Grain free experiments from Pinterest


I’m currently writing from Birmingham, Alabama; I’m attending TFA’s Teacher Leadership Development 2nd Annual Summit until Friday with my team (Organizational Effectiveness love!). Over 1,000 of our staff members will be in attendance, and I’m excited to learn from them and catch up with my team (I work on a virtual team so I only get to see them a few times a year!). I am, however, a bit nervous about keeping up with the Transform Bootcamp while I’m away. I frontloaded my workouts and plan to do Ballerina Fight Club Friday evening so that I only need to fit in one cardio and one strength workout while I’m here. The gym is always packed at TFA conferences so I’m going to need to pick strategic times to fit those in. If all else fails, I plan to do some of the MaZi YouTube videos in my room. TFA is usually really accommodating when it comes to providing meal options for all different dietary restrictions. I wasn’t grain free when I filled out my registration information, but I think they’ll have plenty of veggie options at the very least. I brought my own nuts for snacks since I am constantly snacking and the provided snacks tend to be granola bars.

As I head into the week, I am still feeling pretty great. My body is still sending strong signals when I’m full; I haven’t felt bloated since I started this; and I’m starting to see more muscle definitions in my arms and legs. The scale doesn’t tell the whole story and I’m not very consistent in when I step on it, but I am definitely down at least a few pounds so far. At the end of the four weeks, I’m most excited to see how my inches have transformed!

I used last week to do some recipe experimenting–all found on Pinterest and a lot of them gems from The Detoxinista’s blog. I made almond butter chocolate chip cookies, cauliflower pizza crust, sweet potato noodles, frozen banana truffles, and pancakes. My sweets craving hadn’t gone awayIMG_20140127_175747 and I wanted some cookies, so I tried out these Almond Butter Flourless Chocolate Chip Cookies. (The recipe calls for peanut butter but we didn’t have any and almond butter substituted just fine. Next time I’ll use peanut butter though because almond butter is pretty expensive!) These things were delicious. Not a perfect match with regular chocolate chip cookies but they were very good. They only have six ingredients in them and they were super easy to make. I think this was the winner for best experiment of the week.  

Next I tried cauliflower pizza crust. I MISS PIZZA SO MUCH. I’ve already determined that it’ll be my first grain meal after the four weeks are up (though I do think I’ll continue doing grain free for the most part with the exception of a few indulgences). I had high expectations for this because of my love for pizza so while it was good, it definitely didn’t “do the trick” of fulfilling the craving. The recipe isn’t too complicated. You basically make “cauliflower rice” by putting a bunch of cauliflower in a food processor, boil it, and mix it with goat cheese and an egg. I will note that it did take both Evan and me working together to successfully strain out all the water in the cauliflower; because the cauliflower/water were so hot from being boiled I couldn’t exact wring out the water and so we used tongs, which did the trick. The crust ended up being really thin and I think that was my fault because 1) I didn’t use parchment paper (we now own some) and 2) I think I shaped the crust into a little less than 1/3 of an inch. I learned some lessons for next time and I will likely take Megan’s advice and make two at a time (one for immediate consumption and another for a frozen pizza for later) because it definitely took a lot of time to make.IMG_20140127_175616

Next, I attempted to make noodles out of sweet potato slices. I was hoping they’d turn out like these beautiful noodles shown in the recipe but, alas, when I started mixing my noodles with the veggies I had prepared, the noodles broke up into tiny pieces. It was more like a sweet potato hash, which was totally fine, but not exactly what I was expecting. I’ll have to figure out where I may have gone wrong–I think it could’ve been with the thickness of my slices and/or the amount of time I boiled them for. I made up for it by making these scrumptious banana truffles–essentially frozen banana slices covered in dark chocolate and topped with a mix of almond butter and coconut oil. Delicious! Easy to make and next time I’ll just buy more chocolate so I can ensure each banana slice is properly covered. 🙂

Lastly, my second favorite experiment from the week: grain free pancakes! I think I had mentioned that I was craving pancakes, and I found a great recipe that includes almond flour (I used almond meal), coconut oil, honey, apple cider vinegar, and a few other ingredients. These were legit–tasted just like regular pancakes. I halved the recipe because it was just Evan and me enjoying the product, and we still had some leftovers (which I enjoyed this morning). I was worried that the coconut oil would overwhelm the IMG_20140127_175652taste of the pancakes–I don’t actually enjoy the taste of coconut. I could taste it slightly in the pancakes but not enough to write these puppies off. Definitely a great recipe, and next time I’ll just plan to add some fruit into them.

