What is Health?

One of the ambiguities we face today is a crisis in the definition of health. What is health, anyway?

Many people describe it as the absence of disease. No germs, I’m healthy. Germs, I’m unhealthy. Concern for health is relegated to times of sickness.

Others judge health by looking. If I am overweight, I’m unhealthy. If I’m thin, I’m healthy. If my skin is breaking out: not healthy. Health is relegated to the realm of appearance.

Still others define health by movement. If I have worked out today, I’m healthy. If I haven’t worked out in a while, boo me. I’m unhealthy. Health is determined by how much I’ve exercised.

There are even more ways that we can define health. There are many more factors that indicate health. Here’s what’s revolutionary:

Focusing on any one of these things alone does not truly lead to “health.”

Health is everything. Health is how you look, but health is also how you see yourself. Health is what you eat, but health is also why, how and when you eat. Health is about how much you exercise, but it’s also about why and how you exercise and even whether or not you’re enjoying it.

There are so many articles coming out these days about how we define health. There are articles claiming that certain things are healthy or unhealthy. There is writing in defense of anything we want to defend and writing attacking everything that others are defending, too. It’s nearly impossible to figure out what is “objectively” healthy or not.

Here’s a radical idea:

You already know.

You know what feels healthy in your own life and what doesn’t. By that I mean: you know what brings you joy, what causes you pain, what obscures and distracts from your feelings. You know, somewhere, why you do things and how you could change the way you do them to be “healthier.” What’s hardest is to listen.

Some people, instead of listening, opt for control. They opt for rules that say what’s healthy and what’s not healthy so that they don’t have to think about it. I did this; the Whole30 and other programs like it are one of many ways to do this. It can be a good way to break yourself out of a rut. It is not the only way to live life in the day-to-day.

We are already our own best critics. Most of us have no end to the judgments we can place on ourselves, especially when it comes to our health. We are not, however, our own best friends or listeners. 

Maybe health is actually just….

…being friends with yourself.

Assuming our friendships are healthy, those are often the places where we shine in our treatment of others. We are willing to be there, to listen, to pick each other up when we aren’t feeling good. We encourage each other to rest when we’re tired or sick, and to cry and wallow when we break up with someone or suffer a loss.

Wouldn’t we be healthier if we treated ourselves this way, too?


What is Health?

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:


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

Before You Whole30…

Here is my golden rule of the Whole30.

  1. Be prepared.

Sorry guys, I teach kids – Disney speaks my language.

Anyway, I am really serious about this golden rule. It served me well in Whole 30 Round 1, and has proved to be even more important in Whole30 Round 2.

How you prepare:


  • Examine your WHYs. This should happen in your decision-making process about whether or not to do an elimination diet in the first place. Why are you doing it? If you want to improve your general, overall health, make a list of some specific annoying health-related things that you want to get rid of. My naturopath told me, in our first meeting, “this is your space to be the biggest hypochondriac you’ve ever been. Name everything that’s wrong, and pretend we have a magic wand that can fix all of it.” Do this for yourself before your Whole30. Here were some of my issues that I hoped to fix:
    • Sleeping poorly – I kept waking up at 2:30, unable to fall back to sleep
    • Skin problems – hand eczema that would get inflamed after eating
    • Bloat – I always felt like I had air bubbles in my stomach
    • Anxiety and stress – whenever I’d get stressed, my body would panic. Stomach aches, sweats, and manic hyperfocus ensued, which was draining and counterproductive.
    • Headaches and fatigue
    • Extreme bouts of grouchiness, especially during the school day
    • Head fog – my head felt totally cloudy, like I couldn’t think clearly
  • Write down how you feel right now. This might be similar to your WHY list, but it will be a good thing to flip back to when you’re questioning if the diet worked for you, 30 days later.
  • Write down how you want to feel. You might discover some more WHYs in this process.
My pre-W30 journaling

I also had in mind some specific habits I needed to break. I realized that after a stressful class, I always craved chocolate. I would eat too much of it, have a manic sugar high, then crash hard (and need more) an hour later. Ditto dessert after dinner. Ditto, really, sugar of any kind. So, that was one of my main goals: examine the craving and think about if I really needed it. Based on that, I’d either eat a balanced snack or wait until the next meal (if I wasn’t really hungry…about 75% of the time, it turns out). Think of some habits that aren’t serving you well. If you can’t think of any, you may discover some as you go along.

