The Benefits and Risks of a Paleo Diet for Middle-Aged Women

Photo Courtesy of  Pexels

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

GUEST AUTHOR: Elsa Freya

Long before the time of juice detoxes and fancy fad diets, our ancestors lived on simple food that relied on our biological and genetic programming. Thriving solely on animal protein, seafood, and vegetables, they had none of today's array of processed meals. Carbohydrates, dairy, and refined sugars were not in their vocabulary. This way of "primal eating" has found its way back to modern times through the über popular Paleo diet.

The Paleo diet argues that in order to be healthier and stronger, we must go back to basics. According to the data reported on Maryville University, the rise of chronic illnesses and a rising aging population has caused more people to seek ways to extend their lifespan and take better care of their health. That explains why wellness trends such as Keto, intermittent fasting, and Whole 30 have been gaining traction. Likewise, Paleo has garnered its own cult following, thanks to its promises of fat loss, increasing energy, clearer skin, and much more. But is it recommended for middle-aged women?

The Benefits


It Eliminates Problematic Food

If our ancestors could survive without chocolate bars and pasta, so can you. The Paleo diet gets rid of foods such as sugar and grains. In a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, sugar was found to have addictive properties comparable to that of drugs. That means it's one of the easiest types of food to consume too much without you noticing and in turn gain weight. This is especially bad for women, because fat cells produce estrogen and an excess of it can lead to cysts, mood swings, and cramps.

On the other hand, the eliminating grains from your diet is also rewarding. Though bread and pasta might be hard to give up, Healthline reveals that they do play a role in causing leaky gut. This underlying condition can pave the way for autoimmune diseases more common among women, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto's thyroditis.

It Focuses on Nutritious Foods

On top of eliminating problematic food, the Paleo diet replaces it with high quantities of nutrient-dense goodness. This includes fruits like blueberries and vegetables such as kale, which are all incredibly rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. For animal byproducts, Paleo dieters only eat high-quality and protein-rich meats that are crucial in reducing inflammation and balancing hormones.

In addition to eliminating problematic foods, the Paleo diet also focuses on including high quantities of nutritional powerhouses: fruits such as blueberries are high in antioxidants, vegetables such as kale are rich in vitamins and minerals, and high quality animal products such as pasture-raised eggs deliver complete protein and nutrients different from those found in plants like choline, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin K2. A nutrient-rich diet is critical for reducing inflammation, balancing hormones and having optimal reproductive health.

It Encourages Healthy Eating Habits

Previously on the RINT blog, we discussed the negative eating habits that could develop if you don't follow a normal eating schedule. By going too long without food, you open yourself up to the possibilities of binge eating.

As a woman, one of the best things you can do to regulate your hormones is to sync yourself to your natural hunger signals. According to the Society of Endocrinology, unhealthy eating habits can impact hormones that affect metabolism, fertility and pregnancy. So instead of calorie counting and restricting what you eat, Paleo calls on the opposite, which is to listen to your body when it demands nourishment.

The Problem with Paleo

It can't be denied that Paleo has lots of good qualities. With its emphasis on whole foods, lean proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits, having more of these in your diet will certainly be beneficial. But the biggest qualm surrounding these food trends is that there is never a one-size-fits all solution to a person's health goals.

While our ancestors did survive on this way of eating, we have to take into consideration the times they lived in. The life expectancy for hunter-gatherers was usually no more than 20 years. Only a handful of our Paleo ancestors would have made it past their forties, despite their "healthy" diet. What's more is that numerous studies also connect red meat with an increased risk of cancers, which the Canadian Cancer Society warns in one of their articles.

So instead of adopting someone else's strict lifestyle choices, consider your own needs and how aspects of the Paleo diet can complement and enhance it. This might be relying more on fresh seafood or incorporating more fruits and vegetables, or lessening the pop tarts and ice cream you eat. In the long run, these habits have the potential to contribute more positively to your health and satisfaction without the pressure of conforming to some evolutionary theory.

Exclusively written for RINutritionTherapy.com

Bedtime Tips for People Who Suffer from Back Pain

Photo by:  Romina Farias  on  Unsplash

Photo by: Romina Farias on Unsplash

GUEST AUTHOR: Cheryl Conklin

According to the American Chiropractic Association, back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. Back pain affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Since the back, neck, and spine all contain complex systems of bones, joints, ligaments, discs, and muscles, the causes of back pain are varied and sometimes hard to pinpoint. Back pain can be due to sprained muscles or ligaments, sports injuries, arthritis, inflammation, and psychological stress. 

Back pain can impede life in many ways, but one of the most damaging is sleep deprivation. Persistent back pain can make it difficult for people to fall asleep. Even if they manage to fall asleep, the quality of the rest can be disturbed by tossing and turning related to the discomfort. Sleep deprivation can make back pain worse, but the negative effects don’t end there. Not getting enough sleep makes it substantially more difficult to function the next day, as you are prone to experience cognitive issues including memory loss, moodiness, increased clumsiness, brain fog, reduced balance, and a weakened immune system. Furthermore, sleep deprivation raises your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. 

As with any medical problem, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your chronic pain and sleep problems. There could be a serious issue that’s causing both issues, and your physician can recommend treatments and/or therapies to alleviate this troublesome situation. However, if you’re on Medicare, it’s important to determine if therapies and treatments are covered, so check your coverage beforehand. If you’re having difficulty navigating the Medicare.gov website, there are online guides and resources that can make finding the info you need a little easier.

How to Sleep Better with Back Pain

Take It Easy on Yourself

If you spend all day doing strenuous work, you’ll never give yourself a chance to heal. And while it’s often difficult to avoid certain tasks, you can find ways to take some of the burdens off your shoulders. For instance, instead of coming home from work and immediately diving into a full evening’s worth of cleaning, try to spread those tasks throughout the week. And if you discover that’s still a little too much for your back to bear, hiring a cleaning service to attack the problem. In East Greenwich, Rhode Island, a maid service costs around $125 and $228 per cleaning, so it’s easy to fit into your budget, even if you only take advantage of these services every so often.

Reduce Joint Inflammation 

You are what you eat. If you’re eating a bunch of salt, sugar, and saturated fat, you are likely a bloated ball of pain plagued with inflammation. Adjusting your diet is one of the best things you can do to reduce back pain. Certain whole foods can actually alleviate joint pain while supporting healthy muscle development. To alleviate back pain at night, fill your daily diet with healthy-joints foods, like cruciferous vegetables and vitamin C-packed fruits like pineapple, mango, kiwi, and oranges.

Strengthen Your Core

Your core muscles make up the bulk of your abdominals and back, and play a critical role in supporting your spine. Your core muscles likely don’t get a good workout during the day-- especially if you spend your time sitting behind a desk or wheel. Everyone needs to exercise for better sleep, but if you suffer from back pain, it’s even more important to focus on strengthening your core muscles when you work out. Include 20 to 30 minutes of core-strengthening exercises into your daily routine, and consider other ways to strengthen it throughout the day, such as switching out your desk chair for an exercise ball for 30-minute intervals during your workday. 

Switch Your Sleep Position 

If you suffer from lower back pain, certain sleep positions can help relieve the pressure put on that area of the body for less pain. 

