5 Things You Need to Make a Lifestyle Change

Let me preface this by saying: everyone is different. These are 5 things I needed, and 5 things I’ve seen many other people need, but what you need may be different. Making changes requires a lot of reflection and it’s very specific to each individual, so trust yourself to figure out what you need!

reason : Why do you want or need to make a change?

In my case, I was finally tired of not feeling my best. I wasn’t quite sure how I could feel, but my doctor seemed convinced that I could feel better. I had a laundry list of symptoms that turned out to be the result of chronic autoimmune disease, so my motivation lay in alleviating those symptoms.

Once you’ve identified an area of your life that you want to improve, ask yourself this question, which I learned in the beginnings of my health coaching training:

What does your body need to heal itself?

The theory of non-western medicine is that people know their own bodies better than health professionals do. This is contrary to what we’re led to believe: if something’s wrong, doctors know how to fix it, right?

Wrong. Or, right, but only some of the time. The goal of health coaching is to empower people to listen to the data coming from their own bodies. Are you tired? Are you stressed? Do you have eczema? Allergies? Asthma? Do you need Adderall to focus or Nyquil to sleep? Your body is in a state of stress in all those cases. Making a change will be more successful with the identification of that stressor. There may be a lot – in that case, pick one to address. Generally, when one thing starts falling into place, it has a domino effect.

A goal : Change goals must be specific and measurable.

Lifestyle changes require a lot of willpower, and the brain has limited reserves of willpower. Therefore, willpower must be focused in an intentional way. For instance, instead of “eat better,” decide exactly how you want to eat better. Do you want to eat more veggies? “Include leafy greens in at least two meals per day for a week.” Drink more water? “Drink at least 60 oz per day of water for the next 30 days.” The gray areas are totally removed from these goals, and there is an opportunity to do more than your goal, increasing feelings of success.

Goals like this enable mini-successes which replenish willpower reserves. It’s easy to measure whether you’ve accomplished them, so it’s easier to stick to them. It’s also easier to buy into a change for just a week, or just thirty days, allowing small and incremental changes in lifestyle until they become habitual behaviors.

Support : Love and encouragement, from yourself and others, enables the achievement of goals!

Everyone needs different kinds of support. In my world, a good support system is comprised of people that are able to cheer me on when I’ve had a success, are interested in what I’m working on, and hold me accountable for my intentions. People who shut down, shame, or get competitive about lifestyle behaviors are not your lifestyle-change friends. It’s okay, they can be your fun friends, but you need others to provide all the unconditional encouragement that you need as you exert willpower to make a change!

Also, whatever change you’re making, odds are that someone else has made it already. Either this person is in your personal community, or they’re in some social media community somewhere. Instagram has many powerful sources of information and inspiration in the form of wellness bloggers, or registered dieticians and health coaches. Which brings me to….

Inspiration : Keep up your energy by staying inspired!

Embarking on a new goal can be fun. In my wellness journey thus far, I’ve loved learning new tricks in the kitchen, making new recipes, and absorbing new information about health and wellness. It isn’t always easy, which is why inspiration is so important. In those moments when it feels so boring, so frustrating, and so hard, there is usually a new dish that can rekindle some newfound creativity.

Even yesterday, as I contemplated beginning the Autoimmune Protocol for healing my thyroid, I went to the bookstore and bought a new cookbook full of recipes. It totally reinspired my meal planning and made me excited to start the week!

Perspective : The most famous line in the whole30 is a tough love line:

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It is followed by the admission that yes, it will be hard. Food, especially, is an emotional, social, cultural, personal issue that can be very triggering for people. Breaking habits is notoriously hard, because they’re habits, a.k.a. deeply entrenched, automatic behaviors. But, I think this quote is important to remember. Many people said, when I told them about the Whole30, “I could never give up (insert food here).” Having a growth mindset has been the most liberating thing for me. My attitude going into January was “yes, I can do it!” Once I did, it only made it easier to believe.

You can do it, too!

 

5 Things You Need to Make a Lifestyle Change

Where I’ve Been // Where I’m Going

Hello!

I’m back! From multiple things. I’m back from vacation, back from the blogging hiatus, and back in action. It is now summer break, when the most stressful part of my day is deciding in which coffee shop to do my personal projects. I am deeming this summer “self-care summer,” like the milennial cliché that I am, because I think it’s in my best interest to figure out how to take care of myself before next year hits.

