Anxiety

Walking

In the hope that it would help others, I have pulled together an overview of my experience in dealing with anxiety. I wanted to be informative and helpful, so I compiled a list of my symptoms, what I think contributed to the anxiety and also what ended up helping me manage it. I am luckily now over the insomnia and nightly panic attacks, but I know I will forever be someone who has a tendency to have anxiety. Here and there, it will crop up, but hopefully I have tools in place to address it before it takes over. 

 

blossom

Symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts, constant worrying
  • Pounding heart, body in “fight or flight” at all times
  • Panic attacks – chest seizing and shortness of breath, worse at night when trying to sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Wired but tired feeling

What contributed to the anxiety:

  • Daily high stress with work 
  • Long, physical, exhausting days in the kitchen, running around getting business off the ground
  • Skipping meals (usually breakfast and lunch) only eating once per day
  • Not sleeping well or enough – part of a vicious cycle of less sleep, more anxiety, more anxiety, less sleep
  • Drinking too much coffee
  • Lack of days off, time to relax or decompress
  • No time for outside hobbies or fun 
  • Lack of self care or prioritizing own health

Suffice it to say, I was running on fumes. I did maintain a super clean diet during this time, although I was definitely not eating enough. I think this is one thing that helped me not completely go off the deep end. I’m not quite sure when I actually realized all this was a huge problem, but it became clear I needed to address it. 

 Combatting the anxiety – I worked on these 1 at a time and it took a while to add them all into my life:

  • Started with acupuncture to help me sleep, as this was one one of the worst symptoms
  • Was given a blend of Chinese herbs to also help me relax and sleep (given by my acupuncturist) – adaptogens such as reishi, maca, ashwaghanda, ginseng, rhodiola, and holy basil can help combat stress and anxiety
  • Started taking magnesium by Natural Calm to handle stress and help with sleep
  • Worked on a nightly routine that was conducive to sleep: less technology, taking a bath, quiet, dark bedroom
  • Began reducing caffeine (this was a long process but even going down to 1 cup daily made a huge difference)
  • Weekly yoga class or some form of self care such as a sauna
  • Started meditating
  • Remembering to slow down and eat. Also started to address gut issues
  • Stepped away from stressful and anxiety inducing relationships in my life
  • Made some changes with work to reduce stress
  • Adopted a rescue kitty! (animals are magical)
  • Started riding horses after a 10 year hiatus. Getting back to a hobby I love was a lifesaver
  • Making time for socializing and fun (imagine that)

horse

There are probably more details I am forgetting, but these feel the most important.

All this work was then followed by more work on my health that I had to face. Some of the lasting ‘damage’ that I am still working on:

  • Hormone imbalances
  • Exacerbation of gut issues
  • Compromised immune function
  • Weight gain
  • Still easily startled and rattled
  • Periodic sleep issues and nightly worrying

I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone, but I know many people deal with similar issues. As I gain more perspective on what I went through, my hope is that somehow it can be used to benefit others. The worst feeling when I was awake at 3 a.m was that of being alone in my problems and that no one else was ‘crazy’ like I was. Recognizing that many of us have this shared experience can help with the recovery process and hopefully, hearing a bit of what I experienced can in some way be of service. 

 

Caffeine Free Teeccino Latte

Teeccino

I know my body needs a total break from caffeine –  I’ve been working on improving my depleted hormone levels and I specifically need to address stress and cortisol in order to do so. I’ve made many changes to support this – diet, improving sleep, meditation, yoga, reconnecting with activities that bring me joy (horseback riding) – but for the past 5 years, coffe is the one thing I didn’t want to give up. But I know caffeine feeds into my stress issues. If you are curious to learn more more about hormones, I suggest checking out Dr. Jolene Brighton and Dr. Sara Gottfried. I learned about Dr. Brighten from this podcast about female hormones on the Balanced Bites podcast. So informative! 

I have also had to address gut health as well, which is so interesting to learn how strongly all these components of health are connected. You can read more about gut health from Chris Kresser here. I would have said my gut health was pretty good after making a bunch of dietary changes, but I have had some lingering issues from years ago that needed to get resolved, in addition to having SIBO, low digestive enzymes, low stomach acid, and low populations of beneficial gut microflora. Phew! It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion and you have to take it one step at a time. 

Teeccino

Suffice it to say, it’s time for a caffeine vacation. Here is a recipe for a coffee substitute that I found to be equally satisfying, along with some of the hacks I have tried to ease the transition off of caffeine. It’s a process and I’d say it takes conviction but I am feeling better already.