  • Sleep on your side with a pillow placed between the knees

  • Sleep on your side with knees pulled to the chest in a fetal position

  • Sleep on your stomach with an extra pillow under the abdomen

  • Sleep on your back with a pillow wedged under the knees (you can buy one for $29.95)

  • Sleep on your back in a reclined position enabled by an adjustable bed

The sleep position that is best for you depends on what relieves the most lower back pressure. Make sure to keep proper spinal alignment when adjusting your sleep position by aligning your ears, shoulders, and hips on top of each other. When looking for pillows, choose firmness that correlates with your particular sleep position. Back sleepers benefit from thinner pillows and models with more padding at the neck. Side sleepers do best with a very firm pillow with an extra-wide gusset that creates space between the ear and shoulder. Stomach sleepers should aim to use the thinnest pillow possible or no pillow at all. 

Back pain affects millions of people and commonly contributes to sleep deprivation. Not only does a lack of sleep make back pain worse, but it also manifests in other mental and physical ailments. A healthy diet reduces inflammation for less back pain at night, while core exercises support a strong spine for less pain every day. Furthermore, the right sleep position and pillow can relieve back pressure, making it easier to fall asleep. 

Ms. Conklin created wellnesscentral.info because she believes one can’t have physical health without mental health and vice versa.

The Inflammation Wrecking Ball

If you scratch your skin with your nail and it turns red and the skin raises slightly along the lines of the scratch, that is inflammation. Your skin is reacting to something that is abnormal and your body is starting to fight back to prevent infection. This is a normal response and is how our body heals itself. It is acute and temporary and the body recovers quickly and the skin’s color and texture return to normal.

But did you know that inflammation is likely occurring in your body right now? It could be acute, but most people today are experiencing chronic inflammation. We now know that chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease. If you are experiencing any of the following you are likely dealing with chronic inflammation:

  1. high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides

  2. abnormal blood glucose levels, diabetes or pre-diabetes

  3. IBS or Irritable bowel syndrome, reflux or heartburn

  4. autoimmune disorders

  5. hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism

  6. arthritis or joint pain

  7. headaches or migraines

  8. skin rashes including psoriasis or eczema

  9. brain fog or cognitive slowness

  10. overweight or obesity

  11. cancer

The list can go on, but you get the idea. Inflammation is rampant in our bodies. How do we reduce inflammation in order to prevent chronic disease or reverse chronic disease if we already have it? There is a method to reducing inflammation and it starts in the gut. Here are the ways to reduce inflammation in your body and prevent disease:

  1. Stop eating junk. Limit or avoid processed foods and sugars, especially refined sugar in sweets and sodas, processed and packaged foods as well. Instead choose whole foods. I like to say: “Imagine how this food came from the earth and how many steps did it go through before it ended up on your plate?” The fewer the better.

  2. Choose organic when possible. Some foods are more vulnerable than others and have a higher pesticide or herbicide load. Our bodies are not made to metabolize pesticides and they can build up over time in your system and cause inflammation. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php. Spinach is great, but it’s also loaded with pesticides. You may be doing your body more harm than good by eating a spinach salad. Choose organic.

  3. Limit or avoid gluten. Gluten causes inflammation for many people. One reason may be that the genetically modified seed combined with pesticides and preservatives are a recipe for disaster. I find gluten to be one of the top foods causing inflammation with food sensitivity testing. And if a patient with gastrointestinal distress opts not to do food sensitivity testing, they at least have a significant reduction in symptoms (gas, pain and bloating) when they eliminate gluten from their diet.

  4. Limit dairy. Dairy is another food group that I find (and backed by research) causes inflammation in many patients. Casein is the main protein present in dairy and also causes inflammation. If you do want to keep dairy in your diet, I would recommend a small amount of organic ghee or clarified butter and organic unsweetened kefir or yogurt occasionally. A small amount (1 ounce or a domino-size) of a minimally processed organic cheese such as Cabot should suffice without causing too much inflammation.

  5. De-stress. Easier said than done, but chronic stress and lack of sleep will increase inflammation. Find tools to manage your day-to-day stress such as breathing exercises, moderate exercise, meditation or prayer. A recent study showed that yoga had more benefits than cardiovascular exercise in increasing cognitive function and preventing dementia. Mind-body-spirit connection is proving to be even more beneficial than your spin class or long distance runs.

  6. Supplement your diet. Make sure your vitamin D levels are optimal. If you don’t know if your vitamin D level is within normal limits, that means you need to get yours checked. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level and if it’s low, you may need a prescription dose until it is within the normal range. Low vitamin D levels increase inflammation and your risk for multiple diseases and conditions. Low vitamin D is related to abnormal blood glucose levels and can actually prevent you from losing weight. I recommend taking 2,000mg to 4,000mg of vitamin D3 daily. Also, Omega-3 fatty acids. I recommend 2,100mg to 2,400mg of fish oil daily to reduce inflammation. I recommend Co-enzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10) if you have a history of heart disease, especially if you are taking statins. I recommend 100mg of CoQ10 per day.

I never recommend a magic food, beverage, herb, spice or oil that will help reduce inflammation. There are great studies that show that turmeric can reduce inflammation, or that cinnamon can reduce inflammation, or blueberries for example. However, after using the Food Inflammation Test to detect for food sensitivities in patients over the past few years, I know that some of these foods, spices, etc. that are known to reduce inflammation can actually increase inflammation for some. For this reason, I refrain from touting some things as anti-inflammatory that other practitioners might recommend. However, if a patient takes the Food Inflammation Test and I see that they do not have an inflammatory reaction to turmeric, for example, then I would recommend that the patient try increasing their intake of that spice in order to reduce their systemic inflammation. However, I could be doing them a disservice if I recommend this without test results*.

If this feels overwhelming to you, start with one step that feels feasible to you and build on your anti-inflammatory plan from there. Reducing inflammation is the key to preventing disease and improving your quality and quantity of life. Annnnd go!

*If you are interested in learning more about the Food Inflammation Test or FIT 132 that I offer within my practice, please check out the link on my website : https://www.rinutritiontherapy.com/shop/food-inflammation-test-132-panel-fit-132

Becoming FULL-Filled

It had been a long day that started early with getting four kids up and out the door to school, then getting ready myself and literally running out the door to the office. The day continued with client appointments, phone calls, returned e-mails, progress notes, wrapping up at the office then back home to get kids off the bus, run kids around to their prospective activities, overseeing homework was complete, dinner and then time to get all the kids to bed at a decent time. I know I’m not alone with this type of schedule. All of my girlfriends are in the same cycle it seems.

By the time I sat down that night after I had cleaned up, I decided I really wanted something sweet. Now I have a daughter that has a milk sensitivity, so there was a pint of Ben & Jerry’s PB & Cookies non-dairy dessert in the freezer. My body was still running on adrenaline, so I sprinted over to the freezer, found the PB & Cookies, scooped out about a third (ok maybe a half) and sat down with my laptop. Because it tasted SO GOOD, I ate it about as fast as I did everything that day. In time-lapse mode. And then, it happened. I hit a wall. A very hard concrete wall. Head on. Going 90mph. I remember thinking that I felt like I was sinking into a coma. I felt sick to my stomach and I just wanted to lie down. Which I did. I closed my eyes and fell asleep. I woke up a couple of hours later, dragged myself up the stairs to bed and somehow remembered to set my alarm. When my alarm went off at 6:30am the next morning, I felt like I had a hangover. My brain was fuzzy and my temples pounding, my stomach hurt, my body was slow to get out of bed. I had no motivation to get four kids out of bed, and on top of that, I was cranky.