Next year, I will be:

  • Taking a year-long nutrition coaching certification course online through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
  • Beginning a two-year Master of Arts in Psychology
  • Working 30ish hours a week as a Latin teacher

That probably suffices to explain why I will have to be really on top of my self-care game.

Since I’ve sort of changed the theme of my blog, here is an update on my health-related journey. Some of you may remember that I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition wherein the body produces antibodies that attack my own thyroid cells. I’ve had it for a long time. Last year, I went to a naturopathic doctor for the first time and we discovered through blood tests that the medication I’d been prescribed the year before wasn’t working.

Here were my stats in November of 2016:

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A high level of TSH basically means that I have high level of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone in my bloodstream. This indicates that I have Hypothyroidism, because my thyroid is underproducing so much that it requires more and more stimulation to produce even the base amount of hormone. As you can see, it was very high. My doctor said the ideal for her is really around 1.

TPO Ab and Thyroglobulin Antibody are both thyroid hormone-attacking antibodies. If those are present in addition to high TSH levels, it indicates that the thyroid disorder is autoimmune in nature, aka Hashimoto’s. As you can see in my stats, I was pretty critically overproducing those guys.

So, after those first tests, we upped the dosage of Levothyroxine that I was taking – this is basically a synthetic hormone replacement meant to bring down levels of TSH. This next set is from January.

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So, TSH came down quite a bit, but my antibody levels actually went up. My doctor’s explanation was all of the cake and cookies and chocolate – Christmas treats – that I had consumed. Both of these blood tests were pre-Whole30.

In January, I started my second Whole30 round. Those of you who have been following that journey know about this – if you don’t, read back a few posts!

The Whole30ish eating continued through February, March, and I did another strict round in April. To this day, I haven’t had a single meal with soy, gluten, dairy, chicken eggs, or any grains – besides rice and quinoa (maybe a bite or two of a baked good here and there, which I promptly reacted to!).

And, drum roll please….

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Look at that TSH! That was achieved by adding some to my thyroid med dosage (up to 150 mg) and, I like to think, my super clean eating.

However, I am still in the middle of this journey to healing my thyroid. As shown above, my antibodies are still pretty high. At my most recent appointment last week, I suggested (yep, me – I must have a masochistic streak) that I try the Autoimmune Protocol. It’s basically Whole30, although honey and maple syrup are allowed, but without nuts, seeds, eggs, and nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers…), as well as any kind of additive. This unfortunately includes “natural flavor” – goodbye LaCroix – as well as all types of “gum,” which are frequently added as thickeners to coconut milks and things of that nature.

The emphasis with AIP is the consumption of nutrient-dense foods that are anti-inflammatory, meaning they don’t disrupt things in my system.

It’s been a day and a half, and I’ve survived so far! Stay tuned for more things I’ve learned along the way, tips n tricks, reflections, etc.

Wishing everyone the best in all their journeys!

 

 

 

Where I’ve Been // Where I’m Going

(Zi)on the Road to the Grand Canyon

Please excuse the punny title. Dylan doesn’t quite approve, but he doesn’t really have to…I like it ;).

I am finally writing again about ADVENTURES! As I said in Summer Dreams, I have the summer off. It’s finally here: no more getting up at 5:30 to work out before working all day, breakfast and lunch and dinner prepped and ready the night before. No more stressful days with children and exhausted evenings of Netflix.

I make it sound pretty terrible – it’s really not. I do like my job. But, it was definitely wearing me out! It’s definitely a struggle sometimes to remain in balance. It will be much worse next year, with grad school and work and my nutrition program (yep!), but my hope is that the bustle will energize me.

Summer adventures are in full swing, and it’s only Day 3 of summer. Dylan and I drove for 13 hours yesterday to Salt Lake City. My main goal in SLC was to stalk Melissa Hartwig, inventor of Whole30 (no sightings yet). The secondary goal is to hike, hang out in coffee shops, and settle into two weeks of desert sun and outdoor escapades.

First impressions: it’s WARM! We left the cold and rain behind and found the sun. It’s awesome (but I am wearing so so so much sunscreen on my pale white PNW skin – Ghost Anne with Hat).

Dylan and I are making an effort to cook and eat whole foods as much as we do at home. I love having his support, and I think he loves the lifestyle as much as I do (win). In fact, it has stopped being “the whole30” and has started being my life. It’s honestly not worth deviating from when your breakfast is a kale and sausage omelette with some vanilla almond milk yogurt. And matcha tea with honey.