I hope to have an update for you all on Friday as we’ll be quite busy here at the summit until then. I think this week will be my first real test when it comes to maintaining my grain free and fitness regime. Challenge accepted!


Friends, Fam, Pinterest, and Spotify


Week 2 has just started, and I’m feeling great! In general, I have more energy, I feel stronger during my workouts, and I am still way less bloated than I used to be before going grain free. I spent this past weekend at home in the suburbs, and my mom even thinks my skin is looking better. I’ve always had issues with acne and dryness on my face, so perhaps no grains will have other unintended benefits.

HEALTH:  My grain free diet has been going well. Again, it’s easy in some ways and more challenging in others. I have noticed that when I eat my main meals, I get full more quickly; my body signals about my fullness are definitely clearer than they used to be. That said, I do get hungry more often so one challenge has been snacking–more specifically finding snacks that are satisfying enough. I used to snack on grains–a piece of toast, crackers, etc. Those aren’t options so I grab nuts or veggies now. I just have to be sure to have plenty on hand throughout the week.

Related (if we can call desserts snacks), I have definitely been missing sweets. I definitely need to cut back on them, but so far, the only sweet I’ve been able to have is chocolate. Most other desserts–cookies, brownies, etc.–have grains in them. This weekend I spent some time on Pinterest in search of grain free dessert recipes. I FOUND A TON, including one for grain free donuts (that craving hasn’t gone away…). Feel free to check out my grain free board. I know, I know, there are a ton of things that don’t look particularly healthy but if you check out some of the recipes, you’ll see hidden vegetables like the vanilla cupcakes made with zucchini. Let’s be real, I’m not going to have a ton of time to bake all of these things so my sweets intake will still be limited. It’s still great to know I have some other options other than straight up chocolate. I’m super excited to try the cauliflower pizza crust and the sweet potato noodles. I’ve been missing pizza and pasta and I’m hoping these will come close enough to the real thing.

Also through Pinterest, I found my way to a super helpful blog called The Detoxinista. The author, Megan, has some awesome resources and recipes and they all go toward her mission to “make healthy living easier and more accessible”. One particularly helpful post, Going Grain Free, details seven reasons why you should avoid grains. You’ll see that #2 relates to my earlier comment about knowing when I’m full. I look forward to continuing to use her blog for info and recipIMG_20140119_131841es.

FITNESS: I surpassed my five strength and five cardio classes regime this past week–clocking in six strength and five cardio classes. This included Ballerina Bum Bootcamp on Thursday with my friends, co-workers, original MaZi accountability buddies Dwetri and Soukprida. We haven’t been at the same class altogether for a while because our schedules are all over the place. They also live in/close to Wicker Park so they take advantage of classes at the WP studio, too. I hope this happens more often though they might try to avoid me if I keep asking them to take pictures with me post-workout.

I had another successful at-home (or at-my-parent’s-home) workout today. Besides the MaZi YouTube channel, I utilize MaZi’s Spotify playlists for my warmup, cool down, and the strength videos. From their 2013 MaZi Faves playlist, I’m loving Pompeii for my warmup and Young and Beautiful for cool down; All Night by Icona Pop is becoming a new favorite.

Though he didn’t join me for my workout, my brother, Michael, did humor me and take this staged photo post-workout. I wanted to highlight Michael because he is one of my fitness inspirations–and general life inspirations, too. Michael graduated from Bellarmine University (Louisville, KY) in May, and I’m so happy he’s back in Chicagoland. Since June, Michael has lost 30 pounds and five inches in his waist; he’s on his way to a six pack. He has been extremely dedicated to his IMG_20140119_131655workouts–starting with standard weight lifting and interval cardio training. Then he began P90X in November and has stuck with it since then. I’ve done a few of the videos with Michael–Kempo and Cardio X–and though I enjoyed those, I had some failed attempts at other videos; it’s definitely not for everyone but it’s surely working for him.