Caffeine Free Teeccino Latte
 
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A coffee and caffeine free frothy latte drink
Author:
Serves: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 12 oz brewed teeccino
  • 1 – 2 scoops peptides
  • 1 tsp cacao
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 2 Tbl coconut milk (or other non dairy milk)
  • ½ tsp ghee or coconut oil
  • ¼ tsp ashwaghanda, maca or cordyceps of choice (Four Sigmatic) - optional
Instructions
  1. Brew the Teeccino tea bag just as you would make tea.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about 30 seconds.
  3. Pour and enjoy!

 

Hacks: please note, these are things that helped me, but you know your body best, so use your discretion.

  • I eased the transition off coffee by first slowly increasing the ratio of decaf beans in my coffee – this helped my body get used to less caffeine
  • I also slowly decreased the amount of the coffee I was drinking – even when it was 75% decaf, I still focused on needing less to get going in the morning. I went down from a 16 oz, to a 12 oz…..
  • Experiment with coffee substitutes that have less caffeine or no caffeine: Choffy, Teeccino, matcha lattes – things that can be frothed and made into fun, satisfying drinks helped me give up my frothy bulletproof coffee lattes.
  • Even decaf coffee gives you caffeine – I realized this once I stopped having my 2nd cup of decaf because I still got caffeine withdrawal headaches. So this is the time to go for tea instead – Tulsi Red Chai Masala is one of my favorites for afternoon.
  • First thing in morning, have some water with fresh lemon, and
  • Add pomegranate to your water to help with headaches (I bought dried powdered pomegranate powder like this).
  • Exercise and sunlight – I always felt better after getting in some exercise and getting some natural vitamin D from the sun – take a walk outside in the sunlight even in the winter. Take a friend for bonus points!
  • Saunas – if you have access to a sauna somewhere, go.do.it. I can book time in an infrared sauna in my neighborhood which is amazing. Helps you detox and feel amazing. Or take an Epsom salt bath.
  • Drink more water!
  • Fresh squeezed OJ or grapefruit juice – ideally you want it fresh and you want it organic. I felt so much better with a nice dose of natural vitamin c during the day. There is a connection between vitamin c and balanced hormones, so maybe that was playing into me feeling a little more energized without caffeine in the afternoons. Or maybe it’s a placebo.
  • Bone Broth – a hot beverage in general can help any headachy feelings from caffeine withdrawal, and with bone broth it’s win win because it’s also great for your gut.
  • If you’re into the extra woo-woo like me: meditation and yoga also helped me feel better during this time. Meditation calms your nervous system, calms your mind, balances your cortisol, and it tends to make me feel all around better. Yoga too – plus the movement gets your blood flowing and can really help with headaches.
  • Heart rate monitor: I bought one for some specific exercise work I am doing, but I started tracking my heart rate for fun at other times during the day (I am a total loser, I know). When I take 2 deep breaths, my heart rate goes down. Ad then, I noticed when I started decreasing caffeine, my heart rate was a little lower in general I am not 100% sure it’s the caffeine but the possible connection has been enough positive feedback for me to feel like I see a difference. It’s really interesting to be able to physically see an effect on your body – that’s what helps motivate change.
  • And finally – embrace the process! I’m trying to just ride along with the experience and not stress about how perfect I am or how quickly I can get off caffeine. This is ultimately an experiment in self-care, and part of that means don’t stress about it. Don’t judge yourself. If you hate matcha lattes, don’t feel like you’re supposed to drink them (I had a hard time with that flavor for a while but I have gotten used to it).
  • Let me know if you are also working on your hormones or reducing caffeine! The more we share, the more we can help one another.

Rachel’s Whole30 Story

Rachel
Rachel Norberg
Whole30 Alum x 6
Connect with me on Instagram: racheleats_
 
I’ve never had the chance to really reflect back on my journey to Food Freedom through the Whole30 program, so when Grace asked me if I wanted to share my story on her blog, I jumped at the chance. I always love reading peoples’ stories and learning how they came to the Whole30 program, so here is mine!
Rachel

In 2011, we lost my dad to a hard fought battle with cancer. It was and remains the single most difficult thing I have ever had to go through, and still impacts my life today. It always will. I was a senior in college, going through the stress of graduating, finding a job, figuring out where to live and learning how to deal with the crippling grief I was feeling.