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Our first day, today, has been amazing. We slept in, then went for a hike on SLC’s “living room” trail. It was about three miles, uphill up and downhill down. It was tiring and hot, but short enough that we just got great exercise. Plus, the views:

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It’s called “Living Room” because there are chairs built out of rocks in the hillside. We reclined for a bit and had some snacks.

Now we’re out and about, having coffee and working. Dylan is not as lucky as me – no teacher perk summer vacation for him. Too bad 🙂

Next up: Day 2 in SLC and off to Zion!

(Zi)on the Road to the Grand Canyon

Summer Dreams

The weather is FINALLY hot, guys. The sun came out of hiding. Thank Zeus. Er, I’m sorry, Helios – let’s keep it going, buddy.

I am definitely a cold-weather person at heart. But let’s just say that the past FOUR DAYS of sun have been the LONGEST STRETCH of sunny weather since SEPTEMBER??? Sorry, I’ll stop yelling. It’s been a rough winter.

So anyway, this weather has gotten me thinking – hard – and when I’m supposed to be doing other things – about all the fun things I want to do this summer. Here are my summer dreams:

Become a wellness blogger. One amazing thing that has come out of the Whole30 is that I have discovered this community of people on the interwebs that are doing the whole food/healthy lifestyle thing in really down-to-earth ways. They’ve become my main sources of inspiration and information as I embark on this journey to figure out what the heck is inflaming my system. I have since become really interested in the idea that food and mental health are very connected, and that nutrition could be the key to reducing things like anxiety and boosting peoples’ moods. My goal for the summer is to explore wellness and see what I can give back to this amazing group of influencers!

Read. Lots. Now is the moment when I casually drop into my blog post that I am going to grad school in the Fall. Starting in September, I will be a student of humanistic psychology with the goal of becoming a therapist? Although I still harbor secret dreams of being a professor and researcher and writing a book. And I will be working as well. So, I want to get a head start on my reading for next year as well as dive into the stack of books I’ve had sitting next to my bed forrrrrrever. I can’t wait to be #learning again.

Plan the heck out of next year. Planning is something that I just will not have time to do, and it is also probably the most important thing that I do as a teacher (along with manage the class and stuff like that of course). When I start the year, I want my projects planned out for each level so that I know my major units and when things will be assigned and due. It’ll be easier than last year, because last year I was going in blind!

Do yoga and barre and run and dance and walk and hike and camp and swim and…One of the major, like indescribably major, benefits of getting my health things figured out is that I have way more energy than ever before. A combination of better thyroid performance and less chronic inflammation (no more asthma) makes it so much more fun to exercise! I really can’t believe that I was missing out on this feeling. Plus, with the weather, I just wanna get outside. It calms my mood and body system like no other thing does.

Ciao for now. Time to get back to work. TTY soon 🙂

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Summer Dreams

What Does Self-Love Feel Like?

It’s a sad truth: people have a hard time loving themselves. I think we all have moments.

I was in a therapy group in college that talked about women’s issues, such as: body image, women in society, sexuality, relationships (familial and friendly included), and health (mental and physical). It was life-changing for many reasons, but one activity that I remember in particular was as follows:

Choose a part of your body (or yourself) that you tend to be very negative about. Maybe you think your stomach has an extra roll or two. Maybe it’s your skin, which breaks out (with acne? with eczema?) at the worst times. Maybe it’s a personality trait (too bossy? too needy? too sensitive?).

Write a letter to yourself, from its perspective. Here’s an example.

Dear Anne,

When you look at me in disgust and wish I went away, it makes me more angry. I can feel your wrath about me in the stress hormones which elevate in your bloodstream. I can’t really help that I show up; I just follow what your body tells me to do. If you really want to help me, you can do it by taking care of yourself. Make sure that what you eat isn’t triggering an immune response. If you do trigger me once in a while, it’s okay – I’ll always forgive you and calm down again. But really, I am happiest when you are happiest, because that’s when you make the best choices for yourself (and for me).

Love, eczema.

I think that sometimes I get this idea in my head that making a change involves criticizing the status quo. It’s the idea that in order to move forward, I have to be dissatisfied with something in my present situation. It’s true that dissatisfaction is really worth listening to – but listening to it must be done lovingly.

Think about the language we use, particularly when it comes to exercise and eating. Some of us aren’t satisfied unless we’ve beat ourselves up at the gym, unless we’re in pain by the time the workout is over – unless we punish ourselves by not giving in and eating that cupcake, because we haven’t earned it. We beat our muscles into existence and our fat into submission. Our bodies become outlets for our angst and the objects of our discontent.

