Scenes From A Chicago Summer

Even though I have lived in Chicago for about three months now, I still can’t believe it sometimes.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this city, but if you had told me that one day I would live here, I would have laughed.  If you had told me that I would absolutely love it, I would have thought you were crazy.  But it’s true, I live in this beautiful city and I totally love every minute of it!  I thought that today I would share the pictures I have taken these past few months.  Some of them are from my runs along Lake Shore Drive, some of them are from my walks all over town, and some of them are from places Adam and I have gone this summer.  These have been the scenes of my Chicago summer.  Enjoy!

Lake Shore Runs

I am so incredibly blessed to be able to end all my runs right at the lake.  Most days I get a beautiful sunrise, or waves crashing up onto the steps.  It’s a really neat way to end my run and start my day.

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Walks all over town

Everyday I try to get out for a walk.  I have literally walked all over the place, seeing the sites, getting to know all the streets and shops, and seeing the things that this city has to offer.

View of downtown from Belmont Harbor

View of downtown from Belmont Harbor


I literally live down the street from Wrigley. It is AWESOME. GO CUBBIES!

I literally live down the street from Wrigley. It is AWESOME. GO CUBBIES!

Random guy playing the marimba right across from Millenium Park.  He was pretty good too!

Random guy playing the marimba right across from Millenium Park. He was pretty good too!

Excuse my finger, but a pretty nice shot of the skyline other wise

Excuse my finger, but a pretty nice shot of the skyline other wise

Had to race a summer storm home on one of my walks

Had to race a summer storm home on one of my walks

Super foggy day on the lake.  It was eerie and cool

Super foggy day on the lake. It was eerie and cool

Things to do, people to see

There are literally thousands of things to do on any given day in Chicago.  Adam and I have tried a few things out and love what this city has to offer!

Windy City Rib Fest.  He was a happy boy

Windy City Rib Fest. He was a happy boy

The aftermath of a 1/2 rack of ribs. He says it was worth it

The aftermath of a 1/2 rack of ribs. He says it was worth it

Listening to a band at a street festival

Listening to a band at a street festival

More food. Enjoying an italian beef at Portillos. The boy loves his food

More food. Enjoying an italian beef at Portillos. The boy loves his food

Kind of hard to see but that couple down by the lake just got engaged! I was a total creeper and clapped after the dude proposed. Sorry I'm not sorry!

Kind of hard to see but that couple down by the lake just got engaged! I was a total creeper and clapped after the dude proposed. Sorry I’m not sorry!

Seriously, this summer has been amazing and I am beyond blessed to be able to live in Chicago.  I can’t wait to see what else this town has in store for me!


How To Drive A Runner Crazy

The number one way that you can drive a runner crazy is to tell them they can’t run.  Then just sit back and watch the madness ensue.  For the past month or so, I have not been able to run because of a knee injury.  I thought that I should share this experience with you because I know that some of you may have dealt with this yourself.  Or, although I really hope not, you might have to deal with it in the future.  This has been a tough month, but I do think some good has come from me having to deal with this injury.

Towards the end of April, Adam and I were doing a workout together that included some running along with squats and pushups.  During the running parts, I noticed a little twinge on the outside of my knee, but didn’t pay much attention to it because it wasn’t bothering or hindering me in any way.  That changed near the end of the workout when I could barely run/walk because of the pain in my knee.  I thought that I had just over worked myself that week and just needed a little rest/ice and my knee would be good to go.  I have been extremely lucky in my time as a runner that I have had practically no serious injuries.  So I rested all the next day and iced my knee and by Monday morning it felt better, so out I went for my run.  About 3 minutes in, the pain was back full force and I had to hobble my way back home.

Thus began my time of not running.  This was the first time in my whole running “career” that I had to stop running for longer than a few days.  I immediately went into panic mode and jumped to the worst possible conclusions and thought, “What if I can never run again?”  Yes, I can tend to be a little overdramatic.  The first few days of not running, I was pretty miserable.  To make matters worse, running was the ONLY thing that irritated my knee.  I would do yoga, my crossfit like workouts, walk, ride my bike, and anything else you can think of and my knee would be fine.  But start to put one foot in front of the other in a running motion, and I was down for the count.  This was also right around the time that all the stress of our future move started to really pile up.  All I wanted to do was go for a run but I couldn’t.  I knew that I needed an outlet for all that pent up frustration, so I started to bike in the mornings.

take care

I do not like biking.  I still do not like biking.  In fact I probably dislike it more now than I did before my injury.  Biking just is not my thing.  I like the idea of biking and I respect and appreciate all the people out there who love to bike.  My husband is a biker, and I love to encourage him to bike more and do what he loves.  But put me on two wheels and tell me to go, and I will make a face like a kid being told to eat a worm.  You’re probably wondering two things at this point, 1. Why did she replace running with biking if she hates it and 2. Has she ever eaten a worm and is that why she used that analogy?  To answer the second question, no I have never eaten a worm, don’t worry.  To answer the second, it’s a little complicated.

