Toxin and You 1: How to love your liver so it keeps on loving you!

I am diving into a new series on nourishing those detox pathways and reducing our exposure to toxins. Today I’m starting off strong by getting right into it and talking about the liver because it is the powerhouse of our detox pathways. Our liver daily deals with all those toxins we put into our body like sugar, pesticides, and alcohol and those toxins our bodies create, such as ammonia and estrogen.

This powerhouse takes care of this onslaught of toxins through this really cool two-step process.  First, it takes the toxins and makes them water soluble. At this point, when the toxins are water soluble, they are actually free radical which makes them really dangerous and why step 2 is so important.

The critical second step is when the liver takes all those new free radicals binds them up and sends them out via our kidneys or our gallbladder. Toxins leave the body!

Maybe I’m the only one that geeks out about this stuff but isn’t that so cool!

To do the awesome 2-step process, our liver relies on the vitamins and nutrients we take in through food or vitamins. This means out liver needs B vitamins which come primarily from animal products, i.e. eggs or salmon.  Next, it needs FOLATE  from leafy greens. (note: folic acid is a man-made form of folate and doesn’t work for all of us). The liver also needs glutathione and flavonoids found in a diverse range of plant food.

When our liver isn’t supported it can’t do that two-step process which puts us at risk for health problems like skin issues, fatigue, brain fog and other problems. More seriously, when our estrogen isn’t dealt with properly we are at risk of cancer.

Our liver health is so important which means we need to show it some massive daily love so it can do its massive daily job of keeping us toxin free. Here is how you do that.

  1. Eat a diet full of all sorts of vegetables, especially those of the leafy green variety.  Aim to have vegetables at each meal. Spinach and eggs make a perfect combo!
  2.  Eat good quality protein from happy animals that weren’t shot up with loads of antibiotics. The extra cost is worth it!
  3.  Reduce those things that gunk up your liver. Reduce sugar (it turns to fat in your liver).
  4. Reduce pesticide exposure by making the right choice at the grocery store. Check out the clean and dirty lists from the Environmental Working Group to find out which vegetables and fruits have the most and least amount of pesticides.
  5. Cut back on alcohol (no more than 7 drinks a week and no more than 3 at a time). Too much alcohol depletes us of B vitamins.
  6. Stop smoking and don’t be around those that smoke. Do I even need to say this? Smoking is the worst, says this ex-smoker! 🙂

So let’s get going and start loving up our livers!

Toxins are everywhere! Whats a lady to do?

Yellow and black sign that says Toxic Danger

I’m starting a series about our health and toxins, and I’ll be examining things like our beauty products, household cleaners, the stuff we cook with, and even the air we breathe in our home.

I’m going to be honest; I’m a little nervous. I remember when my own health coach brought up this topic, and I immediately felt overwhelmed. I mean, what the heck! I had just changed EVERYthing I ate, and now I had to think of this stuff too? UGH!!!!

BUT…

I know that you have a desire to take care of your health so that it can take care of you.

AND…

I know that this stuff is important.  Everything that ends up in our bodies affects our health for good or ill. Toxins affect out our health by wreaking havoc on our immune system and hormones and/or exposing us to carcinogens. And because we live in the world we do, we are exposed to toxins pretty much all the time.

You can unfold from the fetal position because, even though this sounds rather bleak, there is some really good news.  Our bodies are awesome (yes, even yours), and they can handle these toxins. We just need to do a little work to support that process.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about how we can both reduce our toxic load and how we can support and nourish our detox pathways. My goal is to give you actionable and practical tools and tips to make this process meaningful.

Are you ready?

Carrie

Eat well without burning out under a pile of dishes!

Cooking now with 50% less time in the kitchen

So you want to change your diet so you can reduce your inflammation and feel better, but cooking is kind of killing you?  I get that!  Cooking three times a day means that much of your day is dedicated to cooking, eating, and cleaning up.  Which is why I give it a big fat nope!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love to cook, and I do eat home cooked meals almost every meal. But I’m not cooking each meal. Over the years I’ve developed some habits that keep me rolling in the homemade food without spending all my time in the kitchen.