Long story short, I stopped taking care of myself. I just didn’t put a lot of thought or effort into my diet and it certainly showed. When Aaron (my now fiancé) and I moved in together we both weren’t feeling our best but didn’t really know where to start. We went to the gym a few days a week, ate healthy-ish during the week, but I was becoming more and more unhappy with how I was feeling and looking. We tried Weight Watchers, but that didn’t really work for me – I’d just cheat and not log things I was eating! In July of 2014 I went to NH with some friends for the holiday and that was the tipping point for me. I couldn’t find a single thing to wear that I was comfortable in, and when I saw pictures from the weekend all I could see was how unhappy I looked and felt. I had read about the Whole30 A LOT but was never brave enough to do it. I came home the next day, basically begged Aaron to do it with me (and he did, because he is the best) and the rest is history!

As of now, I’ve completed 6 full rounds, have done many mini-resets in between, read all the books and started sharing my meals online to connect with others. Lately, I’ve really been feeling more comfortable with my own Food Freedom. It did take me a while to get to a comfortable place, but here are some of my own personal Food Freedom strategies that help me every day:

Mindset:

  • Recognizing that I am an abstainer vs a moderator and honoring that. Sometimes it’s easier just to say no
  • Realizing that food is not moral, and you’re not being good or bad based on the food you eat. It’s just food. No 80/20 rule or “cheat” meals

Actionable:

  • I always grocery shop and meal prep like I am doing a Whole30 even if I’m not. Most of the time, if I cook it myself at home, it’s a Whole30 compliant meal
  • Take mini-resets whenever needed – sometimes it’s just 2 days and sometimes it’s 2 weeks. If I want pizza, I’m having pizza and not a “healthified” version of pizza. Same goes for ice cream, doughnuts etc.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that progress is more important than perfection, and good change takes time. Learn to love the process and you will set yourself up for a successful healthy relationship with food that works for you in the long term!

Why Choose Organic?

produce-suzanne

We hear the term “organic” everywhere. However, there tends to be a lot of confusion over what exactly organic means. There can also be confusion over where to draw the line with being healthy and just…well, paying for fancy marketing. Today I’m going to cover some information regarding food, but keep in mind that organic certifications also extend out to many other products such as personal care products and clothing.

organic

The USDA is the governmental department that issues organic certification to farmers, producers and other food manufactures. To become organic certified applicants must adhere to specific protocols ensuring the protection of their animals and land.

In order to obtain certification farmers and producers must follow the below guidelines created by the USDA:

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

  The guidelines are meant to cover all steps from farm to table in the production cycle. Once a farmer, producer or processer is granted certification they can then use the familiar USDA Organic label meant to distinguish their products from conventional products.

produce-suzanne

So this begs the question, is there a reason to choose organic? Here are some benefits for you to consider:

  1. Organic food limits your exposure to synthetic chemicals like pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides which are used in conventional agriculture. One of the most common, and controversial, pesticides is known as Round-Up (glyphosate), which the World Health Organization recently classified as a ‘probable carcinogen’. Do you want that on your lettuce?
  2. Applying synthetic chemicals to crops contributes to water pollution, which affects the terrestrial and aquatic environments of native wildlife and animals. Water pollution and the toxic residues that build up in the eco system are largely to blame for the ‘deadzone’ found where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico.
  3. Organic agriculture utilizes sustainable farming methods like crop rotation, cover crops and Biointensive Integrated Pest Management. This is in direct contrast to the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in conventional farming.
  4. Sustainable farming methods protect the unique biodiversity of a region, promote soil health and enable farmers to coexist with animal and native plant wildlife for future generations. 
  5. The USDA prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in organic agriculture. GMOs have had parts of their genomes altered to protect against pests and to improve growth. The implications of GMOS still remain untested, but problems have been documented in the poisoning of wildlife and transferring GMO genes to native plans. 
  6. Organic farming relies on natural feeding methods and healthy environments for farm animals. Many conventionally raised animals are crowded in cages and barns with little or no access to the outdoors. *
  7. Eating organically limits exposure to hormones and antibiotics that are given to animals on conventional farms. They are used to increase growth rate and to reduce infection (most infections stem from the horrible living conditions the animals are forced into). This practice has given way to super bugs, which are resistant to antibiotics and can create serious health risks in humans.
  8. Organic produce tastes better! Organic produce grown in a natural environment, with healthy, nutritious soil and limited adulteration results in some truly amazing flavors.

*When it comes to animal welfare, you can take it a step further by learning more from the organization Animal Welfare Approved - I suggest this site since organic labeling for animals does not, in my opinion, go far enough. The best thing we can do for ourselves is get educated so that we’re making informed decisions. 

farmers-market-background

 

Now, with all this in mind, how do we know we’re being healthier by choosing organic and not just spending more?

