How I Follow Weight Watchers for Less than A QUARTER of the Cost


*This post has been updated to reflect iTrackBites app updates as of 6/25/2019

I gained a whopping fifty pounds when I was pregnant with my son. Yes, you read that right… fifty. I stayed about as active as I could until my sciatica, back, and hip pain hurt too bad to exercise, and I was careful not to overeat too much. (While still allowing myself to indulge, of course… I mean, I was GROWING A HUMAN after all.) And still, I gained 50 lbs.

I planned on breastfeeding and I just assumed that my excess weight would “fall off” like I heard that it does for so many women who nurse their babies. Well, to make a very long story short, breastfeeding didn’t work out for us. So there I was, thirty pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight, and the weight was definitely not falling off. I was about thirty pounds above my ideal weight when I got pregnant so, in all, I had about 60 lbs to lose. I knew I wanted to do something, but I needed to do something that would still allow me to eat a variety of different foods, including the occasional take-out and ice cream cone. (Blame it on the fact that I’m a new mom and some days, all that keeps me sane is some ice cream, or not having to cook dinner.)

My mom had followed Weight Watchers on-and-off when I was younger, and I even followed it with her for a short time when I was a kid. I knew about the flexibility of the program – being able to eat anything you wanted, as long as you counted the points and ate the correct portion size – and the results that so many people got with Weight Watchers. I wanted to look into joining WW again to lose the baby weight (plus the extra 30lbs!). But when I looked up the membership prices, I knew we weren’t in a place to pay that much for a weight loss app with a new baby to take care of. (WW pricing starts at about $3.00 per week or $160.00 per year for the digital program.) So I began looking for another way (because my philosophy is that there is always another way).

When I came across the app “iTrackBites,” I knew it was the right choice for me! It is essentially exactly the same as the Weight Watchers program, with just a few small differences (mostly the use of different words and phrases for copyright reasons). So basically, it works like this:

Bites = Points (or Smart Points)

Better Balance = (WW Freestyle) Focus on clean eating

Keeping Keto = Helps with appetite control

Sugar Smart = Helps limit sugar

Conquer Cravings = Focus on portion control

Carb Conscious = Helps limit carbs

Calorie Command = Counting calories

You can choose what plan you’d like to follow, which is an advantage over the Weight Watchers app. The WW app only allows you to follow the newest WW plan. Right now, that is WW Freestyle. But the iTrackBites app allows you to choose which WW plan you’d like to follow – even the old plans.

I follow the Better Balance program, which is the same as WW Freestyle. The best part: the iTrackBites app is FREE! There is an option to upgrade your membership to “PRO” for $35.99 for 1 YEAR, which is much less than the WW price of $160.00 per year). I did upgrade to PRO because it gives you access to a few additional features, such as a FitBit syncing function, a beer guide, and an extensive online food catalog. The app also has a barcode scanner, a community/chat feature, a recipe builder, and so many other awesome things! My sister uses the WW app and after comparing with hers, we’ve found that the two apps work almost identically! For a fraction of the cost of the WW app/program, I knew I was going to love iTrackBites.

iTrackBites works like this:

  • Each food has a certain number of BITES, which are calculated by calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein. (The different programs use different nutritional values to determine the BITES value for each food. The Better Balance program limits sugar, so it uses sugar to determine how many BITES, for example. More sugar, more calories=more BITES.)
  • You are allowed to eat a certain number of BITES per day based on your age, weight, goal weight, and gender. As you get closer to your goal weight, your BITES allowance is adjusted to help keep you on track towards your goal.
  • You are also assigned a number of weekly BITES, which you can choose to use or not use. If you choose to use them, you can use them all at one meal, distribute them evenly throughout the week, or any way in between. Using your weekly BITES does not deter you from making progress toward your goal weight.
  • You can also choose to log in fitness activity, which adds more BITES to your daily allowance, and therefore, allows you to eat more BITES throughout the day.

I’ve been using iTrackBites since June and I love it! In fact, the entire app just recently got an upgrade and I love it so much that I almost cried real tears when I saw how beautiful the new design is! It is sleek, user friendly, and best of all, it works just like WW!

Here is what the app looks like. There are many more features than are shown here, but this is what my daily log screen looks like first thing in the morning, and the types of information you can track on the app.

My sister and I follow the Freestyle/Better Balance programs respectively (which are the same thing!) and we love sharing tips and recipes with each other. It definitely helps to have support when you’re on a weight loss journey!

If you’re interested in trying out the Weight Watchers program but want to save money, I highly recommend iTrackBites! You can use the free features on the app or choose to upgrade to PRO for less than a quarter of the price of WW. What do you have to lose?

As of today, I am down 15 lbs total. I was down almost 20 lbs at the beginning of December, but and I took a break for about a month because of the holidays and family vacation. I started tracking my food again with iTrackBites this week and I already lost 5 of the 8lbs I gained on my “break.” That is what I love about this program – it truly works! I feel satisfied every day and I never feel deprived. It doesn’t feel like a “diet” whatsoever. I plan to stick with iTrackBites to reach my goal weight, and to maintain my weight afterwords. I wake up excited every day to work towards my goal using iTrackBites!

If you’re on a weight loss journey, I’d love to hear what program you follow. Stay tuned for WW Freestyle friendly recipes, and other posts like, ‘What I Eat in a Day,’ and weight loss updates.


1 Point Slow Cooker Chili – WW Freestyle

My absolute favorite time of the year is finally here! FALL! Sundays during the fall in our house are dedicated to family time, church, football and, of course, comfort food. Nothing pairs better with family snuggles and football than good ol’ chili!

I wanted to share my recipe for my favorite chili! The best part about this chili is that it’s only 1 point per serving on WW Freestyle and the serving size is very generous and super filling. (Read here How I Follow Weight Watchers Freestyle for Less than A QUARTER of the Cost!) So let’s get to it!