My pre-Whole30 Costco haul

2. Physically.

  • Prepare your space. Collect all of the non-compliant snacks and put them out of sight or give them away. I put all of my snacks on the porch and forgot about them. If you won’t forget about them, eat them all before you start or find someone who will. You will be happy you did this in week 2, when your resolve is fading.
  • Go to Costco. Here’s my list:
    • Tomato products (diced and paste) – read the label in case of added sugar
    • Applesauce (unsweetened, they sell Tree Top in packs of 2), and canned pineapple – both are sweet treats
    • Bone Broth – chicken or beef, read the label for non-compliant ingredients
    • Ghee and/or coconut oil (they sell HUGE jars)
    • Aidell’s chicken apple sausages (they sell packs big enough to freeze), or a compliant Italian one that they also have
    • Whole chickens (if you have the fridge and freezer space)
    • Chicken thighs or breasts to freeze
    • Dried fruit (they have sugar-free mangoes)
    • Nuts (walnuts and almonds are compliant, no icky oils)
    • Spices
  • Order compliant things from Amazon.
    • Nutpods (3-flavor variety pack)
    • EPIC, Rx, or Larabars for emergencies
    • Primal Kitchen Greek Dressing and Avocado Oil Mayo (contains egg)
    • Tessemae’s – look for the compliant ketchup, BBQ sauce, dressings and marinades, or buy the Whole30 starter kit. These will liven up your salads and protein servings even on the laziest days!
    • Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides – when added to coffee with some coconut oil, they make it creamy and satiating, plus they’re good for joint health and other things
  • Acquire, from anywhere (Trader Joe’s is awesome, though):
    • Coffee
    • Coconut milk, cream, and flakes (Trader Joe’s has all of them)
    • Sweet potatoes and onions (from Costco for me)
    • Frozen mangoes, butternut squash
    • Riced broccoli (fresh) and riced cauliflower (fresh and frozen)
    • Ginger and garlic, herbs
    • Fresh fruits and veggies
    • Lacroix (SO GOOD) and Kombucha (Synergy is mostly sugar-free and has so many flavors)
  • Other helpful things:
    • Whole30 and Whole30 Cookbook – recipes, tips, tricks, and everything. Most stuff is also on www.whole30.com.
    • Follow @whole30 and @whole30recipes and @melissa_hartwig on Instagram. There, you will find a whole bunch of other people doing what you’re doing and loving it! It’s inspiring.

My second time around, I did most of these things before Day 1. If you’ve already started, you can still go get these super useful supplies! It’s never too late to shake up your Whole30 ingredients. Food boredom is real.

Lastly, keep a food journal. Maybe it’s pictures on your phone, maybe it’s that cute little notebook you’ve been wanting to buy…but get it, and track your progress. Record what you eat and how you feel. I’m still editing my system for this, because it can get tedious. But it’s well worth it when you can look back and see the progress you’ve made, and how much better you feel! It’s also a great resource if you decide you need a doctor’s help.

It seems like a lot, but preparation is SO key. Think of all this hard stuff now (maybe a weekend of work) making your life easier for the next month! If you get really advanced, you can make some Whole30 meals and freeze portions of them, too.

There are more layers to being prepared, but I’ll cover those next, with meal prep!

Does anyone have favorite clean food products? I’m always looking to add to my list. 🙂

Started the New Year off with a Whole30-approved brunch for my friends!








Before You Whole30…

Going Places

I use my favorite travel photos as my desktop backgrounds. I’ve told my computer to rotate through a folder of photos, all my best ones, changing every time it wakes from sleep. I love this way of remembering where I’ve been. Every time I open my laptop, a new place pops up and I’m flooded with memories of standing right there, looking at that, capturing the moment.

I wish I could capture the feeling. Sometimes it washes over me in a wave of nostalgic tears, and I sense so acutely that part of me is missing.

What part, you ask? There’s a lot of writing out there talking about how traveling changes your life, that it’s life-changing, that it impacts everything you think and believe in, thereby changing your life through all the life-changing experiences. Sense a pattern?

I kind of believe that, but I think it changes lives not in the generic just take off and land somewhere and you’re insta-changed sense, but in the sense of it really makes you think about yourself, where you came from, and where you’re going. And it makes you think about the now.

Maybe it’s a photo. Maybe it’s a song, or a smell. Sometimes I get any kind of sensory stimulus and it’s suddenly specific and transporting me back. I’m back on the streets of Valenciennes, strutting over the cobblestones with my school bag bouncing on my hip, in my no-nonsense black boots, watching out for ubiquitous dog crap (no matter how lucky it is to step in it). Other times I’m sitting in the Jardin de Luxembourg, under the Paris sunshine with my best friends, market cheese, and a bottle of wine per person. I’m alone in the deserted streets of Somain, walking to school before the sunrise. I’m in the metro, bathed in eau de métro – a mix of beer and pee, maybe some mold or garbage, occasionally punctuated by the wafting warm smell of a fresh batch of croissants from the metro cafés. I’m on a train heading somewhere I’ve never been, journaling about last weekend’s parties, my experiences with French people, my struggles with the language and with homesickness.