Melissa Hartwig, in Food Freedom Forever, wrote the following (I may be paraphrasing):

“What if food is just food, and our choices are just our choices?”

This struck a huge chord with me. Even if I’ve never personally had disordered eating habits (a real danger in this toxic food culture), I realized that I have always been low-key angsty about my food and exercise. If I wanted a cookie, I did think about how I hadn’t exercised enough that day. When I exercised, I could eat more. When I felt bloated or frustrated with my appearance, it was my fault for not exercising and eating too much.

Making these lifestyle changes has introduced a new way of thinking about all of this.

When you’re listening to your body – eating the right food for you, moving at the right times, and otherwise nourishing your body with whatever it needs – there’s just simply nothing to worry about.

I don’t habitually think about how much I’m eating, how much I’m exercising, or whether my body is adequate or inadequate in appearance anymore. All that matters is how it is functioning.

Do I get hungry too often? I need to eat more protein. Do I feel bloated or icky? Maybe what I ate wasn’t the right thing for that moment. Does it feel stiff or sore? Maybe I need a walk, or gentle stretching. Is it buzzing and jittery? Maybe I have lots of energy to burn, and I need to do a barre class or a run.

In short, taking care of myself means giving myself what I need, when I need it. Sometimes I mess up, and that’s fine – it’s not so hard to get back on track when there’s not a ton of pressure or really high stakes. Nothing is “failure,” or “success.” There are only things that work for me at that time, and things that don’t happen to work then, but might eventually. This listening and responding takes daily practice, and is hard to figure out sometimes.

But, this is the freedom that Melissa refers to: freedom from all the pressure and anxiety that often plagues our minds and bodies.

Some people probably naturally respond to themselves in this way. It took a long time for me to learn it. It started with my first Whole30, when I realized what an impact I could have on myself by feeding me properly. Physical changes made mental changes, and vice versa, in a lovely circle.

Now I am convinced that in order to be healthy, I must try to love myself. If I love myself, I care for myself as I would care for someone I love. And it’s important, because it makes it much easier to feel secure, and happy, and to care for others as well.

My personal challenge, and yours too if you want: next time I find myself frustrated or angsty about something in my body or mind that’s not right, I will ask myself: what do I really need right now to feel loved?

And if it’s a cupcake, absolutely go for it. 🙂

 

 

 

What Does Self-Love Feel Like?

People to Follow

As I got more and more into my Whole30 journey, I collected new blogs, Instagram accounts, and cookbooks that served as great resources when I needed inspiration. I thought I’d share some of them here.

Against All Grain: Danielle Walker makes amazing recipes. I have two of her books, Celebrations and Against All Grain, and I like looking through both for new meals to try. I use her recipe for nut milk, which is super simple and delicious!

Shut the Kale Up: Her Instagram is more in-depth than her website, but she is generally just so cool. Her bowls are drool-worthy and her son is adorable. She has lots of cool wisdom to share, and is very real about her lifestyle and how personalized everyone’s lifestyle should be.

Minimalist Baker: Dana makes recipes that are fast, easy, and amazing. Her vegan parmesan cheese is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while, and her baked goods are allergy friendly and always look scrumptious. I’ve made a variation of her vegan cheese several times. Cashews make amazing dairy replacement products, who knew!?

Stupid Easy Paleo: She’s a badass. Her recipes are stupid easy and great.

Living Loving Paleo: This website also has some great Whole30 recipes.

Real Food With Dana:  Another Dana! This girl is super fun, and she makes some great food art.

The other things I use all the time for recipe inspiration are the Whole30 Cookbook and the original Whole30 book. I’ve recommended both to friends and family members and everyone loves them. The recipes are simple, easy, and usually all the ingredients are things people have on hand. I highly recommend them – even if you aren’t doing a Whole30 anytime soon, or ever.

Hope you enjoy these resources! Message or comment if you’ve found some hidden gems that I haven’t.

 

 

 

People to Follow

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Three Steps Forward

It sounds like a dance move, doesn’t it? Well, that’s me: always Dancin’ With Myself .

In my post on Food and Feelings last time, I talked about my meltdown of a couple of weeks ago, when things just seemed so hard. After that, I was given the green light to add some things that I’d taken out – Thai food (no soy, though), rice, maybe quinoa or other gluten free grains, and mayyyybe paleo sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup.

