My Whole Life Challenge Experience

I’ve been debating whether or not I wanted to write something about my experience with the Whole Life Challenge, and whether or not I wanted to share my “before & after” pictures. However, I came to the conclusion that, as a coach, detailing my experience may help inspire others to make changes to improve their health and well being. Although coaches can be described as “health professionals” and can often be viewed as “having it together,” we have our own issues as well. I may or may not be slightly obsessed with Cheez-It. Just sayin’…

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I would like to say that I understand that some of you may look at me and feel that I don’t have any weight to lose, or may think “What is she thinking? She’s not fat,” or that I can eat whatever I want because I’m already “skinny”. I know that I’m not fat, but I do have some weight to lose and when I gain 5-7 pounds, I definitely feel it and it shows because of my small frame. Also, at my age, I can no longer eat whatever (e.g., junk food) because my metabolism doesn’t work the way it used to like in my teens and 20s.

A couple years ago, my husband and I tried to follow the paleo diet. If you’re not familiar, with the paleo diet, you basically cut out all grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, white potatoes and other “nightshades,” artificial sweeteners, and anything processed. You’re probably thinking, “well, what the heck do you eat then?” Meat, poultry, seafood, veggies, berries, nuts, and healthy fats and oils, such as avocados and coconut oil. There’s plenty left to eat! However, at the time I wasn’t quite ready to make the switch. I was addicted to crap food and towards the end of getting my college degree. Without Diet Coke, Cheez-It and chips, I don’t think I would have made it through those days where I was writing papers into the wee hours of the morning. I think I made it one or two weeks before I was so “hangry” (hungry + angry) that I, nor my husband, could take it any longer. Food is very emotional for a lot of us, and I was not emotionally ready for the change.

This past year has been quite stressful for me as work got super busy with four people in my department retiring and my supervisor going on maternity leave early and then being out for four months. My health deteriorated because I ate whatever was within my reach (i.e., lots of sandwiches and cookies) and working through lunch, which caused me to not sleep very much. I was also coaching in the evenings after work, and getting home around 8:30-9:00pm. I also reinjured my knee, and I just let myself go. My hormones were out of whack and I felt terrible all the time. Once things at work slowed down, I decided that it was finally time to get my shit together.

Enter the Whole Life Challenge (WLC). The WLC is an eight-week lifestyle challenge where you focus on clean eating, exercising and stretching regularly, taking a daily supplement, drinking 1/3 of your body weight in ounces of water daily, and participating in weekly lifestyle challenges (e.g., getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night or not using technology during meals). I have a few friends that have done the challenge in the past and have heard and seen the benefits from it. I felt I was mentally in a better place to take on the challenge, so I committed to it. I was a bit nervous because eight weeks seemed like a long time. Was I really ready for it?

There are three nutrition levels to choose from: Performance (strict paleo), Lifestyle (allowed to have some grains, starches, and corn), and Beginner (can pretty much eat anything but bread and sugar). I chose the Lifestyle level because I wanted to work on maintaining a reasonable diet and not drastically changing it, as I felt that I would be setting myself up for failure and disappointment had I gone the Performance route. I’m glad I chose this level because I was able to do just that – I found a way to maintain a reasonable diet.

The first week was difficult because my body went through withdrawals. I did get hangry, but not like before. But after that week, I started feeling and seeing the benefits and it felt so good. I found that in the first 2.5 weeks, I lost 1.5 inches around my waist, and my workouts felt easier! I also found that I wasn’t craving the bad food and not eating my feelings. It was pretty exciting.

I was on a roll and doing so well until October 10. It was that day that I found out that a friend had passed away earlier that morning. He was a very close friend of my brother’s, and he was also like a brother to me. I was shocked and upset. My husband asked me what he could do for me and I told him that I wanted Cheez-It and a glass of wine. He was so sweet and went to the store to buy both. Although I was eating and drinking my feelings, it felt different. I’m not sure how to describe it. I guess it wasn’t so much the addiction driving me to eat and drink; it was more of a conscious decision to do so. I felt in control of that decision. The next week was difficult as I was emotionally spent and I didn’t have the energy to focus on the challenge very much. I ate crappy food and drank a lot of wine and cider. Additionally, the following weekend was a close friend’s wedding and the weekend after that my birthday! So from October 10-26, I ate crappy and drank a lot of alcohol. Thankfully, I was able to get back on track for the final few weeks of the challenge. It was difficult, but I overcame the minor setback.

