Using delicious fish to fight your inflammation!

 

Have you ever noticed how bears never get autoimmune disease? Okay, I don’t actually know if that’s true, but I’m going to guess that this fella above and his buddies are pretty darn healthy. That’s because they are gorging themselves on some of the earth’s most powerful forms of omega 3 fatty acids.

While I have been a plant eater for the majority of my life, as I’ve gotten more in tune with my body I’ve found that my sweet spot is eating mostly plant-based with the occasional high-quality animal protein. Sometimes this looks like pasture-raised beef, chicken, or pork a few times a month, but mostly, like that bear, my go-to is fish — specifically fish that is high in omega 3 and low in mercury such as wild-caught salmon, Pacific-caught sardines, farmed rainbow trout, and Atlantic mackerel.

The good news about fish…

I eat these fish because they are delicious but also because the omega 3 fatty acids in them reduce inflammation. For those of us with autoimmune disease, we know that the key to feeling good is to reduce the inflammation in our bodies. Omega 3 fatty acids do that by influencing our inflammatory cells.  When we eat foods with omega 3 fatty acids or take supplements, those fats go into our cells that are causing us so much pain and sickness and say, “You can relax now.” How amazing is that? One study looking at the impact of omega 3 on autoimmune disease reported that:

“[m]any of the placebo-controlled trials of fish oil in chronic inflammatory diseases reveal significant benefit, including decreased disease activity and a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs.”

That alone is motivation enough to add in a dose of high omega 3 fish into your diet. Am I right?

Wild-caught salmon have some of the highest levels of omega 3s out there, for one 3-ounce cooked piece you can get upwards of 1,500 milligrams of omega 3s.  Canned sardines can give you up to 1,000 milligrams per a 3-ounce serving.  Check out these recipes for quick ways to add salmon and sardines to your week.

But

The bad news about fish…

Omega 3s are the good news, but when it comes to fish, there is also some bad news. Due to humans dirtying up the planet, high levels of mercury have made their way into the ocean and into the bodies of marine life.  This is a problem because when we eat the fish we are being exposed to that mercury. And mercury exposure can cause inflammation and may even be the culprit behind some people’s autoimmune disease. On top of all that, it can cause neurological problems, birth defects, cardiovascular disease, etc., etc.

So before you go to town eating fish every day to reduce your inflammation, remember that you have to balance the two. Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group has an excellent tool to help you do just that. This calculator will tell you which fish you can safely eat and how much you can eat each week to avoid getting too much mercury.

What do you think? Is fish your thing? Do you think about the mercury in your food? Do you think about getting omega 3 on a daily basis? Let me know in the comments below.

Lupus and You: How to survive the holidays!

Evergreen trees at night with a block over them that says the antidote to holiday stress

 

Awww, the holidays. A time to relax, spend time with those that love us most, share a lovely meal, and just rejuvenate our soul…

Or not.

Let’s face it the holidays can be stressful and overwhelming, and that’s not just for those of us with a chronic illness. It seems like everybody is missing the mark on having the perfect Hallmark holiday.   But for those of us with chronic illness, this stress is serious because it can be devastating to both our physical and mental health.  In other words, stress steals our joy, robs us of the moment, and sets us up for a flare.

But thankfully there is an antidote to all this stress, it’s called mindfulness.

Before you click out of this page, give me a second to sell you on this.

Mindfulness is just making sure to pay attention to the moment in front of you instead of letting your mind dwell on the past or future causing you stress. See? It’s not hard or weird; it’s just about where you put your energy.

Great, now that we have cleared that up. Here are some ways I’ve developed to help keep my focus and energy on what’s in front of me so I can enjoy the holidays and protect myself from stress.

    • Store up energy: I’m an introvert.And even though I’m spending time with family, my introvert self still sees them as a group of energy suckers. Even my sweet grandmother. So I make sure to give myself time in the morning and throughout the day to get away from everyone and recharge.

In the morning this looks like locking myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes and doing a guided meditating using a tool like the Headspace App. Throughout the day it could be going for a walk, offering to run an errand or making up an errand to run, or maybe just finding a place to hide and do some deep breathing. Remember energy is like money: You don’t have endless supplies, and if you don’t spend it wisely, you can end up hurting.

 

    • Say “Nah”.  Speaking of spending your energy wisely, feel free to say no to things in favor of taking a rest. It’s okay to be too tired not to do all the things. I know that this can result in feeling guilty, resentful, or just having plain old FOMO. But you’ve got to take care of you.

Even when I’m feeling great, I try to assess what my body needs because I know that the highs and lows of chronic illness can be difficult to navigate. When we say “yes” too often, we tend to regret it the next day because we are spent. Learning to navigate the highs and lows of energy isn’t easy, but it’s not going to happen unless you start getting present with yourself.

  • Help. Getting out of your own head and back to the now can be hard, but being of service to others helps.  This could mean anything from volunteering to dish out food at your local homeless shelter to finding someone who looks lonely and asking them questions about themselves to show them they are loved. Even if you are feeling not at your best and aren’t up for moving around, you can find a way to be of service to others. Don’t underestimate your power.

 

 

    • Lower your expectations. We often create stress when our reality isn’t living up to our expectations. I know I have these fantasy about smooth 6-hour road trips with two kids and lovely and relaxed meals with family.

But in reality, road-trips with kids can suck and holiday meals mean schlepping an entire meal across the state of Texas because of my dietary restrictions.  So I manage my expectations. I know I want to get from point A to point B, and  I know want to spend time with my family. These are simple things that are not rooted in the where, when, and how of it all but still allows me to set and meet my goals — attainable ones.

Finally…

  • Be present for the good stuff. I really do lovely the holidays. They provide an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary and to be around people you love.  Things — good things — do happen, and they don’t need our stress to happen.

 

Take Your Power Back From the Comfort of Your Own Home!

A vintage radio (1960s) with a microphone

I had the pleasure of doing a radio interview the other day and it was a lot of fun.  The 10-minute piece turned out to be a good summary of what I do as a health coach, why I do it, and where I see my business going. Check it out here and let me know what you think. 