But first here are 3 reasons you should be making your own food.

  1. Money. For most of us, cooking from home is way cheaper than buying it from a restaurant with the exception of those dollar menus, but given correlations between fast food and disease, this just means the true cost will show up in your healthcare bills. Fast food = too expensive
  2. Control over your food. Most restaurants, even those with “healthy” options, use highly inflammatory oils, like vegetable and canola oils. They also often use prepackaged food full of the neurotoxin MSG or additives that harm our gut.
  3. Quality. Most restaurants serve non-organic produce and conventional meat. While some non-organic produce is fine to eat (check out the EWG clean and dirty list), the majority isn’t. That means we are exposing ourselves to pesticides that harm our brain, disrupt our hormones, and contribute to cancer, while conventional meat is high in inflammation causing fats and carries gut damaging antibiotics.  This is especially important for those of us with autoimmune disease.

So now that we established the “why” let’s talk about the “how.” As in how do we get non-inflammation causing, nutrient-dense food into our body without burning out under a pile of dishes.

Tips

1. Get the right equipment. Get yourself a good, large sharp knife and a big cutting board. Its hard and no fun trying to cut with a dull knife on a tiny cutting board, not to mention dangerous. You can buy good quality and inexpensive knives and cutting boards at Marshall’s or Amazon.
2. Cut once; eat several times.  Cutting vegetables is the most time intensive part of cooking, so stop doing it every day. When you have a spare 45 minutes, start chopping your vegetables for the week. (This is where your new knife and cutting board will really pay off.) You can store your chopped vegetables in containers in your fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for longer. [Tip: Put a towel or paper towel in your container to absorb any moisture.]
3. Make a big batch.  Make the whole chicken and cook the whole bag of beans. Basically, just double or triple any lentils, grains, or proteins you make and store the remainder in the freezer for next week or in the fridge to use sooner.
3. Meal prep. Make a full meal that can be easily heated and eaten over several days. For my kids, I make these 3 ingredient egg muffins to make the morning easier. For myself and my husband, I roast 3 cups of chickpeas, half a butternut squash, a sweet potato, and a bag of Brussels sprouts and make a big pot of quinoa for a yummy weekday meal. This takes some time, but I save more time later in the week, and I get to eat well with very little effort.

Making the most of your meals does take some adjustment. But once you find your groove, you will be saving money and healing your body with the best of them.

What do you think? What questions do you have? Any kitchen hacks to share? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Bump this to the top of your to-do list RIGHT NOW!

 Glennon Doyle's Facebook post showing a mom napping on the sideline of a soccer game. Head on purse, blanket over her face. Showing up for her kids but recognizing that she is tired!

Glennon Doyle posted this awesome photo on Facebook.

She captured a moment at a soccer game of a mom who not only showed up for her kids but she also showed up for HERSELF!

Glennon captioned the photo:

“I give you: MY NEW HERO. This Soccer Mom, at my kid’s last game.
Whilst the other parents stood loudly and earnestly and concernedly on the sidelines: this mother laid her body down on the ground, her head on her purse, and her blanket over her face – and napped.
Her entire existence said: I am showing up for my kid. But I’m not gonna pretend I’m not exhausted about It.
Please understand that periodically- when the sideline yelled and woke her from her warrior sleep- she would raise that little thumb of hers and say: yay. And then she’d go back to sleep.
I love her. She is a cultural icon for our time.
Here’s to WOMEN WHO FREAKING REST WHEN THEY’RE TIRED. May we know them. May we raise them. May we be them.
I would like to formally nominate this hero as the president elect of our Women Who Have Run Out of Effs to Give Club.
There will be no meetings.
I salute you.”

As a business owner, a mom, and some other titles that I’ve agreed to,  I can fall into the “productive trap.” You know that place where you have be productive all the time?  If you are up, you’re working or cleaning. If you are sitting down, you’re checking emails or googling your worries.  If you are in the car, you’re thinking about all the things you need to do. And if there is nothing to do, you damn sure can figure out something to do!