First off, supporting local farms who follow organic farming practices is not only great for you and great for the farm, it’s better for the environment. So start there and purchase what you can at farmer’s markets or stores that sell local food. When it comes to meat, many local farms may not be organic certified but if they’re raising animals on pasture and not using chemicals or antibiotics, it’s going to be a much healthier choice than factory-farmed conventional meat from the grocery store. Putting money into the small, sustainable farming system is far and away the healthier choice for everyone. Now, with that said, many large scale stores such as Costco are investing a lot in selling higher quality and organic food – I am really happy to see this and think it’s a huge move for our food system. 

I also suggest learning about The Clean 15 and The Dirty Dozen as this will help you analyze which foods to purchase organic. 

I’m going to stop here since this is already a lot of information – I hope in the very least to have peaked your interest as to why choosing organic and local food can be beneficial to your health. 

 Resources

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=organic-agriculture.html

https://www.princeton.edu/greening/organic4.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24968103

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22944875

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/309/5734/570

http://www.forbes.com/sites/bethhoffman/2013/07/17/organic-causes-confusion/#2d6e73447533

 

Tumeric Chicken & Pastured Poultry

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I wanted to talk a little bit about chicken today and share some information so you can make educated decisions about the poultry you buy. I also have a delicious recipe here for you that I have been working on with my colleague Elissa – Roasted Chicken with Turmeric. Yum! 
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According to the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, in order for a farm to be recognized for raising pastured poultry the birds must be raised directly on green pasture. This type of poultry management is in direct contrast with the more common commercial version of raising poultry, which relies on crowded, inhumane cages, limited or no access to the outdoors, and barns.
 Why should we care about how chickens are raised?
There are several reasons why pastured poultry is preferred, both in respect to the humane treatment of the animals and the quality of the egg and meat production.
Below are several points highlighting the details and benefits of pastured raised poultry.
Environment -
  • Poultry is raised directly on green pasture.
  • Fresh pasture equates to a cleaner and healthier environment- both for the chickens and for the planet!
Food -
  • The poultry live off of the pasture, and use the forage as feed
  • Forage can be grasses, clover, grubs
  • Insects are also part of a bird’s natural diet (chickens are not vegetarians, by the way).
Housing -
  • Most farmers utilize a movable or stationary house for shelter
  • Farmer and author Joel Salatin, a notable resource in the pastured poultry community, describes his methodology on raising pastured poultry in his book Pastured Poultry Profits
  • According to Salatin’s method the practice of pastured poultry means the birds must be housed in a 10x12x2 foot high house, that is moved a couple of times day around a green pasture. The birds must have access to fresh air, grass and insects but are still protected from predators.
The Poultry -
  • Never given antibiotics
  • Takes a longer time for birds to reach slaughter weight because they are growing naturally
  • Flocks are much smaller, not so “mass-produced”
  • Chickens are able to live and eat naturally
The Impact on Eggs & Meat -
  • Pasture raised yolks are a much deeper orange color- a result from the beta carotene found in a chicken’s natural diet
  • Eggs taste richer, creamier, and are a good source of choline and B12
  • Pasture raised poultry is higher in vitamin D3 and E, and has a better ratio of omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Overall, pastured poultry is a better source of nutrients for you and is a more sustainable way of raising chickens.
Advice for consumers -
                  Be aware that the terms “pastured raised”, “cage-free”, “free-range” and “natural” have little standardization in the marketplace. The best way to know your food is to know your farmer! Visit farmers markets, talk to the farmers, and visit farms in your area so you can see for yourself how the animals are being raised. The more educated you are, the healthier you can be!
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Roasted Chicken with Tumeric
 
Prep time
Cook time
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Pastured poultry with a blend of fresh spices.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken breast, skin on (boneless or split breast)
  • 2 T grated fresh tumeric
  • 1 Tbl fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 T rosemary, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 T coconut oil or avocado oil, melted
  • Juice of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to to 375 F degrees.
  2. Combine all the ingredients except chicken in a bowl.
  3. Place chicken in an oven safe baking dish.
  4. Rub marinade under and over skin on all sides.
  5. Roast for 20 minutes, then baste with the juices that have collected in the pan
  6. Roast for another 10-20 minutes*, until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 165.
  7. *Final cook time depends on the size of the chicken breast.
Resources
The Cornucopia Institute- Organic Egg Scorecard 
 

Beef Stew & Health Tips

BeefStewNEW

BeefStewNEW

This beef stew recipe belongs mostly to my dear colleague and fellow personal chef Elissa. I’ve created a few variations just for the sake of playing with different flavors –  I like to add some tomato, so I included that here as an option. This stew is a one stop shop for a meal, but plan ahead as it needs 2 – 3 hours to cook. You can use a pressure cooker instead for quicker cooking, see the note below the recipe! 