I was solo, all over the world. I made new friends and saw lots of things, and it was the first time I’d ever felt the true weight of my decisions. Each direction I took determined the likelihood of finding my way through a foreign land. Each social occasion determined whether or not I’d have genuine companions in my expatriation. Mulling over, making, and accepting my decisions was the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I learned my own agency: I can do whatever I want, I make my own life, and I accept the consequences of what I make. At the end of the day, the only thing that mattered was feeling comfortable in my boots and confident enough to explore again tomorrow.

Being back home is like, suddenly there are more people to take into account, and way more past and future things to think about. Old friends, S.O.’s, family members, a serious 8-4 job, the next job, the life direction. There are a lot more expectations about where I’ll devote my attention, a lot more things distracting me from what I’m doing now.

Those brief moments of nostalgia are breaths of fresh air in the muggy swamp of my routine.

Then again, so is the view of Mt. Rainier at sunrise on clear days, as I drive over Lake Washington. So are margarita nights with Mom, Indian food with Dad, sushi dates with my boyfriend and house parties with friends. So is the occasional trip out of town to see more of the great Pacific Northwest, and so are the funny stories from my days spent with kindergarteners.

Being on my own in a foreign place, concentrating on the now, the great things, the adventures of every day – it taught me how to bring that mentality everywhere. When I get those waves of nostalgia, it reminds me of the gifts of the present, of where I am. And even though I’m not alone, I’m not struggling with language, or traveling, or whatever else…I’ve still got the gifts of those experiences: many tools for feeling comfortable in my boots, and confident enough to explore again tomorrow.



Going Places

Mountains & Marmots

If you’ve been reading my blog throughout my adventures of the past year, you  might remember this post, in which I miss being able to walk in the woods. In which I confess that I am sometimes a Nature Girl. In which I lament the lack of forests and trees and other green things, wetted by that misty temperate rainforest rainfall unique to the PNW.

My reunion with my homeland has been sweet. I’ve been getting into the woods whenever possible, my current love of dirt unparalleled by any of Past Anne’s love of dirt (absence makes the heart grow fonder). So, when a good friend asked if I’d accompany her and her friend on a 4-day backpacking adventure, I said YES!

I’m kind of a poser of a nature lover, because before this trip I had never been backpacking. We went camping and hiking a lot when I was a kid, but never without civilization or a car pretty close by.

The hike in was fueled by that beginner’s energy — the excitement of doing a New Thing. We went 2-ish miles the first night, having started around 3 PM…and just as we’d gotten camp set up, it rained. As I was a wilderness noob, I had already changed into my sleeping clothes, and they got soaked. Oops…




The next morning, we went on a day hike (and hung everything out to dry…). It connected with the PCT, and I thought of both Wild (my favorite book of last summer) and some friends that are currently hiking 3,000 miles of it, from CA to WA (west coast best coast).

IMG_5492Then, we continued on to our destination for two nights– Goat Lake. We could see it, very far off in the distance, the whole time we were hiking. Just as we thought we’d mistaken our destination, we rounded a corner and saw….



And a lake!



Goat Lake was aptly named, it seems. We also made some marmot friends.


We then found a cool campsite, though the view was obscured by clouds. On the first night, it looked like this:


In the morning, I woke up, stretched, and saw the sun shining through…it had been nothing but windstorms all night, but I guess they’d blown the clouds away. This was the same view, the next morning!


Heyyy Mt. Adams, nice to see you. We day-hiked from this idyllic spot and were rewarded with a panorama including Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood (peeking out from behind), Mt. St. Helens (slightly flatter, since it erupted many moons ago), and Mt. Rainier. Here’s me and our first glimpse of the mountain:



It was magnifique!

We went for a glacial swim that afternoon, which shocked and refreshed in equal parts. But, I could only stay in for about 5 minutes before my toes started going purple…

We were later joined by my friend’s friends and their 4 month old puppy Anton, who was so tired after his first 6 mile hike that he lay down and promptly fell asleep. He provided entertainment for us when he woke up, and decided to investigate everything with the enthusiasm that only a puppy possesses. I took him on a walk later, which did nothing to calm him down. He was a hit with the other campsites. Here he is, hunting marmots:


We hiked out the last day, almost 6 miles, with a few stops. There were no bear sightings, but the sun managed to burn my neck to a crisp, so I was eager to get to the cars and head home!

One thing I wasn’t (that) eager to get back to: my phone. Disconnection felt good. The world became more physical and immediate and my head became uncluttered by anxieties about other people. The only things I thought about were getting from one place to the next, making dinner, washing dishes, how to efficiently pack my things. Of course my mind wandered, but it was not distracted by buzzes, beeps, or notifications.

This is the main perk for me of being so far out into the wilderness– getting in touch with my animal instincts, and being able to wander. I am by no means anti-technology, and I think it’s fun to be in touch with people.