My goal for the challenge was to learn how to manage my diet better and to learn how to take better care of my body through nutrition. I refuse to be a slave to medication! Through this challenge, I now understand how my body reacts to certain foods, such as dairy, grains, and starches, which has led me to not crave them as much as before. Score! And since I don’t eat much of those types of food anymore, when I do eat them, they don’t taste as good as I remember them to be.

To give a bit of history, the verbal abuse and harassment that I received from my gymnastics coach from the ages of 10-16 still affect me to this day, which is why I have had such a bad relationship with food. His negative words also still affect my self-esteem. He often called me and my teammates “fat whores” and other names that I will not repeat. Mind you, we were still in elementary school/pre-teens when he said these nasty things. That shit does not go away. Because of this, I have not worn my bathing suit in public in the past two years. One, because I have a crazy tan line due to our gym being outside, and two, because of my self-esteem issues. However, after this challenge, I am feeling a little better about myself, which is why I now feel somewhat comfortable showing my before and after pictures (enjoy my tan line!)…

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My results from the challenge are as follows:

Weight:
Pre-challenge: 131.4lbs
Post-challenge: 126.8lbs

Body fat %:
Pre-challenge: 20.1%
Post-challenge: 18.4%

Challenge workout:
11min time cap:
800m run
75 air squats
50 sit-ups
25 push-ups
For the remainder of the time, do as many burpees as possible.
Your score is the total number of squats, sit-ups, push-ups, and burpees.

Score:
Pre-challenge: 173 (23 burpees)
Post-challenge: 183 (33 burpees)
I was able to bust out 10 more burpees!

I am pleased with my results, as my goal was to get around 126lbs, 18% body fat, and get a higher score during the workout. Woot!

Now, you’re probably wondering what my meals consisted of. Well, here ya go!

Breakfast: usually 3 eggs (scrambled-sometimes with spinach, or hard boiled) and 3-4 pieces of bacon or sausage, and coffee with stevia.

Lunch: spinach & kale mix salad with chicken and avocado or leftovers from dinner, and sometimes a vegan soup I bought from the café on campus.

Dinner: pork or beef cooked in the slow cooker with sweet potatoes and onions, tacos made with leftover pork, or steak with broccoli and/or sweet potatoes.

Snacks: Cashew cookie Larabar, apples, bananas, brown rice cakes with cashew butter, carrots, strawberries, cantaloupe

I’m glad the challenge is over because having to log points and do the weekly lifestyle challenges were a bit cumbersome, but I am happy that I am learning better nutrition and eating habits. I’m looking forward to being released into the wild and doing it on my own.

Here’s to cleaner eating and better health!

Peace Out, 2013, and a Big Sexy Hello to 2014!

My favorite part of a new year is the overall feeling of hope and positiveness (that was for you, Meadows) from the majority of the population. Goals are being set, people let go of the past, and are determined to bring happiness into their lives. We reflect on our lives and the events that occurred over the past year, and we try our best to learn from mistakes and move on.

Well, 2013 was full of ups and downs for this little ninja. It was a such a great year for so many of my friends, but for me it was extremely challenging. I am definitely pleased that 2013 is a thing of the past, and am very much looking forward to what 2014 has to offer.

Overall, my favorite highlights of the year are the new friends I’ve made, the friends that I’ve gotten closer to, the new personal records (PRs) I’ve achieved at the gym, and the greater community that now exists at CrossFit Santa Barbara. However, I think my favorite part are the gains that all of the athletes at the gym have made. It delights me to see the boost in confidence of the athletes that I coach, how excited they are to come to the gym, how they overcome the challenges that are set before them, and how grateful they are. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people. I am also extremely grateful to Coach T for allowing me to be a part of his gym and to be one of his coaches.