The next night, the other two-third’s (or was it half?) of the Ben & Jerry’s was still in the freezer. But when I thought about it, I immediately recoiled, remembering my coma-like state, the stomach ache and the awful carb hangover. The thought of Ben & Jerry’s was making me ill before I had even put another spoonful in my mouth. I realized how easily food can be a drug to us. Whether we need to slow our brains and bodies down at the end of an adrenaline-filled day, or whether we use food to calm our anxieties. In my case, I had used food as a depressant. To slow and calm my brain and body. On the other hand, caffeine, refined carbohydrates, including sugar, can act as short-term stimulants when we need energy pick-me ups or when we are feeling tired, sad or depressed. I have yet to find someone who has broccoli or spinach cravings when they are upset about something.

As I continued to process my Ben & Jerry’s “coma”, I thought how I needed to really re-evaluate my adrenaline-filled days. I have four children between the ages of nine and fourteen, so no doubt adrenaline will fill my daily life here and there. But on a continual basis, twenty-four/seven, I must take personal responsibility for that. And make some healthy changes.

So I came up with a plan. I’m a terrible planner on a day-to-day basis. But I am a great planner in terms of self-improvement. If there is a problem, I will come up with a plan to fix it. Being stagnant is not an option. So here is what I came up with for my plan:

PROBLEM: Running around like a crazy woman. I was in a chronic state of heightened adrenaline. I needed to reset on a physiological level. I had been skipping my workouts to try to fit in more patients. Running and classes at the gym had always been a part of my routine, and now they were getting pushed out of my schedule. Both my brain and my body were unregulated and suffering. I know that in this continued state, not only is my body being flooded with cortisol and other stress hormones, but that this also leads to inflammation. Not only will I eventually burn out my adrenal system and hit a more permanent coma state, but I am also increasing my risk for turning on genes within my body that could change my life forever. This could mean a new diagnosis or condition that I will have to manage the rest of my life. NOT worth it!

SOLUTION: Schedule runs and group exercise classes. I took my calendar and blocked out times for my exercise, just like I would block out a time for a doctor’s appointment, for a patient or for one of my children’s games. It was time to re-prioritize my health.

PROBLEM: Energy levels (and likely blood glucose levels) all over the place. I know what it takes to balance energy, blood glucose and subsequent insulin levels, yet I wasn’t practicing what I preach. I wouldn’t schedule a lunch for myself, or I would get caught up in writing a progress note or calling back a patient and forget to eat. Before I knew it, my next patient was ready to be seen and I hadn’t eaten anything in five, six or seven hours. I know on the deepest level that is a no-no. Sigh.

SOLUTION: Nourish my body with the macronutrients and micronutrients that I need, when I need them. I started doing (again) exactly what I tell my patients. I reset my eating habits. I purchased and had readily available healthy snacks at my office that I needed and scheduled time for lunch again. I have also been better about keeping healthy leftovers for lunch the next day, so I can eat lunch at my desk while I write my progress notes or return emails.

PROBLEM: Being Un-Full-Filled. I wrote it that way for a reason, Un-Full-Filled. Often I see that we (myself included) are using food to fill us up. And it can be at the root of beating the battle of obesity and weight-related diseases. It can be on the other end of the spectrum as well. Denying ourselves food and nourishment, to obtain control as with eating disorders or with extreme diets where we are starving or depriving ourselves in order to achieve “success”. I believe there is an epidemic of food addiction/obsession in our country. I will give our failing food industry most of the credit here. However, I will also make sure to credit the devastating food addiction epidemic. We are using food to fill us up. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

SOLUTION: Reprioritize my spiritual and emotional health. I am happiest in my life when things are in balance. I am a Libra. The woman holding the scales. I’m not sure how much credibility I give to astrological signs, but in this case it’s true for me. I need to have space for myself (time and brain space). This means my day can be busy with work and kids, but I can handle those things well if I have my priorities in check. For me, that means my mind, body, and spirit are all being filled with good, healthy things. In my experience, this comes in the form of prayer, listening to music, being silent in nature, or connecting with a stranger or a friend or family member on a spiritual level. My days are often full of challenges and sometimes even painful ones, but if I am connected spiritually, then it is always a good day. I do believe we are spiritual beings having a physical, human experience. When I am able to keep this perspective, I am spiritually filled. I am Full-Filled.

How are you FULL-filled? What is it that makes you feel centered and balanced? Do you find that you are using food or other substances to “fill” up a part of you that needs to be filled up in other ways? If so, write down what the problems are. And then start thinking about the solutions. Then, comes action. It’s worth it. Things will start to fall into place when we prioritize our spiritual health. This is an important piece is self-care that often gets neglected. I believe it is at the foundation of our entire well-being. Make becoming FULL-filled a priority in your life. Aaaaaaaaaannnnd GO!

The IBS Diagnosis: What Does It Really Mean?

It means that your doctor has NO idea what is wrong with you. In other words, the IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) diagnosis is a misnomer. It should be the IDK diagnosis.

And this is how the story usually goes:

You have been experiencing gas, pain and bloating for weeks, months or even years. You’ve been to your primary care doctor multiple times and have even been to see a gastroenterologist about your symptoms. Maybe you have had invasive diagnostic testing such as an endoscopy or a colonoscopy. The doctor may have even said everything looked fine. If not, you may have been told that your esophagus, stomach and/or intestines were irritated and compromised. But he or she has no explanation as to why. You may have tried probiotics, fiber supplements, antacids, and/or prescription medications. All to no avail. Your doctor is frustrated that things are not improving and has no other suggestions beyond recommending another test or medication. And maybe your doctor has even suggested that your symptoms are all in your head. Your friends are tired of hearing about the pain and discomfort you are experiencing on a daily basis and now you wonder if even THEY are thinking it’s all in your head. And then you question yourself…IS it all in my head??!!

The answer is: NO. It isn’t all in your head. The answer is in your gut. Your gut is telling you something is wrong. However, modern medicine is not designed to treat the patient from the inside out, to heal the body and fix what is at the core of the symptoms. Modern medicine is designed to diagnose and treat pharmaceutically. If you have a health problem, modern medicine tells us that there is a pill to fix it. Unfortunately, this is only making matters worse. I have many patients come into my office with this same story. They have found me on their own or have been referred by a doctor that understands their limits on being able to help their patient from the traditional approach. I am sometimes their last hope. That’s a lot of pressure. But I have to say, fortunately, the answer isn’t too complicated. The path to relieving the symptoms of IBS are fairly simple…IF you follow them. So keep reading in order to find out how to get rid of IBS symptoms for good.

Give yourself two weeks. It will take two weeks (yes, that’s it!) to navigate the course to becoming symptom free. Yes that means no more gas, pain and bloating IF you follow these steps:

  1. Cut out gluten. It sounds extreme and it pretty much is. But, if you really want relief from the symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, then it will absolutely be worth it! Gluten is found mostly in breads, pastas and baked goods. It is also found in seasonings, dressings and processed and prepared foods. Substitute with gluten free whole grains such as brown or wild rice, quinoa, or use starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes or butternut squash in place of pastas and breads. Look for gluten free versions of your breads and pastas if you must, but try to look for those made of whole gluten free grains such as brown rice versus white rice.

