathon
I did my best to appreciate the rest of my senior year, but my restless nature left me ready to graduate and move in to my “new life” in adulthood where I was again convinced I would miraculously overcome my binging.


Adult Life in Chicago – Still No Relief

When I moved to Chicago, I was convinced things were going to change. They didn’t. Another life lesson I hold strong to is that you can run from your situation and surroundings, but you cannot out run your problems. My binging continued and whenever I would get overwhelmed or drank a little too much, I would be in the kitchen eating anything and everything I could. The cycle of binging, restricting, and running on crazy spikes and drops in blood sugar continued and honestly seemed never-ending.


It wasn’t a lot, but I had fat hanging heavy and awkward on my body which felt really uncomfortable on my usually athletic, trim build. I had pretty consistent heartburn and stomach issues, my energy levels were all over the place, I was constantly anxious especially around food, I never felt present in the moment, and I just felt horrible.


I had friends who knew about the situation and would try to help, but the cycle continued. The only moment of fresh air over the next year was my cousin’s wedding. I was the maid of honor and I knew I needed to be present and healthy for the big day. In the back of my mind, losing a little of my bloated weight would be nice, but ultimately I just needed to be more mindful and alert on the day of her wedding than my binge/restrict cycle usually allowed me to be.


I made a promise to myself to be in a good place for her wedding and so I did whatever I could to get there. I began a morning ritual of making myself green smoothies and journaling which helped me be more mindful and intentional throughout my day. I would journal about how I would deal with stress and my urges to binge as well as positive affirmations of what the day would look like. (e.g. Today I will have patience with myself and others. Today I will be alert, alive, and free.) My cousin also had purchased Gabrielle Bernstein books for my birthday that year, and so I began reading and following her advice to choose love in all you do. The message is one that I already believed in (one of the few things I wholeheartedly believed in after my previous spiritual crisis), and her books really spoke to me. And so every day, my journal entry would end with, “Today is going to be a beautiful day. Today I choose love.”
Green Monster Smoothie
I continued my morning ritual and kept track of the number of days I went binge free. Thankfully I made it quite a long time, and felt alert, alive, and present for my cousin’s wedding. I am so glad I put in the work to be in a good place for her wedding, but sadly the feeling didn’t last for too long.

The Turning Point

The binging sadly returned and the cycle continued for another year before I reached out for help again. In January of last year, I did a three day juice cleanse and the deal included a free consultation with a nutritional counselor. At first I wasn’t going to use the free consultation, but after a short-lived relationship, a horrible break up, and a much needed trip to Boston to see my brother, I decided I needed to do something for myself and for my health.
Door in Boston
And so I began seeing Danielle at Element Wellness. I have always had an interest in health and nutrition and even dreamed of being a nutritional counselor myself one day to help people like myself (still my dream!), so I was excited to talk to her about her career as well as my own personal health. My friends have heard me talk about Element, but I honestly cannot express how much Danielle and the center has helped me.


From our very first meeting, I have always been able to talk about everything and anything with her. I have been in tears in her office too many times to count, and she worked with me to set up a good eating plan as well as help me through my emotional issues. She let me know she was always there no matter what and that I could call, text, email, or Facebook her any time of day and she would respond. I didn’t take her up on it at first, but even knowing someone was there was what I needed. My friends and family had told me the same thing, but there was something about a stranger caring about me so much that made me believe I could get better. And so I started taking care of myself. Really caring for myself.


It took a lot of work. I mean A LOT of work nutritionally, physically, and emotionally but I slowly started to get better. I noticed myself becoming a lot more aware of the world around me. My energy levels started evening out. I began being able to pay attention to my relationships with my friends and family more, and I began caring about myself a whole lot more. I didn’t want to binge at night because I wanted to feel great the next day. I started to really take care of myself.


Through a mix of eating a whole foods, plant based diet, journaling A LOT, accepting myself as an emotional person, addressing my restlessness, finding a healthy balance of working out and relaxing, embracing my yoga practice, and reaching out for help when I needed it, I truly began to get better. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my healing process is that there is no one miracle activity or food that will “save me.” It takes an intentional mix of many things. And it takes making the choice to choose love and to choose my health each and every day. 
Plant based diet

Choose love tattoo

When days are really rough, I make lists of things I’m thankful for. Nice things I have done for myself. Nice things I have done for others. Random beautiful things I notice. Anything I’m grateful for from the day even if it’s just that I’m really grateful my nails are painted mint green because it’s my favorite nail polish color. In the past, these things appeared here on My Piece of Sunshine, but now I often just write about them in my personal journal.

A Breath of Fresh Air

I’m not perfect, and I don’t ever expect to be. It still takes a lot of work, and I have to decide each and every day to choose love and to take care of myself, but I do feel like I’m on the other side. The side I never felt like I would be. The side where I can have a healthy relationship with food. I still have my days when all I want to eat for dinner is chocolate, I have an urge to binge, or I eat too much, but those days are fewer and far between now. My anxiety around food has cleared, and I usually decide on a healthier, well-portioned meal because I want to take care of myself and feel good that day as well as the next day.