In addition, being a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has been life changing. I think most people that go into volunteer work do it to change the lives of others, not expecting anything in return. However, I have learned so much about myself while mentoring my Little, Jimena. It brings so much joy to me to hear her say things like, “You’re the best big sister ever!,” “You’re all mine?!,” “See, I always have fun and am so happy when I’m with you.” It also kills me when she looks at me and says, “You aren’t going anywhere, right?” Things like that shows me just how important my job is as a mentor; how important it is for children to have a strong role model, which pushes me to be a better person, not just for her, but for me and everyone around me.

Even though last year was a bit challenging, looking at my list of highlights reminds me it wasn’t all so bad. Other highlights from 2013 include:

January:
*Gaining the mobility back in my shoulder and being able to raise my arm over my head.
*Avoiding shoulder surgery.
*One full month of being soda free!
*Start of better eating and food prepping.

Related blog posts:
How Ninja Got Her ROM Back
Food Preppin’, Soda-Free Ninja
“You just may come out of this smelling like roses.”

ROM Frontx3-5Jan2013

February:
*Not killing Tall Guy (hey, that’s a highlight, right?)

March:
*Competing in the CF Open and doing way better than I thought.

Related blog post:
If at first you don’t succeed…

Ninja 13.2 Press(Photo credit: Rose Joost)

April:
*Completing the CrossFit Open without injury or pain!
*Competing in my first USPA powerlifting competition and obtaining CA state and American records in the sub-master division/132lb weight class (my American record has since been beat).
*Seeing Jurassic Park in 3D with Tall Guy.
*Returning to softball and not getting injured!

Related blog posts:
Better Than Expected: My 2013 CrossFit Open Experience
Lifting Heavy Things and Putting Them Back Down

Ninja Deadlift State Record

May:
*Cindy & KB’s wedding and gettin’ cray cray with the Josh & Cortney
*Mother’s Day at Chalk Hill with the Foleys and Grammy Eunice (this was the last time we saw Eunice, so it was extra special).

Related blog post:
Learning to Find Hope through Death

Grammy on Moms Day

June:
*Competing in my first local CrossFit competition at CrossFit Ventura
*Mini-moon #2 to Palm Desert
*Marie & Robert’s wedding
*Becoming a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and meeting Jimena. She would forever change my life.

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July:
*Spending the 4th with friends on a boat!
*Movies at the Courthouse
*Seeing Chanel the “corpse flower” bloom at UCSB and smelling her nasty scent.
*Attending my first figure competition to cheer on Karena. Go Team K-Bunny!
*Mandy and Josh’s visit

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August:
* Partying it up at Fiesta with the MasterBatters, where the term “Getting Fiesta drunk” was born.
*Saying goodbye to George, my trusty Honda Civic, and saying hello to my new Honda CR-V, Blurpie.
*Mini-moon #3 to Disneyland.
*My bestie Mandy’s engagement.

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September:
*Susan & Mike’s wedding and Tall Guy officiating it.
*Corralling a huge group of CFSB’ers to participate in the CALM fundraiser competition at CrossFit Pacific Coast and placing 5th.

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October:
*Birthday party at Sky High Sports trampoline park!
*Cindy’s baby shower.

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November:
*Marko surprising me at work with a visit. Totes made me cry I was so happy to see him!
*Delicious Thanksgiving dinner with friends.
*Birth of Chloe, the daughter of my other bestie, Clara.

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December:
*My friend Kari aka “Viva” surprising me at work with a cute note.
*Birth of Jesse Keenan aka “Baby Thor,” Cindy and KB’s little man.
*First CrossFit partner competition with Janyce at CrossFit FAST and placing 4th. Stupid wall balls.
*CrossFit Santa Barbara Christmas party
*Christmas with the family and seeing my nephew
*One year of being soda free!
*Jimena’s Christmas card

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card from Jimena

I look forward to another year with this guy!

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Here’s to a kickass 2014!!!

What does Ninja eat?