The most important thing I spoke about was my vision for the future of my business/passion which is to make my work more accessible to more people. I just completed the first step of this process with an online course called Take Your Power Back: A 21-Day Guide to Healthy Living with Lupus.  This course is designed for you to do in the comfort of your own home at your own pace. Which means that you take your time to really dig into the work.

And the really cool thing is that once you buy this course it’s yours forever. You can revisit it as much as you like and all future content will be yours. And there will be future content because my head is a swirl with all the good things I’m going to create for this course. Check it out and let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to help you navigate the process or answer any questions you might have.

Until next time!

 

 

What if we just trusted ourselves?

I trust you

Like some 40% of humans, I have an MTHFR gene mutation. This means, among other things, that when my stress response gets turned on I have really hard time turning it off.  This means that I take my stress management very, very seriously. But sometimes the pressure from the outside gets to be too much.  Like it did this last Friday when I was getting whiplash from the personal, professional, and social deadlines coming on top of the daily maintenance stuff and other responsibilities — like my brand new threenager.  (If you pray, please throw one my way because threenagers are no joke.)

But I digress.

Stuff was a lot, and I was feeling really, really stressed. So I tried something different. I decided to just have faith in myself. I made a physical list so I wouldn’t have to try to hold all that stuff in my head, and then I just said, “I trust you.” And then every time I felt that familiar feeling of stress and being overwhelmed I would just repeat it to myself, “I trust you.”  And you know what? It worked.

While this was a new tactic for me, it’s not a new concept. In psychology, they call this reframing, changing how you perceive something so your experience of it changes.  When I was feeling overwhelmed with all the to-dos, it was because I approaching them from a place where I felt inadequate to do it all. But that feeling of inadequacy was a false one. In my nearly 4 decades, I have tackled some pretty nasty to-dos. This was not my first rodeo or even my biggest.

But it’s so easy to forget how very adequate we are.  I see this in my clients (and in myself). We downplay our achievements, and we highlight all the ways we feel inadequate. So what if you flipped that script? What if you took a few minutes to see how far you have come, how much you have accomplished, and then just said, “I trust you?”

I am absolutely aware of the irony

Setting the intention to thend to your health is often the only dividing line between feeling good and feeling horrible.

Tonight I was getting in bed, more or less on time, when I realized that I hadn’t prepared Day 2 of my awareness exercise for some of my newsletter subscribers.  Yes, I’m well aware of the irony.

Today I allowed myself to scroll endlessly through repeating headlines on our latest mass murder. Yes, I think, speak, and write extensively about stress management, and I am well aware of the irony.

This morning, it took me two hours to get anything done because I created no boundaries and let others pull me around. Yes, I preach self-care, and I am well aware of the irony.

Some days I do everything I know to do to keep my inflammation down and my mood up and other days…well I am absolutely aware of the irony.

Tomorrow I will try again. It will be a bit harder to get going because I won’t have all the sleep I need, but instead of allowing it to handicap me I will use it as a reminder to be more mindful. I will look at what my priorities are and let all that other stuff go.  I will do this because I will make a choice to do this. Sometimes that’s the only dividing line between feeling good and feeling like crap.

What choice are you going to make today?

 

 

Beware the magic bullet

If you’ve been aware of the wellness world for any amount of time, you have probably seen a good share of “superfoods,” “miracle detox,” and “all natural cures.”  You have probably heard some amazing claims made about this supplement, that combination of everyday ingredients, those weird berries, and all the fragrant oils. Each and every one of them is meant to heal the body from a wide range of what ails ya, from extra weight to cancer.  I’m not going to lie; I’ve certainly tried my fair share. At one point my medicine cabinet was a wasteland of “miracles.”

And who can blame me?  It’s so seductive to think that I can just do this one thing and all my problems will just disappear. Especially when I’m sick and feel horrible and scared. But it’s a false promise because that’s just not how we work.

Nevertheless, the promises keep rolling in, and people keep throwing their money at these cure-alls and feeling like failures when the promised benefits don’t come about.  The hilarious and gold-medal cursers over at the Thug Kitchen have a perfect name these phenomena, “cult of wellness magic.” (Don’t click through if cursing offends you.)

You might be thinking, “Carrie, aren’t you being a bit cynical?” To that I answer a resounding, “Heck yes, I am!” And I would urge you to be cynical, too. If anyone tries to sell you a remedy for your pain with the promise that it’s as simple as taking a pill or including an expensive powder in your smoothie, they aren’t about your well-being. They are about your money.  Any remedy that doesn’t jibe with science, doesn’t view you as a whole person, and/or takes a one-size-fits-all approach should not pass your smell test.

This does not mean that I don’t think you can find healing. Obviously, I do or I wouldn’t have become a health coach. But I also know from the healing I have gained and from the transformation in my clients’ lives that healing occurs when you are intentional about all aspects of your life — from what you put on and in your body to how you use your energy to how you speak about yourself.  And yes, SOME  superfoods, supplements, and oils may play a role in all that, but they aren’t the whole shebang…not even close to it.

You are better off increasing the number of vegetables you eat in a day than drinking a liter of the newest health drink. Getting a full night sleep every night will do more for weight control than that weird new detox. And making it a daily practice to work on your stress will do more for your long-term health than that expensive supplement.

So the next time you start to find yourself seduced by some new wellness magic, turn off your screen, march into your kitchen, and whip up some veggies. There are no magic bullets but you are more powerful than you know. You are more than capable to do the work needed to make the change happen.

Fear and failure because Lupus sucks

House Lupus

Last week I did some things I know don’t work for me. On Friday I ate gluten; it was an emergency situation. But the gluten I ate on Saturday had nothing to do with “have to” and everything to do with “want to” and “I already screwed up so…”  Health coaches are humans too. That wasn’t great, but I did what I do when I get glutened and dealt with the achy joints, the digestive issues, and fatigue.