In terms of this space, my intention is that My Piece of Sunshine returns to its roots as a gratefulness blog. Remembering to slow down to appreciate the little (and big) things in life has played a big role in my wellness journey, and I want that idea of gratitude on My Piece of Sunshine to continue as an inspiration to myself as well as anyone who reads it. I remember finding stories of other women on blogs who struggled with disordered eating that I could relate to, and knowing that others made it through their struggles and ended up living beautiful lives, gave me hope that I could do the same. I now know I’m not alone in my struggles with disordered eating, and if this blog can reach out even to one girl, woman, or person who is struggling then I know it is worth it.
Me now
Thank you for listening to my story and for respecting my honesty. I always felt dishonest not sharing the true story of the blog, and I already feel lighter and like I have completed another step of my wellness journey by sharing.


I’d like to leave you with a piece of “art” I created in high school I found a few weeks ago that is probably some of the best advice I’ve ever given to myself and something I try to embody every day.


“Go out in to the big world. Dare to experience, love, cause a commotion, and love it.”

High school wisdom

Sometimes We Just Need a Change of Perspective

posted in: Life Lessons, Thankfulness | 0


A lesson that has been prevalent in my life lately is that when faced with a struggle, sometimes we just need a change of perspective. There have been quite a few situations in my personal and professional life lately that at first glance seemed an awful lot like road blocks. When I was able to take a step back and look at the entire situation, however, there turned out to be amazing opportunities associated with these the situations.


An overwhelming project at work turned in to a chance to remember how I work best and to step up my game to show myself and my coworkers what truly amazing work I am capable of.


A break up turned in to more time to build My Piece of Sunshine, more time with friends, and an opportunity to put my health and myself first.


Cabin fever turned in to the perfect time to try out (and love!) Bikram yoga.


A long wait for the bus today turned in to a relaxing time of soaking up sunshine, admiring a different view of the city, and listening to my surroundings.


Honestly, this is a skill I’m still honing, but thankfully I have amazing friends and family that help me see the full situation of my struggles and take them in with a new perspective. One of my favorite personal stories of a seeing the world anew involves a group of almost complete strangers who helped me have a massive change of perspective.


It was spring of 2010 and I was studying abroad in Italy. I was full of dreams and courage and ready to take on whatever adventures I could. One weekend early in the semester, this wonderful combo led me to go skiing for my first time ever in the Italian Alps. My only preparations included buying hot pink snow pants and a warm hat as well as watching a YouTube video of how to get up after falling. I thought I was really smart for watching the video since I knew I would be falling quite a bit. The only problem was that I forgot to look up anything about actually skiing.


Long story short, my first run down the bunny hill included a whole lot of screaming, a good amount of panicking by onlookers and myself, and ended in a full on face plant and people running to my aid. I’ll save you the bloody details, but it was a nasty spill, and I was really overwhelmed and scared. I did my best to describe my ailments in my distressed state, and the leaders of our group (my landlord and apartment repair man) took me to see the medics. After ruling out any broken body parts and a brief discussion of going to the hospital, it was decided I would stay on the mountain and just rest in the medic station with my headache and possible concussion until the end of the day.


I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and was bummed to miss out on a day of skiing with my friends. This pity party was short lived, however, because not even two minutes later, my landlord and one of the medics was back at the door to the medic station explaining in their broken English, “The sun is shining. You cannot sit inside! The sun is shining. You must be outside!” I was still so confused after my traumatic morning that I just went along with it, and the next thing I knew, I was seated outside in a folding chair soaking up the Italian sun and laughing at the hilarity of the situation. The same people who moments before were trying to convince me to go to the hospital were now convincing me in a mix of Italian and English that the sun and fresh air were all I needed.


And you know what? They were right.


I could have stayed inside having a pity party for myself, but my day did a full 180 thanks to the joyful Italians’ fresh perspective. I sat outside, enjoyed the sun and fresh air, and by the end of the day, I got back on the bunny hill (with a helmet this time!) and ended up skiing down a whole mountain. If I hadn’t accepted their fresh perspective on what seemed like a pretty major road block, I never would have seen the amazing views from the top of the mountain, experienced the invigorating adrenaline as I skied down it, or felt the pure, overwhelming joy of safely reaching the bottom.

Italian Alps


Things aren’t always going to go the way we want or expect them to, but that doesn’t mean they’re purely bad situations. Lately, when road blocks pop up, I ask myself, “how can I look at this differently?” Sometimes I can step away from the situation for a bit myself and return with fresh eyes, but other times, I have to call in reinforcements (aka my mom or a friend) for a little help seeing a different perspective.


