A Lesson From Baby Anne

I have a little baby as a neighbor. I’ve become friends with her mom, so I get to see her quite often. Not only does she always brighten my day, she also frequently puts things that I’m thinking about into perspective.

As humans grow, we receive messages about our worthiness, our likability, and our identity. They come from our families. They come from our friends. They come from the particular culture of our hometown. They come from the media, whose influence is only growing as our world becomes more connected.  They even come from advertisements.

These messages are often wrong. Often, because they generally aren’t based in the understanding that everyone is different.

When I was a baby, I ate every two to three hours, and I always ate “snacks.” I knew exactly when I was hungry and when it was time to stop eating. I knew whether or not I liked a food, and I’d respond accordingly.

I have no idea how I knew, Baby Anne being incapable of metacognition, but somehow I was able to eat for fuel based on nothing but intuition. I still have fond memories of my favorite baby food (sweet potato), which I’m pretty sure I ate well into childhood (and SP’s are still my favorite today).

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Almost-Baby Anne

We all have this miraculous ability as babies. We were all capable of regulating our own fuel intake (with delicate, gentle signaling to our caregivers…right Mom? ;)). Healthy babies aren’t obese or suffering from cravings and food addiction (special circumstances such as fetal alcohol syndrome, drug addicted babies, etc., change things of course).

So what goes wrong?

The messages!

We should eat three times per day. We should eat whole grains, dairy, protein, fruit and vegetables. We should limit sugar. We should limit fat. We are fat, we need to restrict to lose weight. We should burn more calories than we consume. We should look like that picture in that magazine. We should fit into these clothes. We have to eat this and look like that to attract a mate.

These are only some of the more general messages. All of us also get specific messages that interfere with our natural ability to intuit what we need when we need it. “Should” is tyrannical and “should” be eliminated from our vocabulary. There is no should. There is only need or want and don’t need or don’t want.

Side note: my August intention is to eliminate “should” from my vocabulary, whenever I’m using it to make myself feel bad for something I’m not doing. If I’m not doing it, I don’t need or want it. If I need or want it, I’ll do it.

The processed foods!

Another thing that interferes with the ability to identify hunger-full signals and intuit bodily needs and wants is sugar. Or processed snacks. Crackers are my personal kryptonite: if I eat one, I keep eating until the box is empty (wayyy past when the stomach is full).

There is actually an entire industry (the “food” industry) that employs “food chemists” to determine the exactly perfect flavors to include in processed snacks that will make people crave more. They engineer combinations that tantalize and trap us into buying more more and more. That is how they make money. That is how we DIE!

Okay, a little dramatic. Some chips and cookies once in a while won’t be the death of us. However, falling out of touch with the needs of our bodies could.

Sugar is a particularly troubling disruptor of hunger-full signals and our ability to be intuitive. It actually causes the body to store energy through hormonal signaling, which means the food we consume turns directly into fat. We feel hungry because none of the energy was used immediately for fuel. And we also accumulate fat cells. Scary stuff.

Being ignored and/or restricted.

I won’t go into eating disorders here, because they are frightening and dark and require much deeper treatment. However, they are the extreme version of what I mean here.

Actively ignoring the body’s signals to the brain (I feel stuffed, but I’ll have one more…I’m craving meat, but it’s too many calories…etc.) will eventually turn them off. In the midst of busy lives, a sense of control is many people’s saving grace. However, control can be dangerous when aimed at the body.

Numerous studies have shown that restricting the food you can eat actually makes it harder to avoid eating what’s less healthy for you. I found no long-term success with rules like “I can only eat 1500 calories a day.” Some of you may say “but the Whole30/another elimination diet is super restrictive!” Yes, but it’s temporary, and you can eat as much as you want.

Melissa Hartwig did much research on habit formation, and she found that people more easily stick to habits if the “rules” are black and white. This is the reasoning behind the NO list on the Whole30. But, she’s up front that it’s not for the long term. It’s an experiment to figure out what your food future looks like. The key is to gradually reintroduce foods and see what happens, not to eliminate groups randomly forever.

So, black-and-white to kickstart a journey toward sustainable lifestyle change: yes. Black and white to fit into a dress/shirt/pair of pants or feel good about yourself: no.

Bingeing is the opposite, and also involves ignoring signals from the body. Using the W30 as an example again (tired of it yet?), one of the rules is that you can eat as much as you want. As much as it takes to feel full. So how come it doesn’t turn into bingeing, you ask?

Well, have you ever binged on some pan-seared chicken breast, cauli rice, and broccoli that you had to make yourself?

There’s your answer. Theoretically, and as I’ve found in practice, when we eat real food, we don’t want to binge on it. We feel full.

 

We should all be able to learn a lesson from having been babies. Not only did we all intuit our needs perfectly well (even better than we do now), we also were special enough to have someone addressing our needs as they came up.

Maybe we never had people who met our needs, or maybe we did; regardless, being an adult means suddenly having to do all that need-meeting all by ourselves.

The best, most healthy thing that anyone can do is to pay attention to their body. All bodies deserve their owner’s love and respect. That doesn’t mean that you can never have more than what makes you full. I overate some plant-based ice cream and super awesome sushi last week. But, that’s becoming an intentional choice rather than a mindless habit.

Love that body, it’s the only one you’ve got. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lesson From Baby Anne

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

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