1 lb. – lean ground turkey (98-99% lean)

1/2 yellow onion (diced)

2 tsp – minced garlic

2 cans (8 oz each) – tomato sauce

2 cups – water

1 packet – chili seasoning mix

1 can (15.5 oz) – fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 can (15.5 oz) – black beans

1 can (15.5 oz) – pinto beans

1 can (15.5 oz) – red kidney beans

1/2 large or 1 small – bell pepper

1 bag (12 oz) – frozen corn

salt & pepper to taste

chili powder to taste

hot sauce to taste ( I prefer Frank’s original, but use any kind you like. If you prefer a mild chili, then feel free to skip this step)

Suggested toppings: fat free shredded cheddar cheese (1/4 cup for 0 points), nonfat plain Greek yogurt (0 points – this is in place of sour cream and you honestly can’t tell the difference), and more hot sauce if you like it spicy!


This recipe makes 8-10 servings, each about 1 to 1 1/2 cups.

You may add more water and/or tomato sauce if you prefer a more broth-y chili and adjust the serving sizes and points accordingly, but I like mine a little on the chunky side. 

P.S. You can have up to 1/5 of the entire recipe for 1 point. 

1 Point Slow Cooker Chili WW Freestyle

Prep time – 20-30 minutes

Cook time – 5 hours (on low)

Servings – 8-10, about 1-1.5 cups each

Prep (day before or day of):

  1. Dice onion and bell pepper
  2. Brown and drain ground turkey in a pan. Then adjust heat to medium-low and add garlic and onion. Sauté until onion begins to soften. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. (If prepping the day before, refrigerate turkey mixture.)


  1. Add tomato sauce, water, and chili seasoning mix to slow cooker and whisk/stir to incorporate.
  2. Add fire roasted tomatoes, turkey mixture, and bell pepper.
  3. Drain and rinse all beans, then add to the slow cooker.
  4. Cover the top of the chili with one hefty layer of chili powder*. Stir to incorporate.
  5. Cook on “low” for 4 hours. Add frozen corn and hot sauce to taste (I probably used about 1/2 cup and it’s got a “medium” kick to it.) Continue cooking on low for an additional hour.

*If you’re nervous about adding too much, start with a light layer, then taste when you add the corn and add more if it needs more flavor.

And that’s it! It’s so simple and hearty – perfect for those fall and winter days when you need a little comfort food. Bonus – it makes the house smell sooooo yummy.

Refrigerate leftovers and reheat in the microwave. The leftovers are perfect for low-point lunches throughout the week!

Hope you enjoy! Please leave me a comment below if you tried it. I’d love to know how you liked it!

xoxo Emily

1 year later…

Well, I have no eloquent way to begin this post, to be honest. I haven’t blogged in almost a year and a lot has happened since I last sat down to write a post. A LOT. I’m going to start posting more regularly again but before I do, I wanted to give a brief (we will see how brief, lol) “life update.” I am annoyed with myself for posting two life updates back-to-back a year apart from each other, but here we go!

When I last posted, I had just gone through a pretty severe career change and it took a huge emotional toll on me. I had been working at a job for four years. I loved my job so, so much. I gave my all to the people I worked with and I poured my heart and soul into it. This was so much more than a job to me. Without giving away too much information, and to make a very long and complicated story short, there was an opportunity offered to me to take on a larger role at this job. Through taking on this role, many unexpected things unfolded. The details of what happened aren’t things I’m comfortable talking about but I will say that I was thrown through a loop both emotionally and mentally as a result. I felt it strongly in my heart that God was telling me to leave that job because He had other plans for me. Hearing that so clearly wasn’t something I had expected, but I chose to follow God’s call despite my own reservations (well, after weeks of trying to ignore what He was telling me, that is). I imagined working there forever and I never expected some of the things that ended up happening to occur. I never thought I’d end up in the situation I was in last summer. But there I was. And I was left to trust God with the plans he had for me and not rely on my own understanding. So that’s what I did. *Spoiler alert – He never disappoints.* I picked up more hours at my “day job” – a job that I am very grateful for with a boss who loves and respects me and whom I adore – and decided to work just one job for the first time in my life and maybe, you know, pick up some hobbies and hang out with friends for once like “normal people.”

But that didn’t exactly end up happening because shortly after that huge career change, my husband and I found out I was pregnant! The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect. The moment I found out I was expecting, I knew it was divine intervention and I was so thankful that I had listened to God’s call to leave my job and wait for His plans to unfold. (I’m not going to go too in depth about my pregnancy here because I have lots of posts planned dedicated solely to my pregnancy and I don’t want to spoil the fun!)

As if preparing for a baby hadn’t created a long enough to-do list, we found out on Halloween that we needed to find a new place to live because of some damage to the apartment we had been living in. This caused a a lot of stress (mostly because I was a hormonal disaster), but we were excited for a fresh start in a new place with the new addition to our family on his way! So at 15 weeks pregnant, we packed up all of our belongings and moved into a new apartment. Boy, was it stressful! But we did it! And we couldn’t have done any of it without the help of our family and friends, especially since my mom wouldn’t let me lift anything… not even an empty backpack or a couple rolls of toilet paper. (She had only the best intentions and I love her for it.)

The winter was filled with a trip to Florida for Christmas with my family, lots of baby prep, and lots of Netflix.

Spring came and we were so excited to meet our little guy in May. We had a wonderful baby shower thrown by my amazing mom and sisters and our babe was spoiled silly before he was even born! I was due on Mother’s Day, so I had hoped I would have my baby on that day. But Mother’s Day came and went, and no baby. But he arrived two days later! (More on that later.) We were in awe of him from the moment we saw his tiny little self.