But then I did something really dumb. While I was healing, I spent a few hours out in the sun. The sun and I, like many of you with Lupus, have a really awful relationship. Meaning it knocks me on my butt quickly because I am photosensitive, even while I’m in remission.

So here I am, having been in remission for a few years now, quickly seeing things deteriorate. I was angry at myself, and I felt like such a failure. But mostly I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen and I didn’t know how bad it was going to get. But you probably already know that fear comes along with our diagnosis. In fact, I think that’s one of the things that unite us but that we don’t talk about it.

Fear

We don’t talk about our fear because we don’t want to speak them into existence. But when we don’t talk about things, we repress them. And that’s super bad because we just sink all this fear into our body where it lives and grows and then comes out as stress, anxiety, or even anger. From purely a health perspective, that’s horrible because it is only going to feed the inflammation in your body.

So what we do is find the right people to hear us — to hear our fears. But NOT ALL YOUR FRIENDS are the right people. In this short video, Brene Brown spells out which friends we share our hearts with because not everyone deserves our vulnerability. For me, I knew I could share my heart with my partner and my friend with her own autoimmune diagnosis. They both just met me with empathy and, “I’m sorry; that sucks.” And for me, that’s just what I needed to hear and how I needed to be heard.

Failure

I failed. I knew better, and I didn’t do what I should have. Failure derails so many of us because it taps into that inner liar that tells us that we aren’t good enough, strong enough, or worthy of finding healing. I see it all the time, and it breaks my heart. But I get it. Instead of listening to that liar, we need to start practicing radical self-love. This is where we view ourselves and speak to ourselves the way we would a loved one.

When someone we care about makes a mistake we don’t think “Nice run, but you screwed that up so you might as well stop trying.” Heck no! But we do it to ourselves all the time. ALL.THE.TIME.

Be compassionate and understanding, and then hitch up your pants and get back on the wagon.

Cooling the inflammation

Once I rallied myself, I went to work mitigating the effects of my blunder. First I made sure I got plenty of sleep. I did gentle yoga because that has been shown to fight inflammation, I took Epsom salt baths. I practiced my breathing exercises and upped my Omega 3s. I ate only those foods I had prepared and only foods that I knew would cool inflammation.  I tried to take it easy as best I could, but mostly I just gave myself a break.  In short, I gave myself the space and the care I needed to cool the inflammation and prevent a flare.

We all mess up but we also all have the choice between throwing in the towel or acting from a place of compassion and self-love. Let’s make choices that heal.

Having Lupus doesn’t mean the world gets less crazy. How to deal

Self-Care Checklist for when the world has lost its mind

Warning: I’m going to talk about current events. If you are in a phase of your journey where you have more than enough on your plate with just waking up every day and have no desire to know whats going on in the world, stop reading here. You do your journey and don’t feel guilty for a minute. With a disease like Lupus, we all do the best we can. There are plenty of great blog post you can read on this site that will help you on your journey that don’t deal with the news.

Now for the rest of us: This weekend was an especially brutal one. The events in Charlottesville are deplorable and heartbreaking. Like you, I am angry and sad. After holding vigil by my phone all Saturday, I was in a pretty horrible place. I woke up feeling ill for the first time in a long time and, frankly, a little depressed.

Maybe this describes you this past weekend or maybe it’s some other horrible thing happening out there that takes you down. Whatever it is, I want to remind all of us (myself included) how to manage our reaction to the craziness of the world so we can protect our health. This is vital because we aren’t just women with chronic diseases, we are a citizen of the world and what happens in it affects us deeply. But, unfortunately, the world didn’t stop being crazy when we got our diagnosis, and worry and stress tend to exacerbate our symptoms.

These are the things I reminded myself that help me take care of myself while being a citizen of this world.

  1. Care and worry aren’t the same things.  I give myself permission to care about the world and the people in it, but my worry doesn’t help anything. My worry doesn’t stop bombs, or change hearts, or rewrite history. My worry only hurts me; it compromises my physical and mental well-being. When I figured this out, I started saying this mantra when I find myself being consumed by worry over issues I can’t control: “I can care deeply, but this situation doesn’t need my worry.
  2. Act on your convictions. If you struggle to get out of bed every day you might be inclined to skip this step, but please don’t.  When I say act on your convictions, it could mean go volunteer or go to a meeting to talk about the big issues and brainstorm solutions, or it could just mean pray or meditate. Smile at a stranger. Tell someone in your life how amazing you think they are.  Action doesn’t have to be a big grand gesture, it just means to strike back against the ugly with love. Remember to direct that love as much inwardly as you do outwardly.
  3. Use your energy wisely. I woke up on Sunday feeling horrible because I spent my energy on worrying over Saturday.  When you have dealt with or are dealing with fatigue (like the exhausted in your bones kind), you realize that energy is kind of like money. You don’t always have it. If you don’t spend it wisely, you can end up hurting. Spend your energy wisely, preferably on things that will increase your energy and help you heal.
  4. Get yourself to your community. A big part of taking care of yourself is finding and being apart of a community of uplifting people who support you and are worthy of your open heart. Maybe that means your local lupus support group and/or your church. Maybe it means an online community of people who share your love for knitting or Jane the Virgin. Thanks to the internet, community can be cultivated anywhere, it just takes action on your part to find it and show up.

The world is a broken place filled with broken people but it’s also a beautiful place filled with loving and caring people. Take care of yourself, your heart, and your mind.

XOXO,

Carrie

Back to basics: Food and our cells

Fortune cookie that says "You are what you eat: choose wisely"

The other day, I met with my youngest client yet for a one-time check-in. My session with the eight-year-old was fun and more basic than the sessions I have with older teens and adults. During this session, we got back to basics and it made me realize that sometimes we get so caught up in all the minutiae that we forget the simple but powerful truth of the role of food in our body. So if you will indulge me, I want to take us back to basics, too, because I think that this sort of reframing will help you make your next meal choice so much easier.