He also completely changed his diet. Like many people in college, he had a lot going on and it was hard to plan healthy meals; he said he “pretty much ate anything and everything”. Now he is very conscious of what he drinks and eats. He drinks between around 90 ounces of water a day and the only other thing he drinks is tea; quite a contrast from his former liquid consumption habits of energy drinks, milk shakes, alcohol, and pop. He cooks meals in advance making big servings of different proteins and vegetables at the beginning of the week, which makes it easier to follow through the rest of the week because they’re readily available.

He also keeps consistent daily records of what he eats and what his workout was, which gives him a sense of accomplishment because he’s able to see a clean week of eating and workout progress from week to week. He said, “Change is going to take time, but the little things like keeping track and seeing how you’re doing, let’s you see minor accomplishments and keeps you going.” He also avoids grains; the only grains he has are oatmeal (Old-Fashioned Quaker Oats) to start off each morning, so he’ll be a help to me as I continue to pursue the grain free way. He’s sleeping better, he hasn’t been sick since he started working out, and he rarely has headaches anymore (before, he had about 1-2 a week). All that to say, I’m super proud of him and am so happy he’s feeling healthier.

He did just so happen to eat a donut…in front of me…(sounds like a contradiction but he clearly doesn’t usually eat them). I’ll live vicariously through him on this one.


Week 1 Progress


Happy Wednesday! Time for an update on my progress thus far.

BEAUTY: No real updates here. My underarm hair is still growing but definitely not as quickly; it’s also more sparse. My next appointment is on February 20th so I likely won’t have any other updates on how my underarms are doing. I’ll spare you any pictures as well. 🙂

HEALTH: I’ve successfully completed six days of my no grain diet. It’s been pretty easy in some ways and somewhat challenging in others. Once I went to the grocery store, it was pretty easy to load up on things I could eat–a lot of meat, veggies, fruit, and nuts. I work from home most days of the week, so now that I have things to snack on in between meals, I stay pretty satiated throughout the day. I’ve also come to realize how many grains–bread, rice, etc.–I was eating and how they really are unnecessary sometimes. Instead of having a turkey sandwich the other day, I just heated up some turkey meat with a little pepper jack on top, put a bit of BBQ sauce on it, and paired it with a small salad. Normally, I would’ve just made the former into a sandwich and not made / eaten the latter altogether.

One challenge I was presented with this past weekend was trying to dine out. I went to an Asian fusion restaurant, Sunda, for my friend Lauren’s birthday, and though I really wanted sushi, I obviously couldn’t have it. (Though I did come to find out their avocado role has no rice! Good to know.) In Milwaukee, my friends Beth and Kristen were super accommodating and helpful in trying to pick restaurants where I wouldn’t just have one option but multiple. We ended up at a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and so I just got steak fajitas and didn’t use the tortillas. Easy fix, and I didn’t really need them. (P.S. You may be thinking: “Why not corn tortillas?” Well, apparently corn is a grain and is off-limits. Who knew?) I’ve also had more cravings for sweets. I’m still trying to figure out what sweets I can have besides chocolate. I’ve had an unreasonable amount of thoughts about donuts, particularly Do-Rite Donuts. Drool. I’m going to do some research and perhaps some baking experiments with almond flour (?) and will report back.

Overall, there haven’t been any negative side effects, but one positive side effect I’ve noticed is that I feel less bloated after meals. Certainly a positive, and I’ll continue to monitor how I feel / how my body is responding to this all.