  2. Cut out dairy. This will be hard for many of you. Cheese and ice-cream lovers are cringing right now. But again, it is worth it. There are great dairy alternatives out there. Try a non-GMO dairy free creamer made from almond and/or coconut milk. Unsweetened almond, rice, cashew or hemp milk are great substitutes for cereals and the non-dairy frozen desserts just keep getting better. As for cheese, this is a tough one. There are a few out on the market made from finely ground nuts that are fairly good, but I have yet to find a good dairy and soy free cheese. There are really good non-dairy butter substitutes made from coconut oil.

  3. Cut out soy. Soy is a great dairy substitute and is a vegetable that is high in protein, however soy is also full of phytoestrogens, which means that it acts as estrogen in the body. In theory, this looks like it could be a good thing, but it isn’t. Our environment is full of so many endocrine disruptors right now (environmental pollutants, pesticides, plastics, medications, cleaning supplies, etc.) that we need to minimize the phytoestrogens we are taking in as they are becoming endocrine disruptors this day in age in America. The cleanest soy products would be organic, non-GMO soy beans or edamame. But it just goes downhill from there when we alter the soybean seed genetically, add pesticides and herbicides, and then isolate and concentrate different parts of the soy plant. This is a recipe for disaster.

  4. Stop taking probiotics. Unless you have recently been on antibiotics or had the stomach bug, stop taking probiotics. It could be making your symptoms worse. You may add them later on, but for right now, stop them.

  5. Avoid fermented foods and beverages. Vinegar, overly ripened fruits, mushrooms, Kombucha, and yes, alcohol should be avoided for now. Fermented foods and beverages could be feeding into your problem. And i literally mean “feeding”. Feeding the bacteria that are causing your symptoms by creating an imbalance in the microbiome (in other words, your gut is out of balance and you keep adding to the heavier side).

  6. Avoid raw fiber. At least for now. A big one to avoid for now is salads. Yes, they are healthy. But when your gastrointestinal tract is irritated and compromised, it is in no position to be able to digest and tolerate large amounts of raw and fibrous roughage passing through it. Down the line you can re-introduce salads, but for now…cooked vegetables are your best bet.

  7. Avoid artificial everything. Avoid artificial sweeteners, preservatives and overly processed foods. If you can get organic, do so. For “gut” sensitive people, all of the pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, food additives, artificial sweeteners, etc. will affect your gastrointestinal system. Try to eat as clean as possible.

  8. Avoid all other foods and beverages that you already knew were causing distress. Eggs, citrus fruits, green peppers, spicy foods, coffee? If you know that you don’t tolerate certain foods already, then stay away from them. Pretty simple.

Eight steps, that’s it. Try to do them all at once if you can. For two weeks. Track your food and beverages and your symptoms. You will find that they are going away. In two weeks, my hope is that the gas, pain and bloating symptoms of IBS are starting to feel like a distant memory. As you move forward, remember to continue to follow these eight steps as closely as you can. You may be able to add in some dairy or gluten in small amounts. I would suggest introducing one thing at a time and on a rotational basis of every three days so you can isolate which foods are causing distress. Continue to keep your food journal and track symptoms. And the (sad) truth is, if you happen to go on a vacation to Italy and eat their bread and pasta and drink their wine, you will probably be fine. They do not have the preservatives, food additives, pesticides and genetically modified seeds that we do here in the United States. And if you are sensitive to all of these things, then you no doubt will find that cleaning up your diet with these eight steps will definitely help (or moving to Europe).

So, here’s to your health and feeling better in the days, weeks and months to come.

12 Steps to Get Rid of Your Headaches & Migraines For Good

Do you suffer from frequent headaches (meaning more than 2-3 per week)? Do they often turn into migraines that are debilitating and make you want to pluck an eyeball out?

When you have a headache, everything hurts from your head to your toes. Life is experienced through the headache filter. Every enjoyable event is weighed down by the fact that you have a headache. All of your senses are processing positive memories in a negative light. And don’t even mention the daily tasks. They become overwhelming and sometimes too hard to complete in the midst of chronic headaches and migraines.

In my 20’s, I had a headache every day for almost 7 years. I probably had migraines 2-3 times per month. I was put on Imitrex, Zomig, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers. I popped 900mg of Advil without blinking. I took Excedrin Migraine. I had massages, took naps, drank coffee, drank more coffee, iced my head and neck, tried aromatherapy. You name it, I tried it. Things only got worse. I had an MRI…nothing. I was in pain on a daily basis and I was in my 20’s, supposed to be living the best years of my life. The headaches depressed me and stole my energy and my joy. I started to accept that this was just the way it was going to be and I would have to live with it.

During this time, I went to go visit a college friend of mine who told me about how she finally broke her own cycle of headaches and migraines. She had been to see a neurologist at John Hopkins in Maryland for her headaches and migraines. He had a different approach than most doctor’s. He treated his patients by eliminating dietary and environmental triggers and avoiding quick fix painkillers that cause rebound headaches. I tried the approach she had followed, and within 2 months, I was also headache and migraine free! I started spreading the word to my family members who also struggled with headaches and migraines and it worked for them as well! Almost twenty years later, I have brought this tried and true approach into my nutrition practice.

I have tweaked a few things with my headache/migraine patients, but here are my 12 steps to get rid of your headaches and migraines for good:

  1. Stop taking over the counter medications for your headaches. If you absolutely have to take something for a headache or migraine, I would recommend just taking a regular strength Tylenol (acetaminophen) as long as you do not have any other interactions. (Note: Always check with your doctor before starting any new over the counter medication). And definitely, do not take any of the over the counter headache relief medications that also have caffeine in them. They may relieve the pain temporarily, but will forever keep you in the headache/migraine cycle.

  2. Stop taking prescription medications for your headaches (ALWAYS talk to your doctor about stopping medications first). Many of these such as Imitrex and Zomig, or narcotics, such as Vicoden, will forever keep you in the chronic pain and rebound cycle.

  3. Get the right amount of sleep (not too much, not too little). Anywhere from 7-9 hours. And try to be as consistent as you can with the times you are going to sleep and waking up. Even on the weekends.

  4. Avoid Alcohol. Some alcoholic beverages, such as red wine and champagne, contribute to headaches more than others. However, in general, all alcohol is a trigger for headaches/migraines. A high end vodka is probably the best tolerated if you must have a drink.

  5. Avoid Caffeine. You may be able to add it back in later in smaller amounts, but you need to get off of all caffeine now. Caffeine is one of the biggest headache and migraine triggers. Right now you may be thinking that I’m misguided. That caffeine helps relieve your headaches. That is a BIG misconception as it is only a quick fix for caffeine withdrawal that perpetuates the headache/migraine cycle. Also make sure to avoid decaffeinated versions of coffee and tea which contain additional chemical triggers. Instead try herbal teas.

  6. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Aspartame (NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low), etc. These are found in diet sodas, diet teas, flavored beverages, sports drinks, light yogurts, health shakes, protein bars, etc. Stay away from them. Stevia (alcohol free) in the liquid form is the only one that I would say is safe to use.