And WOW, does everything before that day just feel like an entire lifetime ago! Becoming a mom has been the most fulfilling experience of my life. I truly feel like my life began the moment my son was born. This is what I was made for, and here I am doing it. It’s still crazy to think of myself as a mom 4 months into the gig, but I love it and I love my son so ridiculously much and I just can’t imagine myself doing anything else with my life. My wonderful boss has let me transition to working from home, so I work part-time and still get to watch every move my little guy makes. I’m so, so, so thankful and blessed that I don’t have to miss a thing.

So… that’s my update! There were a lot of other little things in between all those big things, but you get the idea. I have lots to share on my experience and struggles throughout pregnancy and as a new mom, so hopefully that’s something that will interest you! If so, check back here soon for some #emo posts and some fun ones too!


Random Life Update

The past six months or so have been full of unexpected changes, revelations, disappointments, and all in all, weeding out the bad in my life. Bad people, bad situations, bad feelings, bad habits, and bad health – both mental and physical. Weeding out the bad (especially when it’s not exactly by choice) is not as refreshing and exciting as it sounds. But as I believed and trusted that He would, God has proven to me that all the “bad” things I was going through were just preparation for all the good that was to come. I’m not one to brag, but life has been pretty freaking great for the past couple of months. The past several weeks have been full of hope, joy, laughter, change, and restoration. I’ve learned that change isn’t always bad, people will disappoint you and downright hurt you for their own gain, hard times will come and go, and guess what – life goes on. Life is still as beautiful and magical as I thought it was when I was a naive teenager. I’ve taken time to myself to heal and deal with the many changes and other things I’ve experienced recently and you know what I realized? I have absolutely no control over other people or what situations God has planned for me to endure throughout my life. But I can control how I carry myself and how I react to those situations. If I give the best of myself in every situation that life brings me to, good or bad, God will recognize that. If I pray through both the hard times and the good times and praise God for who He is regardless of the circumstances, He will honor that. And if I give up my constant need to control everything in my life and just start to LIVE, God will see that I trust His plan and His power enough to not take everything so freaking seriously. I now give myself daily (sometimes hourly) reminders to LAUGH when something goes wrong, to CRY when I’m hurting instead sucking it up and holding it in, to TRY NEW THINGS and even to suck at them really badly when I try them, and to be thankful for the fact that controlling things in this life is NOT MY JOB! God reminded me this year just how plainly human I am. I’ve been given this one short opportunity to seek his truth and love others and enjoy my time here on earth. That thought used to put SO MUCH pressure on me. (“Life is short- make everything you do perfect.”) But that is so, so wrong. My new thoughts: Life is short, so make it worth living. Live to be as wild and free as you can possibly be, because there is the deepest sense of freedom you gain when you love God for making you imperfect and trust Him above your own understanding. I live to serve a prefect God, so why in the world would I need to be perfect? So that’s where I’m at. That’s what I’ve learned this year, despite the hard times, disappointments and unexpected changes… and I think that’s pretty freaking worth it.

Fall Favorites Tag


I LOVE me some fall weather, fashion, activities, & movies!

Fall is right up there with Christmastime in terms of most exciting times of the year in my book! One of my favorite YouTubers, Jaclyn Hill, started the “Fall Favorites Tag” a couple of years ago and since then, hundreds of other YouTubers have done the tag. Since I haven’t ventured into the YouTube world, I thought it would be fun to do the tag in blog form!


1. Favorite Fall Candle

Alright, confession time: I’m kind of a fall/winter candle FREAK. I’ve done my absolute best to narrow it down to just one fall candle, but I couldn’t choose between these two!

I’m big on the Bath & Body works candles and my favorite for the colder seasons is Marshmallow Fireside. I don’t know exactly how to describe it except that it’s not exactly what I was expecting. It’s not sickly sweet or smoky. Call me crazy, but it smells just like you’re cuddled up in a warm blanket, sitting by the last campfire of the season with an ooey gooey s’more pressed up to your nose. If it were at all possible for that scenario to have a smell, this candle would be it.


My other favorite fall candle is a Brookside candle called Harvest Spice that I got from TJ Maxx a couple years back. It’s a warm, spicy, sweet pumpkin scent and it’s so inviting and cozy. I burn it almost every day in the fall and even into the winter months. This scent just makes my house smell like home to me and I love it! (I can’t find this candle anywhere online! So sad!)

2. Favorite Fall Lip Color

I’m so incredibly indecisive (personality flaw) so I have 2 favorite fall lip colors, too!

My first fave is Wet n Wild’s Megalast Lip Color in Black Cherry. It is so vampy and beautiful and the undertone compliments my skin and eyes really well. Sometimes I wear it with a full face for a more glam look, but I usually wear it with “barely there” makeup (just brows, mascara, and concealer). It puts a fall twist on whatever look you’re wearing which I love, plus vampy fall lip colors excite the heck out of me. (And did I mention this is only $1.99?!)

My second fave is Ofra x Kathleen Lights Liquid Lipstick in Miami Fever. It’s a super pretty spiced pumpkin color that looks completely different on every single person I’ve ever seen wearing it. (Search #miamifever on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean!) I love to wear it by itself, but I also love to mix it with red lip liner for a deeper, more spiced look. Simple face makeup + winged liner + mascara + Miami Fever = perfect fall makeup look.

3. Favorite Fall Drink

I never feel like it’s truly fall until I have some mulled hot apple cider. My mom used to make it when I was growing up so the smell of it reminds me of being in my childhood home. Warm, spicy, and sweet… it’s by far my favorite thing to drink in the fall!

4. Favorite Fall Blush

I love the e.l.f. Cosmetics Powder Blush Palette in “Dark” for fall. It ranges from peach-toned to berry-toned which is perfect the the transition from summer to winter. I especially love to mix the top-left shade with the bottom-right shade.