I met again with Dr. Mike this week and got acupuncture for the first time ever. I had probably about nine needles in me throughout my body–feet, calves, hands, fingers, and one in my forehead. Needles do kind of skeeve me out, so while I was all for it because I’m committed to trying all things during this journey, I couldn’t relax for the first part of the acupuncture because I was thinking about the needles. Dr. Mike asked me to relax and focus on breathing in and out and think about breathing into the areas of my body where I felt tension; this helped immensely and I was able to “let it all go” and really enjoyed the experience. I didn’t make a point of identifying how I felt before / after the acupuncture, so I’ll be sure to do that next time. I will say that I felt relaxed throughout the rest of the day and didn’t feel much tension… that is until I went to MaZi later (tension in a good way here!).

FITNESS: As a reminder, I’m trying to fit in five cardio classes and five strength classes at MaZi, which is definitely doable. I set my schedule at the beginning of the week and have stuck to it. It’s been helpful to see the reminders on my calendars and to be proactive about planning classes around my other commitments. For MaZi members who may be interested, I’m able to fit in all the classes because Ballerina Fight Club and Cardio Barre count as both, and I’ve been trying to double up classes when I can. My two favorites classes to double up are 1) Ballerina Bum Bootcamp + either Zi-Cardio or Hip Hop and 2) Ballerina Bum Ball and Ballerina Fight Club. Definitely doable! Ballerina Bum Interval + BBB is also doable. Last week I tried Ballerina Fight Club followed by Dance Cardio and that was a stretch. I could have put more into Dance Cardio had I not just done BFC so I wouldn’t recommend that combo unless you are feeling truly amped. Classes, as usual, have been awesome, and I’ve been trying to really think about my form. I don’t always bring my “belly button to my spine” and it has given me some lower back pain after some classes so I’m trying to be more conscious and intentional about that.

On Sunday, I did my MaZi at home workout. Feel free to check it out here. It’s a mix of cardio and strength and when you add in stretching on both ends and the repetitions for the strength videos, it’ll be about 35 minutes. Like I said, it’s certainly not a substitute–I like when the teachers are there to encourage / correct  / help me; however, it’s a great back up and will be especially helpful during my upcoming work trip to Birmingham. I’ll be unable to go to MaZi classes for four days, and so this playlist and potentially some others I’ll create will be must haves for the trip. I travel about eight-ten times a year, and in the recent months have not prioritized exercising during my trips. Insert excuses here. That’s going to change, and I have some accountability buddies on my team who have already offered to do the workouts with me. Karen, Kristin, and Heather, I’m looking at you!

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

At the starting gate


I’m so appreciative of all the love and support I’ve gotten so far. It’s just the start and knowing I have people cheering me on is super helpful. So thanks!

My journey officially starts today, and I’m writing this as I head to Milwaukee to visit my great DePauw friend, sorority sister, and former roommate Beth. I met with MaZi, Windy City Wellness, and Enfuse this past week to make a plan.

BEAUTY: I’ll start with Enfuse. I decided to go with laser hair removal for my underarms. Get ready for a little TMI, folks. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while because every time I shave my underarms, it doesn’t even look like I did, which is especially annoying in the summer months (after this past week, summer seems a looong way away). Patti, at Enfuse, is wonderful. She was really energetic and explained everything to me before we got started. I’ll admit it: I was a bit nervous but she comforted me and answered all my questions. She did a “test shot” so I could see how it felt–a little cold blast at first and then heat and a slight burn. She did the entire area under both arms. I am kind of a wimp so I’ll say the pain was a 7 out of 10 BUT it only lasts for about 30 seconds and that’s it. I’ll go back every six weeks for about 5 more sessions. My hair is already growing more slowly, and I’m happy to be working with Patti and the folks at Enfuse.