We are constructed of a bunch — a BUNCH —  a bunch of tiny cells. 37.3 TRILLION in fact. That’s 37.2 trillion tiny cells working together to create everything inside us and everything on the outside of us. Our organs, skin, muscles, joints, bones (etc., etc.) are all built and repaired by these trillions of cells. This means our health is a reflection of how well our cells are being taken care of.  The only way to ensure our cells are getting what they need is to understand how the food we eat impacts them because food determines how well each cell will function.

Protein

Proteins are what build and repair our cells. Our cells, inside and out, are made up of protein. Some of the proteins needed for cell health are produced by our bodies, but some of these proteins must come from our food. This means it’s important to eat adequate amounts of good quality protein daily.

For meat eaters this part is pretty easy; meat contains all the essential amino acids you need for cell function. If you are a plant eater, getting complete proteins can be a challenge. Vegetarians and vegans need to make sure to do the hard work of getting complete proteins. Grains and lentils are a good source, and of course eggs (for vegetarians) work too.

Fat

Despite the bad rap it gets for sharing its name with the stuff we all try to get rid of, fat is an important nutrient for our cells. Fat protect our cells by creating a non-water soluble membrane which regulates what is allowed in the cells. Fat helps our cells communicate with one another to help regulate gene expression. And fat also makes it possible for us to absorb the essential vitamins A, D, E, and K from our foods (and supplements).  Good sources of fat include:

  1. Oily fish
  2. Avocados
  3. Walnuts
  4. Nuts and nut butter
  5. Olives
  6. Olive oil
  7. Ground flaxseeds
  8. Full-fat dairy (if tolerated)
  9. Eggs
  10. Chia seed
  11. Sunflower seeds

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates also get a bad rap, but let’s all remember two things. 1.) carbohydrates break down into glucose which our body uses for energy by storing them in our cells and 2.) vegetables are carbohydrates. Of course, not great, fast burning carbohydrates cause problems for the body, but nutrient dense, slow burning carbohydrates like vegetables provide an excellent source of energy while also delivering the vitamins and nutrients our cells need to thrive.

Vegetables make your cells thrive! Doesn’t that just make you want to eat them all the time? Me too!

I hope this back to basics look at food has been helpful to you. I would love to know what you think in the comments below.

A few of my favorite (free) things

I’m ramping up to do a blog series on alternative healing modalities like massage, acupuncture, and CranioSacral therapy and how those therapies can contribute to our healing. But before I started all that, I wanted to acknowledge the costly elephant in the room of autoimmune disease: being chronically ill can be pricey. From missed time at work to out-of-pocket medical expenses, the price tag for the autoimmune disease can get expensive, depending on your type of insurance and access to medical care. When you add alternative methods of healing to the traditional medical model, the money adds up fast.

While I deeply believe that every dollar I’ve ever spent on my healing was well worth it, I also want to control that cost as much as possible. Over the years I’ve discovered how I could give myself the best care while saving some money along the way. I’ve written several posts on how to reduce your spending while striving to clean up your eating and environment, but today I want to share those things that are free. We are lucky to live in a time when a wifi connection and a device of some kind can open up a world of quality teachers to assist you in your healing.

Yoga

Yoga is one of the best things out there to reduce pain, detoxify, and help heal our broken relationship with our bodies. And for my money…um…time, Yoga with Adriene is the best way to get all those benefits without having to go to a studio. She offers a variety of videos for free from yoga for weight loss to yoga when you are angry and several yoga challenges.  But the best thing is that you get an authentic teacher who is clearly passionate about bringing the healing power of yoga to everyone while having fun. I don’t know about you, but fun isn’t something I think of when I think yoga. But Adriene Mishler makes it happen.  So even if you think you hate yoga, give Yoga with Adriene a try. I promise you will find something useful.

Meditation

There have been hundreds of studies that have found that meditation does many positive things for us, from increasing our compassion to improving our health. For those of us with autoimmune disease, meditation can help to reduce our stress, inflammation, and decrease our fears. For beginners to meditation, the Headspace app is a great tool. Each guided meditation is 10 minutes long. The app is technically not free, but it offers 10 days of free meditation and you can take those 10 free days over and over again. The Calm app is also another great guided meditation tool with some free features. Like Headspace, it is a paid service with free guided meditations, but what they offer for free is quality guided meditations full of useful information.

Workouts

Working out is extremely important for those of us with autoimmune disease because it helps to reduce inflammation and to increase our levels of happiness. And who doesn’t want to be happy?  Gyms are often a good place to go to get your workout on, but they can be expensive. And if you take classes, you have to work around their schedule.  This is why I really like Fitness Blender. This free, online resource has a plethora of fitness videos in a variety of styles and times. The search feature should be the poster child for all searches. Only have a 20 minutes to do a full body workout for beginners? No problem. Just input your requirements and find a workout that’s right for you.

 

Chronic illness can be so expensive, but supporting your body doesn’t have to be. I would love to know what you think of these resources. Have you tried any? Have they helped? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Four tips for preventing sun-induced flairs

Does the image above scare you a bit? Then, friend, you and I have something in common. The sun can be a real jerk for those of us with an autoimmune disease. This is what the doctors refer to as photosensitive, i.e. sun exposure causes you to flare up and/or get a lovely rash.

At the peak of my illness, the sun took me down more times than I can remember. If I stood in full sun during a warm day for just a few minutes, I would start to feel sick and then be down for a while. The problem is that I like to be outside and sometimes I have to be outside because my small children need more things to destroy and they have already finished with the house. I’ve tried sun protective clothing, but it made me super hot, completely defeating the point.

Since I live in Central Texas and most days fall under the “sunny day” category, I thought that I had lost my outside forever. But over time I’ve found a few things that make it possible for me to get outside time while keeping my symptoms at bay.