5. Favorite Fall Clothing Item

I might be totally cheating here, but fall accessories are my favorite. Scarves, hats, boots, jackets… yes, please! I just love all the cozy accessories fall brings. You can take any outfit, throw on some fall accessories, and bam! – You’ve got yourself a fall outfit. Give me ALL of the beanies, knit scarves, leather jackets, and suede booties. That is my happy place.

6. Favorite Fall Movie

My ALL TIME favorite fall movie is Halloweentown. I probably watch it close to 10 times every fall season because I just love it that much. I love Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, and Halloweentown High. (I’m not a fan of Return to Halloweentown though. Sorry, Sara Paxtson, but you ruined it for me.)

P.S. I may or may not have just ordered this shirt for myself this morning


7. Favorite Fall TV Show

The two fall premieres I am counting down the days to are This is Us and Law & Order: SVU. I could watch these shows every day of the year, but they’re premiering later this month and I’m super excited! And if you haven’t watched these shows yet, well… 10/10 highly recommend.

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8. Favorite Thanksgiving Food

My mom’s sweet potato casserole. Hands. Down.

(I hadn’t even thought about my first vegan Thanksgiving until this very moment! Cheat day or no cheat day, that is the question… update to come.)


9. Favorite Halloween Costume

In kindergarten, I was the pink ranger from the Power Rangers and that’s probably my favorite costume I’ve ever been. (Wish I could find a picture!)I’m not big on parties or anything like that, so as an adult, I never really have a reason to dress up on Halloween!


If you enjoyed this Fall Favorites Tag, I encourage you to do it yourself! It’s fun! Here’s the list of faves:

Favorite Fall Candle

Favorite Fall Lip Color

Favorite Fall Drink

Favorite Fall Blush

Favorite Fall Clothing Item

Favorite Fall Movie

Favorite Fall TV Show

Favorite Thanksgiving Food

Favorite Halloween Costume


Thanks for visiting my blog! Hope to see you again soon!

xoxo Emily

What Nobody Told Me About Getting Married Without My Dad


I wasn’t the type of kid that planned my fantasy wedding growing up. (That didn’t happen until my college roommate and I discovered Pinterest.) But ever since the day my dad died I knew that someday, if I was lucky enough to meet my soulmate, I would have to get married without my dad by my side. No father-daughter dance, no seat for him at the dinner table, and no Daddy walking me down the aisle – simple enough. I like to think I coped with the loss of my dad very well when I was a kid. But nobody told me that when I became an adult, I would have to grieve his loss all over again. Nobody told me that the pain of losing him would creep back up from wounds that had healed long ago.

Nobody told me that planning my wedding would also feel like planning a funeral.

The pain of getting married without my dad actually started long before I was even engaged. Ryan and I would talk about getting married every once in a while in a “someday” kind of way. But one time, he said something that struck me pretty unexpectedly: “It kind of sucks that I won’t be able to ask your dad’s permission to propose to you.”

I sat there speechless, and as I thought about it I realized that he was right. It did suck. And not just ‘kinda,’ but it actually really, really, really, really sucked. My dad never had the chance to give us his blessing to spend the rest of our lives together. What bothered me wasn’t wondering whether or not he would have given us his blessing, but the fact that he never even had the opportunity to give us his blessing. He never even got a chance to meet Ryan and that just breaks my heart. I know Ryan is exactly the man my dad would want me to be with; he’s patient, hardworking, laid back, naturally kindhearted, musically inclined, talented beyond words, and most importantly, he laughs at all the jokes I learned from my dad. In a lot of ways, I think Ryan is everything my dad always wanted to be, but that’s a story for another day.

With no doubt in my mind that Ryan was the one for me, the day came when he proposed. We were 19 and oh-so-in-love and oh-so-sure of ourselves. The proposal was adorable, funny, romantic, and overwhelmingly sweet. We couldn’t wait to share the news with everyone.

We got to share the excitement with all of our families and friends… except, not with my dad.

The wedding planning began shortly after. The planning itself was easy; Ryan and I have very simple taste and we wanted the wedding to be easy and breezy – which it was. But with every invitation I addressed, I grew more and more frustrated. I can’t explain exactly why I felt the way I did, but I talked about this with my brother at one point and I remember finally being able to put some of my feelings into words. I told him, I think it would be easier if my dad was alive, but not involved in my life because then, I could send him an invitation and he could just not show up to the wedding and that would be his choice. But it just kills me that he doesn’t have that choice; that he never even got the chance to decide whether or not he would be there.

He just can’t be there and there is no way around it.

After my dad died, I always knew my brother would walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, if I ever got married. My brother is truly amazing and I could go on and on about how awesome he is. There’s no one else that I could have pictured giving me away to be husband-to-be, since my dad couldn’t do it. Even still, when it came time to ask my brother to walk me down the aisle, I procrastinated for months. It actually got so close to the wedding that my mom would call me twice a day and ask “Have you talked to Eric yet?” and every day I’d give a reluctant “…No.”

The thing is, it just wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Just casually calling my brother up and saying “Hey, wanna give me away at my wedding?” wasn’t easy. I knew he wouldn’t say ‘no,’ but I also knew that once I asked my brother to walk me down the aisle, it would confirm the fact that my dad wouldn’t be there with me on my wedding day. Once I said it aloud, I couldn’t take it back; I couldn’t change my reality and I couldn’t escape the pain. I had to give up all hope that somehow, someway, life without my dad had all just been one big, sick, practical joke and he’d show up at my wedding and tell me some amazing story about why he’d been away for over a decade and couldn’t contact us for fear of our safety… or something like that. Obviously deep down I always knew that wasn’t going to happen. We watched him die and saw him in lay his casket. Giving up hope just doesn’t sit well with me.