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(Black Widow and I at the WODseries partner competition on December 8, 2013)

A few friends have asked me over the past few weeks what I eat, as well as for the recipe for the meatloaf I made. Never in my life did I ever think that I would be sharing a recipe! I am not one to cook, but have been dabbling and trying to do it more often. But before I continue, I would like to share some exciting news…

Today is my 1-year anniversary of being soda-free from my favorite sodas!!! WOOT! I say “from my favorite sodas” because I haven’t been completely soda-free. The only soda I allowed myself to have was ginger ale when I wasn’t feeling well, and I’ve had a total of 4 over the past year. Pretty good considering I had a mad addiction to the corn syrup-filled goodness that is soda. I still crave my beloved Diet Coke (especially with Captain Morgan!), but I try to distract myself when I get those cravings. I still glare at Tall Guy, though, when he drinks a giant Coke or gets a Coke Slurpee. RUDE!

Now back to food. Last week I had a competition and I wanted to make sure that I was feeling well for it. My diet has been a bit dirty over the past few months and I wanted to clean it up and do a bit of detoxing. So I decided that I would cut out sugar (natural sugars were fine), dairy, and bread. It was tough, but I did it for a full week… and I lost 6 lbs! I wasn’t trying to lose weight; I just wanted to clean out my insides. I felt great and the bloating went away. Below is a list of what I ate during the week, and pretty much what I generally eat, except when I decide to throw in some sandwiches and cheese and crackers into the mix (bad Ninja!):

Breakfast: 3 hard boiled eggs or scrambled eggs, 2-3 pieces of bacon, avocado

Lunch: spinach salad with hard boiled eggs, apples, chicken, avocado, drizzled with oil & vinegar; lentil soup if I’m needing a little something else; leftover chicken or steak with rice and/or broccoli and/or green beans

Dinner: Chicken or steak with rice and/or broccoli and/or green beans, and corn if I’m feeling a little frisky

Snack: bananas and/or almonds (but I wish I was eating Cheez Its!)

Nothing too exciting or too fancy. Ain’t nobody got time for that with our schedules, so we make do with the time that we have.

A couple of recipes I’d like to share are as follows…

Meatloaf (gluten-free, Paleo-friendly)

I combined a couple of recipes that I found online and tailored them to my liking. Both recipes said to bake at 350° and cook for 40 min, but I would probably cook it a little higher for a tad longer.

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs of ground beef
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 large egg
Sprinkle salt and pepper to your liking

Mix in a bowl, then add the ground beef and mash with your (clean!) hands. Yum. Mold into a loaf pan. I sprayed the loaf pan with coconut oil instead of the other baking sprays. Instead of using ketchup (even though I wanted to) I spread tomato paste on the top and then layered bacon across. However, I think the next time I will chop up the bacon and throw it into the mix. It didn’t get as crispy as I hoped, so we had to throw the meatloaf in the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Lentil Dip Delight (vegetarian-friendly)

I had this “dip” at a BBQ a few months ago and it was so delightful that I had to ask for the recipe, and come to find out, it’s totes easy to make! It involves 3 ingredients all pre-made from Trader Joe’s. When I have time, I plan on trying to make it from scratch because of the added sugar in the bruschetta, but for now the pre-made stuff will suffice (because it’s BOMB!).

Ingredients:

1 package of pre-cooked lentils (found near the small packages of veggies in the refrigerated section)
1 tub of Bruschetta (found near the salsas in the refrigerated section)
1 tub of Feta cheese (found near the other cheeses, duh)

Throw in a bowl, mix it up, and voila! Lentil dip delight! This can be eaten with pita crackers or chips, but I also highly recommend putting it on top of chicken breast. Holy moly it is fantastic!

Well fancy that! I just Googled the Trader Joe’s bruschetta to find a picture to add and I found a picture with ALL of the ingredients! Looks like another short, Asian lady loves this stuff too!

Lentil-Bruschetta-023

(Pic via The Fresh Find)

That’s all that I have for now. After the competition, I indulged with a giant burrito with lots of cheese and sour cream, as well as a Hawaiian pizza with garlic parmesan bites from Dominos (not at the same time – oh my, that would be painful!). To answer your question, yes, I feel awful, but it was worth it. Now back to cleaner eating… until Christmas dinner!

Happy holidays friends!