  1. Shade is your friend. Shade allows you to be outside without the full brunt of the sun, and it’s way cooler. We have cultivated some nice shady places to hang out in the backyard, and I have a mental map of all the parks and pools in town and how they rank on my shade-o-meter. In fact, I just got back from a hiking vacation where we decided our hikes based on the amount of shade. Look for it, love it, and totally be that person that waits or drives around the parking lot for that one shady space in the parking lot. You can tell anyone that complains to take it up with me.
  2. Embrace the old southern lady look. You need to run out today and buy a gardening hat al la Ouiser and wear it when you are moving between shady areas. A wide brim helps to protect some of your sensitive skin will creating some shade.
  3. Protect yourself in the car. Tint your car windows to their legal limit. One year my husband got all my window tinted as a Christmas present, and I couldn’t have been happier. It has made all the difference in the world. I may look like a mob boss driving around, but the relief is well worth it. Also, use a windshield shade to reduce the heat in your car.
  4. Be strategic about your sun. Don’t go outside during the hottest part of the day unless you have to. I make plans for the morning and for the evening. And if I do have to go outside any other time I a.) plan for shade (see #1); b.) wear my hat (see #2) and maybe even long sleeves; and c.) limit my time significantly, i.e. when I start to feel uncomfortable, I’m out of there.

Living with autoimmune disease can be challenging, and not just in that chronic- pain-and-illness-frequent-trips-to-the-doctor kind of way. It can also be limiting in that I-just-want-to-feel-like-a-normal-person-way. Being holed up in the house all the time can definitely make you feel less than normal. But being prepared and smart about your sun exposure can help you to protect yourself and make it possible to be amongst the living.

Let me know what you think and what your biggest sun challenges are in the comments below.

 

 

 

Autoimmune disease does not have to rule your life!

I love what I do because 1) I get to work with the most amazing people and  2) I get to see those people heal and have the health they want. I got into this business because my own health coach led me through a health transformation that has changed my life profoundly.  But I know the proof is in the dairy-free pudding so here is one of my amazing clients sharing her story with you.

Thank you, Debbie, for allowing me to come along for this beautiful health transformation. You are a rock start!

Has Debbie’s message resonated with you? Contact me today and set up a free health consultation. We can work together to transform your health!

Five tips for elimination diet success!

An elimination diet changed my life, and I’m not even being dramatic here. After struggling to find out what diet worked best for me, I took the time to do what amount to a two-month experiment to find out what was harming my body. This has lead to so much freedom and healing.

What is an elimination diet? It’s is simply removing certain types of food from your diet completely for a certain period of time and then adding those foods back to your diet one at a time to figure out which foods are problematic for you.

“Could you be more vague?” you might ask. And the answer is yes, but I won’t.

You see there are tons of elimination diets out there. The popular Whole30 is essentially an elimination diet. It allows some foods other programs restrict and restricts foods others leave in.  I did an elimination diet that removed five foods — wheat, soy, eggs, corn, and dairy — recommended by Dr. Blum in her book the Immune System Recovery Plan. 

Dr. Blum’s is just one of many elimination diets created to help people with autoimmune disease. The most popular is the Autoimmune Protocol Diet which removes several foods like nightshades, grains, legumes. It can be followed for several months to help heal the gut, but the ultimate goal is to reintroducing foods to see what triggers you and what does not.

So which one is right for me — or you? It really is what resonates with you and what you feel you can be successful at. I think part of the beauty of most elimination diets is that it gets you cooking and eating whole foods.  I chose to do the program I did because, at the time, I knew that that was what I had the energy for and could stick to it. Luckily, it out really well for me and is one of the main reasons my gut is healing and I’m in remission. One day I may do the Autoimmune Protocol Diet just to see if I can’t crank up this energy even more.

No matter what you chose here are some tips to make sure you are successful.

  1. Time it well. Pick a good time to do the diet, starting with the main period you will be eliminating and the period you will be testing. While you certainly can do any diet over the holiday season it’s hard not to feel resentful of everyone around you.
  2. Get your people on board. Tell your partner, kids, roommates, and BFF what’s going on and ask them for their support. They may want to join in too. This is also a good time to ask them, very politely, not to bring any crap (especially crap you love) into the house/office for a period of time.
  3. Approach this with your glass half full. One thing that really sustained me was not to think about what I couldn’t eat but rather what I could. I took the ingredients I had to work with and made some masterpieces. It may have been my most creative period to date.
  4. Distribute the work. While you are in your planning phase, make sure to keep a list of meal ideas that you can refer to when meal planning or looking for something to eat.
  5. Remember the why! This goes for any challenge. Before you begin, write down exactly why you are doing this “crazy thing” and put it in your face. Tape it to your computer, to the bathroom mirror, over your bed, on your kid’s forehead…or not. You get it, right? Keep that intention in the forefront of your mind to get you through when it’s hard.

If you have an autoimmune disease, an elimination diet is essential to improving the quality of your life. If you think you may need extra support, contact me for a free consult to see if I’m the lady you are looking for to help you reach your health goals.

Yes you can be social even with a “weird” diet and bonus recipe

 

Maria from sound of music saying "Look at all the food I can't eat"

Some of my healing from autoimmune disease can be directly attributed to the food I eat and the food I don’t. A few years back, an elimination diet revealed I have a sensitivity to gluten, dairy, and eggs. While I wasn’t surprised about the gluten or the dairy I was so sad to see eggs go. I live in the land of breakfast tacos for cryin’ out loud! On top of all that I make it a point to avoid processed food and sugar.

So from a standard American diet point of view, I am pretty limited in what I can eat.

While my diet is health supportive (and delicious) it tends to be different from most people’s. Because of that I stopped inviting people over for meals as much or accepting dinner invitations. I didn’t want to impose my restrictions on others and I think I felt a little self-conscious about serving people my “weird” diet.

But ya know what, that’s no way to live. I love my friends and I love to eat with them and cook for them. And bonus: participating in the community keeps us health. So I started accepting dinner invites, although it took me awhile to stop apologizing profusely for all my dietary restrictions (maybe I’m not completely there),  and I started having people over again. Last night, in fact, my dear friend (and soon to be podcast co-host!!!) and her awesome kiddo came over for a cookout.