But I am definitely also incredibly pro-walks in the woods, to find a little peace away from the busy world.


Mountains & Marmots

An Anne in Motion Stays in Motion

My position on “going home” was: I can’t wait, I’m so tired of moving!

Apparently, that was a lie. Since I got back, I’ve been moving non-stop. I gave myself a few days to recover from an intense case of jet lag, which made me feel like I was perpetually drunk. Thankfully that feeling subsided after a few good night’s sleeps reset my Circadian Rhythm. I’m officially on Pacific Coast Standard time.

I rested for three days, and then I went to Seattle several times. I spent a day on the Kirkland waterfront. I spent a day at the lake. On Friday, exactly a week after my flight from Barcelona to Seattle, I spent a day in San Francisco. Now it’s Monday, and I’ve been in Walla Walla for two days. I’m writing this from the Colville Street Patisserie, famous in Anne Land for being the birthplace of many thesis drafts last Spring. The cold brew is still awesome.

I fear I am addicted to traveling. My parents enabled me with the (to be paid off by me) gift of an eggplant-colored Honda Fit, which I’ve named Aubergine (Gina for short), and she and I have already gone many miles together.

The difference between travel here and travel abroad is that I’m visiting all of these places completely for the purpose of visiting my long-missed best friends. I guess this is really my style: I go where my friends are. Even in France, most of my trips were either to go see friends or to go somewhere with friends. It reflects something I realized about myself, which my close friend recently asked me to articulate.

While I am always overjoyed to meet new people, there is a large part of me that is energized by the cultivation of strong, durable, long-term friendships. In life, and especially in Nomad Life, it’s easy to meet new people. I met new people all the time over the past year, and it taught this former shy girl how to be brave and embrace strangers. What’s harder is building relationships that last, especially when there’s a time limit on togetherness. There were some people that I met, thought I’d become really close with if given enough time, and had to say goodbye to. That’s not to say we won’t meet again someday (I hope, I hope!), but every time that happened I became sadder that I had to keep moving.

So, I’ve been traveling at home to recapture those relationships I missed. I’ve been seeking out that feeling I get when I’m with someone who’s shared so many of my past experiences. And because I missed it so much, I’m looking at my relationships with fresh eyes, and I realize how precious they are to me.** The world is big, but friend and family love makes it comfortingly smaller.

IMG_4387 IMG_4379 IMG_4377 IMG_4375 IMG_4363 IMG_4356 IMG_4352

The best thing about home is: it’s where I grew up, and who I grew up with.

** I feel just as lucky to have friends I left behind in Europe that are equally precious to me, who made my year fantastic and with whom I felt totally at home. Val crew, I’m lookin atcha. Miss you.

An Anne in Motion Stays in Motion

Oops, I forgot Barcelona!

Right before I was in America, I was in Barcelona.

When I was buying my plane tickets back to the USA when they were cheap(er), in January, I had to decide where to fly from. Paris was the obvious choice, because I’d be in France still. But then, it occurred to me that I’d actually be closer to a brand new country! And that’s how I ended up making my last stop España.

I saved myself two and a half days to explore the capital of Catalunya: Barcelona. All I’d heard about it before leaving was that the food was great (tapas) and the nightlife was crazy. These both proved to be true, although I made more time for the tapas than for the clubs. I’m gettin’ old.

I was also excited because it was my first real solo travel, which had been a goal of mine all year. All the other times I traveled alone, I’d been meeting people. This time, I was going in planning on having a lot of forced me-time.

That turned out to almost totally not happen. When you travel alone, it’s way easier to make friends, so make friends I did! The first night at the hostel, I started talking to a girl at the dinner table. I asked, “where are you from?” She said, “the Seattle area.” I said, “me too!!” and both of us were shocked for a moment. Neither of us had met many (any?) west coasters/Seattleites in our adventures. It is a loooong way to come. We were instant tapas friends. Our days were spent wandering the city in search of sangria and pretty views. We did a 3 hour walking tour on the first day.

Our tour guide, Colin, and our first stop:


Roman graves, uncovered when the river dried up:



The dulcimer lady in front of the church:


The waterfront!


It was HOT! And then I saw a popsicle. You can guess what happened next.


Apparently the most important sight to see in Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous creation. It was indeed jaw-dropping, unlike anything I’ve seen before.


All of the lights!


And then, on my last day, we found tapas and our Colombian friend ordered us a pitcher of sangria. We drank it all.


Barca was a great last stop. It put me back into the travel mentality, for at least three days, and it re-energized my spirit of adventure. However, after three nights of hostel sleeping, the weirdest shower of my life, and having to lug two giant suitcases into and out of Barcelona, I was ready to make my way back to Seattle.

And, obviously, I made it! I solemnly swear that I will continue to adventure. I’ll just be a little closer to home.

Oops, I forgot Barcelona!