The productivity trap is addictive, and it hurts our health and keeps our body in a stressed state. We do not want to live in the stress response!

As a health coach and a fellow productivity addict, I don’t have the answers for you but I do have some ideas and some questions that I’ve been asking myself.

1. What do you want to do? That is, what really lights you up, gets you excited, and leaves you feeling accomplished?

2. How will you say yes in a way that protects your time, energy, and health?

3. What do you not want to do? What drains you and leaves you feeling frustrated?

4. What can you let go? What can you delegate?

5. When is your downtime for today?

This last question is frankly the hardest because we often batch our “downtime.”  If we are lucky, we are only getting a portion of the desired time one or maybe two days a week.

That ain’t great, and it doesn’t support our desire to calm our stress response, lower our inflammation, or even just find joy in this one, imperfect life.

I’m taking a cue from this soccer mom, and I’m starting to show up for myself.

Two simple ways to meet your goals!

 

This post gave me a good giggle this morning. Which is awesome because laughing is the best!

So many people are struggling right now to see their New Year’s resolutions through to the end of the month, let alone the end of the year. According to the U.S. News and World Report, 80% of people will drop their resolution by the time February rolls around.

There are two main reasons I find that people, myself included, fail to meet the goals they set.

Reason #1

First, they don’t make a plan. So you have decided that you are going to cook every night so you can get out of the takeout rollercoaster. This is a great, clearly defined goal, but…but you haven’t done anything to shift your schedule. If you don’t make the space for this new habit (like meal planning and prepping on the weekend), you are going to find yourself squeezing in these homemade dishes until you are all squeezed out and revert to your old ways.

Tip 1

Create a plan. Decide what ya need to do to make this new activity happen and when you are going to do those things. Decide what day(s) and what time(s) of the day you are going to focus on those activities, and then write them down! Setting a time for the work you need to meet your goal will increase your success rate 2 to 3 times.

Reason #2

Secondly, people who fail to meet their goals throw the baby out with the bathwater. I find that many people think that if they can’t make their activity happen exactly the way they envisioned it, then they just won’t do it. For example, they set the goal of going to the gym for an hour every day, but something happens (because life!) and they only have 30 minutes. Instead of taking advantage of that 30 minutes, they hold on to their vision and do nothing. As this happens more and more (life happens), they find themselves doing less and less of what they wanted to do —  until it’s February and they have joined the 80% of people that have fallen off the resolution wagon.

Tip 2

Be imperfect. At the end of the day, our goals are about improving the quality of our lives, not about being the perfect cook or be the best gym goer. Even though we worship perfectionism in our culture, it is the killer of success and joy. So just do it! Do it imperfectly. Eventually, it will become just what you do, and you will find yourself where you want to be.

You got this!

Protecting yourself from the flu!

 

My husband came home last night and said, “Everyone at work is out with the flu.” I quickly suggested he take that zinc and those multi-vitamins I had just purchased for him, and (maybe for the first time) he didn’t blow me off. Side note: It’s hard to be married to a health coach. Good thing I can cook. 😉

This flu season is predicted to be one of the worst in recent history, and that is pretty scary especially for those of us with a whacked out immune system. Here is what I am doing to protect myself and my family. 

Disclaimer: I am a health coach and not a doctor, a dietician, or a nutritionist.   I make no claims to any specialized medical training, nor do I provide health care, medical or nutrition therapy services; or to diagnose, treat or cure any disease, condition or other physical or mental ailment of the human body.

1. Wash your hands! I know this is super fundamental, but I see people in public bathrooms. I know that at least some of us are not washing our hands as often as we should. Wash your hands before you eat, after you come in from being out, and after touching stuff like money, handrails, and elevator buttons.  In other words, if one potentially sick person touched it, wash your hands! 

2. Stay away from sugar. Sugar is just horrible for us. It creates inflammation and harms beneficial gut bacteria which leads to immune system problems. If you must have something for that sweet tooth buy yourself some richly colored fruit so you get the fructose you’re craving and the vitamins you need. Note: Fruit juice doesn’t count!