A Promise to My Mind and Body – My Whole Life Challenge

no-soda

Today marks my 2 month anniversary of being soda free. WOOT! This is a big deal as I had quite the addiction to soda; I just loved it so much. I don’t think I would have been able to survive my last two years of college without soda. Well, college is finally over and I no longer need soda in my life. I never thought I would be able to do away with this delicious beverage, but I have made a promise to myself that I would treat my body and mind better.

A few days ago, the Women of CrossFit = Strong page on Facebook posted a before and after picture of one of its followers, Claire. She has a blog called The Ascent Blog where she talks about CrossFit, food, and doing fun things in the great outdoors. The picture that inspired me can be viewed in her post Zone Progress Photos. Her before picture really hit home as this was the first time that I was actually able to relate to a “before” picture – my body looks like hers! Most of the time when I see weight loss pictures, the before picture is usually of a very heavy, overweight person. Now, before I continue, I would like to say that I am amazed at the progress that these people make. The fact that some people lose 50+ pounds is a huge and fantastic accomplishment. That takes some serious dedication and determination. However, I have always been a small person, so it is difficult for me to relate to being that size. So, when I saw Claire’s picture it really got to me. It sparked a light of determination inside of me that I have missed so much.

She commented that after one year she had been “feeling stronger and healthier, but [I too] wasn’t really SEEING any dramatic physical results.” That’s how I’ve been feeling and I’ve been doing CrossFit for 3 years! I knew exactly why I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, but wasn’t quite mentally ready to make a commitment to my eating habits. Well, I decided in January that I would become a food-prepper and it has definitely changed how I feel and eat. It has also changed my attitude towards food. It has definitely made life easier! Although I was prepping my food every week and bringing my breakfast and lunch to work everyday, I would still sneak in a cookie (or two!), some fries or chips. I was also having a bagel every Wednesday for my office’s Bagel Day.

Well, NO MAS. At least for a month. I am going to step up my commitment and (try to) eliminate grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, and certain starches for one month. There are exceptions and I will write more about that in another post. No more sneaking in a bag of Cheetos or canister of Pringles (uggggghhhhhhh!!!) or those damn cookies that taunt me at every work event. I have to do this for myself. I have to do this for my body, for my health. I haven’t been the nicest to my body and it deserves better than what I’ve been giving it.

Yodaquote(from http://challengefuture.org/news/526)

In addition to improving my eating habits, I am working on improving the chatter that goes on in my head and how I view myself. I picked up a lot of crappy habits last year – negative, poopy, snarky types of attitudes and it grossed me out. It greatly upset me as I lost the positive little ninja that I was. I have been really working on finding my positive side again. A good friend of mine posted such a wonderful comment on my page the other day that showed me that I was finding my path to positivity again. She wrote: “Had a random thought about you today that made me smile: “I think if Nomers ever exploded with joy that there would be confetti, glitter and fireworks of the most amazing awesomeness ever.” Yup, you’re that girl and I love you for that! Miss you!” That comment meant A LOT to me and am so grateful to have such wonderful people in my life.

Now that I’ve been slowly getting back into the swing of things at the gym and adding more weight to the barbell, I am finding it difficult getting my mind and body at the same level it was before my injury, which has led to frustration and anger. Don’t get me wrong, I am STOKED to be lifting again and being able to hang from the bar to do pull-ups, but it is still frustrating. Prior to my injury I was feeling pretty strong and then in an instant that was all gone. So, when I start feeling frustrated during a WOD, I tell myself to snap out of it and try to think about something positive – something, anything to keep me going. I’ll say things like, “Think about where you were two months ago” or “Think about all of those people who have lost loved ones” or “Be grateful for what you have and get to work!” I am making progress and I need to remind myself of that.

I am also learning to stop comparing myself to my friends and other women at the gym. Most of them are 7-10 years younger than me and have led completely different lives and have completely different genetics. I will never look like them and need to really understand that. Easier said than done, but I’m working on it.

So, here we go. I’m on a mother freaking adventure! I can do this. I will do this. Two personal mottos are going to be a major focus of my adventure: “Lead by example” and “Commitment and focus”. I have to do this for myself and I have to do this for everyone in my life. Also, a big THANK YOU to Claire for giving me the big kick in the butt that I’ve been needing. Woot!

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Food Preppin’, Soda-free Ninja!