Once I gave his fatherly duty away to someone else, no matter how loving and deserving that someone else was, it meant he was really gone… forever.

You might be wondering if/when I ever got the courage to call my brother up and ask him if he’d walk me down the aisle at my wedding. The answer is: no. In true Emily fashion, I sat down and wrote him a 6 page letter, then I mailed it to him, even though he lived just down the street. At the end of the letter, I did ask the question. Writing that letter was both heart-wrenching and therapeutic. The people in my family aren’t big on talking about feelings, which is where I’m extremely different from them, so writing seems to be the one way I can communicate with my family that’s comfortable for all of us. Eric did call me to tell me that he received my letter and that yes, of course he would walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. Hearing his answer made me equally happy and sad.

The constant gnawing of the absence of my dad seemed to fade away during the week before the wedding. We were so busy with the errands and the parties and the rehearsal and the decorations that I really didn’t have time to think about anything other than the logistics of the wedding.

On the day of our wedding, the absence of my dad didn’t really hit me until we were at the venue. My mom, my bridesmaids and I were all in the bridal suite while our (most amazing) photographer was in there taking some candid shots of us all getting ready. The photographer wanted some photos us just my mom and I, so she told me to just look at my mom and talk to her casually; to say whatever was on my mind. Before I could even think, I just blurted out the words “I really wish Dad was here.”

When it was time for the wedding procession to begin, the wedding coordinators told me to stay in the bridal suite while everyone took their seats and our bridal party processed in. In those few moments alone, my usually calm, held-together composure went out the window. I went into a full-blown panic attack. I just kept talking to my dad aloud, telling him that I was so mad that he couldn’t bet there; that I couldn’t do this without him; that it should have been him waiting outside my bridal suite door and crying tears of pride and joy at how I looked in my wedding dress and at the woman I’d become; that it should have been him dancing with me and giving me away to the man I love. He should have been there. I told him I knew it wasn’t his fault, but that didn’t make me any less anxious, not knowing how I could possibly go through the happiest day of my life when it was also one of the saddest days of my life because I missed my dad so terribly. Not knowing what else to do, I started to recite what I remembered of two poems that I’d read a couple of weeks before:

“My little Girl, don’t cry for me
I’ll be right by your side.
I’d never miss out on this day
that you become a bride.

I’m here with you to hold your hand
and give your heart away
To a man God chose to take care of you
forever from this day.

Today, I place your hand in his
with blessings and with pride.
My little Girl, Don’t cry for me
I’ll be right by your side.” – Author unknown

“Dear Lord please clear a spot for him;
he should have the perfect view.
His little girl’s a Bride today,
and I am counting on you.
Let me feel his presence;
as I journey down the aisle.
But let me notice his absence;
if only for a while.
Let me stop to think of him;
As I am given away.
And know that if he could;
he would be here with me today.
Dear Lord please clear a spot for him;
he should have the perfect view.
And if he should get sad today;
Dear Lord, I count on you.” – Author unknown

As I spoke lines from these poems aloud to myself, my anxiety began to fade. I started to focus my mind on Ryan and our love and the amazing journey we’d been on together. I started to feel different – better, somehow. It felt as if my dad had reminded me of those poems that I’d read before at that exact moment when I needed them most. It definitely helped to calm me down and whether it was coincidence or divine intervention, I’ll forever be in awe of the power of words.

The wedding ceremony went smoothly and it was so beautiful, beyond anything I’d imagined while we were putting it all together. (S/O to my bridesmaids and my mom.)

During the reception, we set out a photo of my dad, along with photos of my late grandmother and my late godfather, to honor their spirits.

The father/daughter dance was replaced with a dance for my brother and I to my mom’s favorite song, I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack. (She’s dedicated that song to my siblings and I since we were young. I even have the lyrics tattooed on my foot.) Since my mom pretty much raised me as a single parent for most of my life, I wanted to do something special for her at our wedding. So halfway through the song, my brother and I made our way over to my mom and she took my brother’s place in finishing the dance with me. There were a lot of tears (and I mean so, so, so many tears). Looking back at it now, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I got to share such a unique, special moment with my mom and my brother that I probably wouldn’t have had if my dad would have been there. Although it’s not a fair trade, I’m thankful for the outcome.  It didn’t feel that way when we planned it, but I’m thankful to have that perspective now. I know that my dad would have wanted both my brother and my mom to have a moment of recognition at my wedding because of everything they’ve done in his absence. That’s what makes it a little easier to take.

Honestly, the rest of the wedding is all kind of a blur. An exciting, fun, happy blur with overwhelming amounts of love sparkling in the air.

Sometimes I still find myself, almost 2 years later, sitting and thinking about what it would have been like if my dad had been there dancing with us, or what about that day would have made him cry, or what color suit he would have worn. Would his hair have been gray by then? Would he have complained about having to dress up the way he always did? What goofy, outrageous things would he have done to steal the show just for a minute and make everyone laugh until their bellies hurt?

Some of those unanswered questions make me smile and some make me cry.

To this day, though, it still hurts me to think about it and to feel his absence. He has missed out on so much throughout my life, but not having my dad there with me at my wedding is one thing I have yet to fully accept.

As I watched my sister-in-law dance with my father-in-law at her wedding last summer, the pain of my dad’s absence at my own wedding hit me again.

I browse through our wedding photos every now and again and still feel defeated every time I realize my dad isn’t in a single one of them.

I don’t understand how people go through a significant loss without believing in the afterlife because sometimes, the only thing that gets me through the day is believing that my dad is with me in spirit even if he can’t be with me in the flesh. And that is what I hold onto when I get overwhelmed with sadness and my dad’s absence feels like it’s all too much to handle.