  7. Avoid preservatives, such as nitrites and nitrates. Stay away from processed foods, but especially those processed meats such as hot dogs, pepperoni, sausages, bacon and other lunch meats made with nitrites. Also avoid sulfites found in preserved dried fruits and alcoholic beverages, especially wine.

  8. Avoid monosodium glutamate or MSG. MSG is often used as a seasoning in snacks, processed foods, vegetarian meat substitutes, soy protein concentrate/isolate, broths, soy sauce, etc. MSG typically will cause an almost immediate headache for those sensitive to it (which most headache and migraine sufferers are).

  9. Avoid chocolate. Chocolate is a common trigger (it’s the cocoa). White chocolate seems to be okay, but white chocolate is not even chocolate technically. The more processed chocolates (think M&M’s), tend to cause more headaches than a “cleaner” product, such as a 90% cacao dark chocolate bar.

  10. Other potential dietary triggers are dairy products, tree nuts and peanuts as well as their butters, certain fruits especially citrus fruits and bananas, fresh yeast breads, onions and soy products especially if highly processed.

  11. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A minimum of 64 ounces of fluid per day. If you are losing fluid via sweating, exercising, make sure to up your intake even more.

  12. Do not go too long between meals and snacks. If you go longer than 4-5 waking hours between eating, your blood glucose levels may drop and this can no doubt trigger a headache or migraine. This also goes for waiting too long to eat after waking up.

Barometric pressure changes, hormone changes (pregnancy, monthly cycle), environmental exposure to chemicals and pollutants, smoking, medications, stress, eye strain as well as individual food sensitivities can all trigger headaches and migraines. Do the best you can to decrease the triggers listed above. Track your food and beverage intake along with your symptoms. Once you get to where headaches and migraines are under control and you have figured out your biggest triggers, you can slowly start to add back in some things in small amounts. However, caffeine and medications are no doubt the ones to be aware of. They slowly creep back in and the cycle can start all over again. And after being freed from the headache/migraine cycle, you don’t ever want to go down that path again. So here’s to your future being free from chronic headaches and migraines! Annnnnnnd go!

Get Rid of Your Headaches and Migraines For Good!

Get Rid of Your Headaches and Migraines For Good!

The Path to Healing: A 6-week series to help guide you on your path to health

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The path to healing is very personal. We each have our own journey in this life and it isn’t without pain or trauma. And at some point in our lives (or at multiple points), we get to the place where we can’t go on any longer in the state we are in. Whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual pain, we must face something within ourselves that needs attention. And our bodies are equipped to tell us we must pay attention or else the consequences can be devastating.

The body is a messenger. The state of our physical, emotional and spiritual health are sending us messages constantly. Sometimes they come in whispers and sometimes they come in shouts. At first we may hear a quiet message. It may come in the form of an emotion. Maybe we are feeling angry or sad or anxious. Or maybe the message presents itself in our physical body. We may have a headache or stomach ache. Sometimes these symptoms just come and they go. They aren’t significant or long lasting. They could be situational or circumstantial and not long lasting. But if something persists…if the “down” feeling persists and steals our joy for weeks or months. Or if the occasional headache turns into daily headaches or migraines, then we must pay attention. And thus begins our search and our path to healing.

I always believe that whenever we actively seek answers that we will find them. It may take longer than we had hoped for, but if we keep pressing on with our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open…eventually we will find the answers. Sometimes the answers bring immediate relief. Sometimes, we don’t like the answers and we fight them in our grief of letting go of something we have been holding onto. Even if it has been something that has been hurting us. And sometimes after we get our answers we feel overwhelmed by the steps ahead. This is the beginning of the healing process. And it may take time, but our bodies will tell us we are on the right path. That things are getting better. That we feel better. That it isn’t the easy path, but it is the only path to freedom. Stay on it and you will be rewarded. Go off course, and you will begin to feel that old familiar pain. This is designed to keep us on course. We must stay awake. We have to continue to pay attention to the messages our bodies are sending us.

I have come across many who are seeking answers in need of healing, in my practice and in my personal life. As I listen to the stories of physical or emotional pain or unrest, I always see how they are connected to our spirit. Something is amiss or unbalanced. It may be a job situation or a relationship or what we are eating or how we are taking care of ourselves. Something in our lives needs attention. We need to start working on making changes. And it is does require work. The first step is realizing and accepting this. Sometimes that is the most difficult step. And then the next step is beginning on our journey of healing. We are navigating into the unknown. But the answers will come as we are ready and do the work. This is the time to pay attention along the way, to keep our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open. You will get to the other side. Pain is often the catalyst to healing. To heal not only our physical and emotional pain, but also our spiritual pain. Then, when we are restored back to health, we will have the energy to live our life fully. To be able to do what we were meant to do in this life. My hope is that anyone who reads this, wherever you are in your journey, that you are reminded of this today. We were created to do great things in this life. We were created to live life abundantly. And I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, but I guarantee that it will definitely be worth it. Annnnd go!

The Hopeless, Worthless, Shameful, "I Don't Give a Sh*t Cycle"

Cavernous

I always come back to this prevalent theme amongst the human race. And unfortunately, I see it in my office all too often. Mostly in my weight loss patients. The years and years of dieting, losing weight only to gain it all back and then some. It is the hopeless, worthless, shameful, I don't give a sh*t cycle. But because these patients schedule the appointment and even more importantly, because they show up...there it is... a glimmer of hope, a moment of feeling worth it, a nudging thought of actually giving a sh*t. It is their time to break the cycle. And I'm there to help them. But the honest truth is this: it is going to take some work on their part. But the honest truth is also this: that it is absolutely going to be worth it. 

Five steps to break the hopeless, worthless, shameful, I don't give a sh*t cycle:

 

  1. Start eating food to nourish and heal your body.

    Forget about eating or not eating to lose weight. Forget about calories and fat grams and intermittent fasting and "evil" carbs. Forget about your friend or sister that lost 30 pounds in 3 days by eating food out of tiny plastic containers. This is your path and yours alone. And until you realize that food can be part of your healing and that food was intended for our survival and nourishment, then you will stay in the cycle. If you want to break this cycle, work on changing your thinking about food. A great example of this type of healthy thinking is in the words of Hippocrates, known as the "Father of Medicine" from almost 3,000 years ago: "Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food". Perfectly said.

  2. Change your thinking patterns, and rewire your brain.

    The cycle goes like this: Dieting/Restricting > Overeat > Shame/Guilt > Binge/Overeat > Shame/Guilt/What's the point thinking > Weight Gain > Dieting/Restricting.  I will also refer to this cycle as the "destructive cycle" or "unhealthy cycle" throughout this article. The first step to changing the pattern here is to STOP dieting and restricting. This in turn, will naturally result in less of a physiological desire/impulsivity to overeat. However, because this has been a powerful piece of the unhealthy cycle, it will happen again. But this time, when it does happen, you will have to try something different. And this takes practice. You will have to practice letting go of any shame and/or guilt that you may experience after overeating. Carl Jung's quote says it how it is: "Shame is a soul-eating emotion". So instead, after overeating or eating something "not so healthy", stop for a moment and practice saying to yourself, "Okay, so I ate more than I needed" or "I ate something that probably wasn't the healthiest thing for my mind and body". Then pay attention to how you feel. You may feel great after just eating something, or you may feel tired, bloated and/or sick. Then practice saying, "I am not going to beat myself up. Instead I will use it for a lesson. And I will reset at the next meal or snack with something healthy and nourishing for my mind and body". The more you practice stopping yourself and redirecting your thought patterns, you will also start to rewire your brain. Keep practicing. Practice doesn't make perfect, but it creates change and pushes you further away from the destructive cycle. And anyways, you weren't meant to be perfect. You were meant to be human. 