ImageI’ve kicked my soda habit! Yeah buddy!

Tomorrow marks one full month of being soda free. WOOT! It’s been a long and tough month, but I did it! I no longer feel like I NEED to have a soda. Yes, I’ve had cravings, but every day those cravings have less and less control over me.

I’ve been a soda drinker my entire life. I love the bubbles, I love the sweetness, and I love the combo they make. I also wouldn’t have made it through my last two years of college without it thanks to the caffeine. However, as I got older I began to hate the way it made me feel (except when there was vodka or rum involved – that was nice). About a month ago I started getting horrible headaches – the type of headache you get right before a full on migraine kicked in. Oy. It sucked. For some reason I knew then that it was time to give up my soda. I was sort of glad that this happened because it forced me to stop my soda habit. I’ve been trying for the longest time to quit, but I had become so addicted to the bubbly, sugary goodness that I just couldn’t do it.

Well, I’ve been soda free for a month now and I feel great. I don’t feel as sluggish and heavy anymore. I feel light; it’s strange. I’m sure I will have soda again in the future (I do enjoy my vodka), but not until I’m able to control my cravings. I was a little too addicted for my taste. Now, whenever I drink a glass of water, I remind myself of how I feel at that moment and how clean and fresh that feeling is. I’m trying to focus on how I feel after drinking or eating something rather than just how it tastes. It seems to be working! I do treat myself to a sparkling apple juice every once in a while to get that bubbly, sweet taste.

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My next goal is to decrease my gluten intake. I LOVE bread. I LOVE crackers. I LOVE BAGELS!!! Yeah, it’s an unhealthy love. However, note that I said decrease and not eliminate. I can see myself getting rid of soda, but I can’t see myself doing that with bread. I still want to enjoy what I eat. Also, we have Bagel Day every Wednesday. I can’t pass up a free bagel once a week. That’s just silly talk.

I’ve known that gluten products have been making me feel gross for a while, but I was too stubborn to do anything about it. But, again, as I get older I can’t take feeling like crap anymore just for a type of food or beverage. I would also occasionally break out with a patch of eczema because of it.

pretzelcrisps_flavorsDang, I love these things.

The other day I had about 5 Pretzel Crisps and within minutes I got the worst stomach ache. I felt super gassy and bloated and felt like I wasn’t going to stop expanding. That moment was similar to that of my headache slash time-to-give-up-soda moment. It is time. This moment finally sparked something inside of me that I’ve been trying to do for so long, but was just too lazy, I suppose, to do it. Perhaps I just didn’t want to commit. Who knows. Anyway…

I finally decided that I was going to become a “food prepper” (is ‘prepper’ even a word? It doesn’t sound like it should be a word). All day Sunday I spent driving around buying food containers and going to various grocery stores collecting food for the week and then cooking and preparing it. Tall Guy was pretty happy that I was finally doing this. We’ve been talking about doing something like this for so long. Well, here we go!

BeforeBefore

It was fairly painless (except for my back – I must’ve been standing with poor posture) and I had fun doing it. I’ve never been much of a cook, but rather than focusing on the cooking aspect of food prepping, I focused on the organization aspect of it… “Ooh, I’m going to put 2 hard boiled eggs and 2 pieces of bacon in these tubs, then I’m going to put spinach and sliced apples in those, and I’m going to put 4 strawberries, 3 carrots, 4 pieces of celery and a handful of blueberries in this one.” Yeah, I know – anal retentive much? Whatever, it’s making me do good.

The resulting feeling was happiness, accomplishment and satisfaction. I knew that I was finally doing something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and it was, and is, going to be beneficial for my health. I’m looking forward to doing this again next Sunday and have been brainstorming ideas on how to make it more efficient and better. Yay!

AfterAfter – blue = breakfast, green = lunch, red = snack, little red = oil & vinegar from Viva Oliva

BaconTall Guy’s bacon pile – He gets 4 pieces in his tub because he’s giant.

AvocadosCan’t wait for these bad boys to ripen. Yum!

TallGuyLunchBoxSince Tall Guy works in LA 3 out of 4 weeks a month, he needs to keep his food cold/hot during his trip, so I bought him this neat lunch bag.