I am excited to also bring you some health tips for this holiday season, courtesy of the lovely dietitian nutritionist Ayla Withee from Boston Functional Nutrition. You can find fantastic information on her website to go along with these tips: 

  • Make yourself the priority. Remind yourself why you’re eating the way you are – for great health, to reduce unwanted symptoms, etc. – and how important it is to your wellbeing. 

  • Keep stress at a minimum. Stress will always make negative symptoms and eating habits worse. Reduce stress by exercising, taking a walk or trying meditation or yoga. Or, if all you have time to do is close your eyes and take some deep breaths, make sure you at least do that. 

  • Stay regular with other meals. Eat normal, healthy and balanced meals and snacks surrounding other holiday events. This will help keep you eating better and on a schedule.

  • Drink plenty of fluids and mostly water. Thirst can sometimes be mistaken for hunger and during busy times, drinking can be forgotten.

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And a few additional tips I try to remind myself of at this time of year: 

  • Incorporate bone broth into your weekly meals to support gut health (so make this beef stew!).
  • Focus on anti-inflammatory ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, and omega-3’s (like wild caught salmon).
  • Don’t skimp on sleep – if you have to choose between that 5am spin class or catching up on much needed sleep, it’s best to choose sleep. You’re not doing yourself any favors by depriving your body of recovery time. 
  • Break up with sugar - or keep it to a minimum as much as you can outside those holiday parties.

 

Braised Beef Stew with Vegetables
 
A healthy beef stew recipe perfect for chilly winter nights.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbl grass-fed ghee or coconut oil
  • 3 lb. grass-fed beef stew meat
  • 1 large onion, chopped into 1- inch pieces
  • ½ cup celery root, peeled and cut into 1- inch cubes
  • 3 carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • ½ cup sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 T. minced fresh parsley
  • 1 T. minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 t. fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbl tomato paste (optional)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2½ cups beef stock
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach (optional)
Instructions
  1. Over medium high heat, melt the ghee/oil in a dutch oven pot (cast iron enabled pots are best for braising)
  2. When the pot is hot, sear half the beef until browned, about 3-5 minutes on top and bottom.
  3. Add the remaining beef and the remaining ingredients except spinach.
  4. Stir, cover and bring to a low boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the meat is very tender, about 2½ -3 hours.
  6. Meat is done when a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the thickest part comes out with little or no resistance. Be sure to keep lid on pot during cooking.
  7. Add spinach and gently stir in just before serving.

 Alternatively  you can use a pressure cooker:

Lock lid on pot and bring to high pressure (setting 2). Reduce heat to maintain even pressure for 24 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Release steam and then remove lid when pressure indicator has dropped. 

 

Guest Post: AIP with Leslie

aip-leslie

Today I am excited to share with you my friend Leslie’s guest post about her transition to the Autoimmune Protocol. It is my hope that her story can help some of you in taking on AIP, because I know it can be daunting.

 Hello, everyone! I’m Leslie, and I run The Whole Life Balance blog. I write about the Paleo and AIP lifestyle, natural living, and balancing all of the above with a busy life. Grace and I met at Paleo f(x) back in April, and afterward, we decided to cross-blog. Check out her guest post.

AIP-Leslie2

 Today, I’m going to share my story of how I transitioned to the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Forgive me while I spend a few sentences explaining what AIP is, just in case there are any readers who are unfamiliar. AIP is an elimination diet meant to help identify foods that are triggering negative reactions and contributing to autoimmunity. Therefore, those who follow AIP will eventually reintroduce the foods that have been eliminated. However, it has to be done one food at a time so that you can determine positive and negative reactions. In essence, AIP eliminates all of the following: grains (including gluten), dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, coffee, chocolate, legumes, and nightshades (this is the one most people don’t know–tomatoes, peppers, spices made from peppers, eggplant, white potatoes).

 

 Now, I want to give a brief background on my journey. I have Hashimoto’s disease, which means that my thyroid typically underperforms; it’s an autoimmune disease. I learned about the Paleo diet in December 2013, and I wanted to try it because of its positive effects for people like myself. I followed the Paleo diet fairly strictly–I’d say 85/15, maybe even 90/10–for over a year; it eliminates grains, legumes, and dairy. I learned about AIP pretty early on and was actually scared to have to do it, because it seemed so restrictive. Unfortunately, more than a year on Paleo brought no noticeable improvements in my Hashimoto’s symptoms. In fact, an extremely stressful job exacerbated my symptoms. So, back in March, I stumbled across the SAD to AIP in SIX program which was created by Angie Alt. She partners with Mickey Trescott in the autoimmune community, and they co-host the blog Autoimmune-Paleo . Spontaneously, I decided to sign up.