  3. Practice Mindfulness.

    Practicing mindfulness is a big part of this process. If you aren't ready to sit with some uncomfortable emotions and/or don't have the energy to push through the negative thinking and practice a different type of thinking, that's okay. It doesn't mean that you can't break the cycle, but it may take longer and you may not fully get to the root of why you are in the cycle to begin with. But that doesn't mean you can't move forward in breaking the cycle. You most certainly can. But I will pretty much guarantee you that at some point you will have to start practicing some mindfulness if you don't want to continually fight the pull of the destructive cycle. Once you have started nourishing your body, and practiced letting go of the shame and guilt if you go off course, then you may have to face some uncomfortable emotions. Often, we use food to soothe our emotions. It can become a coping mechanism to handle stress in our lives, to deal with anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. It can be how we connect with our family members or friends, but maybe on an unhealthy level. It can be the shame and secrecy we feel with binge eating at night when everyone is asleep while presenting a different well-controlled persona on the outside. There are many different emotions that are underlying our patterns of eating. And when we are breaking an unhealthy cycle, these emotions will emerge and they will come full force and will have to be acknowledged and dealt with in order to break the cycle. Often, a therapist is needed to help process these emotions in a healthy way. 

  4. Bring in the troops.

    Not all things were meant to be done alone. And breaking this destructive cycle is definitely one that I would recommend having support lined up for. This may mean friends, spouses/partners, family members, coworkers, doctors, etc. who are supportive of your well being. Maybe not the friend who says, "Aww cmon, lets go get ice cream and you will feel better!" (and you know who I am talking about). You may need a dietitian, therapist, life coach, personal trainer. Whatever and whomever you need to bring into your circle during this time of great change and transformation...bring them in and line them up. Let them in on your goals and how they can help you reach your goals. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You may have never asked for help in your entire life. But now you may need to practice that as well. Asking for help. And receiving it without guilt. Remember that there is a gift in giving and receiving. Everyone benefits.

  5. Document.

    Sometimes in our lives, it is important not to forget. The good and the bad. The little things. For example, the little changes along the way you have made. They may feel insignificant, but even if you practiced changing your thought patterns one time and practiced letting go of any guilt or shame and reset at the next meal...that is something!! Even if you asked one friend to support you in reaching your goals...that is also something! Write down what you have done so that you don't forget. It's also important not to forget how good or bad you feel. The human mind is created to have short-term memory when it comes to pain (ok maybe not long ago emotional pain from childhood), but the pain of feeling sick after overeating or a horrible hangover after drinking, even childbirth! Otherwise, we wouldn't continually repeat painful experiences (okay childbirth may be in a slightly different category). So write it down when you feel good or notice good things: ie. "I ate a piece of fruit with a handful of almonds today for a snack and had a lot more energy this afternoon. I wasn't starving when I sat down for dinner and I was able to control my portions". Also, consider writing down when you felt bad but using the healthier thought patterns: ie. "I was starving on my way home from work and went through the drive thru and ordered the #6 and now my stomach hurts and I feel sluggish. I was going to go workout but now I am dragging. So I am going to drink lots of water and have a healthy snack in a few hours and put on my tennis shoes and go for a walk anyways. Lesson learned". This way you are processing both the good and the bad so that you don't forget, and you are also practicing changing thought patterns. Which ultimately leads to breaking this destructive cycle.


    So now you have the 5 steps to breaking the hopeless, worthless, shameful, I don't give a sh*t cycle. Start putting them into practice. It will take time. It will take practice. It will likely be uncomfortable, possibly painful and definitely annoying at times. And I will guarantee you, it won't be perfect. But that's one of the best things about breaking this unhealthy cycle...you are learning that it is okay to not be perfect. I like to call that being imperfectly perfect:) Annnd go!

My Story: The Path to Becoming a Dietitian

Mountaintop

I was born into a family that always prioritized healthy eating and exercise. Both of my parents came from families that struggled with obesity and heart disease and they were set on keeping both at bay for themselves and their children. My dad was in the Air Force and started running as a young dad as a way to manage his stress and his weight. He would drag my older brother and I along with him on short, then longer runs. I ran my first 5k race at 9 years old and came in 3rd for women (granted it was a small race in the middle of Georgia before races were popular, but still). I remember always kicking it into high gear at the end of a race passing exhausted runners and feeling my leg hairs standing on end as the adrenaline rushed through my body (remember I was 9, no shaved legs yet). I loved running and I was on top of the world when I ran. My head was clear, my body alive, and my spirit soared. In the 1980's, my dad also discovered Adele Davis's book. A nutrition guru way before her time, Adele Davis preached about whole foods, no sugar, and vitamins and supplements. All of a sudden everything we ate was sprinkled with wheat germ, sugar cereals and white breads were banned from our house, and we had 6 or 7 huge vitamins lined up on our plates every morning. 

My mom also exercised regularly. She called it "brisk walking" and I thought it was what every mom did until I began to get baffled looks at the work "brisk".  Now that I am a mother, I look back and know that it was also her time to get out of the house and have some peace away from the family responsibilities. I remember when I was in elementary school, before Adele Davis, my mom and I would split Happy Meals. She was all about portion control. Maybe even to the point of anorexia. I know my mother feared obesity, which her own mother and sister had battled, along with many of her aunts. 

When I entered high school, I started running on the cross country team. I used running just like my dad did...to manage stress and control my weight. Running in high school with my team and by myself were some of my greatest memories. I always felt like I was on top of the world when I ran. And after I was finished, I felt so calm and relaxed. It almost felt like a drug to me. And maybe in some ways it was. I had always struggled with chronic anxiety and sometimes fell into deeper depressions. Running always kept both at bay. If I was feeling stressed or upset about something, I just went for a run. By the time I came back, all was well (disclaimer: sometimes this isn't the best approach). During high school, I studied sports nutrition and learned how to feed my body so that I could perform my best. As I fine tuned my diet, my times improved drastically. This was the beginning of my interest in nutrition and dietetics. As I entered college as a freshman, the dining hall called my name and I was drawn to the bins of Frosted Flakes, white rolls, pasta, frozen yogurt and fresh baked cookies. Everything that had been forbidden at home was now available 24/7 and I could have as much as I wanted. Late night pizza orders in the dorms were a way of bonding with my girlfriends and there was A LOT of bonding going on. My weight went up 35 pounds in that first year at college. I looked in the mirror and was not happy with what I saw. But as a dietetics student, I knew what I had to do. It was just a matter of doing it. So back to the gym I went. Back to the running and portion controlling. I started going to Mrs. Greens, the campus salad bar, and started avoiding the dining hall. I refused to eat pizza at 3 in the morning. And the weight started to slowly come off. In many ways, being a dietitian has held me accountable to always eating healthy and exercising. I know that I have to represent health, and the pressure is pretty high. But I am far from perfect. I will never tell anyone that I eat perfectly. And I never expect perfection from my patients. I went through 4 pregnancies and I had my fair share of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream and pizza. I stopped running during my pregnancies which was hard to do. But I "brisk walked" (thanks Mom) before and during each one. And after I recovered from my pregnancies, I always went back to running. 