3. Get that sleep. We need at least 7 hours of sleep each night, but most of us get about 5. We have to get the sleep we need so our body can do its job of protecting us.  If you need to be scared straight on this topic, I found this interview with sleep scientist Michael Walker to be very effective. 

4. Eat the rainbow. Load up your plate with veggies of all colors! Vegetables are full of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber our body needs to nourish our cells and feed our good gut bacteria. 

5. Take your supplements. I’d rather get my nutrition through food because I know that work better for my body, but there are somethings that I can’t get through our food.  This looks different for all of us, but for me, this means making sure I get my vitamin D, omega-3, and gut healing probiotic every day, without fail.  Note: People with very active autoimmune symptoms should not be taking loads of immune-boosting vitamins like echinacea. If you aren’t sure what you should be taking, talk to your openminded nurse practitioner or doctor to see what they recommend for you. 

7. Eat all those probiotics! If it isn’t clear by now our gut health is super important. SEVENTY (70%) percent of our immune system is located in our gut. If you have lupus or another autoimmune diagnosis you have to address your gut health.

During this flu season, I’m making sure I give my gut everything it needs (and avoiding what it doesn’t) to make sure my immune system is given the best chance to protect me. I’ve written about eating your probiotics here, but for a shorter version, I’ll just tell you that I am loading up on miso,  tempeh, homemade sauerkraut, and these Bubbies pickles that I can’t seem to replicate.

So far, staying vigilant about these things has kept the flu at bay, and I’m hoping and praying that it will stay away. However, if it does happen, I am confident that my little family and I will be in good enough shape to weather the storm. 

May the flu pass you by!

Public Service Announcement: Stay home if you are sick. I know that’s hard. I know that kids have to be places and sometimes work is unforgiving about days off, but you have to get the rest you need to protect yourself. And you have to keep your germs to yourself. You flu could literally kill someone with a weak or whacky immune system. Stay home in bed and binge watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel because it’s brilliant.

Simple exercise to help create the life you want

 

It’s happening! We have made it through another year more or less in one piece which means that it’s time to celebrate and if you are like most people set a resolution for the year. And I am all about that…but I want to make an argument for doing things a little differently this year.

1. Celebrate you! I like to look back at the year and think about everything that I did or accomplished that I am proud of. I either write or say out loud “I am proud ….” Big or little it doesn’t matter, the important part is to acknowledge what you have done. And yes this is challenging because we are wired to focus on all the ways we don’t measure up but if we aren’t going to celebrate what we accomplish what’s the point of working towards any goal? So celebrate you because I guarantee you have done some amazing things. Give yourself time for this exercise and try to think of at least 30 things you are proud of.

Bonus: Do the exercise with someone you love. You can help each other recall all the amazing things that happened.

2. Determine this year’s vibe. How do you want to go through this year? What feelings do you want to have in your relationships, business, health, and your interactions with the world? I bet its to feel more love, more peace, more fulfillment and less anxiety, anger, or fear. While we can’t control the world we have control of how to respond to it. Take some time to visualize the new year and how you want to feel throughout the year.

3. Create the plan. Now its time to get to the nitty-gritty of making that vibe a reality. If you say you want to feel more loving what steps do you need to take? Are you holding on to unforgiveness? Do you need to have an uncomfortable discussion? If you want to take power over your health what will you be putting in your body? When and how will you move your body? If you want to explore that passion how are you going to schedule the time into your life? Give yourself time to create a plan that will help you live the life you want.

We create our reality- either intentionally or unintentionally- which is why this time of the year and this simple exercise is so important. If you are struggling to create a plan for yourself contact me for a free consultation. I would love to learn more about you and see if we are a good match.

I hope you have a wonderful and healthy new year!

Keep the inflammation at bay this holiday season

Santa holding candy at the Austin Texas Trail of Lights

This Saturday was my first party of the season and it got me thinking how the holidays are really a minefield for those of us trying to keep inflammation at bay. From loads of sugar we push on each other to the stress of making it a perfect holiday, the season can leave us worse for wear. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple steps we can take to protect ourselves and keep the inflammation at bay.