 

And so began my transition from Paleo to AIP. Angie created a thorough and engaging program to help clients gently transition to the full elimination phase AIP. Let me clear up the name: “SAD” refers to Standard American Diet, we’ve already covered “AIP,” and “SIX” refers to the length of the program–six weeks. The name indicates that the program is geared toward individuals who currently follow the SAD, but really anyone wanting to transition to AIP is welcome to complete the program. To use myself as an example, I was already Paleo, and I was welcomed into the program, even though I just kind of skipped over some of the eliminations because I already wasn’t eating those types of foods.

 

 Here’s a little bit of the nitty gritty of the program. The first week is dedicated to building a support system of family and/or friends who will help you get through the program. It’s also spent getting to know the other individuals going through the program in your group. You’ll also meet the coaches that Angie has brought on to help her mentor everyone in the program. However, keep in mind that it is group coaching done via a secret group on Facebook, so there is no one-on-one coaching. After that first week, the eliminations start. Angie bases her process of the eliminations off of the recommendations of Dr. Sarah Ballantyne of The Paleo Mom, author of The Paleo Approach and The Paleo Approach Cookbook. She begins with the food groups that are shown to cause the biggest negative impacts for most people and then works her way along from there. If I recall correctly, there were about two food groups (of those that I listed above) eliminated per week. As you can imagine, it was a staged elimination process rather than a cold-turkey one in order to make it more sustainable.

 

Angie and the mentor coaches post inspirational stories and photos as well as links to helpful blog posts throughout the program. They also pose thought-provoking questions to help get clients thinking about how they’ll tackle certain elements of AIP. Additionally, Angie sends out a weekly assignment document with little “homework assignments” for each day of the week. Some days it was reading a blog post or two about why a certain group of food is removed on AIP, and other days it was grocery shopping. The program really is designed to set clients up for success.

aip-leslie

I had a very positive experience with the program, personally. Although AIP was daunting to me, I was willing to give it a try for the benefit of my Hashimoto’s. I found the staged eliminations to be incredibly helpful, and I attribute the sustainability of the protocol to that process. It gave me time to wrap my head around what was going to be eliminated and how I could get along without it. At that time, I only had one AIP cookbook, but during the program, I threw caution to the wind and ordered three more. Those helped me so much! I had hundreds of recipes within reach, instead of scouring the Internet without any real idea of what I wanted. I find searching for recipes on the Internet to be a bit of a time sink because so many options come up for any given thing; “recipe shopping” in cookbooks keeps my time spent meal planning more manageable. The one thing I wasn’t very good about when I completed the program was the food journal. I’ve never been the food journal type, and while I know that it can provide a ton of useful information, I really just forgot to do it…a lot. I think I will try to come up with my own version of a food journal and make myself be more dedicated to it when I start reintroducing foods, because it will be much more useful and important then. 

The last week of the program was the first week of full-on AIP, so I have been AIP since April 6th. That’s just over two months, as of this writing. Most of the literature that I’ve read on AIP suggests an elimination phase of 3-6 months, but it varies from person to person. I know some people in my group were going to stick to it for 30 days after the program ended, and I know other people in the AIP community who followed strict AIP for years. The approach that I chose was to just go with the flow. I’ve been working really hard to stick to it, despite some pretty intense cravings for things I used to be able to eat while only following Paleo. I had accidental exposure to nightshades during the program, after they were eliminated, and that caused joint pain in my hand for several days. This has caused me to be a little anxious about reintroducing those foods when the time comes. However, I’m really just looking for my Hashimoto’s symptoms to settle down. A lot of stress was recently removed from my life, I’ve been able to sleep a lot lately, and I’m on a more natural thyroid medication now. Once I feel like things have leveled out, and my TSH (thyroid hormone) stops jumping from one extreme to the other, I’ll start reintroducing foods following Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s guide.

 

I hope that my story is helpful to you and inspires you to give AIP a try. I’ve truly become accustomed to it now, and I don’t really miss too much–not even chocolate! I highly recommend the SAD to AIP in SIX program because it is so gentle and sustainable. If you have any further questions about the program or just want to chat AIP with me, you can reach me at wholelifebalance.leslie@gmail.com.

 

Thanks for reading and wishing you health and happiness!

Leslie

 *Please note that my guest post contains an affiliate link to the program I am writing about. This affiliation contributes to me being able to continue to cover the expenses of my blog. Thanks for your understanding! 