The simple, quick answer is because I thought I had to ride my bike if I wasn’t running.  The more complicated, and more honest answer, is I was afraid.  Running has become my therapy.  It was one of the catalysts for finally taking charge of my health and changing and I have fallen in love with it.  Running had always been there and it had always helped me, even if I didn’t think I needed help.  Now it was gone and I was afraid of what would happen to me.  I was afraid that I would lose ground in my overall health and fitness.  I was afraid that if I stopped running I would never run again.  I was afraid that I would somehow turn into the old me before I decided to change my life and become healthier.  I didn’t want to wake up one morning and look in the mirror and see the unhealthy girl that was never totally confident about herself staring back at me.  I thought that without running I would immediately lose all I had gained as well as gain all that I had lost.


As this month has gone by, I can tell you that none of my fears have come true.  Once I stopped pouting about not being able to run and came to terms with that fact that if I wanted to get totally better I had to stop running, I realized that I could do this.  Being a runner isn’t the only thing that makes me me.  Running isn’t the only thing that has made me healthier these past few years.  It’s funny, but once I took away running, I was able to see all of the other areas of my life that I am really good at and that promote my overall health.  I am pretty decent at yoga, and poses that I always thought were out of my reach actually come quite naturally when I focus and concentrate on my form.  I am strong.  I can do squats for days, and I am almost to being able to crank out a good number of full pushups, something I have struggled with for a long time.  I am fairly good at coming up with creative ways to use the foods I eat on a regular basis.  I am getting better at using the ingredients I have on hand to make delicious and healthy meals.  While to a certain extent I have always been confident in the kitchen, I have become even more so and I am also more confident in doing my own thing and not always following a recipe to the T.

Without running, I would never have discovered or paid much attention to these other areas of my life and I would have missed out on the other great things that make me, me.  But it’s time to bring running back.  I miss it a lot.  I miss the feel of the ground beneath my feet as I finally hit my stride.  I miss the smell of the trees and grass as summer is making it’s way to the midwest.  I miss the feeling of accomplishment and invincibility that follows a ten mile run.  I even miss the it hurts so good sessions of foam rolling my IT band.  This week I am going to start to slowly add running back to my life.  I am still a little nervous that the pain will come back in the first few minutes of my run.  I still have the irrational fear of never being able to run again.  But I also have the newfound knowledge that just because I define myself as a runner, that isn’t the only thing that defines me.


Friday Fill-In

Hello everyone!

I don’t have a recipe for you today, but I am working on creating some delicious summer recipe ideas for you. I have a chipotle sauce that is AMAZING, that I will be sharing with you soon… But more on that later!

Meet Olaf!

Meet Olaf!

The big news in the Dawson household this week is the addition of a kitten to our family!  One of the things that Adam promised me, was that once he got a job and we had a place that could have more than one animal, he would get me a kitten.  So on Monday, he made good on his promise and we got a 2 month old orange tabby.  He is energetic and playful and of course super adorable.  After making a huge list of names, we finally narrowed it down to Olaf.  Yes, it is partly after Olaf the snowman in the movie Frozen.  It’s also a character in one of the video games that Adam plays.  The name fits him perfectly, and as I pointed out he really does like warm hugs!

Hi! I'm Olaf! I like warm hugs and climbing up peoples legs!

Hi! I’m Olaf! I like warm hugs and climbing up peoples legs!

Our other cat, Dot, is still a little hesitant about the furry ball of mischief that we have brought into her domain, but they are slowly getting to tolerate each other.  Now if Olaf would just stop attacking her tail while she is eating, things would be amazing!

Olaf about to make a bad decision...

Olaf about to make a bad decision…

That’s all I have for today, but I will be back on Monday and I’ll talk about how I haven’t been able to run for the past month.  Spoiler alert: I hate it.  The whole experience has taught me some good lessons though, and hopefully you will be able to learn something from it.  Have a great weekend and make sure to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather!