Two years ago, I went through a very difficult separation and divorce and I found myself on the other side: losing weight, unable to run and feeling undernourished. I had to use what I had learned as a dietitian to sometimes force feed myself, to give myself nourishment in order to have the strength to get through very hard days for myself and my children. And sometimes that meant making protein shakes and adding fruits and vegetables when I didn't feel like eating. And I had to continue to cook healthy meals for my children and myself when I didn't have the time or the energy. But I always knew that this is one of the things that would pull me through. If I could keep my body healthy, I would make it through. 

One amazing thing that came out of the dark days over the last two years, was my private practice. I wasn't even thinking about starting my own business. I had given up on that dream years ago as I started having children. But one day, I was out with my friends looking at office spaces for them. And before I knew it, I was signing on the dotted line for my own office. I had no idea how to move forward in building a practice. But step by step, I figured it out. As I continue to do every day as my business grows. I'm looking forward now to my second year of business. My business plan this year is different than last. Now that I have a year's worth of experiences behind me, I am learning what I need to do to move forward. I am looking forward to another year of helping others become the healthiest versions of themselves while I do the same. I push them as I push myself. I have compassion for them and their path as I do the same for myself. But for right now, I am right where I need to be. Being a mother, a dietitian, a business owner, and having amazing friends and family by my side every day. Those are the things that matter to me. My path, although it has been far from easy, has been perfect for me. And I'm looking forward to where it brings me to next. Annnd here I go.

Change

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Every time I meet a new patient in my practice, there is a great mystery in each of them I begin to try to understand...what their greatest motivators are and what their greatest barriers are...to change. 

Change isn't easy for anyone. But for some, the motivators may be a new health diagnosis that scares them to make changes. Or it may be realizing that they have no energy or that their quality of life is affected by their weight. It may be that they have come from generations of obesity and now that they have children, it's time to break the cycle. 

But it's the barriers to change that are even more challenging and take more time to uncover. Sometimes it's slowly sifting through the sand until they are discovered one by one. They can be something as simple as a bad habit. But they can also be tied to something deep inside of us. It could be that we were taught that food represents love and the more food the better. It could be that we are used to being overweight and thinking of ourselves that way. It could be a fear of failing again, or even more difficult to discover is that we are afraid to succeed. Sometimes we don't want to give up some of these things that have created us even if they are unhealthy. 

Even though I am a dietitian, much of what I do is also helping others discover and process something inside of themselves that will help them reach their wellness goals. It's a quicker journey for some and a longer one for others. But as they learn some new things about themselves, these discoveries will begin to encompass every aspect of their life. Other areas inside of them that have been closed off, will be touched and transformed.

What motivates you? What prevents you from getting to where you want to be? Sift through the sand and discover some new things about yourself. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.

The Undernourished

Boost

I need to talk about the all too common patient I see. The undernourished. From the outside you won't see the signs. Talking to them over coffee or a drink, you could never tell. They are at the gym on a regular basis. Putting everything they have into their workout. You wouldn't ever label them as undernourished. But they are. Their calorie intake is sometimes half of what their body needs just to function. They are starving themselves of essential energy usually from carbohydrates. They are burning off calories at the gym that their body needs to circulate blood, breathe, digest, think. They skip meals, say no thank you I can't eat that. Serve food to their family but not to themselves. 

But they are starving. 

Their metabolism has slowed for survival. For the body to be able to survive, metabolic function slows. The heart beats, the lungs breathe but other functions slow to preserve life. Calories go into storage as fat. Cognitive function is not as sharp as before. Energy levels drop. Immunity is depressed. 

"You have to eat more to lose weight". Every time I say this the response is the same. "Really? Ugh". 

It's hard to nourish ourselves sometimes. To consume more. We are used to depriving ourselves to reach our goals. When in fact we must do the opposite. We must nourish ourselves. We must fill our bodies with healthy, wholesome foods. And then our bodies will in turn work the way they were meant to work. To fuel our mind, our body and our spirit so that we perform at our best. If you are undernourished, slowly starting to add more healthy foods will increase metabolism and the weight will begin to come off. Sometimes it's hard to grasp this concept of eating more to lose weight. We are used to restricting ourselves. But you have to the trust the process. You will be amazed at how you feel when you nourish yourself. Annnd go 💪🏼💜

The Forgotten

Liberation

Sixty percent of my clients are women. Many of them are mothers, caregivers, full-time working women. Successful in countless ways. But they come into my office. Defeated. Their health has suffered. Their bodies have suffered. The years, maybe even decades, of taking care of children, friends, partners, spouses, parents have taken their toll. They've forgotten one thing. Themselves. 

I have had a few younger women in their twenties and early thirties come in who are set on getting in shape. Their goals are to feel better and to do something healthy for themselves. I like to tell them how great I think it is that they are doing this for themselves now. Establishing healthy habits now that they can carry with them throughout their careers, potential motherhood, etc. Every time I say this I see them as they process the idea. Is it too much? Is it selfish of me? Maybe I should be doing more for others? But then I remind them, if you take care of yourself you are setting an example. Being healthy is contagious. You will be able to help others with more energy and for more years to come. So go on. Drop the guilt. Focus on being healthy. It's okay to care for yourself as much as you care for others. 💜💪🏼

Our Transformation

Blacksmithing

Have you heard the story about the blacksmith? He sits down to decide  what he wants to create. Whatever he makes, it is always one-of-a kind. Then he has to prepare the fire. He adds the coal, and uses the blower to breathe oxygen into the fire to bring it to the temperature he needs. Next he puts the metal into the depth of the fire. He also watches the color of the metal to tell when it is ready to be worked. Once the metal reaches the temperature he wants, he takes it out of the fire and puts it on the anvil, he lifts the hammer and starts to pound the metal to give way to the shape it’s intended to be. But a blacksmith doesn’t just bang away at the metal. It is often a very gentle and intentional strike of the hammer to create the desired effect. This process is repeated many times before the desired shape occurs. Depending on the use of the formed metal, a wax coating may be added after it is allowed to cool and then rubbed in to bring out the color of the steel and bring a soft luster to the finish. It’s a long process and it’s not easy, it takes work, but in the end the product is perfect. Just as the blacksmith had imagined his creation. 

And just like the metal that goes through the fire and is transformed into a beautiful piece of art, so are we transformed when we go through the fires in our lives. The pain, gently and sometimes not so gently, shapes us. We must learn to surrender to the difficulties that we face. To look at pain as necessary to create the change within us. 

Reflect on this today: You are right where you need to be. You are going right where you need to go. You are becoming who you were meant to become. There are great things coming your way. Just hold on. You WILL find them. 