Here is the weird meal I made.

Grilled Tempeh* and Veggie Fajitas with Guacamole

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

grilled sweet potatoes, portabella mushrooms, red onion, bell peppers, and tempeh on a wooden cutting board with a white bowl of lime wedges. Tempeh

  1. One to two packages of tempeh (I really like Lightlife’s flax tempeh). You can easily replace this with any meat of your choice.
  2. 8oz of vegetable broth
  3.  One TBS of fajita seasoning or 1tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp of coriander.

Veggies

  1.  Sweet potato peeled and cut into 1/2 inch planks.
  2. Two bell peppers cut into big wedges.
  3.  Two or more portabella mushrooms washed with stems removed
  4. Half of a red onion (keep intact)

Guacamole

  1. Two ripe avocados
  2. Three to five garlic cloves minced
  3. The juice of one and a half limes
  4.  Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Place the tempeh ingredients in a cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. Simmer the tempeh for up to 20 minutes, flipping as you go. Make sure to add a bit of broth if the pan starts to dry out. You could do this step a day in advance and let it marinade in the refrigerator.
  2. Coat the vegetables, onion, and mushrooms with either coconut oil (which is constantly melted in my house this time of year) or olive oil.  Toss with the fajita seasoning, about 1 TBS.
  3. Heat the grill to medium heat.
  4. Cut the tempeh in half, making two squares. Brush with oil on either side.
  5. Place everything on the grill starting with the tempeh. The tempeh goes on the top rack and I placed the bell pepper and sweet potato in a veggie basket like this Grillux Stainless Steel Vegetable Grill Basket (affiliate link). The mushrooms and onions (cut side down) go directly on the grill.
  6. Grill everything for about 15 minutes flipping everything but the onion in the halfway through.
  7. Make the guacamole by mixing all the ingredients together. This will make a really large batch, which is a beautiful thing.
  8. Once cooked, slice up the tempeh, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and onion into long stripes.
  9. Pull out lettuce leaves, chard leaves, or a tortilla of your choice and make the best fajita ever!

We had so much fun eating and hanging out. My weird diet didn’t feel so weird and made me realize I was the only one making it weird. The adults had fun, the kids had fun, and just because I don’t dine on sugar and dairy didn’t mean the kids had to reframe. kids eating ice cream on a picnic table. A note on soy. Most soy we consume in the US is really not great for us. This soy is the by-products of GMO seeds from subsidized farming that is put into all our processed food or shaped into fake meats, soy dog anyone?  While this type of soy is not great for our health, fermented soy, like tempeh, has beneficial probiotics and has lots of vitamin K2.  While you don’t want to eat any soy all day every day, I believe fermented soy can be a part of a whole foods diet that supports our health. Check out what Dr. Hyman has to say about it here.  Or course, just like I am with eggs, you may not be able to tolerate soy and thats cool too. Stay tuned for more on elmination diets.

Three tips for making stress management tools work for you

During the Q & A section of a recent presentation, I was asked how I managed stress. I reviewed the information on the worksheets I’d been discussing, but I realized her question went deeper than simply “What do I do?” She was really asking, “How do you actually remember to use these tools?” Because stress management tools are only helpful if you use them, I make it a point to cultivate tools that are as practical as they are effective. Here are my simple tips to work life and health affirming habits into your day.

 To get some of these tools for yourself you can get instant access to my free stress workshop here.

  • Step one, pick tools that you can actually do. I would love to manage my stress by getting massages or spending an hour in a sensory deprivation tank, but ain’t nobody got time for that! I do, however, have a few minutes every day to do some breathing exercises. If you need more stress tools you can get instant access to one of my most popular workshops on stress management right here.
  • Step two, schedule it. I did not go from being fueled by stress to effectively managing my stress because I had some tools. I had to plan when and how I was going to do things. I created intentions before I went to bed and ran through those intentions when I woke up. I put things on my calendar and scheduled my work/life around them.  Using tools to address my stress did not come naturally, so I had to be very intentional.
  • Step three, I started “taking a second.”  In the past, I would encounter a stressful moment at work or at the dinner table or wherever, and it would just rule the day. But then I started allowing myself the space to ask,  “What’s the alternative here?” For example, I would be sitting at dinner with both of my kids refusing to eat the beautiful and nutritious meal I just made, and I would think, “What’s the alternative to all this? I have expectations that aren’t being met, so I can either dig in and let stress rule the situation or I could do something like take a mommy time-out and do one of my stress management techniques.” When I took those moments to calm my stress response, I was able to view the situation more clearly and with more empathy.

At the end of the day, it boils down to being intentional and strategic. You know what your day looks like or the resources you have at your disposal, so seek solutions that work within your constraints. The transformation from stressed-out Carrie to the person I am today didn’t happen overnight, but the more intentional I was about addressing my stress (and the way I ate, moved, and thought about my body) the easier those things fell into my life and the more natural they became.

I hope this helps you find and use the tools that work for you. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

How about that perfect body?

 

I started out this week rambling to a bunch of elementary students…um…er…I mean I took part is this year’s career day. It’s always a fun event, but this year my head was just not in the game. For one group, I would ramble on about how I write blog posts to inspire people, and to another group, I would talk about the importance of staying healthy so they could follow their passion with gusto. I was all over the place.

Until one beautiful little girl with notepad in hand asked me, “Is there anything other than exercise that you can do to get the perfect body?”

Deep breath, mama! This is what we trained for.

THE perfect body. Isn’t that what we are supposed to be aspiring to? Isn’t in the pursuit of and the achievement of perfection where we find our worth — from the time we are little until the time we die? Seriously, I’ve heard old ladies in assisted living complaining about putting on a little too much weight. I wanted to call bullshit because that’s what that ideal is. But I also saw myself in her and in the other girls hanging on my words, and I knew I had to give them more.

Honestly, it was one of those blackout situations where I vaguely remember saying some good stuff, so I thought I would write what I hope I conveyed to those girls. Because no matter how old we are, I think we have to hear this, again and again, in order to drown out the messages that keeps us feeling “less than.”