Maybe he'll be a runner like mama...

Maybe he’ll be a runner like mama…


My Story

I think it is about time that you all hear my story.  I have shared a few insights into my health journey in some of my posts but I haven’t given you the full spiel.  It was brought to my attention that readers might not relate to me because I seem to have it all together health-wise (trust me I’m still learning and growing on that front) and I want you to realize I have been in some of the same situations that you might find yourselves.  My story probably starts  a lot like yours….

I was a pretty normal kid (I use normal very loosely here, I am a bit quirky!).  I didn’t have any major health problems and I was the same as most kids in my class.  I had no issues with my appearance and I had no reason to have any issues.  I was your average American kid.

Yes normal children sing for their Grandma in their bathing suit...

Yes normal children sing for their Grandma in their bathing suit…

Then I entered fifth grade and puberty hit, which is totally normal, but I started puberty before all of my friends.  That is when a lot of my issues started.  I couldn’t understand why suddenly I was developing hips and boobs and my thighs were getting bigger and hair was sprouting places, yet my friends were still skinny and flat-chested and seemingly hair-less.  I’m a naturally shy person and all these changes made me feel awkward and ugly and made me retreat even more from public situations.  I didn’t want anyone seeing me or focusing any type of attention on me.  This is also when I started to hate my body and when I started to go on diets to try and look like what I thought was normal.  The diets would work for a little while, I would lose weight, feel good about myself, go off the diet and, you guessed it, gain the weight back.

Pretty sure this is fifth grade, I'm the one with the glasses flexing a non-existent muscle

Pretty sure this is fifth grade, I’m the one with the glasses flexing a non-existent muscle

Quite the attractive face, I think I was going for "I'm cool" ? Either way it didn't work

Quite the attractive face, I think I was going for “I’m cool” ? Either way it didn’t work

High school wasn’t much different than junior high.  I came from a small parochial school, so public school was a bit of a shock for me.  I had never been around so many kids at once.  My graduating 8th grade class was 21 kids and suddenly I was in a class of over 500.  This made shy Katie nervous and panicky.  Luckily, I got involved in the marching band and made amazing friends and had amazing experiences.  I excelled in band and was a squad leader by my sophomore year and a section leader my junior and senior year.  As cheesy and nerdy as it may sound, I really believe that marching band saved me during my high school years.

I believe this was my senior year? I wasn't a big fan of pictures

I believe this was my senior year? I wasn’t a big fan of pictures

But, high school was also a really hard time for my body, especially my self-image.  Now that I was in high school I had more freedom over my food choices, and not knowing anything helpful about nutrition, I made HORRIBLE food choices.  Our cafeteria was full of fat and calorie laden food, and I was drawn to those choices.  I would eat bread bowls full of cream of broccoli soup, drink tons of soda (diet is fine right?), get candy as a snack from the vending machine, munch on bacon potato skin chips dipped in cream cheese (yes, it is as gross as it sounds).  Of course I would also make sure I got “healthy” food like bottled smoothies (fruit is good for you, even when it is in liquid sugar form, right?), and baked potato chips.

Told you I was quirky

Told you I was quirky

Needless to say I gained weight.  While I might never have been considered obese, I was definitely overweight.  The added weight did nothing to help my self-image, which I already struggled with, and I started to crash diet, in the most unhealthy way possible.  I would skip meals and at one point even tried weight loss pills, anything to try and make myself skinny and pretty.  Of course, none of these things worked and I was miserable.  I hated my body and felt that I was so ugly that no one else could ever love me.  It was a very difficult time for me.  But things did look up my junior year when I got my first boyfriend.  I was elated that someone of the opposite sex actually thought I was worthy enough to date  Trust me, I know how sad and pathetic that sounds, but when you have such a low opinion of yourself, you look for anything to validate your worth, even a boy.

Freshman year of college

Freshman year of college

By the time that I got to college, I had had a few boyfriends.  Sadly, having a boyfriend made me feel like I was worth something.  I felt that if someone else other than my friends and family thought I was good enough, then I really was good enough.  I entered college feeling both petrified and excited.  Petrified because I was leaving home and my comfort zone and stepping into a world that I knew nothing about.  Excited because I was finally going to become a little more independent and adult like.  I decided one of my new major goals in college was to become healthier and finally lose weight for good and be happy with the way I looked.  Great goals, but I still went about them in the wrong way.  For the first year or so of college I was a vegetarian, partly because my boyfriend at the time was and partly because I thought it would help me lose weight.  But you can still eat junk food while being a vegetarian (hello mac n’ cheese!) and having a prepaid meal plan where you can get all the food you want can be dangerous.  But I was determined not to gain the freshmen 15, and in fact I actually lost weight.  This was because I started to work out on a regular basis.  I had free access to the Rec center at my college and made working out a part of my routine.  While I had never been totally sedentary before and had worked out in spurts in junior high and high school, I had never had an established routine.  Being able to go to the Rec center for free was great because it got me started on a great habit.