HEALTH: Next up is Windy City Wellness. I’ll start by saying that Dr. Mike (Dr. Michael Pontarelli) is awesome. In advance of our first appointment, I filled out a bunch of paper work–health questionnaires, family health history, etc. After reviewing my responses and my recent blood work, Dr. Mike asked a bunch of follow up questions and did an assessment of my alignment, muscles, organs, etc. He did a bit of chiropractic work and acupressure on me. Given my health history–current and past–and my desire to lose weight, I will be doing a no grain diet for the next 4 weeks at least to start. No grains means no pasta, bread, chips, crackers, BEER, and other things I tend to eat a lot of. It means eating more meat, veggies, and nuts. I am committed to this journey so I’m committed to trying this. After the 4 weeks, we’ll see how it goes and Dr. Mike said I can slowly reintroduce occasional grains if that’s something I want to do. Separately, I’m going to cut my intake of dairy–in particular cheese. I eat so much cheese because it’s so delicious but I definitely eat more than is appropriate. I have another appointment with Dr. Mike next week and I’m really excited to keep learning from him. His approach is very holistic, which I love, and I’ll keep sharing his wisdom with you all.

FITNESS: I had my first check-in with Ziba, one of the co-founders of MaZi. Ziba and her sister/the other co-founder, Marisol, are real, strong women (this is a motto of sorts from my sorority Alpha Chi Omega but it totally applies to them). Ziba is currently pregnant with a baby boy and is due at the end of February. You guys, she’s still teaching classes, and she looks fantastic!

Ziba asked questions about my fitness goals, guided me through some of the ways to get at those trouble areas, and suggested a training schedule for me for the next 4 weeks (again at least). I am committed to going to 5 strength and 5 cardio MaZi classes each week. I’m currently working out a schedule that would fit all of that in with my other commitments; at first glance it’s definitely doable. Classes like Ballerina Fight Club and Cardio Barre count as both strength and cardio, and I’m a fan of doing back-to-back classes or “doubling up” so I’ll continue to do that. I doubled up three days in a row this past week and I’ll say “woof” but also it felt great.

My long term goal is to lose about 15 pounds and in these four weeks I think 5-7 pounds is feasible. Ziba made a great recommendation to also think in terms of inches lost so I’m hoping to lose inches in my waist, hips, and arms. My target areas are those areas plus my thighs. I’m generally going for tighter!

Because I’ll be out of town this weekend and will miss MaZi classes, I will do an at-home makeshift MaZi class on Sunday using videos from MaZi’s YouTube channel. I tried it out yesterday and used cans of beans as my weights (I probably need to buy some actual weights) and Google’s handy timer for my Tabata series. In a future post, I’ll share my playlists but I’ll say for now that if an in-person MaZi experience isn’t possible, this does the trick.

Thanks for reading this super long post. I promise future ones won’t be quite as long. Just had to lay the foundation here so my commitments are out there. Onward!

Ballerina Bum Transform Bootcamp!



I have been a MaZi Dance Fitness member since May of 2013 when two co-workers, Dwetri and Soukprida, and I decided to buy a Gilt for a month of unlimited dance. We enjoyed our classes so much that we are all still members.

I LOVE MaZi and am so glad I found such an amazing way to work out and have fun.  I am also super grateful to have won the opportunity to participate in MaZi’s Ballerina Bum Transform Bootcamp, which will be the focus of this blog for at least the next four or five weeks. I will be undergoing a fitness, health, and beauty transformation with the help of Marisol and Ziba at MaZi (sisters and founders of the centre), Dr. Mike Pontarelli at Windy City Wellness, and Adrian Harrison at Enfuse Medical Spa.

I’ll be sharing with you my goals and progress along the way as well as some of the tips I learn so that you can hopefully benefit from this as well. I’ll try to include pictures as much as possible and maybe even some YouTube videos. I’m excited to begin this journey and invite you to follow along! You can also follow me on Twitter @slauCHI and Instagram @shibby_chi or follow this hashtag: #ballerinabumtb.

For those of you who don’t me, a quick bio: my name is Siobhan Lau, and I grew up outside of Chicago in the suburb of Park Ridge. I went to undergrad at DePauw University (not a typo) in Greencastle, Indiana and was a violin performance and Spanish major. I miss DePauw all the time. After DePauw, I went on to graduate school at the University of Cincinnati where I got an MA in Arts Administration and an MBA. I promptly made my return to Chicago and started working on the administrative staff of Teach For America. I spent about two years doing fundraising, and now I work in Human Resources. I’m a true Midwesterner and a self-proclaimed nerd.