I guess there is nothing anyone could have said to me that would have prepared me for getting married without my dad. I try not to be angry or feel cheated, but sometimes, trying isn’t enough.

10 Things You Don’t Know About Me


I think this post is pretty self explanatory… let’s get into it!

1. I started writing poetry at the age of 9 as a coping strategy after my dad passed away. Since then, I’ve written hundreds poems, song lyrics, and journal entries. I have over 15 notebooks filled with everything I’ve written over the years. They are my most prized possessions and I’ve never shown them to anyone.writing.gif

2. I wish we still lived in a time when we weren’t constantly connected to each other with smart phones and social media. It completely drains me mentally and emotionally being connected to other people constantly. #oldsoul

3. I feel most “at home” whenever I’m near the water. I can physically feel my soul come alive when I’m near the ocean, swimming or floating in the water, or on a boat. I can’t fully explain it, but it’s the most captivating, comforting feeling.beach

4. I’ve only lost 8 baby teeth. I’ve also never had a cavity.

5. I’m super connected to “the other side” and things kind of out-of-this-world. I’ve seen ghosts since I was a kid; after my grandma passed away, she would come with me to Kindergarten every single day and sit at the empty seat next to me. After my dad died, he would wake me up in the middle of the night and we’d walk downstairs together to get water or just sit on the couch for a little while. Sometimes I will just have a feeling that something isn’t right (it can even make me physically sick) and those feelings have predicted some serious tragedies, like the night my uncle was killed. I have had tons of dreams that have predicted the future, too. Pretty crazy. gif

6. I’ve gone to every Fall Out Boy concert held in Buffalo since they started touring in 2006. Never missed a single one. #emokidforlife

7. I’ve always been a little too interested in eyebrows. I wouldn’t necessarily call it an “obsession” (my mom might disagree), but I have always paid a lot more attention to people’s eyebrows than your average Joe. My eyebrows, your eyebrows, your mom’s eyebrows… if I’ve met you, I could describe your eyebrows in explicit detail.eyebrow

8. I’ve never had a serious injury. No broken bones, sprained ankles, cuts that needed stitches, or anything like that.

9. I LOVE to be alone. (Not to be lonely, just to have time by myself.)alone

10. I had an imaginary friend when I was a kid. His name was Brian and he was an Asian kid around my age at the time. I always thought he might have been a spirit and not just a figment of my imagination, but I guess I will never know!



Did any of these things surprise you? Do we have anything in common? Let me know in the comments! I love to get to know my readers better.

Why I Went ‘Plant-Based’


Last Sunday, Ryan and I had just finished our massive grocery shopping trip for the week ahead (which sucks the energy right out of me), so I decided to let myself veg out for a couple hours and binge watch some Netflix. (Sunday funday, am I right?) I had seen the documentary entitled Minimalism floating around, so I watched that. (It was very interesting, btw, but unrelated.) After I finished that, I browsed through the rest of the ‘documentaries’ section and I saw so many documentaries about the food industry. I was surprised, honestly. I’d heard of Food, Inc. before but never watched it. I had never heard of the other ones before and there were so many. “They must be important,” I thought. So I started with one called Hungry for Change. At that point, Ryan had joined me on the couch and decided to watch it with me.

I’m not going to recap each documentary because I think it is extremely #worthit to take the 1.5 hours to watch each of them, but I will list the ones that I watched: Hungry for Change; Forks Over Knives; Fed Up; Food, Inc.; and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I have to say, Hungry for Change impacted me the most.


Half way through the second documentary, I looked at Ryan and said “I don’t want to eat anything we just bought at the store.”

We were on a high-protein, low-carb diet at the time, so our diet consisted of mostly meat, eggs, and some vegetables. What shocked me was that in one of the documentaries, they mention all the different kinds of “diet plans” that are out there (including the one we were on at the time) and explained just why they don’t work in the long-run.

We finished watching three documentaries in one night, and afterwords, I felt like…


My eyes were completely opened to the truth that the food industry and the government don’t want us to know. I felt as if I’d just woken up from a 22-year-long nightmare of battling with so many things related to food and I finally had the answer. There is so much conflicting information out there about “low-fat” and “low-carb” and every time I thought I had it all figured out, my weight spun out of control and I was left feeling helpless. For so long, I just assumed that my weight was just something I was going to have to struggle with for my entire life. These documentaries opened my eyes to the truth about food, our bodies, and the way those two things were created to work together. When I really sat down and thought about it, it was so simple and it made so much sense.

A plant-based diet is a diet based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits, but with few or no animal products (in our case, none).

Right then and there, on that Sunday evening, we decided that we were going to adopt a plant-based diet the following morning.

Here’s why:

  1. The poor animals. The way animals in the food industry are treated is beyond disturbing and inhumane.
  2. Health. Eating a plant-based diet can help strengthen your immune system, organs, and all of your body cells. It can help prevent and fight against cancer and other serious diseases. (yes, please!)
  3. Weight. No more yo-yo dieting. We had both been up-and-down with our weight our entire lives. We’d been making it so much more complicated than it needs to be simply because we didn’t know any better and that had to change.
  4. Faith in God. The main thing that sunk in for me is this: Everything we need in order to live and thrive in our human bodies were given to us by the one-and-only man upstairs who made this whole earth and everything on it. Nothing makes more sense to me than that fact.

We decided we would eat oatmeal the next morning for breakfast (because the only other option we had in our fridge was eggs and bacon), skip lunch while we were at work (because we didn’t have anything but meat to eat for lunch), and go grocery shopping for our new lifestyle after work that next evening. We gave away all of the animal products in our possession, which was a lot of food, but we were perfectly okay with that. It was never an option in our minds to continue to eat the way we had been, not even for one more day.