But I still ate some not-so-great foods and I still had self-esteem problems.  I had hoped that once I lost weight I would magically be transformed into this happy, self assured person.  At the time I didn’t realize that I needed to work on more than just my body, I needed to work on my mind and my relationship with myself.  I never gave myself the chance to do that though because I was always relying on other people to make me feel better about myself, mainly my boyfriends.

And then something happened that really changed everything for me.  The summer before my last year of college, I worked as a trainer with my dad.  My dad is a kinesiotherapist (specialized area of medicine in which exercise and movement are used as the primary form of rehabilitation), and we would work with all different kinds of people, from athletes to the elderly, to make them stronger or faster or better in whatever they did.  I got to create exercise programs for people and then work with them one on one to help them improve.  That summer my dad also had another intern working with him, also my age and a friend I had known for awhile.  It was a great summer, I got to step outside of my box and do something I didn’t think I was good at and I actually did fairly well.  I also got to interact with my dad and become better friends with his other intern.  It was that friendship that really turned things around for me.  And the one thing that he did that pretty much changed everything for me?  Encouraged me to sign up for a 5k race through our church.  Yup, that was my big epiphany moment.  At the time, I hated running.  I thought it was pointless and stupid and I dreaded the thought of running.  But my friend convinced me to give it a shot and we even trained a little together at work.  I’ll admit, it wasn’t very fun and I was just doing this to make him happy.  I figured I would get through this one race and never have to run again.  Boy, was I wrong.  The day of the race arrived, and I was a nervous wreck.  There was no way I was going to be able to run 3.1 miles and I was about to make a huge fool of myself.  But I didn’t, I ran really well.  I never stopped or gave up and I didn’t die.  I crossed that finish line and I felt amazing.  Finishing that race made me realize I could do things that I never thought I could do.  I was a stronger person than I thought possible.


Running became my therapy.  Each time I laced up and went for my run, I proved to myself how strong and amazing my body was no matter what it looked like.  I could do things that I was always too shy or scared to try.  I started to love myself on my runs and started the long process of healing years of self-hatred.  Yes, this all sounds spiritual and hippie-dippie, but running really changed my life and opened so many doors for me.  Before running, I would never go up and talk to a person I barely knew.  After running, I finally got the nerve to actually talk to a boy without him approaching me first.  Good thing too or else I would have never met my husband.  Before running, I would never have picked up nutrition books or health books or researched about eating right.  After running, I completely overhauled the way I ate and learned as much as possible about being the healthiest me I could be.  And you know what?  I finally found that happy person I longed for ever since fifth grade.  Yes, I lost weight along the way (about 45 lbs over a course of 7 years), but for the first time in a long time I didn’t care about the weight.  I cared about how I felt on the inside. I cared about treating my body with exercise and good, wholesome food.  I finally believed myself that I was worthy enough.


I’ve been in dark places in my past health-wise.  Please believe me when I say I know how you feel.  While I might not have the EXACT same story as you, I know what it’s like to go through rough times.  Do I have my whole life together now and never struggle? Heck no.  I still have my moments.  I still struggle with self-image and self-esteem and have to work on it daily.  I will probably have to work on it daily for the rest of my life, but I am in a MUCH better place than before.  Life is so much more than how much you weigh or what you look like and sadly we (me included) get so wrapped up in trying to meet other people’s standards.  But we can change that.  Let’s work on setting our own standards and move towards a healthy life.  Realize that getting to your happy place may look very different than how I reach my happy place.  Not everyone is going to run a race and change their life.  You do have to go out there and WORK at what will change your life for the better.


I hope that my story gave some of you inspiration.  It is hard to share some of these personal moments with the whole world as well as make sure that I am sending a message of hope and encouragement as well.  Remember, I’m here to help you find your way to a healthier life.  Because I know how hard it can be along the way and how amazing it is once you see the light at the end of the tunnel!  Have a fabulous week everyone!