To Snack, or Not to Snack

Healthy Spread

When we go too long between meals and snacks, our blood glucose levels can drop causing us to feel hungry, shaky, nervous, irritated or even sick. If we don't have a snack or meal soon, we start on our hunt for something to eat. Our judgement is clouded as we impulsively grab something that will increase our blood glucose levels rapidly. This would typically be a calorie-dense food high in sugar or fat or both. And these days, those foods are readily available. Think about when you were too busy for lunch at work and on the way home you went through the drive through and ordered that Super-Sized meal at a fast food restaurant or ate a sleeve of oreo cookies when you got home (okay if you haven't done this before you are the exception to the rule, but most of you reading this probably have once or twice).

Try not to go longer than 4-5 waking hours between meals and snacks. Always make sure to include some sort of protein (preferably 8 grams of protein or higher) with your snack. Adding protein will increase satiety (make you feel fuller and for longer), will stabilize your blood glucose levels and help you maintain lean body mass as you are losing weight. A combination of a small amount of healthy carbohydrate with a healthy protein and even a little fat can make the perfect snack that will help you keep your appetite and blood glucose levels in check. 

Here are some suggestions for healthy and tasty high protein snacks:

  • 1/2 cup of low fat cottage cheese with added pineapple, peaches or berries

  • homemade turkey or beef meatballs with tomato sauce, celery sticks for fiber and crunch

  • Steamed edamame (optional sea salt if you do not have a health problem that requires a low sodium diet)

  • Slim chicken tacos (small tortilla with grilled chicken, leafy greens and plain yogurt or salsa)

  • Healthy egg muffin cups with sautéed vegetables

  • Tuna salad stacker - make tuna salad with celery and top 5-6 whole grain crackers with tasty tuna salad

  • Strawberry protein shake - 2 scoops whey protein powder, 1/4 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup low fat milk or almond milk and ice...blend and drink

  • Caprese salad made with cherry tomatoes, mozz balls, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top

  • Greek yogurt (Greek is better than regular yogurt because of the higher protein content). Try Chobani Greek Yogurt100 calorie Whips. Chobani uses stevia instead of sucralose which is a healthier alternative

  • Handful of unsalted or lightly salted almonds with 2 mozz cheese sticks

  • 1-2 Tablespoons of natural peanut butter with 1 small organic apple

'Tis the Season to be Jolly

Celebrate!

Enjoy your holiday cocktails without adding extra calories and sugar.

  1. Vodka Seltzer with a lemon or lime. Using seltzer as a mixer is a great way too cut calories. Squeeze in some extra flavor with fruit.

  2. Bloody Mary. Tomato juice is 20 calories per 4 ounces. Choose low sodium instead of a mix.

  3. Moscow Mule. Try mixing a splash of ginger beer with vodka, and muddled limes. Skip the simple syrup, and save on calories.

  4. Light Cosmopolitan. Mix raspberry infused vodka with soda water, lime, and a splash of cranberry juice.

  5. Red Wine. Win-win with red wine. Packed full of heart healthy antioxidants. In moderation of course.

  6. Prosecco Spritzer. Four ounces of champagne mixed with flavored seltzer. Only 90 calories.

Adapted from Evolution Nutrition Counseling’s Evolution’s Edibles

Being Gentle With Ourselves

Moving forward in your life. Learning from the past. Be gentle with yourself.

Moving forward in your life. Learning from the past. Be gentle with yourself.

It's time to give yourself a break. Quit being so hard on yourself. Let go of perfection. Let go of the fact that you may have failed at something. Let go of mistakes. You are human. It is inevitable. Forgive yourself if you need to. Make a list of your mistakes and light it on fire. It is behind you. Start fresh today. Only this time try being gentle with yourself. Understand that your path won't be perfect. It will be filled with road blocks and mistakes and failures. The blessing is that this is your chance to practice getting up, wiping off the dirt and the tears, and looking at the challenge straight in the face, and telling yourself that it's okay. That you are learning. That you will get through this. That you will get to the other side. Because this is your path. It may not be pretty, but it is perfectly designed just for you. Who wants a pretty path anyways? You want it to be rocky. You want the terrain to be rough. Because when you make it out to the other side, you won't ever want to go back. Sometimes, you need to throw a match down behind you. Don't worry about burning bridges. Maybe the bridge behind you needs to be engulfed in flames. How else will you be forced to look forward and face what is ahead? There is no turning back now. You have the strength. You can do this. Don't look back. You have used your past to give you the strength to do this. Now get up. Wipe off the dirt. Wipe off those tears. Hold your head up high. Look forward. You've got this! Aaaaaannnnd GO! 

Inspiration

Sometimes we need a little inspiration. Surround yourself with people and things who are positive.

Sometimes we need a little inspiration. Surround yourself with people and things who are positive.

I love inspirational quotes. Sometimes when I am feeling defeated, I like to pull up quotes that speak to me. Inspirational sayings that push me past that defeated feeling, to remember why I am working hard toward my goals. Whether it is trying to be the best mom I can be, or being the best friend I can be, or sometimes it is even doing laundry for 4 little kids...I often need a little encouragement. I even made sure that the artwork I put around my house and office are encouraging. I want to be reminded that it is important to keep my focus on the goal. Of being my best. I also want to remind my children. I want them to grow up knowing that we get one life. That it's important that we don't take it for granted. And that they understand that everything they do is important. Every action and every deed. How they treat others. How they treat themselves. I want to remind my patients of that too. That I will give them my best. If I can do that for everyone in my life, then my hope is that they can take that with them and pass it on. It's the ripple effect. How we treat others ripples out, like small waves on the water. And even if I haven't seen with my own eyes the effect of those small waves, I still know in my heart that those waves spread far and wide, and they will keep going even after I am long gone. 

Mind. Body. Soul.

Mind. Body. Soul. We must ensure we are taking care of all three.

Mind. Body. Soul. We must ensure we are taking care of all three.

Mind, body and spirit. The three are connected. If one is out of sync, the others fall apart. How do we align the mind, body and spirit? We must ensure we are taking care of all three. 

Your mind. Begin by asking yourself these questions: How am I taking care of my mind? Am I putting positive or negative information into my mind? How am I managing stress in my life? How are my relationships with others? Am I challenging my mind with learning new skills or gaining new knowledge? Am I avoiding or at least limiting substances (such as alcohol) that might alter my mind? 

Your body. Try to answer these questions honestly: How am I taking care of my body? Am I getting enough physical activity? Am I putting healthy food into my  body? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I having any physical symptoms that I need to address with a doctor? Am I always tired, hungry, in pain, etc?

Your spirit.How you define your spirit is very personal. For some, it may be your spiritual life, such as being a part of something greater than yourself. You may define it as God or nature or the universe. It could be speaking your truth, or following your dreams. However you define your spirit, this is just as important as the mind and body. Begin by thinking about your definition of spirit, then you can ask yourself these questions: How am I taking care of my spirit? What else can I do to take care of my spirit? Do I feel a sense of peace or do I feel frazzled and stressed most of the time? What is my purpose here in this life? These may be difficult questions to answer.

Journaling or talking to a trusted friend or therapist can help you to process your questions and answers. This is the beginning of real change. Be patient with yourself. Be completely honest with yourself. Try not to be critical of your answers. They are not anyone else's answers except yours. They will help you to make the changes you need in your life. To be the person you are meant to be. When the mind, body and spirit are in alignment, you are at your best. Your mind, body and spirit are powerful. Take care of them. And they will take care of you.