For the first week, this went okay. I accidentally ate soy sauce because there was free octopus salad at my favorite sushi bar. Cue hand hives. It happened about ten minutes post-consumption: tiny red, itchy spots under my skin. Cue feelings of guilt, frustration, and general angst about the unfairness of it all.

In the following two weeks, my forays out of the Whole30 guidelines included rice cakes, almond flour crackers from Simple Mills (this was really made with all compliant ingredients, but is an SWYPO situation), and coconut butter cups from Eating Evolved (coconut sugar). I also had half a girl scout cookie, and…I think that’s it. Until last weekend.

It was my friend’s going away party. I was prepared with compliantly roasted chips and paleo chili. I swung by Trader Joe’s to pick up some gin and carbonated water – the first alcohol I’d have in 2017. When I arrived, I spontaneously decided that this would be a YOLO night. No more worrying about ingredients, no more label-reading or sticking just to what I knew I could consume without repercussions. So, throughout the evening, I consumed: dark chocolate peanut butter cups, gin and soda water, tequila, tomato (in the chili), and a slice of cake.

It doesn’t sound like much. It didn’t feel like much. But, the next morning, I instantly decided: NOT worth it.

Melissa Hartwig, in Food Freedom Forever, promotes a really great system for enacting the “food freedom” that comes post-Whole30. True food freedom is all about making very mindful choices and critically thinking about what you put into your body.

For example – you will not suddenly want to eat more cake when it’s your birthday. Your body doesn’t know it’s your birthday. If you see some amazing treat, Melissa challenges you to decide, with thorough and conscientious thinking, whether that treat is “worth it.” In other words: armed with the information that Whole30 gave you about how that will affect your body, what is the best course of action? It’s sometimes to eat it… and sometimes, it’s to not eat it.

My first mistake was the gin. I had maybe two drinks of it, but it impacted my ability to make mindful choices for the rest of the evening. My other mistake was deciding to throw the rules out the window. I could have had a few peanut butter cups and been satisfied. But, because I was eating “whatever,” I had to try everything.

Why wasn’t it worth it? For the whole day afterward, I was in bed with a variety of symptoms: stomach distress, a massive headache, fatigue, bloating, and suddenly worsened eczema. I was angsty and irascible. On Sunday, I had a glass of wine with friends. Not only is alcohol not great because it annihilates gut bacteria, but I am also sensitive to grapes, sugar and brewing yeast; this did not go well either. Going back to work on Monday was the worst. I slept poorly for a few days in a row, waking up stressed in the early morning. My mood was depressed; I was less patient and much less fun with the kids.

On Wednesday, I talked to my doctor. She told me to go back to what I know works for me: Whole30 eating. After 14 days of that, I’m supposed to reintroduce a medical food she prescribed me for people with malabsorption. It has sugar in it, so I have to monitor my reaction and make sure it’s okay for me to consume. Round 3, Day 6.

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This stuff is pretty delicious, though…

I follow so many bloggers now who are Whole30, Paleo, health nutty clean eaters. They are often very inspiring, because they show me that it’s possible to get where I want to go. But sometimes, looking at their social media accounts makes me feel like they’ve achieved a perfection that I haven’t achieved yet (that cliché instagram probem). My life right now feels out of balance.

I think it’s important to hear from people in this stage, the struggle to back in balance: the stage where you don’t think it will ever happen, and it feels really hard, and you’re in the middle of this giant life change which exhausts your willpower muscles to a maximum. 

But, in the back of my mind, I know that I’m on a right track. My diet right now includes so many nutrients, so much produce, and so much variety. I am getting better at combining simple ingredients to make varied and delicious meals, and I am really comfortable in the kitchen.

People often express pity that I can’t eat all of the things. My external response is: yeah, it’s hard. My internal response is: but, it’s not worth it for me to eat like I used to. What I put in my body has too much physical, mental and emotional impact on me to ignore. It wasn’t always this way, and I hope it won’t always be this way, but for now I’m embracing my reality and thanking this experience for forcing me into a healthful and nourishing lifestyle.

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New haircuts do wonders for morale!

On that note, I’m thinking of starting a project: developing my blog even more, as if it were my full-time job. If I were to write much more often, what do you want to hear? What do you like about my blog? What do you wish I did differently/more of? You can help by leaving a comment addressing any and all of these questions. Let’s learn and grow together :). 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Three Steps Forward