We made stir-fry for dinner Monday night after we went re-grocery-shopping and started a “detox” on Tuesday. (HUGE shout-out to The first couple of days were rough. Caffeine withdrawal migraines are the worst. I was down for the count on Tuesday and Wednesday with horrible migraines but by Thursday, any trace of a headache had magically disappeared!

(Note: We followed the detox step-by-step for the first 4 days. After that, we still used the recipes suggested, but we adjusted the schedule and moved the meals around a bit to fit our needs.)

Here we are, 1 week into our plant-based lifestyle and we’re feeling great! Since the first of the year, between our “high-protein, low-carb” diet for the first 3 weeks and our plant-based diet for the last week, I’ve lost 10 pounds and 7.5 inches total off of my body (but 3 of those pounds and 2.5 of those inches were lost within the last week), and Ryan has lost 13 pounds and 13.5 inches total off of his body (but 5 of those pounds and 4 of those inches were lost within the last week). It’s a great start, but we’ve got a long way to go!

I can honestly say that I don’t miss any of the foods we used to eat… not one bit! We have been trying so many new things and making so many new recipes, we don’t have time to miss any other foods. For Ryan’s birthday, we even made a vegan cake and it was delicious – way beyond our expectations.

I HIGHLY recommend watching one (or all!) of the documentaries I mentioned earlier. It’s a sad, cruel world we live in, but you don’t have to be a victim. I’m not one to try and convert people, but that’s just the truth.

I can’t wait to see where this plant-based life will take us! I will post any earth-shattering recipes we try, as well as updates on our new plant-fueled lifestyle every now and again. Please post any questions or tips for us that you might have down below in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!


Xoxo Emily

2016: A Call to Arms


2016 had a great start. But then, I guess that’s why they call it the calm before the storm.

January 2016 was the beginning of a new chapter in my life: deciding to pursue my dreams of being a cosmetologist and take on more opportunities as they came to me, which meant finding the emotional strength to leave college and make a completely new path for myself.

March brought my 22nd birthday and a lot of personal growth.

In April, I took the scariest jump of my life and I started my very own consulting business.

Ryan and I celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary in May and took an amazing vacation in honor of it!

June and July brought tons of awesome concerts, a trip to Cape Cod a for a National dance competition, a visit from my sister who lives in Florida, camping, babysitting my nieces every Friday, and going to three weddings in three different states in three consecutive weekends! PHEW!

Throughout most of the year, I found myself growing in so many ways. I felt closest to God as I’ve ever felt; I was eating healthy and exercising regularly; I was investing so much time and energy in my relationships and rekindling friendships that had needed a little more work; I was working hard and living comfortably; I was happy. I thought 2016 was going to be my year! Marking each and every good thing that happened down on the calendar so that, come December, I could look back and say “wow… could it get any better than this?”

Then everything changed…

On August 13th, my grandfather passed away. Losing him is a wound that has yet to heal. He was the only grandparent I’d ever known. My grandma died when I was in preschool so I don’t remember her, and my dad’s parents disowned my sister and I after my dad died, so they haven’t been in my life in over a decade. Considering all of that, my grandpa was everything I’ve ever known about what a grandparent is and what they’re supposed to be, and I loved him.

We found out early on in the summer that he was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years back, but he never told any of us. Maybe he didn’t tell us because he didn’t want us to worry. Maybe he didn’t tell us because he had faith in God’s plan for his life any which way it turned out and telling us wouldn’t make much of a difference in that. Whatever the reason, I don’t think that knowing of his diagnosis any sooner would have made me miss him any less, or made his passing any easier to take.

It still doesn’t feel like he’s really gone. It hits me at the most random, unexpected times. Like when Ryan and I were Christmas shopping and I touched a jacket that felt just like my grandpa’s jacket. There I was in the middle of Target, Starbucks in hand, buying Nerf guns for my nephew, and it hit me. And on Christmas, I picked up my phone and said to Ryan “I better text my grandpa before we…”

 It’s always like that.


After the funeral and everything was said and done, I did the only thing I knew how to do: keep on living life as God had intended. I missed him, sure, but it never felt like he was gone entirely. Things went on: I went to an awesome church retreat, I got a promotion at work, my husband got a new job that would provide for us and allow us to start saving for a house. More weddings, more traveling, more living. It seemed like things were starting to look up — and they were!

The first week of November, Ryan and I found out we were expecting a baby. That day, I was the most excited I had ever been in my entire life. This is difficult for some people to understand, but the only thing I have ever felt called to do in life is to be a wife and a mother (and kick butt at it)! We didn’t know how far along I was, so I scheduled an appointment with my doctor for the following Friday. We would get a sonogram done and see the baby that was growing in my very own body with our own eyes. Truly magical… truly a miracle. I felt so blessed, and so in awe of the whole thing. My body was created for this… to create another life, and here I was doing just that! Here was my life’s purpose in a living, tangible existence. The entire week before my first doctor’s appointment was spent creating Pinterest boards dedicated to “Baby D,” making to-do lists consisting of everything we wanted to accomplish before the baby was born, and reminding each other to keep it a secret from everyone until we came up with the perfect way to announce our pregnancy to our families.

After much anticipation, the morning of my first appointment finally came. November 11th – 11:30am. I sprung out of bed bright and early, made breakfast, took a shower, picked out my outfit, and…

I started bleeding.

I cried out in fear and pain as I bled life right out of me.

We spent the day in the E.R. I was poked and prodded and spoken to in whispers for eight hours while the doctors and nurses tried to find the answer that I already knew: I had a miscarriage.

Call it a mother’s intuition, call it whatever you want… I knew. My baby was alive one minute, and gone the next. I rolled around on the hospital bed in unbearable pain while the only purpose in life I ever knew slowly drained out of me. Ryan held my hand the entire time. In the dull moments, we would look each other in the eyes and through tears, tell each other “We will be okay,” which we wanted to believe so desperately.