  1. There is no such thing as the perfect body. Advertisers and fashion designers might sell us an “ideal image,” but those images change all the time and, thanks to photoshop, very rarely align with what any real women look like.
  2.  The perfect body shape is a total red herring. When girls and women waste their time worrying how to get their body to conform to some ideal, they are misdirecting their energy. They wake up thinking about what they can and can’t eat or how much they need to exercise instead of spending time figuring out what their passions are or building their empires.  We would be running this show if we weren’t all so concerned about the size of our thighs.
  3. The perfect body can’t exist because your body is going to change a lot…like a lot. I’m not talking about weight fluctuation, I’m just talking about weird body changes. Hips get bigger, waists get smaller, boobs….are all over the place. Because you are a woman, estrogen, pregnancy, and age affect where you store fat, how wide things are or aren’t, and how your muscle shows or doesn’t. I’ve had several different bodies in my almost four decades, and I expect to have many more. God willing!
  4. Trying to achieve the perfect body is often dangerous. From Eating Disorders Victoria: “Dieting is the single most important risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Girls who diet moderately are 5 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who don’t diet, and those who diet severely are 18 times more likely.”  I was once one of those girls. My obsession with the perfect body caused me to obsessed over counting calories and to see how few I could eat in a day. I’m sure this is why my thyroid stopped working in my early 20s. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to hear that extreme dieting and autoimmune disease are connected as this sort of dieting causes stress (both emotionally and physically) and wrecks the microbiome.

Years of worrying about my body (and no matter what I looked like, I never thought I looked good enough) took its toll on my physical health, but it also left so much emotional damage. I see the damage in the women in my life, and I could even see the spark of it in that little girl. The idea of the perfect body is such a thief. It steals our health, our joy, and if we aren’t very careful, our dreams.

So how do we proceed?

How about when we talk about our bodies to the girls and women in our lives, we focus on our body’s ability to carry us through this life and help us carry others when they need it. We realize that our body’s purpose is to help us get away from danger, to help us express happiness, and to take us through all the experiences we get to have as humans.

We need to realize that our body image is as much a part of our health as our physical health. I encourage you to examine your eating habits to make sure you eat in a way that supports your health. Be on the lookout for patterns where you use food to punish yourself or to hide some internal pain. I encourage you to celebrate your body through movement because that’s going to improve our health and make it easier to follow our passions. If you need to lose some weight to be healthy, then we can do that together, but don’t for one second think that how your body looks makes you anything less than enough. Because you are so enough.

Lupus Awareness Month: My Life with Lupus

This month is Lupus Awareness month which, as the Lupus foundation of America puts it, is meant to “increase public understanding of this cruel and mysterious disease that ravages different part of the body.”  It’s a noble cause, but it will always come up short when trying to explain what it means to live with the disease.  Even those of us with a Lupus diagnosis can’t have a complete grasp of what the disease means for someone else because it’s as individual as it is cruel. However different our experiences with the disease are, I imagine we all share that invisible line –the line that separates our lives before the diagnosis and our new life after we discover what has been wreaking havoc. For me, that line was formed after what felt like

For me, that line was formed after what felt like millionth visit to a specialist when I was told that it was Lupus. This was the reason my body was attacking itself. This was the reason I was sick all the time. This was the reason I slept for hours on the weekend and felt like I was walking through a fog. My world quickly became about finding the right drugs, many prescriptions of prednisone, supplements that caused flairs, and a general disdain for all “magic bullets” that everyone felt so compelled to share with me. Plaquinel caused unbelievable itching, but low-dose naltrexone worked despite the month or two of super weird dreams. Things were manageable.

But I knew I needed to do more. Having just worked with my health coach on thyroid disease, I had learned that food was medicine, that health was far more than just food and exercise, and that a solution was out there. I just had to honor my intuition and find it.

Today I’m in remission, but I would be lying if I said that Lupus didn’t still play a major role in my life. It is, in many ways, my main motivator. It keeps me listening to my body and eating and living in a way that supports my health.  It’s also the reason I do what I do — why I gave up a career I worked so hard for to become a practitioner in the little know field of health coaching.

While I shy away from completely calling this diagnosis a blessing, I do know that it has molded my life into something I would have never imagined. And for that, I’m pretty grateful.

I would love to hear your story. Let me know what that line was like for you in the comments below.

Reduce your stress and get focused now with one simple tool!

 

School event The other day I had the privilege to see an acting troupe perform plays written by my kid and her classmates. It was awesome! But it was also on a Friday afternoon in the cafeteria with about 200 kids who were ready for the weekend. To say the energy was up would be an understatement. The teachers and the performers did a great job of keeping the kids quiet, but one really exciting moment on stage was just more than these kids could handle.

Remember how loud it could get during an assembly when you were a kid? I was having major flashbacks!

But then one fabulous teacher got their attention and started counting out the breaths.  Breathe in for four, hold for seven, and breathe out for eight. Two rounds later the energy had shifted! I knew this worked for me and for the adults (like the teachers I taught it to) and my own kids in a one-on-one situation, but I was floored by how immediate and effective this breathing exercise was for some 200 kids with weekend-fever.

If I hadn’t already been sold on 4-7-8 breathing as an effective tool to immediately reduce your stress and get focused, I would have been in that moment. All these kids brimming with energy and feeding off of each other were able to calm down and get centered in less than a minute! When they took those deep, intentional breaths, they were telling their brains (which told their bodies), “Everything is cool; you can relax.” When their bodies received the message, they turned off the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight)  and engaged the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).

And you can do that too. Feeling too scattered to write that to do list or just get after it? Feeling overwhelmed by stress? Can’t sleep because your mind is racing? Take less than a minute and breathe in for 4, hold for 7, and breathe out for 8. Do this for two to three rounds, and you will send your body the relaxation signals it needs to calm down and focus on the task at hand.

Check out my video for a guided practice and let me know how it worked for you in the comments below.