1. Have a plan. Whether it’s your companies holiday party or Christmas dinner with your in-laws decide beforehand what you will and won’t be eating and drinking.  Have a plan to eat one good piece of pie or only indulge in one nice cocktail. Deciding beforehand will give you the power to say no overindulging on the things that make you feel ill.

2. Bring a dish you love that is nutrient rich. If the environment is right and you can or are asked to bring a dish make sure you provide yourself with a really healthy and delicious option. I love braised kale because of its silly simple, delicious, and can be dressed up in all sorts of ways with nuts and berries. Bonus points if you use bone broth!

3. Be a mindful eater. Often times the reason we eat things that make us feel bad is that we aren’t aware of what we are eating. We load our plate up and shovel it all down fast. No matter what your plate looks like make sure to get into a relaxed state before eating (my go-to is deep breathing!), and then chewing thoroughly, pausing between bites. Notice the taste, the smell, the texture. Doing these things (all year round) will ensure that you are digesting properly and giving your brain room to send you the “all full” queue we miss when shoveling in food.

4. Manage stressThe holidays can be stressful which can rob of us of our joy and seriously do a number on our free will. When we are stressed our body is driven towards those types of foods that cause inflammation, like sugary sweets and highly refined carbs. Finding a way to manage your stress, especially when everything else is against you, will keep you in the driver’s seat. You can check out my FREE stress management course here through the end of December.

Holidays are supposed to be a pressure release from the mundane but often they feel like a powder keg. But you can change that. You are in charge and you can create a space to enjoy and nourish yourself.

Happy Healthy Holidays!

Carrie

PS I have recently partnered with a haircare line that uses cruelty-free non-toxic ingredients that WORK!  I know, I was surprised too. If you are interested, check out my Facebook Live announcing my new venture and/or contact me.

Moderation doesn’t work when your immune system is bonker balls

We all grew up hearing “everything in moderation” which to me meant the world and all its food are your oyster just don’t reload your plate.  I think this message is fine if not a little ineffective (hello startling national health statistics) but if I took it to heart I wouldn’t be where I am today, remission.

You see the biggest step I’ve taken in my healing was finding out my food sensitivities and eliminating them from my diet. This meant I took out gluten/wheat, eggs, soy, corn, and dairy from my diet for an entire month and then one-at-a-time slowly added each ingredient back in to find out how my body responded. Turns out my body does not do well with dairy, eggs, and gluten aka a breakfast taco.

After the required mourning period, I got real about keeping those things out of my diet. Cooking at home is the best thing I can do because I know what is going in my food but when I go out to eat I have to be that person. You know the person we vilify in pop culture that makes the server swear on his mother’s grave that the food they are contemplating ordering hasn’t even so much as looked at gluten, eggs, or dairy? Yeah, now I get to be that person. At first, I always gave this fast mumbling excuse about my autoimmune diseases which just made things way WAY more awkward. But now I’ve been on this bandwagon so long I can’t be bothered to make anyone else comfortable because the stakes are just too high for me.

When I eat gluten my chest tightens up, my joints ache, and my anxiety increases often followed by depression. When I eat dairy I end up with a bunch of mucous and a migraine. When I eat eggs I look about 4 months pregnant and am not a fun to ride in a car with, if ya know what I mean.  These symptoms suck but they are really just the tip of the iceberg.

These sensitivities are an indication that I have leaky gut which means proteins from these foods leave my digestive track and leak into my body and my body responds-rightly so- by engaging my inflammatory response. One bagel could have by immune system going bonker balls for months.  There is just no room for moderation here.

Diet isn’t the only thing I have to watch, stress and toxins are important too, but if I’m not diligent with what I put into my body I suffer and suffer and suffer. This isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to schlep all the food I can eat across the state every holiday. It’s not easy watching everyone else eat at functions while my stomach growls. It’s not easy having to be on my guard around food all the time. But in the end, my quality of life is worth it.  Being in remission is worth it. And there is nothing moderate about that.

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.