Bowls Of Love Cookbook

BeetSoup680

BeetSoup680

Today I wanted to share a little about a new cookbook written by my friend Ali Rakowski called Bowls of Love. It is an absolutely beautiful book filled with recipes for seasonal, paleo soups. Each soup is then paired with a bowl sent to Ali by friends and family.

Before I share a little more about the book, I have to start with a little about Ali. Why? Because in reading through this book, I think you can tell she’s pretty awesome. However, just in case you’re not sure how great she is, I better tell you!

I first met Ali when I was looking for local Boston residents who were enrolled in the same health coaching program as myself. Before we met in person, I came across a picture she had posted of a heart-shaped puddle. She had written that it was one of her favorite spots on her walking/jogging route. I immediately knew I wanted to meet this girl because anyone who notices and appreciates something in nature like a heart-shaped puddle is cool in my book!  

When I met Ali in person her warm, friendly (and very funny) nature was irresistible.  She’s one of those people you want to hang out with….like, all the time. Additionally, she is super smart and has such an impressive ability to asses situations and determine the best course of action. I always value conversations with her and appreciate advice she gives. Plus she’s a major math whiz.

When Ali moved to Connecticut, I have to admit, it was sad to lose her but it was clear she was making the right decision. Although I haven’t seen her in a while, the wonderful thing about reading through her cookbook is that her personality really shines through. It reminds me of what a great person she is and how much I value knowing her. 

chickensoup2Ok ok, this is about the cookbook right? I’ll stop gushing. My reason for singing Ali’s praises is because she is so genuine and her book is so authentic. Her positive attitude, her love for her friends and family, it all comes across in the book. I found myself sitting and reading through it more like a novel than a cookbook, because the stories she shares with each recipe are so wonderful. With the proliferation of cookbooks these days, I see a lot of junkie ones that have no soul behind them. Bowls of Love is different. 

Now, about those recipes! The pictures you see here are of two recipes I made yesterday from the book:  “Peppery Beets, Sweets & Kale” and “SOWA Farmers Market Chicken Soup”. Both absolutely delicious.

beetsoup2The beet soup is so easy to make and yet so flavorful. As an added bonus, the ingredients are packed with nutrients- I think you can tell just by looking at the vibrant colors! Have you heard the saying “eat the rainbow” when it comes to your veggies? That means, eat a variety of brightly colored vegetables and you’re going to get an appropriate array of nutrients. This soup has beets, sweet potatoes and kale, all 3 of which are some of the best vegetables you could ask for! Well, that’s my opinion, but trust me, you want to make this soup. I made it with homemade bone broth and served it with a dollop of coconut cream.

With regard to all the other recipes: they are completely approachable, flavorful and healthy. Before I went to culinary school I was very intimidated by soups. I used to think: how on earth do you start a soup? So, if you’re curious about making soups or are looking to expand you’re cooking repertoire, this book is a great option.

I also definitely suggest giving this book as a gift – especially if you have a foodie friend or family member – because the love that shines out from this book makes it that much more meaningful. It’s like a foodie-version of saying I Love You. 

I hope you pick up a copy!

 

Travel & Diet

seashells1

seashells1

Traveling the world is exciting – I love seeing new places and experiencing new cultures. However, traveling can be hard for me when it comes to what I can and cannot eat. I eat food that helps me feel my best, and avoid food I know makes me feel poorly. My advice is, before you travel make your own assessment of what foods you need to avoid like the plague and what foods you could maybe get by with eating a few times while traveling. The lovely folks over at Whole 9 Life  discuss this really well with regard to evaluating if a food is “worth it” to you. Check out their site sometime for additional resources.

I’m sharing a tiny about myself here just to give you a background on what my experience is like when I travel. What’s hard for me is finding food that is grain-free and dairy-free. I also eat tons of veggies and find that when I travel it’s not easy to get many into my meals. And then there’s breakfast. Probably the most difficult meal because I don’t eat yogurt, cereal, toast or pancakes, all of which are the most typical breakfasts served. Suffice it to say. some effort has to be made for me to eat the right food on a trip.