Until next time,

Carrie

Fight inflammation through movement!

Carrie and Cara bodypump after glow

This photo captures the 10 minutes after my first Bodypump class because I needed proof that I could live through it. And I did! The smiling blond to the left is the instructor and one of my dear friends. Cara is such a dear friend, in fact, that she is the only person I will let lie to me. (But you said only 2 more!) She is also the Ulcerative Colitis Warrior and one of the funniest women I know. Look for our podcast coming soon (Summer 2017) on the ups and downs of healing from autoimmune…

But I digress…

Through this series, I’ve written about how movement helped heal my connection to my body and how to get exercises in even when we are busy, but today I want to be a little bolder. If you have an autoimmune disease, exercise — even a little! — could help tremendously.

I know that exercise can be challenging when you barely have strength to wake up from your four-hour Saturday nap, but even a little bit can go a long way. You don’t have to think super big when it comes to exercise, especially if you are having a flare. Just 20 minutes of walking can reduce inflammation.

When you do feel stronger, incorporating strength training can really improve your quality of life. For instance, research has shown that those of us with autoimmune diseases like Lupus,  fibromyalgia,  and MS benefit from strength training through a reduction in our symptoms and an increase in our wellbeing. This is because these types of exercise also help fight inflammation. And that’s what we are all going for with the foods we eat or don’t and the medicines we take. Hell, it could be our battle cry: “Fight the inflammation!”

Strength training does not have to be difficult. It could simply mean intentionally doing some squats and lifting weighted objects (cans, bottles of water, children) a few times a week. Or you could get a bit more formal and do a short strength training video from Fitness Blender.

Or take it a step further …

Lately, I’ve decided to upgrade my workout routine from yoga, walking, and YouTube videos because I was so inspired by the remarkable comeback I’ve seen Cara make over the last few years.  Cara’s story and her energy are the reason I got out of my comfort zone and started going to workout classes. For those of you not in the know, this means a room with a bunch of other people also trying to follow instruction. I know, I thought it sounded horrible too.  I’ve avoided these sorts of activities for a good 30+ years because I had a longstanding policy of not intentionally making a fool out of myself in public. I think my P.E. teacher thought I was crazy.

But that fear, like lots of silly fears we all have, was holding me back. So I decided to face my fear and make a commitment to going to a minimum of three strength training workout classes each week. And you know what? It’s awesome. My workouts have been ten times more effective than doing it by myself. There are people (including the instructors) of all sizes, shapes, and ages, and they don’t care about whether or not I look silly because they are just trying to make it through the workout like I am.

And yes, I do probably look a little silly, but I also feel a heck of a lot stronger.

Takeaways and tips to making working out work for you.

  1. Working out, especially strength training, is a great way to reduce inflammation in your body and increase your quality of life.
  2. Start where you are. If you have really low energy, try to build up to at least a 20-minute walk. If you are feeling pretty solid, start to incorporate strength training into your weekly routine.
  3. Listen to your body. If you feel particularly exhausted after working out, rest and then start over by reducing the amount of time, weight, or repetition. You will get stronger.
  4. Do something that interests you. Think you might like to try Barre? Try it at a gym or YouTube it. Think you might like bicep curls while binging Buffy, do that.
  5. Don’t let fear get in your way. A better quality of life vastly outweighs the fear of looking silly.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what strength training method you chose as long as its something that you will stick with. Fight that inflammation. Just do it!

Cultivate a mindset of movement

Cultivate a mindset of movement. How everyday movement keeps us healthy

I’ve got a simple tip for helping you move from being a sedentary person that aches, holds on to weight, and has no energy to one that cultivates movement as a way of life.

But first…

You know that weight loss advice that says “just take the stairs” or “just park farther from work.” Well, I have a bone to pick with this advice. I completely agree with the idea that you should work more movement into your day, but I don’t think it goes far enough. Unless you work on the 5th floor or you can park a significant distance away from your work, these short bursts of movement aren’t really going to help you. And in some cases, this advice may give you license to splurge a little. “Well, I did walk up and down two flights of stairs today; a cupcake won’t hurt.”

Put the cupcake down, Cindy!

Here is the thing. We have to move more. But more importantly, we have to get intentional about breaking up those looooong periods of sitting at our desk, in our cars, or binge watching The Great British Bake Off. We have to cultivate the mindset of “how can I get the most movement out of my day.”

I know this seems silly in its simplicity. But if you think about it, most of us are hardwired to look for the easiest path. Spend any time driving around a parking lot looking for the closest space recently?

We have tons of labor-saving devices — from cars to mixers — to make sure our lives are super easy and our bodies super stationary. Heck, I can even change my thermostat from my phone. My phone! I don’t even have to walk the 10 steps to do it manually.

I am not saying to sell your car or throw out your electric can-opener. But I am advocating that we rethink how often we rely on these things. Researchers have found that people in the Blue Zones (areas of the world where people have a high quality of life long into their lives) all share a few things in common. One of those things is that they incorporate physical activity into their days naturally. They garden, they knead their own bread, and, when they go out, they walk!

You might be thinking people in those Blue Zones have an environment more tailored to this sort of movement. And I get that. Especially in the States, we have built out cities to be car, not pedestrian, friendly. But I contend that half of our blocks are in our mind. I spent years living without a car both in Europe and in America. It’s not always easy, but, in my experience, it is doable.

Try one (or more) of these ideas: Walk your kids to school. Walk to the grocery story or your friend’s house.  Walk or bike to your office. If that’s just not doable, yes, follow the advice to park far away. But also think of how you can move more inside your office.  Stop calling and emailing if you can walk down to your co-worker’s desk.  Instead of hopping in your car for lunch, how about walking to get your food? How about hanging your clothes on the line?  After work, how about you throw yourself a dance party to get the stress of the day off ya?

You’re going to eat anyway, might as well use the fuel well.

So how are you going to start moving more? How will you cultivate that mindset of movement? I think I’m going to take a break and have a dance party right now.