I still have so many questions, so many fears, and so much pain. I’m a different person since I lost my baby. I tried not to be angry at God but how could I not be, at least a little? People have babies all the time. Women and teenagers who don’t even want babies get pregnant and give birth to beautiful, healthy babies all the time. Why me? Why us? What did I do wrong? What aren’t we ready to be parents? What could we have done better? Drowning in unanswered questions, I didn’t just lose my baby – I lost myself, too.

November and December were filled with tears, relapsing depression and anxiety, and emotional eating. I didn’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone, or tell anyone what was going on. And I didn’t. I felt like saying it out loud would make it all too real. It’s a pain that I can never understand or forget. I still blame myself, even though doctors and friends tell me I did nothing wrong. I still lay at night and cry, cradling my now empty stomach.

As weeks went by, the world seemed to go on as if nothing had happened and I tried my best to go right along with it. Christmas was coming up, but it didn’t feel much like Christmastime. When Christmas day came, Ryan and I were both still grieving – grieving the loss of my grandfather and grieving the loss of our Baby D. We couldn’t help but constantly wonder how different the holidays would have been if our baby hadn’t died.

baby d 2.jpg

On Thanksgiving, we would have announced our pregnancy to our families. Christmas surely would have been filled with tons of pictures of us plus my growing belly and gifts from our loved ones for our unborn baby. But it was just us, and no more baby. That night, we went home and cried again and talked through it again, just as we had many times before, but we were different this time… stronger somehow. God breaks you down and tears you apart just to rebuild you on a completely new foundation, and I still can’t decide if I find that clever, ironic, or just plain sad. There we were: broken and shattered, then put back together in a new way. With glue still dripping and the cracks still visible, we were stronger than before.

I dedicated the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to coming up with a list — a master plan — of my goals for 2017.

I came up with a way to use my now stronger self for the better… for the best. I will truly deal with the losses I suffered in 2016. I will reclaim my relationship with God, and I will put my faith in His plan for my life. I will make my body healthier, stronger, and ready for the day when God decides that we are ready to be parents. I will push myself past my comfort zone and do the things I’ve always been afraid to do. I will love harder, work harder, and get stronger. I will live 2017 for Baby D and for my grandfather. I will remember them and I will grieve them and I will love them more than ever before, and I will use their losses to propel myself forward into 2017 with a new momentum.

Here is my new motivation; here is my new purpose:

I will make my grandfather proud that I am his granddaughter.

I will make my Baby D proud that I was his or her mother… even if it was only for a little while.


2017: A year of new beginnings, new life, and new dreams.


So to 2016 I say “nice try.”


It’s time to run. It’s time to fight.

The Christmas Tag!

Christmasy  xmas style tree decoration


It truly is the most wonderful time of the year! I love Christmas… who doesn’t?!

I’ve seen this tag floating around and I thought it’d be a fun little post for the week of Christmas! Enjoy! xoxo


1. What is your favourite Christmas Movie/s?

The Santa Clause and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! I love me some Tim Allen 90’s humor and I’m pretty sure Jim Carrey was made to play the Grinch.

2. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

We exchange with my side of the family on Christmas Eve, then Ryan and I exchange on Christmas morning and we exchange with his side of the family on Christmas day as well.

3. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?

Yes! One of many funny memories of my dad. One year when I was about 7 or 8, my parents bought all of us kids a karaoke machine for Christmas and we were so excited because we all love to sing. But my dad (who we learned later secretly bought the karaoke machine for himself) sang on that thing all day long and we harldy got a chance to play with it because he was having so much fun with it! We used to tell my dad he couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle, but that didn’t stop him from singing! I can’t help but laugh when I think of my sister and I sitting in the living room huffing and puffing at my dad singing song after song on the present he bought “for us.”

4. Favourite festive food?

I love homemade Christmas cookies. It doesn’t feel like Christmas without them! I also really like hot chocolate around Christmastime. (Can you tell I have a serious sweet tooth?)

5. Favourite Christmas gift?

I really don’t know! I always love my Christmas gifts, but I can’t think of one that stands out for any reason. I never ask for much; I’m bad at coming up with a Christmas list. So I’m always very pleased and surprised with everything I receive. I’ve never focused on the gift aspect of Christmas.

6. Favourite Christmas scent?

The smell of a Christmas tree! There’s nothing better than the whole house being filled with the pine tree smell. I even light pine scented candles to really fill the whole house with the scent.

7. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

We do our big Christmas celebration at my mom’s house every year on Christmas Eve. I love it! Being with my family makes me so happy.
8. What tops your tree?

A gold, sparkly star!
9. As a kid what was the one (crazy, wild, extravagant) gift you always asked for but never received?

I think I remember asking for a trampoline for a couple of Christmases in a row, but I never got one. That’s probably a good think, in retrospect, because I probably would have broken a bone or something!

10. What’s the best part about Christmas for you?

The best part of Christmas for me is just the happiness and bliss it brings. Getting to celebrate the birth of Jesus with my family and friends while we’re all warm and cozy, laughing and being happy together… there’s nothing in the world that compares to that!


Thanks for visiting my blog! I wish you all a very blessed, Merry Christmas. Comment down below and let me know what some of your favorite Christmas traditions are!


If you’d like to do the Christmas Tag, here are the questions:

1. What is your favourite Christmas Movie/s?
2. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
3. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?
4. Favourite festive food?
5. Favourite Christmas gift?
6. Favourite Christmas scent?
7. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?
8. What tops your tree?
9. As a kid what was the one (crazy, wild, extravagant) gift you always asked for but never received?
10. What’s the best part about Christmas for you?

xoxo Em