As we enter this new season where the world will begin anew and we’ll experience its beauty with fresh eyes, I hope you are able to also look at road blocks and struggles in your life in a new light. When you get stuck, take a step back and try asking yourself, “how can I look a this differently?” I’ve found, the answer to our struggles are usually pretty simple, and often we just need a change of perspective in order to see them.


What is an area of your life that could use a fresh perspective?


Staying Healthy During the Winter. (Yes, You’re Going to Survive!)

posted in: Wellness | 0


Winter health

I know I keep saying it, but this winter has been a seriously long and depressing one. We’re almost to the end now, but between inches upon inches of snow, multiple polar vortexes (didn’t even know what that was until this year!), and a break up, the past few months have been a doozy. One thing I’m thankful for is that aside from a handful of days of cabin fever and a few sniffles, I have stayed pretty healthy this winter.


Health is a balance of physical, mental, and spiritual health and when one is out of whack, often times the others will be soon to follow. It seems like these areas are each put under a microscope as we battle cold weather and are forced to stay in doors while still dealing with day-to-day work and life stress.


I am quite familiar with winters thanks to growing up in the Midwest, but after experiencing the worst winter of my life this year, I feel like somewhat of a pro in surviving the winter and staying healthy through it all. This isn’t the end-all be-all of surviving winter, but here’s how I’ve been staying healthy this winter.

Winter health

A warm coat.

My boss at work strongly encouraged me to purchase a warmer coat last year, and I’m so thankful I listened to her and purchased my big North Face (similar). I honestly cannot imagine surviving this winter without it. I found the style I wanted from North Face, but both North Face and Columbia are good brands to check out when looking for a warm winter coat. They both have cute styles, and as nice as it is to look trendy, in the winter, it’s most important you don’t freeze to death.


Quality snow boots.

I drug my feet on this purchase for a while due to the high price point, but I finally upgraded my snow boots to these black Sorel Tofino’s last year at Nordstrom. It’s amazing how much heat you lose through your feet, so it’s important to have good quality boots (and socks too!). Also, I wear these every day on my commute, so when I think of the number of days I wear them, the investment was well worth it.


Warm, bright accessories.

The pink scarf pictured above was gifted to me from my roommate and quickly became one of my favorites this year. It’s both warm and the color makes me really happy helping with both my body temperature as well as my sanity. I also recently traded my cards for a fabulous pair of homemade, brightly-colored mittens that have been keeping my hands nice and toasty.


Physical activity.

When times get desperate, sometimes you have to rely on new sources of heat. I had been wanting to try Bikram out for a while, but this winter was finally the time that being in a 105F room for 90 minutes finally seemed like a good idea. There were a few days this February where the only time I was truly warm was when I was in class, and I am so thankful I had Bikram to turn to on those days. It was a big factor in helping me physically and mentally getting through February. Maybe 90 minutes in a 105F room still doesn’t sound like a good idea to you though. No worries, there are lots of activities to get your blood moving and body temperature up (e.g. Zumba, spinning, running on a treadmill, weightlifting).

  Winter health

Boost your mood.

It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D during the winter, and it can have a major affect on your mood. I’m a big fan of journaling to deal with emotions and boost my mood, but sometimes there’s only so much journaling can do. I’ve been taking a vitamin D supplement for a year now and definitely notice when I forget to take it. You can find many inexpensive options at your local health or drug store.


Take care of the little things.

The cold can quickly dry out your lips and skin, so a good lip balm and lotion are in order. I usually drown myself in Trader Joe’s Lavender Hand & Body Lotion to ward of dry skin, and I’ve been loving Avalon Organics Vitamin C Renewal – Soothing Lip Balm this year. It’s made of coconut oil, so it leaves my lips super smooth, and since I’ve been trying to clean up the beauty products I use, I feel good about putting it on my lips.


Have something warm to sip on.

A warm beverage is so comforting on a cold day, and Yogi’s Green Tea Kombucha has been my go-to this winter. It has a slightly fruity smell and taste thanks to plum undertones, and it supports immune and digestive function which is a nice bonus. Making a cup of this delicious tea has become a pleasant (and warm!) morning ritual each morning when I get to work.


Boost your immunity.

My nutritional counselor got me hooked on Surthrival’s Medicinal Mushroom products that help boost immunity. I have used both the Chaga as well as the Reishi and both have worked wonders for me. They have helped me boost my immunity to ward of illness as well as help me recover when I got sick last spring during allergy season. I usually just put a dropper’s worth in my morning smoothie which makes it super easy to boost my immunity.


I hope this has been helpful to anyone still looking for help surviving these last few chilly weeks or even for thinking about items to get before next year. As I said, this no where near an exhaustive list of how to stay healthy in the winter so I’d love to hear some of your tips and tricks.


How have you been staying healthy (and warm) this winter?


1 2 3 4 29