Recently my husband and I took a trip to the Caribbean. Overall, it worked out pretty well with finding food, but it took a little effort. Here are some things I recommend doing to make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful regarding your diet:

  1. Take emergency food: I take healthy snack bars, my homemade granola, grass-fed beef jerky, collagen protein powder, plantain chips and coconut butter (for my coffee). On this trip I only took things that didn’t require refrigeration upon opening because I wasn’t sure if we had a fridge in our hotel room. I could’ve easily found out with a little research but I was so busy leading up to the trip I didn’t remember to do so. We did end up having a fridge.
  2. Scope out a grocery store that is near where you’re staying either before travelling or upon arrival: We asked locals and they were really helpful in sending us to a store- again I didn’t have time to do any research before we left. Going to some type of food store allows me to stock up on the best options available that I can eat. Fruit, for example, always lots of water, and I usually find a few other snacks I can keep in the hotel room. On this particular trip, we didn’t find any great grocery stores, but we found one decent enough to have water, almond milk, fruit and veggie chips (I’ll talk more about chips in a minute). My husband has become quite the trooper in going on long walking adventures with me to find food!
  3. Find local fresh markets too: Many countries have great local outdoor markets that sell native foods- obviously in the Caribbean we got some amazing fresh coconuts! These markets often have some nice healthy snacks too.
  4. Consider staying somewhere with a little kitchen: especially now with the arrival of AirB&B, staying in affordable apartments is really easy. Anytime we go to Europe, this is what we do. It makes for a more authentic experience of the local culture in my opinion, but also this way I can go to a grocery store and then cook my own food at the apartment. If it’s a city or country you’re unfamiliar with, I strongly suggest doing research before staying in an apartment. There have definitely been countries we’ve traveled to in which I would not feel safe staying outside of a hotel. I guess it depends how adventurous you are with your travels, but we often go to more remote destinations and the reality is you do need to be careful.
  5. Check out restaurants and/or hotel dining options: This allows you to consider your options and potentially ease the stress of “what am I going to eat?”. Ask the concierge for suggestions or ask the locals. Also, check out the breakfast buffet options in your hotel. Most of this can be done ahead of time too. On my recent trip, the breakfast buffet had an omelet station, and they actually used fresh cracked eggs instead of some creepy eggbeater type mix. They also had vegetables as options to put in your omelet, which made me very happy.
  6. Eat a large breakfast if you can: This is easiest if you’re staying in an apartment and can make your own breakfast, but if you have a hotel buffet with acceptable options, it works too. I find that if I can eat a good breakfast, I feel much less concerned about where we’ll be for lunch (since we’re often out exploring and don’t know where we’ll end up). In the very least, I can default to my emergency snacks for lunch until we get dinner.
  7. Make a smoothie: If you have protein powder with you (I use collagen because I can’t tolerate whey), you can in the very least mix up a drink to get you through the afternoon. I don’t recommend regularly substituting smoothies for meals, but when travelling sometimes it’s the best option. I mixed my collagen protein with almond milk several times on this trip- I didn’t need to do so every day. It’s not amazing tasting when it’s so plain, but it’s better than nothing! I’m actually considering buying a super small cheap blender like a magic bullet type (but a cheapy one so I don’t care if it gets lost) and taking it with me on my next trip. I think being able to mix up some smoothies would be a good back up option. 
  8. Less shopping, more eating: I’m not a big shopper when it comes to buying “stuff” like souvenirs and clothes on trips. So, from a budget perspective, my advice is, spend more on going to a good restaurant if you know they have food you can eat, rather than spending that money on stuff. I would much rather splurge on great food than anything else because then I don’t feel crappy and I have a much better vacation. On our recent Caribbean trip, the only things we spent money on were food and some really great experiences (like swimming with sea turtles).
  9. Ok, now about those chips: I mentioned buying some veggie chips earlier in this post. I also mentioned the idea of deciding what foods are “worth” eating if they’re not in your normal dietary routine. I will end by saying, there are a few choices I make on trips that are not so great, but I know I won’t feel so horrible from them. Chips fall in this category. Even veggie chips are made with pro-inflammatory oils such as canola, soybean or safflower oils, and I really don’t recommend consuming these on a regular basis. However, on trips, if faced with a real lack of food choices, I will snack on chips. So, if you’re going “off” your normal diet, just make sure you’re assessing if the situation really warrants the choice you’re going to make. Being in control of your choices is probably more important than anything! 

I hope some of these tips are helpful. Travelling and maintaining a healthy diet is not always easy. My goal here today was to share some of the things I do and potentially give you new ideas. Happy travels!

Video: Breaking Down a Chicken

BreakingDownChicken

Over the years, both through my work as a personal chef and as a cooking instructor, I have regularly met people who are interested in eating healthy but never know how to start. Or, they say to me, “You make that look so easy.” Well, it usually is pretty easy once you learn some of the simple techniques that make all the difference.

In this video I’ll show you how you can easily break down a chicken for faster cooking times. No need to be intimidated by hacking through a bone with a huge knife. We will do it with just a pair of kitchen shears and a little muscle. And, in the process, we will cut 15-20 minutes off cooking time.

Enjoy!